Therapy for a Vampire (2016)

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“I’m not good at self-reflection.”

Punny quotes like the one above comprise just about all of Therapy for a Vampire’s attempts at comedy. Outside of a few decent sight gags the film relegates itself to dad jokes, a format I can appreciate while acknowledging its repetitiveness. That stumps creativity though, and this German import seems to think it can make up for the mistakes by being knowingly clever. Occasionally that works too, at least until the characters start to do things for the heck of it. The high-concept idea is great; the movie itself is not.

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1923, somewhere near Vienna. You won’t know the therapist is meant to be Sigmund Freud (Karl Fischer) unless you piece those two together; the name’s never outright said. Freud’s exploring dream therapy and has local painter Viktor (Dominic Oley) sketch his thoughts. Viktor’s in a relationship with Lucy (Cornelia Ivancan), a dressed down woman who he paints with a fancy blonde bob and lavish dresses. Meanwhile, Graf Geza von Közsnöm (Tobias Moretti) pays Freud a visit. The Count talks about marital problems with his wife (Jeanette Hain). Even the undead have issues, so it seems.

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The Count longs to find his true love Nadila, who, conveniently for him, he sees in a painting propped up in Freud’s office. Lucy is Nadila reincarnated or so he believes. The revelation nearly brings Therapy for a Vampire to a full stop. At this point the characters begin to lose deeper meaning and motivation to service their egos and vie to change their partner. Like Cassavetes’ 1968 film Faces, the couples do a swap, the old paired off to try out some youth. Graf Geza wants to see his Nadila; The Countess merely wants to see herself (i.e. the painter). Some great ideas float around in this movie, but they’re like helium balloons, so lofty that they drift upwards until a loud pop sends them right back down.

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Therapy for a Vampire’s script isn’t fine-tuned enough to sustain all of its ambitions. Both written and directed by David Rühm, the man shows an obvious and exemplary knack for the latter. Visually, his film is comparable to the magical theatrics of the maestro Georges Méliès from the earliest days of the silent movies. Great set design, detailed mise-en-scene, a peculiar tone. Rühm’s horror comedy doesn’t scare or bring many laughs, but its broody atmosphere is ravishing to behold. Therapy for a Vampire manages to be good-looking without ever fulfilling the potential of its good conceit.

“Was that really necessary?”

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

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