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Amy Heckerling’s Vamps (2012) is a horror-comedy that looks on the bright side of its inherent genre tropes. Vamps looks at Larraz’s Vampyres (1974) and Rollin’s Perdues dans New York (1989) and asks the question: what if these vampiric gal pals were just regular people? The work Heckerling’s film does in the horror genre is primarily to cast aside the Gothic and the erotic to embrace the bubbly humanity of the duo of vampires at the heart of Vamps. Vamps is not the self-contained fantasy of Rollin nor is it the mysterious dreamscape of Larraz; Heckerling’s vampires and Heckerling’s version of New York are far more accessible and relatable.

Vamps does a lot more than play with the intertextuality of its genre. For Heckerling, Vamps is clearly a film about aging. Heckerling, along with her muse Alicia Silverstone (who plays one half of the vampire duo), is primarily known for her high school centered coming of age comedies. In Vamps Silverstone’s character Goody, constantly chaffing at new trends and technologies after two-hundred years of vampirism, is a kind of stand-in for Heckerling. In this way Vamps is Amy Heckerling refusing to age gracefully, defying Hollywood and societal norms while finding power and renewed relevance in that defiance. Taylor Negron even returns in Vamps as the pizza delivery man from Heckerling’s Fast Times At Ridgemont High (1982), much older now, only to end up as a snack for Sigourney Weaver.

The playful self-referencing and sentimental themes of Vamps place the film, in terms of its tone, more in the tradition of the fantasy infused screwball comedies of the thirties such as Topper (1937). However the relationship between the everyday and the fantastic is inverted in Vamps; it is the average human beings that help the vampires Goody (Silverstone) and Stacy (Krysten Ritter) achieve self-fulfillment and realize quite literally their own mortality.

Vamps, unfortunately, came out well ahead of its time. Heckerling’s tale of best friends and vampires is a film more in tune with today’s climate than that of 2012. Hopefully this odd and very silly comedy finds a new life. Vamps may not be the kind of watershed film that Clueless (1995) and Fast Times At Ridgemont High (1982) were, but it is arguably a far more personal statement from one of Hollywood’s great female auteurs.