What would happen if Joss Whedon and Mike Judge had a cinematic love child? If our puny human brains were capable of comprehending such unmitigated awesomeness, it would probably resemble something like Bloodsucking Bastards. A product of the Los Angeles comedy troupe, Dr. God, this satirical bloodletting starts a bit sluggish, but finishes with an inspired stream of gags and gore. Director Brian James O’Connell has a cult hit on his hands.
This won’t be the first (or last) review to describe Bloodsucking Bastards as Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the television juggernaut, not the abysmal film) meets Office Space. And what the hell is wrong with that, punk?!? Endearingly quirky, sarcastic beyond all measure, and painfully observant, there are more clever one-liners and non-sequiturs packed into this 80 minute bundle than any other 2015 comedy not named What We Do In the Shadows.
The comedy troupe of Dr. God and their co-writer, Ryan Mitts, start by acclimating us to life in the office. Tim (Joey Kern) and Andrew (Justin Ware) battle each other in first-person online warfare while simultaneously peddling their latest get-rich-quick gadgets over the phone. Their wacky hijinks are a constant thorn in the side of their boss, Evan (Fran Kranz), who’s bucking hard to get that “big” promotion to sales manager. To make matters worse, Evan is trying to make peace with his embittered girlfriend Amanda (Emma Fitzpatrick) after giving her the worst response in human history to her heartfelt love confession: “No.”
This part of the story, while still funny, feels ripped from a sitcom pilot. Good-natured jabs are exchanged, office supplies are violated, and a tragically-thin love story is introduced. Some of the bits are pretty funny, as when a disgruntled football-pool organizer sheepishly begs everyone to pay their overdue $20 entrance fees. For about 20 minutes, though, it feels like things might dissolve into a mess of episodic sketch comedy.
Luckily, an instigator arrives and things start to happen. Evan’s old nemesis, Max (Pedro Pascal), swipes the sales manager position and vows to increase sales to almost-unimaginable levels. Thanks to some special business strategies that he learned in Romania, Max manages to get results where all others have failed. After people start disappearing, however, Evan suspects that Max’ business strategies might give new meaning to the term “cutthroat.”
It doesn’t take long for the writing to hit its stride, with one-liners and blood spatters flying at high velocity. The atmospheric scares are suitably creepy, while each character has their own distinctive comedy style. Yet, no matter how zany the violence gets, the writers never lose their Office Space footing. A singing fish (undoubtedly an ill-conceived Secret Santa gift) warbles during a critical chase scene, or a Rambo-esque security guard gloats about past vampire conquests. “You don’t get this badge without dusting a few puncture monkeys,” might be the single biggest crusher of the year.
The satire is wonderfully crisp, as well. Office productivity skyrockets, as the newly-minted vampires have no use for comradery or horseplay. Vampires thrive in a lifeless cubicle environment thanks to their affinity for hypnotic fluorescent lighting. That soulless killers are best suited for the corporate world is a cynical message that always resonates, regardless of which generation is coming through the ranks.
Bloodsucking Bastards doesn’t really need any directorial flourishes; just a filmmaker who understands pacing and tone. In both regards, Brian James O’Connell gets it exactly right. The third act, in particular, feels like a perfectly orchestrated mix of comedy, violence, and satire. This section echoes some of the best Buffy the Vampire Slayer material, including a climactic battle that would make Joss Whedon stop working for two seconds and smile.
So long as there are disgruntled cubicle jockeys, there will always be a place in the office for films like Bloodsucking Bastards. Vampire fans, too, will find some clever twists on the well-established mythology. This isn’t great cinema by any means, but it’s often hilarious and it always has something clever to say. Avoid the rush and start memorizing the good lines right now.