Can’t wait for the sequel, Pennsylmania.
I kept getting up from my computer, walking around for about ten minutes, and then coming back, in the hopes that Transylmania would finish writing a review of itself, but no luck.
A horny college guy heads off to Romania to meet his online girlfriend in person for the first time. Along for the ride are his two druggie pals, identical twin sisters—one is the good girl, the other is the bad girl—and a couple who’s into kinky role playing. Unfortunately for this party-hardy bunch, vampires are loose in the countryside, with a sinister plot to resurrect an all-powerful vamp sorceress. Can our clueless heroes defeat the evil bloodsuckers and save the day? And will they ever get laid?
We all love the horror comedy, with rewatchable favorites such as Ghostbusters, Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn or The Monster Squad. This movie, though, is a horror spoof, which is harder to pull off. Young Frankenstein is still howlingly funny, but the Scary Movie franchise is hit or miss (mostly miss), and don’t even get me started on yawners like Repossessed or Saturday the 14th. There aren’t many approaches to take for a horror spoof. You could take the iconography and atmosphere of horror and skewer them with humorous twists and sight gags. Or, you come up with a screwball comedy script and then dress it up with horror elements. Transylmania goes for the latter, evoking laughs from the general setting of horror, rather than parodying specific films or characters.
At least, it tries to evoke laughs. The first scene in the movie has to do with the two stoner guys figuring out how to sneak drugs into another country. Their plan involves one guy stuffing a balloon full of pot into the other guy’s butt. Is this played for laughs because of the slapstick physical impossibility? No. Is it played for laughs because two straight guys are awkwardly engaging in something that appears homoerotic? No. It’s played for laughs because of the poop, and only the poop. Thus, the tone of the movie is set.
This is lowbrow comedy. “Frat boy” comedy, if you will. Gross-out jokes, sex jokes, stoner jokes, and so on. With the vampires and all, there are plenty of slapstick gags involving arterial sprays and severed body parts as well. Every character has his or her own subplot, and these don’t really come together into a main plot until near the end. Expect plenty of mistaken identity gags too, with twins, lookalike vamps, and one character possessed by another. So, mostly, it’s a lot of running around and obnoxiousness.
Is anything good here? The cast, made up of unknowns, throws themselves into this thing with abandon, not hesitating to make themselves look foolish for a cheap laugh. The movie was filmed at an actual historic castle in Romania, which adds considerably to the otherwise low-budget production value. As the pace picks up in the final third of the movie, I found myself enjoying it a little more than the often-plodding beginning scenes.
Most telling is the commentary, featuring the actors and co-directors the Hillenbrand brothers, David and Scott. The brothers come across as easygoing, friendly guys, who are a lot like the rest of us—they just love fun movies. Everyone obviously bonded during the overseas shoot, and everyone’s delighted to have been a part of the production. The Hillenbrands’ enthusiasm and love for filmmaking is so powerful it made me want to pick up a camera or start writing that screenplay. Then I remembered Transylmania’s “botched surgery” slapstick, and I got sad.
Despite the small budget, the movie looks and sounds just fine on DVD, with bright, vivid colors and clear, clean sound. Aside from the aforementioned commentary, there are also deleted and alternate scenes, and an alternate opening and closing, and these also have their own commentaries. From there, we get a making-of featurette, a gag reel, and a trailer gallery.
I was ready to dismiss Transylmania as throwaway garbage. Then, after learning about how much passion and care went into making it, I realize it’s a real missed opportunity. I’d love to see what the Hillenbrand brothers can do with a great script. Until then, you’re not missing much from this movie.