Writer: Mike Mort
Cast: Mike Mort, Jennifer Saunders, Paul Whitehouse
Cert: 15 (TBC)
Running time: 85mins
What’s the story: Maverick cop Chuck Steel, haunted by the death of his wife, finds himself protecting the city from wino vampires… or trampires!
What’s the verdict: Cinematic success or failure often boils down to timing. With the current obsession for 80s nostalgia, Chuck Steel: Night of the Trampires arrives right on time to crest that wave.
Yet, this infectiously fun mash-up of 80s action clichés and horror tropes has been a pet-project years in the making. Chuck Steel himself (imagine Dirty Harry without the sensitivity training) has been percolating with Welsh writer/director Mike Mort since his teens.
14-minute short Chuck Steel: Raging Balls of Steel Justice played the festival circuit in 2013 and set the template for Steel’s feature debut. Lovingly detailed Claymation style stop-motion animation, violent splatter, unabashedly un-PC jokes broad enough that no-one should take to Twitter…
Night of the Trampires expands on Raging Balls. The cast of characters is bigger, there is now a whole city to trash, and winningly daft comedy horror is liberally applied.
When a film features wino vampires who feed on drunken victims to satiate both blood and booze lust, and can only be stopped with Holy Coffee or a stake to the liver, you know the film makers aren’t vying for a place at the Algonquin Table.
But, gags poking fun at 80s racial stereotypes (Asian villains, shrill black police captains) and the life-expectancy of Steel’s rookie partners hit their targets. Puerile sex jokes and groansome puns (that police captain’s name is Jack Schitt, a trampire hunter is called Van Rental), also raise, if you will, titters.
Mort himself voices Steel, Van Rental and Schitt, while Jennifer Saunders is police psychologist Alex Cular and Paul Whitehouse adopts a variety of guises.
A subplot about Cular’s new age methods feminising the city’s police force would land better if the film put distance between itself and Chuck Steel. But, the opportunity to give Steel a dressing down for his prehistoric views is tossed aside in favour of a custard gag.
Meeting and beating the laugh quotient are the impressive set-pieces and gorgeous production design. Mort can deliver a double-barrel blast of humour and action, and his gunplay and vehicular mayhem often rival the live action real deal.
Film references range from the irony-free Cobra, to Delta Force 2, The Evil Dead, Lethal Weapon and Japanese monster movies. You don’t need to be familiar with Golan-Globus’ low-rent shoot ‘em ups to enjoy this, but it wouldn’t hurt to check out a couple post-viewing. We recommend American Ninja and Kinjite.
Having laid waste to 80s action, hopefully Steel will return to do battle with the high concept 90s. Jurassic Chuck, anyone?