Therapy for a Vampire

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Robin Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Robin Clifford 
Therapy for a Vampire
Laura Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Laura Clifford 

Count Geza von Kozsnom (Tobias Moretti) is a troubled man. He lost his lover, Nadila, 500 years ago and has had to endure life with his demanding shrew of a wife, the Countess Elsa (Jeanette Hain). One night, in 1932 Vienna, he pays a visit to a very famous man, Sigmund Freud (Karl Fischer), and asks the renowned psychologist to provide “Therapy for a Vampire.”

I have reached a saturation point with the vampire genre. But, a funny vampire movie? There have been a few successes and many failures (“Vampire in Brooklyn” comes to mind). Of the successful vampedies, the most recent is the very funny “What We Do in the Shadows.” I am very pleased to say that writer/director David Ruhn’s first feature film in 17 years is one of the best vampire comedies to date.
Unlike “What We Do,” which mines its copious humor from slapstick, “Therapy” has a more sophisticated approach to its comedy. Writer Ruhn’s unique approach to his subject matter is imaginative and, for a now-haggard genre, surprisingly fresh, even in its period details. The story lines go in directions unheard of in vamp comedies with the troubled and lonely count having everyday problems like broken marriage and a shrewish and narcissistic wife (Elsa yearns to see her reflection – a condition that Freud dubs scopophobiia, the inability to see oneself).

The cleverness of showing an immortal having “normal” problems, like any guy, is never taken for granted in its satire and, though there are laughs galore, the film maintains its intelligent comedy to the end. But, the smart writing, alone does not make a great comedy and “Therapy for a Vampire” hits on all cylinders. The small but capable cast does an excellent job inhabiting their characters, especially the Count and Countess and their Old World ways existing in “modern” Vienna.
Production design and cinematography meld beautifully in the creation of pre-WWII Vienna with old wood paneling and a soft palette of colors. Costuming, too, especially for the flamboyant Count and the desperate-to-see-her-reflection Countess, is detailed and elegant. This is an all around well-crafted and funny comedy that, I hope, does not take David Ruhn another 17 years to follow up on this gem. I give it an A-.

This Austrian vampire comedy from writer/director David Rühm had me chortling right from its cat burglar opening credit sequence.  Unlike last year's "What We Do in the Shadows" from New Zealand, Rühm takes a more classical route, following in the footsteps of Mel Brooks' "Young Frankenstein."

It's 1930 Vienna and Count Geza von Közsnöm (Tobias Moretti) has scheduled evening visits to Dr. Sigmund Freud (Karl Fischer).  He has tired of his 500 year marriage to the insecure Countess Elsa von Közsnöm (Jeanette Hain, "The Reader"), desperate to see her own reflection.  Freud suggests he court detente by commissioning a portrait, suggesting his assistant Viktor (Dominic Oley), an aspiring artist.  But the plot thickens when Geza sees Viktor's girlfriend, Lucy (Cornelia Ivancan, "Woman in Gold"), convinced she is the reincarnation of his lost love Nadila.  ('Dervishes decapitated her in Constantinople,' he tells Freud, sounding like Gomez Addams relating something that happened to a distant cousin.)

When Lucy finds Viktor with Elsa, she misconstrues the meeting, and the two engage in an escalation of jealousy straight out of a screwball comedy.

Rühm's script is witty, his staging of visual gags perfection.  He adds one bit of vampire lore, an 'obsessive love of counting,' depicted with fast motion, his vampires like Rain Man on speed.  During his sessions, the count levitates from the couch at the mention of Nadila, slamming down again when Freud brings up his wife, the symbolism hilariously obvious. His most inventive idea is having his Count order rare steaks at the restaurant where Lucy works, sucking them dry, leaving crumpled husks that he slams under the table like used pieces of gum.  German Expressionism is honored with exaggerated shadows.

Moretti, with his David Lynch cowlick, is simply priceless, his posture regal, his comic timing perfection.  The film also stars "The Tin Drum's" Oskar, David Bennet, as Radul, the Renfield-like driver of the Count's classic auto.  With his leather cap, he recalls Marty Feldman's cowled Igor, just as Viktor's nosey landlady Fräulein Sedlacek (Erni Mangold, "Before Sunrise") seems an homage to Frau Blücher.

The production is beautiful as well, with the cobblestoned streets of Vienna, Viktor's artist's garret and roads winding through the forest to a severe castle.  Costume is period perfect, with the exception of the Countess, whose vampy frock looks more "Rocky Horror" than "Dracula."

"Therapy for a Vampire" is just what the doctor ordered.  This isn't just a 'vampire comedy,' but one of the most consistently funny movies of 2016.

Grade:  B+
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