To Sleep With a Vampire 2002 Horror Movie Review
Horror movies Review
What makes To Sleep With a Vampire so fascinating is that it uses the same script, with only a minor rewrite, as Dance of the Damned made only three years before. Dance of the Damned was written by Andy Ruben and Katt Shea (credited as Katt Shea Ruben) and directed by Katt Shea. In To Sleep With a Vampire total script credit was given to Patricia Harrington with no mention of Ruben’s or Shea’s contribution at all. This strikes me a more than a little disengenuous. Credit for a rewrite, sure. Total script credit, no.
In Dance of the Damned, Cyril O’Reilly plays a vampire who hates killing, and each feeding requires he drain his victim of so much blood it will indeed kill them. Thus he puts off each kill until he’s almost starved, on the edge of dying himself, and chooses as victims only those his psychic senses tell him long for death. Starr Andreef plays Jodi Hurtz (the Dickensian properties of the last name, given Jodi’s personality, are not lost on me), a depressed, near-suicidal stripper. Jodi is the sort of person who has no joy in life but can’t quite find the balls to end it all herself. The vampire makes her an offer she can’t refuse - because he’s not giving her a choice - they’ll spend one night together, she will tell him of her life, assuaging his loneliness, and at dawn he’ll end her pain.
In To Sleep With a Vampire, the vampire is played by Scott Valentine and the stripper, renamed Nina, by Charlie Spradling who, despite her first name, is most definitely a girl. As if there were any doubt, she proves this by getting mostly naked numerous times throughout the film. Most of the dialogue, the situations, the characters, are identical between the two movies. But To Sleep With a Vampire has more nudity and violence than its predecessor. I do not put that forth as a negative comment, just an observation - in all cases these elements serve the story in my opinion. Both films are actors’ movies. Except for a handful of minor characters, mostly walk-ons, the vampire and Jodi/Nina are the only roles. Thus the films stand or fall on the quality of the performances. Fortunately, all four actors do really quite impressive work.
If I had to pick one movie as better, it would be Dance of the Damned. Starr Andreef does an excellent job of believably portraying Jodi as a woman sick unto death of life, just totally strung-out and depressed. Charlie Spradling’s Nina is still feisty, and quite willing to fight for her continued existence. Which of these takes on the character appeals more to you will be very much an individual reaction.
Director Katt Shea in Dance of the Damned, more so than Adam Friedman in To Sleep With a Vampire, to my mind does a better job of setting up and recording truly impressive imagery. Note the differences in the scene where the vampire rips open a door toward the end of the film. In To Sleep With a Vampire it’s straightforward and over in an instant. In Dance of the Damned it’s one of the most emotionally affecting, visually impressive moments I’ve seen in any film, regardless of budget.
The final freeze frame of Dance of the Damned is a homage to one of the most famous images in Western culture, Adam reaching for God on Michaelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling. It’s an ambiguous ending that can be interpreted in numerous ways. To Sleep With a Vampire, whatever else you say about it, is not an ambiguous film - there’s no doubt what happens at the end of that movie.
Watching both Dance of the Damned and To Sleep With a Vampire is a textbook study of the dramatic possibilities inherent in a single script, of how, with only minor script revision, a different director and actors, and emphasis on particular elements over others, you can wind up with movies quite different in feel and overall effect. Fortunately in this case both final products are well worth watching.