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edge staff writer


‘Hawk & Rev: Vampire Slayers’ finds laughs in retro horror

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Those of us of a certain age will remember Friday night strolls through the horror aisle at our local video store. There were the known quantities, of course, but mixed in among the higher-end Hollywood scares was a vast and seemingly unending universe of straight-to-video schlock, sporting lurid, garish box artwork that often had little or no connection to the film that made up its contents.

If you loved those movies then and miss them now, then I might have something for you.

“Hawk & Rev: Vampire Slayers,” written and directed by Ryan Barton-Grimley (he also stars), is an attempt to recapture the energy of those late-night late-80s jaunts through Blockbuster. It is low-budget lunacy, a ludicrous and lively homage to the horror filler of the home video explosion, a story of mismatched buddies devoted to doing whatever it takes to protect their town from the evil lurking all about.

This is a movie that revels in its limitations, celebrating the obstacles to be overcome. This movie winks and nods its way through its brisk 85 minutes; it’s the kind of viewing experience rendered all the more entertaining by the sheer delight being felt by all involved. We’re talking the finest kind of dorky DIY horror filmmaking here, all informed by a love of STV trash masterpieces of the past.

Things aren’t going great for Hawk (Barton-Grimley). He has returned to his California hometown of Santa Muerte after getting thrown out of the army for stabbing a fellow soldier with a two-by-four; oddly enough, Hawk’s insistence that the guy was a vampire doesn’t get him much in the way of sympathy. He’s living with his parents … well, NEAR his parents, anyway; they asked him to move out and he set up a tent in the backyard, much to their chagrin.

Hawk’s only real friend is Rev (Ari Schneider, “Gloria Bell”), a New Age-y groundskeeper who spends his free time doing Tai Chi on the beach; Rev does his best to help calm his troubled friend, even accepting Hawk’s insistence on treating their encounters as training for vampire killing.

Hawk’s got a job that he hates, working as a security guard. He and his fellow guard Arnold (Casey Graf, “Blind Ghost”) watch over an ominously empty warehouse. Most of the time, it’s all very quiet and dull. That is, until Hawk spots a group of vampires moving into a neighboring space in the middle of the night. He enlists Rev to join him in putting together a plan to destroy the bloodsucking fiends and protect the town.

But they can’t do it alone. At one point, Hawk tries to enlist help from his old cellmate Jasper (Richard Gayler, “Elijah’s Ashes”) to help train the duo. And when they visit a religious goods store for supplies, they meet aspiring author Theo (Jana Savage, “#Realityhigh”), who is as intrigued by the pair’s enthusiasm as she is put off by their idiocy.

And then … the hunt begins. But as Hawk and Rev and their compatriots soon discover, not all is as it seems in Santa Muerte. The undead stalk the night, yes, but they do not want to be found. And if those secrets are indeed uncovered, will Hawk and Rev have the strength of spirit to defeat the evil forces threatening their way of life?

“Hawk & Rev: Vampire Slayers” is a wonderful example of what can be accomplished by a spit-and-baling-wire auteur who just wants to tell a story. There’s an endearing jankiness to it all that engages the viewer both in terms of the execution of this movie and the evocation of its inspirations. That duct tape and a dream vibe is a huge part of the appeal.

I’m not going to try to define this movie in terms of “good” or “bad” – those sorts of binary breakdowns are almost beside the point with this sort of film. What it is, is FUN. It is utterly and unapologetically the kind of weirdo comedic horror promised by its title. It is an absolute blast to watch – and really, isn’t that why we’re here? You’re not selecting a movie titled “Hawk & Rev: Vampire Slayers” because you’re on the lookout for Oscar contenders. You’re here for a good time – and in that department, “Hawk & Rev” delivers.

Maybe it’s the shaggy slacker chemistry between our titular team-up. Maybe it’s the goofball dialogue. Maybe it’s the hilariously over-the-top practical effects or the ridiculous combat training sequences. Maybe it’s the music (seriously – the music is one of the highlights, capturing the ‘80s vibe using original songs). Maybe it’s the heartfelt homage or the DIY passion. Maybe it’s all that and more.

Barton-Grimley is a hoot, imbuing Hawk with a dead-eyed bro-ness that is stilted in all the best ways. Meanwhile, Schneider’s dorkily-coveralled pacifist juxtaposes nicely with the militant Hawk; he’s got an energy that is both gentle and frazzled. As a pair, they’re fun to watch. Savage’s Theo is a portrait of well-aimed exasperation; even when she’s not rolling her eyes at being surrounded by idiots, she might as well be. Gayler and Graf have some solid scenes, as do some other members of the ensemble, but really, “Hawk & Rev” is about, well … Hawk and Rev (and Theo).

“Hawk & Rex: Vampire Slayers” strikes the balance between throwback and parody, between low and high stakes (sorry), paying homage to its inspirations in a variety of ways. It is goofy and ridiculous, driven by unhinged dorkiness and an unwavering commitment to the bit. Now, I’ll concede that this is very much a “have to be in the right mood” movie experience, but if you’re there, you will absolutely have a great time.

[3 out of 5]

Last modified on Monday, 22 March 2021 11:24


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