Let’s be forthright, here: Onur Tukel does not look like your typical Hollywood leading man. No wonder, then, that Summer of Blood is not your typical Hollywood vampire movie (though, now that vampires are sparkly and drive Volvos, who knows what is typical anymore). The fortysomething, pudgy, graying Turkish-American is repeatedly compared to Jerry Garcia throughout this indie horror-comedy, which he wrote, directed and stars in as hapless slacker Erik Sparrow.
Sparrow is, to put it mildly, not a winner. He spends most of his dead-end sales job hitting on his coworker Penelope (Dakota Goldhor) and masturbating in the bathroom, and he turns down a marriage proposal from his beautiful, ambitious girlfriend Jody (Anna Margaret Hollyman) because he is a commitmentphobe. When Jody gets fed up and finally leaves him, it looks like Erik’s lazy, lackluster life has finally dwindled to a standstill. That is, until he becomes a vampire. Once bitten, Erik becomes a fanged sex maniac, whose thirst for women’s bodies is only equaled by his thirst for blood. Yet, despite his newfound abilities in the sack--not to mention, you know, his immortality--Erik still longs for Jody. He is also still a foul-mouthed, fast-talking and frequently offensive human being.
The highlight of the film is the auteur himself. Tukel is an absolute riot in the role of Erik, resembling Woody Allen in spirit nearly as much as he resembles that aforementioned Grateful Dead frontman in the flesh. The dialogue that Tukel spouts is often absolutely absurd, but his delivery is spot-on. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for many of the supporting characters; I’m not sure whether Tukel is just not as good at writing jokes for other people, or other people are not as good as delivering his jokes, but either way, much of the dialogue not said by Erik falls a bit flat. Still, the film’s rat-a-tat pace means that the viewer doesn’t have much time to dwell on the less-than-stellar moments before something hilarious happens again.
The film was shot on location in Brooklyn and shows a side of it that many movie-watchers might be less than familiar with--the gritty, dirty, legitimately low-budget side, where working-class New Yorkers who don’t have parents subsidizing their rent actually live. I used to live off of the same downtrodden J train stop in Bushwick that Erik does in the movie; seeing my creepy former laundromat as the backdrop of a blood-gushing vampire attack was quite fitting and, in a weird, twisted way, made me long for the arrival of the sun and sweat-soaked New York summer.
Summer of Blood is a flawed film, and occasionally too infatuated with its own cleverness, but thanks to Tukel's uniquely demented screen presence, it is still a breath of fresh air. Fans of Shaun of the Dead and Seinfeld should take a chance and check it out.
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES
The DVD release of Summer of Blood includes behind the scenes footage, deleted/extended scenes, commentary with Tukel and the film’s trailer.
"Summer of Blood" is on sale November 11, 2014 and is not rated. Comedy, Horror. Written and directed by Onur Tukel. Starring Anna Margaret Hollyman, Dakota Goldhor, Onur Tukel.