Summer of Blood: Tribeca Review

If Eddie Murphy couldn't make a vampire in Brooklyn funny, this film certainly can't.

A schlubby loser becomes a ladykiller vampire in Onur Tukel's comic horror film.

NEW YORK — A schlubby Jerry Garcia look-alike becomes a ladykiller vampire in Onur Tukel’s Brooklyn hipster variation on the familiar horror movie genre. But for all its efforts to put a fresh spin on its oft-trod territory, Summer of Blood, receiving its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, lacks the necessary satirical bite.   

The filmmaker also plays the central role of Erik, a prototypical loser who in the opening scene rejects a marriage proposal from his beautiful girlfriend Jody (Anna Margaret Hollyman), who’s clearly too good for him. The relationship ends immediately afterwards when, while walking home, she promptly ditches him after running into an old friend who’s everything that Erik is not.

Sad-sack Erik, whose principal sexual activity is masturbating in the bathroom to a photograph of a comely co-worker (Dakota Goldhor), promptly re-enters the dating scene to predictably dismal results. But his life suddenly turns around after a nocturnal encounter on a dark Brooklyn street with dapper vampire Gavin (Dustin Guy Defa).

Desperately needing blood to squelch his recurring crippling stomach pains, Erik begins prowling the streets at night in search of victims. He discovers a newfound sexual prowess, reconnecting with the trio of women he previously dated and bringing them to heights of ecstasy with neck bites that transform them into vampires as well. His powers of hypnotism also come in handy when it comes to dealing with his landlord, who retracts his demand for back rent after one look into Erik’s eyes. But for all his acquired powers, he still pines for his ex-girlfriend, who has settled into her new relationship.

Featuring copious amounts of gore, the film — displaying influences ranging from Woody Allen to Judd Apatow to mumblecore — is a technically ramshackle affair whose primary attribute is Tukel’s deadpan comic performance and self-deprecating willingness to portray his character as a total dick. Whether responding to Jody’s expressed desire to have children by declaring that “babies are worthless” or, before becoming a vampire, asking one of Gavin’s bleeding victims, “Are you HIV negative, I hope?,” his Erik is so relentlessly unsympathetic that he almost garners a grudging respect.      

Summer of Blood has its occasional witty moments, such as Gavin’s description of vampire parties attended by such figures as John Lennon, Amelia Earhart and Enron’s Ken Lay. Also amusing are Erik’s encounters with a hostile fellow employee (Girls' Alex Karpovsky) aghast at his slovenly appearance and incompetence.  

But the profusion of gags fall flat more often than not — Erik thinks that everyone is against him because he’s Turkish — and what we’re left with is a rambling, amateurish riff on the vampire genre that’s already been satirized far too often.

Venue: Tribeca Film Festival (XYZ Films)

Cast: Onur Tukel, Anna Margaret Hollyman, Dakota Goldhor, Dustin Guy Defa, Melodie Sisk, Juliette Fairley, Vanna Pilgrim

Director-screenwriter-editor: Onur Tukel

Producers: Onur Tukel, Clifford McCurdy, Melodie Sisk, Max Heller, Clifford McCurdy

Director of photography: Jason Banker

Not rated, 86 minutes