A young urbanite's transformation into a vampire and his subsequent attempt to undo his fate are the subject of Puerto Rican tale "Vampires." Pic works well as comedy, but jars against the cosmic comicbook-type plotline of warring vampire factions. Fairly strong perfs and inventive tongue-in-cheek twists on undead liturgy could resurrect ancillary and cult interest.

A young urbanite’s transformation into a vampire and his subsequent attempt to undo his fate are the subject of Puerto Rican tale “Vampires.” Pic works well as comedy, but jars against the cosmic comicbook-type plotline of warring vampire factions — awkwardly abbreviated here from the film’s two-hour-plus DVD version. Fairly strong perfs and inventive tongue-in-cheek twists on undead liturgy could resurrect ancillary and cult interest.

After a one-night stand with a toothsome blonde, Jonathan (Jorge Dieppa) is changed into an unwilling vampire. Helmer-scripter Eduardo Ortiz sets up tension among Jonathan, who has no clue as to what is happening to him; his best amigo Miguel (Israel Lugo), who isn’t going to let a little thing like fangs and bloodlust come between friends; and the creepy, empty-eyed company of vampires with their own agenda of false messiahs, world domination and revenge.

Miguel tries to figure out how to help Jonathan become normal again, researching at the library until obliged to leave when Jonathan suddenly attacks a hapless reader in the stacks. Jonathan is fixated on finding Gloria (Wanda Rovira), the woman who done him wrong, and somehow forcing her to turn him back into a regular guy.

Exchanges between Jonathan and Miguel form the comic heart of the film, as Jonathan switches back and forth between demonic pronouncements and sincere, desperate pleas for help, horrified at what he has become. Miguel, a horror film aficionado, can’t help feeling intrigued by being thisclose to the real thing.

The relationship between the two buddies is mirrored by a vampiric alliance between humorless Jonathan and the older, wiser and more cynical and classical Christian (Rolando Lugo), who floats in space. Christian is locked in combat with sinister Esteban (Eli Cay), who is bent on conquering the world. Pic’s numerous chases and instances of hand-to-hand combat include primitive f/x featuring not-quite-gravity-defying leaping and flying.

The backstory of Christian’s and Esteban’s struggle for supremacy among vampires was more amply explored in the film’s original DVD version. The festival edit has mixed effect. Sometimes the condensing works on a poetic level, as in the pic’s opening montage. Elsewhere, however, Ortiz leaves in prosy philosophical debates between the two antagonists that threaten to drag the pic down. Still, a drolly nifty coda gives the pic a reprieve.

Tech credits are suitably sleazy.

Vampires

Puerto Rico

Production

A Peliculas Pa' la Calle production. Produced by Javier Morales. Directed, written by Eduardo Ortiz.

Crew

Camera (color, DV), Fernando Rosado; editor, Jorel Ortiz Rivas; music, Danny Donate; art director, Luis Arce; sound, Juan Antonio Torres. Reviewed at New York Latino Film Festival, July 28, 2005. Running time: 103 MIN.

With

Jorge Dieppa, Israel Lugo, Eli Cay, Rolando Lugo, Wanda Rovira, Kildany Lugo, Johnny Ray. (Spanish dialogue)
Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more