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Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Undead (Blu-ray Review)

26 Sep, 2010 By: John Latchem

Prebook 10/1/10; Street 11/2/10
Box Office $0.07 million
$24.99 DVD, $29.99 Blu-ray
Not rated
Stars Jake Hoffman, Devon Aoki, John Ventimiglia, Ralph Macchio, Jeremy Sisto.

The resurgence of the popularity of vampire fiction in the 21st century has given rise to a wide array of stories dealing with demons and supernatural forces. While this latest trend likely started with “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and appears to be peaking with the “Twilight” movies, there seems to be no shortage in the demand for anything related to the topic.

As such, once-sacred works of literature are now being rewritten with clever puns to fit the genre, from Pride and Prejudice and Zombies to Jane Slayre. Even historic figures do not find themselves immune, judging from the cult popularity of works such as Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

Thrown into this soup is writer-director Jordan Galland’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Undead, a loose mash-up of vampire lore with William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Rather than recast classic Shakespeare characters as demon hunters in their own day, however, Galland’s piece is set in modern times, focusing on a slacker theater director hired to stage a production of the eponymous play.

The benefactor playwright is himself a vampire, and the inspiration for Horatio in Hamlet. His new play tells the “true” story behind Shakespeare’s play, and how Hamlet and Horatio were actually vampires locked in a blood feud over Ophelia, who killed herself rather than be turned. Unable to kill a fellow vampire, Hamlet discovers the Holy Grail, which restores humanity to vampires while letting them maintain their long life.

Thrown into the mix is a secret society who studies vampires and explains the play is a ruse to trap humans in a room for the vampire cast to feed upon, while also drawing Hamlet into the open in an attempt to recover the Grail.

The complex premise is clever, though many of the details are overwhelmed by laborious pacing that is otherwise buoyed by several spirited performances. In any case, the sight of Ralph Macchio trying to shoot holy water through a squirt gun should be good for at least a few giggles.

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