Vampire in Brooklyn
|Vampire in Brooklyn|
|Directed by||Wes Craven|
|Edited by||Patrick Lussier|
|Music by||J. Peter Robinson|
Eddie Murphy Productions
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Box office||$35 million|
Vampire in Brooklyn is a 1995 American dark comedy horror film directed by Wes Craven. It stars Eddie Murphy, who produced and wrote with his brothers Vernon Lynch and Charles Q. Murphy. The film co-stars Angela Bassett, Allen Payne, Kadeem Hardison, John Witherspoon, Zakes Mokae, and Joanna Cassidy. Murphy also plays an alcoholic preacher, Pauly, and a foul-mouthed Italian gangster, Guido, respectively.
Vampire in Brooklyn was the final film produced under Eddie Murphy's exclusive contract with Paramount Pictures, which began with 48 Hrs. (1982) and included the Beverly Hills Cop franchise (1984–1994).
Vampire in Brooklyn was released theatrically in the United States on October 27, 1995. It received mostly negative reviews and failed to meet the studio's expectations at the box office. Despite this, Vampire In Brooklyn has become regarded as a cult classic and has been subject to critical re-evaluation especially towards Craven’s direction, Murphy and Bassett’s performances and chemistry and the humor.
An abandoned ship crashes into a dockyard in Brooklyn, New York, and the ship inspector, Silas Green, finds it full of corpses. Elsewhere, Julius Jones, Silas's nephew, has a run-in with some Italian mobsters. Just as the two goons are about to kill Julius, Maximillian, a vampire who arrived on the ship, intervenes and kills them. Max infects Julius with his vampiric blood, thereby turning Julius into a decaying ghoul, and explains that he has come to Brooklyn in search of the Dhampir daughter of a vampire from his native Caribbean island in order to live beyond the night of the next full moon.
This Dhampir turns out to be NYPD Detective Rita Veder, still dealing with the death of her mentally ill mother (a paranormal researcher) some months before. As she and her partner, Detective Justice, investigate the murders on the ship, Rita begins having visions about a woman who looks like her, and starts asking questions about her mother's past. Rita is completely unaware of her vampire heritage, and believes she is losing her mind like her mother.
Max initiates a series of sinister methods to pull Rita into his thrall, including seducing and murdering her roommate Nikki, as well as disguising himself as her preacher and a lowlife crook. Max, in these disguises, misleads Rita into thinking Justice slept with Nikki, making her jealous and angry with him. After saving Rita from being run down by a taxicab, Max takes her to dinner. Rita is taken with Max's suave charm, and while dancing with her, he bites her.
The next day, Justice finds Rita in her apartment, having slept all day with it completely darkened. Justice informs Rita about Nikki's murder, and vows to help understand her visions, as one correctly foretold Nikki's fate. Rita forgives Justice, but she almost bites him in the neck during a passionate kiss before catching her disappearing reflection in a mirror, and realizes she is becoming a vampire. She confronts Max about the changes occurring in her, and deduces he is also responsible for the murders she and Justice are investigating. Rita further finds out that Max was sent to her by her father; his death at the hands of vampire hunters was what drove Rita's mother insane.
Max tries to convince Rita that she will be happier as a vampire instead of remaining in the human world, where he feels she will remain out of place and misunderstood by society. Justice plans to rescue Rita from Max, and seeks advice from Dr. Zeko, a vampire expert they visited earlier in the murder investigation. Zeko explains that he knew Rita's mother while she did her research on the vampires of the Caribbean islands, and she surrendered to evil by falling in love with Rita's father. To avoid becoming a vampire, Rita must refrain from drinking the blood of an innocent human victim and Max must die before the next full moon. Zeko gives Justice an ancient dagger with instructions to either kill Max or risk being killed by Rita.
When Justice reaches her, Rita is lying inside Max's coffin, almost completely changed into a vampire, and threatens to bite Justice. Justice and Max fight, during which Justice loses Zeko's dagger on the floor. Max encourages Rita to kill Justice and complete the transformation, but she rejects life as a vampire and drives the dagger through Max's heart, causing him to disintegrate. Rita and Justice kiss.
Meanwhile, Julius, now completely decayed, enters his master's limousine. He finds Max's ring and puts it on, instantly transforming him into a fully intact member of the undead. Overjoyed, he tells Silas, "There's a new vampire in Brooklyn, and his name is Julius Jones!", as both of them drive off into the night to parts unknown.
- Eddie Murphy as Maximillian / Preacher Pauly / Guido
- Angela Bassett as Detective Rita Veder
- Allen Payne as Detective Justice
- Kadeem Hardison as Julius Jones
- John Witherspoon as Silas Green
- Zakes Mokae as Dr. Zeko
- Joanna Cassidy as Captain Dewey
- W. Earl Brown as Police Officer
- Simbi Khali as Nikki
- Ray Combs as Game Show Host
Stunt performer Sonja Davis was fatally injured performing a 42-foot (13 m) backward fall.
