Transylmania (2009)


USA. 2009.


Directors – David Hillenbrand & Scott Hillenbrand, Screenplay – Patrick Casey & Joshua “Worm” Miller, Story – Patrick Casey, Joshua “Worm” Miller & Dave O’Brien, Producers – Radu Badica, Sanford Hampton, David Hillenbrand, Scott Hillenbrand, Dave O’Brien, Viorel Sergovici Jr. & Vicki Watson, Photography – Viorel Sergovici Jr., Music – David Berrel, Visual Effects Supervisors – Eran Barnea & Jack Cloud, Special Effects Supervisor – Jor Van Kline, Makeup Effects – Vincent Guastini Productions (Supervisor – Vincent Guastini), Production Design – Jack Cloud. Production Company – Hill & Brand Entertainment/Lifeworks Entertainment


Oren Skoog (Rusty/Count Radu), Jennifer Lyons (Lynne), Musetta Vander (Teodora Van Sloan), Paul Hansen Kim (Wang), Patrick Cavanaugh (Pete), Natalie Garza (Lia), Nicole Garza (Danni), Tony Denman (Newmar), David J. Steinberg (Dean Floca), Irena A. Hoffman (Draguta Floca), James DeBello (Cliff), Patrick Casey (Mike), Joshua “Worm” Miller (Brady), Desiree Malonga (Niobe), Radita Rosu (Asha), Adrian Butoi (Mira), Cristian Popa (Marin)


Rusty has persuaded a group of his university friends to sign up for summer school at Razvan University in Romania so that he can meet his internet girlfriend Draguta. They arrive at the university, which is located in a castle that was once the home of the vampire Radu who has an uncanny likeness to Rusty. Radu has been searching the centuries for a music box that contains the soul of his love, the witch Stephania. The music box falls into the hands of one of the group Pete who buys it as a gift for his girlfriend Lynne. However, whenever Lynne opens the music box, she becomes possessed by Stephania. Meanwhile, Rusty meets Draguta and discovers that she has a hideous hunchback. However, he fears breaking up with her because of her father, Dean Floca, the university head who has a torture chamber in his basement. The Dean abducts one of the twins Lia and severs her head, intending to transfer Draguta’s head onto her body. The university professor Teodora Van Sloan is hunting Radu but confusions exist between Radu and Rusty, not to mention Lynne who is sometimes possessed by Stephania as she tries to reconnect with Radu.

Transylmania comes from the directing team of brothers David and Scott Hillenbrand. The Hillenbrands first premiered with the heist thriller Hostile Takeover (1997) and then went onto make the giant snake film King Cobra (1999), the purportedly incredibly bad Demon Island (2002) about a haunted piñata, and Game Box 1.0 (2004) about a videogame come to life, as well as produced Grave Secrets (2013) and the short-lived horror anthology tv series Deadtime Stories (2013-4). The biggest success the Hillenbrands have had was the frat rat comedy National Lampoon’s Dorm Daze (2003), which was successful enough that they made a sequel Dorm Daze 2 (2006). Transylmania was originally announced as a third Dorm Daze film and should be considered a follow-on from the other two. A number of the actors from the other films – Patrick Cavanaugh, James DeBello, Tony Denman, Paul Hansen Kim, Patrick Casey, Jennifer Lyons and Oren Skroog – appear as the same characters they play in the previous films. Alas for Transylmania, it was a miserable flop when it opened and holds the current record for the lowest grossing film to open in more than 1000 theatres.

Transylmania is witless and utterly unfunny. When the opening scenes consist of a montage of scenes involving to wit:- two guys inserting large baggies of dope up their asses in order to smuggle a stash of weed through customs; a couple making out on the football field and jokes about premature ejaculation; sex with inflatable rubber dolls; gender confusion gags; and the hero (Oren Skroog) waggling his butt into a laptop webcam and then shutting his dick inside as he rapidly closes it when his parents walk in – we get a good idea of where exactly the film’s focus is located. Transylmania feels in all respects exactly like a typical 1980s-era frat rat comedy a la Lemon Popsicle (1978), Porky’s (1982) and their numerous copycats. Typically of this genre, the film is filled with fart humour, bodily excrescences jokes, gay jokes and sexual embarrassment jokes.

In terms of the horror comedy it aims to be, Transylmania feels like a remake of Young Frankenstein (1974) but conducted along the lines of Scary Movie (2000) or one of its ilk. It could easily be one of the inane films by Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer – Date Movie (2006), Epic Movie (2007), Meet the Spartans (2008), Disaster Movie (2008), Vampires Suck (2010), The Starving Games (2013) – minus the manic movie parodies. Transylmania is a movie parody of sorts but is mostly relegated to poking fun at generic elements as opposed to quoting specific scenes. The most we get in the way of parody is a copy of the scene from Young Frankenstein where the horse whinnies every time Frau Blucher’s name is mentioned but here it is a hunchbacked wagon driver who farts every time the name of the castle is mentioned. The vampire hunter (and his ancestors) have been named after Edward Van Sloan, the actor who played Van Helsing in the Bela Lugosi Dracula (1931). To their credit, the Hillenbrand Brothers did in fact travel to Romania as location and shot in a real castle there – although, for all that a witless film like this needs authenticity, it is surely better off shooting on the cardboard sets of a Halloween haunted house.

The middle of the film is taken up by a series of tiresome multiple identity confusions – between Oren Skroog dressed to go to a party as a vampire and his vampire ancestor risen from the coffin; between Jennifer Lyons who keeps swapping between nice girl and possessed by a witch whenever she opens the music box; and James DeBello who is only pretending to be a vampire hunter to pick up girls. There is much running around the castle and frenetic humour playing off everybody else thinking they are someone different. This kind of knockabout horror material felt tired when Abbott and Costello did it in the 1940s. There is also an ongoing gag where one of the girls (Natalie Garza) has her head severed and Patrick Casey smuggles her out by putting on a cape and resting the head at the front under the hood, only for them to encounter various guys trying to make out with her unaware that it is a guy’s body beneath. There are inane gags about people’s bumbling unwinding the threads holding a Frankenstein-ian patchwork corpse together and one of the stoners having to sew it back together, resulting in mass vomitings by all present. The mad scientist is naturally played by a dwarf (David J. Steinberg) who for measure says everything in a falsetto voice. There is also an incredibly old hat gag that was done back in the days of Danny Kaye with Oren Skroog and his ancestor meeting one another both dressed as a vampire and thinking they are looking in a mirror.

It seems required casting call that everybody present plays their role like morons. The most unintentionally telling scene is surely when the witch possessing Jennifer Lyons looks in a mirror and exclaims: “I’m trapped in the body of an idiot.” One must say that in the scenes as his vampire look-alike, Oren Skroog makes for surely the world’s dopiest ever vampire. Some of the worst acting is that of James DeBello who plays exactly like they had cast a beer-swilling jock in the part and that he had no ability to play anything beyond that. The worst performance however is from Romanian actress Irena A. Hoffman who mugs horrendously in the role of Draguta.

(Winner in this site’s Worst Films of 2009 list).

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