This was one of the first five DVDs a friend of mine bought after he got a player, and so I was curious about his choice. The things he chooses may not be perfect, but are invariably very interesting, as it turned out with this one. The only thing I knew about this movie beforehand was that it's supposed to be a 'comedy,' and that Nicholas Cage eats a cockroach in it. So it was hard for me to understand why someone would be so passionate about what seemed like a goofy 80s comedy, but it turns out that this film is much more than that.
Nicholas Cage, back when he was young and adventurous and before he fully committed himself to his strict “Bad Movies Only” policy, plays a socially retarded man with serious issues toward woman and more than a little inadequacy as he slowly descends into utter insanity. Interestingly, the way he conceives of his problem is that really he is turning into a vampire.
The opening photography is wonderful, silhouetted spires and gothic details of Manhattan against a blood red sky, that seem to reveal the city as a place of dark supernatural horrors within the regular city we know, which was a great start.
I was surprised in reading the reviews on the IMDb that no one talks about the place that misogyny plays in Cage’s dementia… he's lonely and isolated and sees women as objects, so as he goes insane he thinks he's a vampire, someone who picks up young women, rapes [bites] and kills them… and is cursed by this. In this movie, the main character HATES women, and a lot of the audience’s discomfort comes from how horrible he is to them. I thought it was also ingenious how all the women; his therapist, the imaginary vampire woman, the woman he jilts near the beginning, and his secretary all look vaguely alike. The director could easily have thrown in a bit of psychoanalytic depth by having a photo of the character's mother looking similar as well.
There are things in this movie that are vaguely funny on their own, but in the context of the movie are not really funny at all. I mean yeah, people do goofy things as they are mentally breaking apart, but is that funny? All the actors do a great job, but I love the therapist, who seems so engaged and curious. I like how Cage's character assumes the movements of movie vampires, because in his lunacy movie vampires are probably exactly what he is imitating.
There are only two problems I think the film has. The film goes out of its way to show how Alva, the abused secretary, needs her job and is not supported by her family, but Cage's behavior is SO over the top that ANYONE would know that she has a lot of reason to go to the police. That she remains so passive is a little frustrating and unrealistic to the point where it detracts from the film.
The big problem, I think, is that ramping up so quickly to high insanity in the first hour, there's really nowhere for the film to go in it's last 45 minutes. The scenes of cage humiliating his secretary become repetitive, as do other aspects, tarnishing what started out exceedingly well.
I was shocked to learn that this was the director's first full feature, as it is very assured and well-done. I would love to have a chat with the writer to know HOW this idea came to him and what he thought about it. It’s too bad this movie didn’t do better, but I expect it’s because it is such a difficult concept to get across on a poster. Anyway, worth seeking out.