According to Charlie Murphy, the movie was originally going to be a straight horror film with no laughs but Wes Craven brought a different focus to it. He also said: "Maximilian wasn't going to have any redeeming qualities. But Wes taught us that we must get the audience to care about our characters. And even if they didn't know any vampires personally, they would at least have to identify with the type of person he was."
About the movie, Eddie Murphy said: "I've always wanted to do something where I was the villain in the movie. I love horror pictures and I was a big fan of Wes Craven. This movie started out as something small, this was a movie my company was just going to produce and the screenplay came together so well that I thought it will be a fun role to play. Because I got to do something kind of scary and had a safety net because the vampire can turn into other peoples. I get to be funny when I'm the preacher and I get to be funny when I'm the Italian guy. And the vampire is pretty straight and I got all these funny stuff happening around me. I felt it was a unique piece to do."
Vampire in Brooklyn was released to coincide with the Halloween season. The film received mostly negative reviews, and was considered at the time as a lesser film of both Murphy and Craven. In the next year, 1996, Craven moved on to begin the hugely successful Scream franchise, while Murphy began concentrating on more family-friendly movies, with his remake The Nutty Professor. On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 12% based on reviews from 33 critics, and the site's consensus is: "Neither scary nor very funny, this misguided effort never lives up to its premise." On Metacritic, it has score of 27% based on reviews from 17 critics. Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.
Roger Ebert gave the film 1 star out of 4, saying: "The movie is unpleasant to look at. It's darker than Se7en, but without sufficient purpose, and my overall memory of it is people screaming in the shadows. To call this a comedy is a sign of optimism; to call it a comeback for Murphy is a sign of blind faith."
Variety wrote, in a positive review, "Helmer Wes Craven keeps the action moving despite some detours allowing Murphy to play other characters as he did in Coming to America. Murphy proves effective and menacing as the vampire in a rather brave departure from what might be expected. Bassett looks great once she gets vampired-up. The vampire effects and makeup are also impressive."
In the retrospective book Wes Craven: The Art of Horror, the author John Kenneth Muir said, "Given the fact that A Vampire in Brooklyn is an entry in an over-exposed horror genre and an uneasy mix of humor and horror, it is amazing that it is successful at all. The chemistry between Bassett and Murphy is strong, Kadeem Hardison and John Witherspoon are adept at comedy, the special effect sequences and transformations are startling, and the overall 1930s–'40s mood is charming." He also praised J. Peter Robinson's musical score, calling it "delightful".
Charles Pulliam More from Gizmodo touted Vampire in Brooklyn as one of the most underrated horror movies of all time: "Vampire in Brooklyn isn't just a funny, scary film; it's also an important one. Vampire lore is a living, breathing thing that's in a constant state of reimagination and evolution and different storytellers develop new ideas. Vampire in Brooklyn bucks that trend both by centering on a predominantly black cast of characters and infusing its spin on the vampire mythos with elements of West Indian zombie lore. Those elements, combined with Murphy's very distinct comedic vision, set Vampire in Brooklyn apart from its peers, making it one of the most unique films in its genre—and one of the best."
Monique Jones from Shadow and Act stated that Vampire in Brooklyn is one of Murphy's most interesting films due to how much of an outlier it is in his filmography."
Danielle Kwateng-Clark from Essence singled out Vampire in Brooklyn as one of the best movies starring Angela Bassett and simply said about it "Every actor plays a cop at least once in their career, and Bassett was great alongside Eddie Murphy in this film."
Andrew Shearer from Online Athens singled out the movie as one of Murphy's most underrated performances: "Released a year before Murphy hit big with The Nutty Professor and director Wes Craven did the same with Scream, this horror comedy undeservedly tanked despite the big name talent and a Halloween season release date. Audiences came to see Murphy camp it up, but he surprised everyone instead by being truly terrifying as the villain opposite Angela Bassett as the hero and love interest."
Stephanie Williams from SYFY Wire considers the movie a "spooky-time favorite" and praised Angela Bassett's performances, the humor especially from Kadeem Hardison and John Witherspoon and adds that "infusing Caribbean culture into the traditional vampire lore was an excellent choice for obvious reasons."
Rich Knight from Cinema Bland considers the movie a "underrated classic" and praised Eddie Murphy's performance: "I've always loved Wes Craven's Vampire in Brooklyn because it's so off-kilter and bizarre. But the highlight is definitely when Maximillian turns into Preacher Pauly and tries to make Detective Veder think that her man is cheating on her. And I always laugh uproariously at the scene where his hair catches on fire in the church. I don't care what anybody says, I love this movie."
In 2020, during its 25th anniversary, Rotten Tomatoes released a podcast titled "Rotten Tomatoes score is wrong about Vampire in Brooklyn" that attempted to justify why "Vampire in Brooklyn" should have received a higher score calling it a "cult classic" especially for the "under-appreciated sense of the bizarre, a killer score, and some serious chemistry between Murphy and Angela Bassett". They also added: "Look closely, and there are glimmers of Craven's keen sense of the horror-comedy mix, and Murphy's natural-born charisma."
