Transylmania (2009)

(On DVD, December 2011) There is a correct state of mind in trying to appreciate this film, and it includes the words “Stoner college comedies are pretty bad and we shouldn’t expect much from them”.  Once you’d gone over that particular conditioning exercise (and maybe watched a few terrible Friedberg/Seltzer “comedies” as a reminder of how bad the sub-genre can be), then Transylmania isn’t all that bad.  Oh, it’s still not very good: Not only is it a sequel to the two National Lampoon Dorm Daze comedies in which a bunch of American students go study abroad in a foreboding Transylvanian university set in an age-old castle, it’s rife with dull dialogue, contrived situations, unimpressive humor and one strikingly out-of-place gory sequence.  Still, there’s quite a bit more artistic ambition here than in most of the big-budget “concept comedies” you’re likely to catch in multiplexes: The motif of doubles (either through twins, possession or doppelgangers) leads the script to some fairly sophisticated farce-plotting, whereas some of the cinematography is surprisingly good for the kind of college comedy this is billed as: The filmmakers obviously had a few higher goals in mind in trying to ape German expressionism (among other classic influences) and blending it with dope-fueled inanity.  Among other performances, Jennifer Lyons is adorable as a cheerleader possessed by an ancient witch, allowing her to alternate between an airhead and a vamp; Musetta Vander is also remarkable with a strong action-heroine performance as a vampire hunter.  If you’re not convinced, have a look at the DVD supplements, which features an entertaining commentary, a good making-of featurette, and alternate sequences that are just as interesting as the material that ended in the film.  While this won’t be a film for the ages, it’s funny and good-natured enough to leave no ill feelings.

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