Grampire (1991)

Sex :
Violence :
Director David Blyth
Writers Michael Heath
Starring Al Lewis, Justin Gocke, Milan Borich, Pat Evison, Noel Appleby
Genre Vampire
Tagline A magical fun-filled adventure you can really sink your teeth into


“Holy mother of god it's the deceased!" - Father Vincent

Director David Blyth is perhaps best known for the Kiwi classic dark genre effort Death Warmed Up (1984). He has recently returned to the dark genre with 2010's Wound, a movie that is already dividing audiences but which on the surface appears to be one hell of a ride through the surreal blood bath of insanity. In between these movies Blyth delved into light horror with the Young Adult orientated Grampire aka My Grandpa is a Vampire to give the movie it's more known North American title. Like the monster the movie focuses on Grampire turned out to be a pretty elusive beast to track down. In fact I failed completely in my quest to find the product till Charles Eggen of the excellent managed to unearth a copy and send it my way. Huge thanks to Charles for taking the time to put me in touch with this forgotten classic of New Zealand cinema. So hey lets get the thirst on and check this bad boy out.

Lonny is a Californian teen sent down to Kiwiland to stay with his Aunt while his Family are away touring, father is a member of an Orchestra. Lonny is only too pleased to meet up again with his beloved Grandfather and his best friend Kanziora. His grandfather isn't travelling too well and his Aunt believes he might not be long for the world. Kanziora picks up on a few clues and starts to wonder if the old man might not be a vampire. Turns out he is, but that's going to be the least of Lonny's troubles as he tries to protect his grandfather from a local turned vampire hunter as his vacation turns into high adventure.

The opening scene of Grampire, while ensuring the Audience is well aware the old fella is a member of the undead, no not talking Young Nationals here, also made me wonder if Joel Schumacher hadn't touched bases with this movie prior to helming The Lost Boys (1987). There's a very similar aerial shot that reprises David Blyth's work with an overhead pan above the town in the later movie. Other similarities would be the small coastal nature of both communities and Grampire's Lonny looking like a younger Sam from Schumacher's movie. Not saying we're talking a direct copy, but the influences are pretty obvious if you get the chance to play the movies back to back. Blyth has a smaller budget but some of the scenes are remarkably similar in atmosphere and use of lighting. Of course both movies are descendants of a long tradition and borrow heavily from previous classics in the sub genre.

Blyth is making a Young Adult orientated movie and hence dispenses with all the blood and gore to present a more relaxed comedy orientated film than you might expect. Hey the lead is Al Lewis who was the Grandfather in the at times hysterical The Munsters, hardly anyone would have cast him as a Nosferatu with an insatiable blood lust if they wanted to be taken seriously. The Director does managed to get the tension and atmosphere happening however and on a few occasions I was wondering if things weren't about to take a darker turn, i.e Grandpa outside Kanziora's bedroom wanting a drink on a heavily mist filled evening. If you have shaken hands with any of Hammer's vampire classics than you will known the sort of atmospherics Blyth is endeavouring to layer on his movie. There's a whole feeling of classic vampire to Grampire that was a welcome nostalgic journey for yours truly.

For Kiwis growing up during the naive years New Zealand experienced in the 1970s there's a ring of crystal going down to both the dialogue and the background situations. Well okay taking into account vampirism wasn't a major health scare in Kiwiland during the 1970s. Anyone else had to suffer through the twin terrors of the family beach excursion where basically Dad packed up the entire house for the afternoon to hit the sand with, or the family barbie that consisted of burnt sangers and fat dripping lamb chops? Also the sound of race calls in the background at Kanziora's house brought back some memories. Director Blyth has managed to recreate a nostalgic New Zealand that probably only existed in front of rose tinted glasses.

The movie is littered with jokes, sight gags, and Al Lewis giving a particularly demented performance. Kanziora's Father in one scene is reading the paper “Truth & TV” with the headline “Aliens Stole My Turnips”. The Vampire hunter is particularly unsuited to his savant role, the list goes on. Not surprisingly Kanziora is the resident vampire expert, he also has an interest in film monsters judging from his bedroom, his knowledge gained from Hollywood with particular reference to Bela Lugosi.

Possibly letting the movie down, here I'm going to call the blue filters used to depict night time as working for the atmosphere, are a number of minor issues. The international jet landing toward the start of the movie would have done justice to a Thunderbirds episode in terms of effects but remains an anarchism for a feature film, the score is overly intrusive in places, what was the story with the Mozart pieces, and Justin Gocke (Lonny) in particular delivers such a poor performance that it becomes almost cringe worthy.

On the bright side Blyth delivers some new spins on vampire lore that actually works to the benefit of the movie without having the Audience cringing.

I was actually real pleased to have finally got a viewing of Grampire and would once again like to extend my thanks to Charles Eggen for the opportunity. The movie kept me entertained throughout and sent some twists in my direction, the Priest for example doesn't fit into the role we might have been expecting. I was happy with the movie overall and noted the poignant ending was effective. Recommended to folks with early teens or younger who want to put the kids in front of a wholesome family movie.

ScaryMinds Rates this movie as ...

  Blyth delivers a YA without the bite but with plenty of entertainment value.