Jake Dee from Screen Rant considers Rita Veder, Angela Bassett's characters, as one of Wes Craven's strongest female characters.
In 2022, Vampire in Brooklyn was listed among some other “underrated“ vampire movies by Sara Century from Collider: “Though generally panned at the time of its release, there's a lot to love about A Vampire in Brooklyn. Not only is it often hilarious, but it's an interesting role choice for Eddie Murphy, and Angela Bassett is excellent as Rita.“ Vampire In Brooklyn was also listed as one of 10’s 90’s horror movies than fans loved despited negative critics by Collider. 
On a retrospective article about Wes Craven, Chris Catt from Creepy Catalog praised the movie: “Craven did a nice job of finding a middle ground between horror and comedy. Once again in his career, Wes Craven was forced to juggle differing visions, but he ended up making one of his more underrated movies.“
The cast and crews thoughts on the film
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Murphy gave a reason Vampire in Brooklyn was a failure:
"The only way I was able to do Nutty Professor and to get out of my Paramount deal, I had to do Vampire in Brooklyn. But you know what ruined that movie? The wig. I walked out in that longhaired wig and people said, 'Oh, get the fuck out of here! What the hell is this?'"
In an interview, Wes Craven also gave a reason about the film's failure:
"That was kind of a screwed-up thing, because I wanted to work with a big star. I suppose it could have been better if it were a horror movie, but it wasn't. Eddie didn't want to be funny. He wanted to be serious and he was very difficult."
He reiterates this statement years later in an interview with director Mick Garris: "The tough part was he (Murphy) didn't want to be funny at all. He wanted to play totally straight so I couldn't get the humor into it that I wanted to get into it". However, he praised Murphy calling him "gifted" and said: "He could play three characters without a sweat. It was quite remarkable." About the final product, he said: "I thought it was a good, fun little film and it was nice to get a chance to do comedy but i think the script really hampered it".
In an interview with Bobbie Wygant, Angela Bassett was really enthusiastic about the film: "I'm such a great fan of Wes Craven and Eddie Murphy and sometimes when you're acting against him, you get kind of caught up in charisma and the charm but he's a vampire and he's supposed to that to you but, no, you have to do your work also." She added: "I had a great time".
In an interview with The A.V. Club, John Witherspoon stated Vampire in Brooklyn was "one of my favorite movies. I had the chance to holler and scream." About Craven, he said, "Wes Craven, oh my God, he's funny; he's hilarious. But so, they let me ad-lib. But the worst thing about ad-libbing is that when you shoot it again, you don't remember what you said. So he would take notes and tell me what I said. I said, 'I said that?' So many lines that you say you forget that you say anything—you're just ad-libbing, you're not committing it to memory. So it was kind of difficult working with him, because he shot a lot of scenes, you know, instead of shooting one scene and get the genius of it all, he'd shoot it from different angles. So now I gotta think about what I said. He had a little pencil and he wrote it down, he came up to me said, 'I want you to say that again, that was so funny.' That was kind of a difficult movie. But by the end of it, I just stuck with the script."
In an interview with Shadow and Act, Kadeem Hardison singled out Vampire in Brooklyn as his "favorite" works:
"I had so much fun doing this. This was probably the most fun—I'm Gon Git You Sucka was close. Damon Wayans was my comedy guru. But Ed was some kind of Jesus, he was a god. And for him to call me on the phone and say, 'I've seen all the tapes, you're the only one in town that can do it,' that was like, 'Oh shit! Ok!'"
Later Editor Patrick Lussier said:
“There were all sorts of challenges with making that film, including the death of a stunt woman early on in the first week of photography. Her name was Sonia Davis and there was a lot of weight on that film because of it. It was a pretty awful thing and then after that, the combination of Eddie Murphy wanting to make a movie that was completely in the vein of The Serpent and the Rainbow, which is one of Wes's best films, and the studio Paramount wanted them to make essentially a sort of Horror version of Beverly Hills Cop. The original drafts of the script were much darker and much, much more Brooklyn centric and very, very cool. I think the original ending had an oil tanker truck hanging off the side of the Brooklyn Bridge and this sort of fight with Eddie, Angela Bassett and Allen Payne all in is this thing. I remember him telling me one day that the head of the studio at Paramount had dragged him in after seeing some of the dailies and was yelling at him that it needed to be funny. It needed to be funny the way Jack Nicholson was funny in The Shining, when he says, ‘here's Johnny’ and Wes's response was, ‘Do you hear yourself? You're saying this needs to be funny, like The Shining… so I think it was a brutally hard experience for so many reasons.“
Chris Parker, one of the screenwriters said:
"I don't want to disparage Vampire in Brooklyn. I love it. I’m so glad it happened."
Michael Lucker, also one of the screenwriters, is happy about the legacy of the film:
"What's strange is as the years go by, no matter where I go, there are people who love this movie and know lines from it. I live in Atlanta, and whenever it comes up with people in the community it's met with such a positive response and wide grins."
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