Rosencranz and Guildenstern Are Undead is easily one of the most straight-up affable movies I’ve seen in years. It’s as cordial and agreeable as that one Asian friend you had in high school who laughed at all your stupid jokes. It’s a movie that just begs you to stick around for awhile, to pull up a chair and partake of the rib-nudging good time it possibly has to offer. I’m not saying it’s an unprecedented, gut-busting piece of horror/comedy. Oh no. But it smiles and chuckles at you in a way that makes you want to wrap your arm around its shoulder and hold it close.
According to the logic-defying script, our hero Julian–despite living with his parents and being unemployed–is purportedly an unrivaled lady-killer. (Seriously, naked skinny chicks appear in his bed more often than dust mites.) Desperate for a job, Julian responds to a newspaper ad (“Off-Broadway production of Hamlet seeks young, controllable, human theater director“) and is promptly hired to direct the vampire-riddled production.
That’s right, the theater owner, Theo (an almost unrecognizable John Ventimiglia, the dude who played The Sopranos Artie Bucco), is a centuries-old vampire, with plans to convert the entire Hamlet cast into undead bloodsuckers before the theatrical run is over. With his ghostly pallor and constant questions about the blood purity of potential cast members, Theo’s vampiric nature is obvious to everyone but the film‘s characters, who remain blissfully, amusingly oblivious.
Genre semi-regular Kris Lemche (Ginger Snaps, Final Destination 3 and Devon Aoki (super hot, as always) help fill out the cast as Julian’s best friend and ex-girlfriend, respectively. A game-for-anything Ralph Macchio is also on hand as a possible mobster, while Jeremy Sisto–whose appearance in Rosencranz suggests the repaying of a pre-Hollywood debt–gets in about eight minutes of screen time as a bored-looking police detective. With the exception of Sisto, the cast seems to be having a blast with the deadpan script, and their enthusiasm is infectious. (Lemche in particular has always had the ability to crack me right the hell up.)
The problem with Rosencranz and Guildenstern Are Undead is that it’s good, but not that good. Although its premise is rooted in horror, writer/director Jordan Galland’s plot-lite screenplay is primarily a dialogue-driven comedy, with almost all of the its violence taking place off-screen. Which makes it hard to recommend to horror fans. And though it’s generally entertaining, the film’s wit admittedly comes in fits and starts. Sure, it’s as likable a movie as you‘ll ever see, but when compared to a horror/comedy juggernaut like Shawn of the Dead, it doesn‘t look like the coolest girl at the prom any more. Sense of humor trumps personality, every time.