A horror comedy much closer to the actor-riffing drollery of Edgar Wright and Christopher Guest than “Scary Movie”-style splatstick, “Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Undead” is one sly slice of the ridiculous. Feature writing-directing bow for musician/model/cartoonist/clothier Jordan Galland chronicles (mercifully, not in mockumentary form) the backstage drama behind a very loose Shakespearean adaptation conceived by Manhattan vampires. Good reviews, word of mouth and some familiar faces might generate modest theatrical success, though cult following should really take off via home formats. Limited release kicks off June 4 in Gotham.
A mopey slacker living in the office of his doctor father (Chip Zien) since being booted by g.f. Anna (Devon Aoki), Julian (Jake Hoffman) answers an ad looking for a “young, controllable, human” director for an Off Broadway “Hamlet.” Without much ado, he’s hired by the mysterious, very pale Theo (John Ventimiglia), who insists Anna play Ophelia. Other roles are filled by the protag’s actor friend Vince (Kris Lemche) and Theo’s comely, self-professed “slaves” (Azie Tesfai, Carmen Goodine).
Vince is stalked by undead-hunting secret society member Charlotte (Geneva Carr), who informs him: “You are in the middle of a 2,000-year-old conspiracy. If you have any questions, watch this DVD.” He thus learns the production is the latest chapter in a longstanding grudge match between two immortals, Theo (nee Horatio) and ex-vampire Hamlet (a late-appearing Joey Kern). The Holy Grail, Rosacrucianism, garlic and crucifixes are also involved.
Other noteworthy turns come from Ralph Macchio as “the sleaziest guy in New York,” Jeremy Sisto as a police detective and Waris Ahluwalia as a turbaned hypochondriac. They’re all pretty funny, and Galland displays considerable chops in never belaboring a joke, overindulging a performer or letting the pic ramble past its welcome. Christopher LaVasseur’s sharp Red camera lensing and Sean Lennon’s score make notable contributions to the low-budget but expertly handled tech/design package.