Transylmania (2009) Unrated DVD Review

Transylmania (2010)Dear God in heaven, what have I done to myself?!  I just threw away two precious hours of life watching a “horror comedy” (at least they tell me it is so) called TRANSYLMANIA.  I feel like…well, doing what three dopey characters do ad nauseum during one particular obnoxious, uh, vomit scene.  I also wanna take a shower.  And if you’re older than ten and smarter than two, I’d be willing to bet dollars to doughnuts that you would feel just about the same.
TRANSYLMANIA’S DVD back sheet – and I’m referring to the newly released “unrated” version – states that the childish schlock fest clocks in at ninety-seven minutes, but the trusty ole DVD player rang it up at one hour and thirty-two minutes.  No matter, I suppose, because regardless of the actual time count, the movie felt as if it would never end.
Before dumping any further, however, let me point out that TRANSYLMANIA did have its pluses.  I can tell you that most of its cast did what it could with what was available and did so earnestly.  I don’t know if I’da had the cojones to do some of the mind-numbing tricks a few were asked to do.  I use the word ‘tricks’ because it felt as if some of those poor folks were doing little more than whoring themselves, especially those who had to take off most of their clothes and prance around for no other genuine reason than to titillate the more sophomoric (can I change that to freshmoric?) in the audience.  The directors (the Hillenbrand brothers, who are best known for National Lampoon’s DORM DAZE and DORM DAZE 2) would tell us no, there was a ritualistic reason for what they were doing, yada-yada-yada.  Bull crap!  The movie is a frat boy mentality production if ever there was one, and if anything else was truly the intent, you blew it, kids.

Oren Skoog
Oren Skoog

Oh, wait, I’m sorry, I was supposed to be pointing out the film’s more positive moments.  Uh, where was I?  Oh, yeah, the actors.  Eh, that’s about all I can say there.  The directors, however, go out of their way to praise their actors, especially two of them (Oren Skoog and Jennifer Lyons), who have to play two different characters each.  The director’s audio commentary emphasizes Skoog and Lyons’ strong talent in changing so many details of posture, voice/accent, facial expressions, and movement in general.  I say, “Hey, that’s what actors are paid to do.”  It should be part of their training.  Any actor who can’t rise to such challenges to an affective degree ain’t worth their salt.
Oh, jeez, there I go again, dumping in the middle of pointing out pluses.  Think positive.  Thiiiiink positive.  All right, let’s see, what else?  They actually shot the film on location; that was kind of cool.
Okay, I can also state that there was some pretty decent cinematography by Viorel Sergovici.  In fact, Mr. Sergovici probably brought more to the production than most.  Several shots had a lighting scheme that you could certainly tell took thought and work.  Once in a while there was a nicely framed shot as well, evoking memories of more entertaining (horror) films from the past.
Jennifer Lyons
Jennifer Lyons

Oh, and the editor, Dave O’Brien, didn’t allow shots to linger on too long for the most part.  He cut things in a manner that kept the momentum of a given scene bouncing along.  The girls were light on the eyes too, but that there be about it, ladies and gents.
Let’s get to the plot.  It can be wrapped up simply by saying a group of college kids go to Romania for a semester of…education…and wind up fighting vampires.  I can just hear the pitch now: “It’ll be great!  It’s ANIMAL HOUSE meets YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN meets VAN HELSING!  It can’t fail!”
Speaking of YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, there’s one particularly obvious and irritating riff (or homage, as the directors would put it) on that brilliant Mel Brooks movie.  Anyone who remembers the film will recall how the horses would whinny every time a character mentioned the name of the spooky castle servant Frau Blucher.  It was a wonderful joke that Brooks and team built as the film went on.  In TRANSYLMANIA, the Hillenbrands decided they’d do the same thing, but this time the horses…well, fart whenever someone mentions the name of the university these kids are going to attend.  And it’s handled as nothing more than a silly throw away joke – not that it deserved to be handled any other way.
If that doesn’t give you an idea as to where this movie is coming from, then I’m not sure what would.  The Hillenbrands would say that what they were going for overall was a Molierean or Shakespearean farce.  Excuse me?  What?  Um, maybe a viewer can see the kernels of the ideas from which they wanted to work – and from whence they ripped them off – and the thing is a farce, all right, but there it ends, folks.
Transylmania (2010)
Musetta Vander plays Teodora Van Sloan, named after actor Edward Van Sloan, who co-starred in the 1931 DRACULA - one of TRANSYLMANIA's many references to better, classic horror films.

