Despite its fair share of amusement, "Vampires" lacks the required bite.

Mockumentaries need to do more than merely tickle the funny bone if they’re to escape the one-trick pony syndrome, and despite its fair share of amusement, “Vampires” lacks the required bite. Vincent Lannoo, helmer of the Dogma mock doc “Strass,” milks about as much as possible from the premise of a film crew allowed access to a Belgian vampire family, yet despite frequent chuckles, there’s little here that wasn’t treated more wittily by Charles Addams. “Vampires” is making a splash at fantasy fests, and given the current undead craze, the pic is likely to find a healthy afterlife on ancillary.

The first few minutes do a great job of winning auds over to the joke: Vampires were first approached several years earlier, but complications arose that made completion impossible (i.e., the crew became unwilling blood donors). After careful negotiations, a docu team is starting afresh, ushered into the home of vampire Georges Saint-Germain (Carlo Ferrante), his wife, Bertha (Vera Van Dooren), and their kids Samson (Pierre Lognay) and Grace (Fleur Lise Heuet).

The usual family tensions are on display due in part to the testosterone-charged Samson and rebellious Grace (who wears pink and applies instant tan cream to achieve a more human complexion), all revealed in standard docu form crossed with a reality-show sensibility. Locals will be particularly amused by pointed digs at Belgium, such as the revelation that cops supply the family with “undesirables” like illegal immigrants and then arrange for discreet disposal of the bodies. As Georges happily declares, “Vampires are happy here. Belgium is a great country!”

It all wears a bit thin by about the halfway mark, when it becomes clear Lannoo and fellow scripter Frederique Broos (also editing) have run out of ideas. With so many examples of “vampire as metaphor” over the past decade or so, one would expect this one to have grown longer fangs. Thesping properly plays on the border between reality and caricature — something else learned from “The Addams Family” — and the obvious enjoyment displayed by the actors, including French rocker Julien Dore in a fun turn as a funeral parlor manager, registers onscreen without any wink-wink overindulgence.

Given that these are vampires, a certain amount of night-cam work is involved, nicely integrated into the overall HD lensing.

Vampires

Belgium

Production

A Left Field Ventures, Belgacom production. (International sales: Left Field Ventures, Brussels.) Produced by John Engel. Directed by Vincent Lannoo. Screenplay, Lannoo, Frederique Broos.

Crew

Camera (color/B&W, HD), Vincent Van Gelder; editor, Broos; music, De Snaar, John Engel; production designer, Valerie Andre; sound (Dolby Digital), Guilhem Donzel, Sarah Gouret; associate producer, Fabrizio Verdiani. Reviewed at Turin Film Festival (competing), Dec. 1, 2010. (Also in Sitges Film Festival -- Noves Visions.) Running time: 88 MIN.

With

Carlo Ferrante, Vera Van Dooren, Pierre Lognay, Fleur Lise Heuet, Paul Ahmarani, Alexandra Kamp, Julien Dore, Baptiste Sornin, Selma Alaoui, Benedicte Bantuelle. (French dialogue)
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