Phoenix Film Festival Review: THE NIGHT WATCHMEN

ZOMBIELAND meets 30 DAYS OF NIGHT as written by latter day David Zucker

When did Vampires become cool again? After the Twilight films, it seemed as if vampires had become tainted with glitter and poorly veiled chastity metaphors. However, it seems as if this blemish on the bloodsuckers has passed and 2017 has already seen a variety of films featuring these monsters, including an early candidate for the best of the year.

In other words:  Vampires… So hot right now… Vampires.

Unfortunately, The Night Watchmen is a disappointing foray of trying to meld comedy into this revived interest of the genre.

After celebrity clown Blippo and his circus troupe mysteriously die in Romania, their corpses are brought to the United States for an autopsy. A mix up with a group of stoned delivery drivers leads the jester’s coffin to end up in a warehouse in downtown Baltimore, where a team of incompetent night watchmen keep guard.  When the owner of the company opens the coffin, he finds a vampiric Blippo ready to devour the entire city. The four guards, along with one of the office workers, have to band together in order to survive the night.

Much like Shaun of the Dead and the other horror-comedies of its ilk, The Night Watchmen goes out of it’s way to make the sensory experience of the film as accurate to the genre as possible. The makeup and practical effects on display are exquisitely realized and the film’s various horror elements are wonderfully done. The vampires are terrifyingly presented with monstrous fangs and gruesome neck and body wounds. All the effects on display are absolutely top notch, from the bloody set dressings to the gore used on both victim and vampire alike.

Unfortunately, that’s about where the positives of The Night Watchmen end. The biggest issue in the film is that it’s sense of humor is aggressively juvenile and transgressive. As I’ve noted before, I’m not above laughing at immature jokes, but when the most memorable joke in a film is an overused joke that every vampire farts when they die, it’s a problem. This is the height of The Night Watchmen’s ambition — it is a film content with making the cheapest jokes possible without doing any of the heavy lifting necessary to elicit more than a mere chuckle.

In addition to the immaturity on display, there’s an undercurrent of racial and sexual humor that, as well as being wildly offensive, is as equally half-baked as the infantile body humor in the film. The Night Watchmen is convinced that a black man who can’t use slang and grew up in Connecticut is the funniest thing in the world, and will remind you of this at every possible moment. Race isn’t the only mark of the film either; our film’s primary love interest is a lesbian turned straight by her masculine rescuer — a trope that should have been retired when Kevin Smith was still making good movies.

While I admire much of the visual panache on display, I couldn’t help but be repulsed by the jokes (or lack thereof) that reek of laziness and wannabe-edginess. It’s one thing to be transgressive, as art should always seek to push back against moral boundaries, and if The Night Watchmen had any sort of aspiration or yearning for more than just mere snickering at outdated stereotypes and fart jokes, then it could have worked. Instead, The Night Watchmen’s attempts are lethargic milquetoast at best and the work of a seventeen year old edgelord at worst.  

  • Ugh, lesbian conversion stories. I thought that shit died years ago. It never should have existed.

    • Butts Carlton

      I literally couldn’t believe my eyes when it happened.

    • It is the Trope That Cannot Die, apparently.

  • Andrew Clark

    That fart joke sounds pretty funny, to be honest, but I’ll take your word that it’s overdone.

    Most of this sounds like it was made in, if not at least conceived in, the 90s. It’s not that its incredible to me that people still will feel that its possible to turn a gay woman straight with the power of masculinity, because many people are dumb as shit and have terrible values, it’s that they got passed that point and made it a plot element in a film released in 2017. NO ONE said it was a stupid idea? Come on.

    • Butts Carlton

      Honestly, the fart joke was kinda funny at first, but then it happens every time they kill a vampire followed by everyone reacting to said fart. There’s beating a dead horse, and then there’s beating the fossil of a horse, and this is the latter

  • “Stoner comedy” is your canary in the coalmine. If there’s stoner comedy, shit is gonna go bad quickly

    • Butts Carlton

      One of the big jokes is that they light a giant bag of weed in the air vents to make the vampires mellow… A joke with an expiration date in the early 80s

      • Obviously the screenwriters were frozen in a block of ice and just woke up today

  • jeves23

    I’m guessing they got all wrapped up in the practical(?) FX they were using and sort went “good enough!” on the rest of it. Which is too bad, but maybe not altogether unexpected in an age where tangible details like that often outweigh and overshadow elements like narrative and character (at all levels of film production, sadly).