Nonetheless, in commentaries, the co-directors more than once reference influences such as Shakespeare, SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE, Danny Kay, and even THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI.  For younger filmmakers, they do know a bit about film and stage history, but in their commentary it’s almost as if they’re still smarting from the bashing TRANSYLMANIA received at the box-office, not to mention most reviewers, and are trying to prove that they do have some sort of artistic intellect and that there was purpose behind their pranks.  Well, they may not be stupid, but their movie sure is.  I will say that to listen to them speak sincerely about their influences and what they were attempting was rather fascinating, given the essence of what their project ultimately is.
It’s astounding to me, sometimes, how a picture like this gets green-lit when it’s so difficult for most scripts – good ones – to get anywhere in Hollywood.  And it’s a bit baffling that a seasoned producer would look at such a project as this and say to him or herself, “I think we’ve got a solid foundation for a hit.  Yes indeedy, folks’ll dig it, and we’ll pull in some capital bucks.”
Now, just in case I left any doubt in your mind as to whether I liked TRANSYLMANIA or not, let me be perfectly clear: hell no! And unless you have no decent sense of taste and are simply dying to see the return of some of the DORM DAZE characters, then those two plus precious hours you lose in watching this piece of !&$#@ after reading this ‘honest and objective’ review are your own damn fault.
Okey-dokey, in happy conclusion, I’ll tell you that the special features on the DVD – which is where this movie should’ve wound up from the start – include a commentary by the directors and actors that comes off like a bunch of pals laughing at things only they think are a hoot while they reminisce about what fun they had making their home movies.  There is also an alternate opening and ending, deleted and extended scenes, all with commentary (just in case you didn’t already get your fill watching the movie), a gag-blooper reel that’s every bit as unentertaining as the film itself, a behind-the-scenes piece that’s little more than an extended trailer, and then there is an official trailer, and some previews for a few other movies.
Oh, but back to that gag reel for a moment – at one point actress Natalie Garza (who plays straight-laced Lia) is asked to look or turn her head right.  She has to stop and think seriously, then ask herself which way is her right.  Now, I don’t want to slam on Ms. Garza; after all, maybe she was debating between her right and stage right.  Or maybe she’d been working fifteen hours with nary a break and was getting punchy.  The point is that the moment of questioning seemed very apropos to me.  I couldn’t help thinking that the only people who should get a bang out of this thing are those who can barely tell their left from their right.  Hey, but no offense meant to the schlock lovers out there.
Transylmania (2010)Look, it’s not enough to be inspired by iconic films or entertainers, and then laugh at – and also try to justify – your own sense of cleverness over what you’ve just done.  There is a reason why icons are what they are and crackpot entities like TRANSYLMANIA are what they are.  No, it’s not enough to shout “I’m doing this with purpose, with thought!  Hear me roar!”  The makers of TRANSYLMANIA cobble together elements from this or that (even Busby Berkeley musicals for cryin’ out loud!) and think that it’ll make a great stew.  But in the end it’s just glop.
TRANSYLMANIA (Film Rock/Hill & Brand Entertainment/Full Circle Releasing/Sony Pictures: theatrical release, December 2010; DVD release April 2010; 97+ min.) Directed by David Hillenbrand and Scott Hillenbrand.  Screenplay by Patrick Casey and Worm Miller.  Produced by Radu Badica, Sanford Hampton, Viorel Sergovici (Romanian producer).  Co-produced by Jenna Johnson and Kim Swartz.  Production Design by Jack Cloud.  Set Decoration by Karin L. McGaughey.  Special Effects supervised by Jor Van Kline.  Visual Effects supervised by Eran Barnea.  Music Composed by Carlos Villalobos.  Edited By Dave O’Brien.  Cast: Oren Skoog, Worm Miller, Patrick Casey, Jennifer Lyons, Tony Denman, Patrick Cavanaugh, Paul H. Kim, David Steinberg, Natalie Garza, Nicole Garza, Musetta Vander, James DeBello, Irena A. Hoffman, Claudiu Trandafir, Radu Andrei Daniel, Simon Petric, Dorin Andone, Dorina Lazar, Desiree Malonga, Radita Rosu, Adriana Butoi, and Corneliu Jipa.  MPAA Rating: R for crude and sexual content, nudity, drug use, language and some violence.