[Editor's Note: "They hate it, we love it!" - A carryover from DEADLY Magazine, Deadly Pleasures will now be a regular column on Daily Dead. Each installment, a different writer will defend an often hated genre movie.]
Even though grossly maligned when released in October 1995, Vampire in Brooklyn has become something of an unfortunate punch line in the careers of both its director and star. Although it’s been misunderstood and wrongly forced to take a time out in the horror genre’s “Shame Corner” over the last two decades, I still adore the hell out of Vampire in Brooklyn.
Starring Eddie Murphy, Angela Bassett, Allen Payne, Kadeem Hardison and John Witherspoon, and directed by Wes Craven, Vampire in Brooklyn is pretty much Nosferatu meets Coming to America with a Blaxploitation twist. Murphy plays a smooth-talking vampire from the Caribbean, named Maximillian, who must sire a companion to spend eternity with before the passing of the next full moon or he’ll be doomed to walk the Earth alone forever. As it turns out, a troubled NYPD Detective (played by Bassett) is destined to be Max’s bride and must fight against his evil influences to keep her humanity in check before she loses her sanity and everyone she cares about most.
While it may not necessarily be one of the better classics Craven was known in that era, I would gladly go to bat against other fans who quickly dismiss Vampire in Brooklyn as one of the worst movies helmed by the Master of Horror (apparently, those fans have never experienced Cursed). Sure, Vampire in Brooklyn may be a bit uneven at times and some of the humor feels a little forced, but at its core, Vampire in Brooklyn is fueled by some wonderful homages to vampires, classic horror films of the 1930’s and 1940’s and Craven’s overall career to boot.
Vampire in Brooklyn also rises above its generally uneven script with endlessly engaging performances from Murphy (once you get past his wig) and the always stellar Bassett, who smolder in each scene they share together and offer up chemistry by the bucket loads. I also need to mention Hardison, a favorite of mine from his days on A Different World, who steals the show with his turn as Julius Jones, a small-time hustler that Max transforms into a ghoulish personal assistant/chauffeur.
For all the Craven fans out there, Vampire in Brooklyn also features several cameos from a few familiar faces including Mitch Pileggi (Shocker), Wendy Robie (The People Under the Stairs), W. Earl Brown (New Nightmare, Scream), Nick Corri (A Nightmare on Elm Street), Zakes Mokae (The Serpent and the Rainbow) and Joanna Cassidy (Invitation to Hell), making for some fun tributes to Craven’s career as a whole.
It’s never going to be one of the “go-to” films of Craven’s illustrious 40-plus year career, but Vampire in Brooklyn is far more fun and entertaining than most critics ever gave it credit for. Despite all its flaws, Vampire in Brooklyn is a movie that I’ll endlessly defend. It’s one of the few movies that really allowed Hardison to show off his comedic chops and prove he could hold his own against some cinematic heavyweights like Murphy and Bassett.