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Wes Craven: The Scream years part 1 – Vampire in Brooklyn

In my #gutreaction Letterbox’d review I remarked that Vampire in Brooklyn was the result of a Murphyfest disaster. While in part this is true, there is an element here of two artists striving to reinvent or find new aspects of themselves but are trapped by the fields that had elevated their careers in the first place. On one side we have the larger-than-life character that Eddie Murphy portrays on screen with his observational, raw and at times vulgar or cruel look at America, paved his career with his stand-up performances and Saturday Night Live sketches, along with some big hit movies throughout the 80s such as Beverly Hills Cop and Trading Places. Murphy had grown tired of the kind of roles that he was being offered and desired to get his teeth into a more serious role. Vampire in Brooklyn provided the chance for Murphy to showcase his more serious, dramatic chops with his vampire Maximillian with the promise of more of his usual stuff through a few supporting characters that he would deliver via the means of make up and in-your-face stereotypes.
On the other side is Director Wes Craven, who having recently played his last active contribution to the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, was still looking to shirk his horror genre persona and looking to tap into the more comical mainstream that Murphy’s presence offered. The trouble is that in their search for their alternate selves, both Murphy and Craven would be subject to producer and fan expectations that would muddy the waters of their pursuits and clash in an almost forgettable movie. Murphy would go on record blaming his hair extensions for the film’s failure but it’s clear that there is a barrier placed in the way that no matter how hard Craven would try to navigate around would be a constant obstacle to success.
Vampire in Brooklyn would begin life through the writing collaboration of Murphy, his brother Charlie, and Vernon Lynch and would initially walk a similar path to Bram Stoker’s Dracula with a unmanned boat docking (albeit comicially here) and revealing a huge wolf-like beast as its only surviving passenger. This creature would transform into Murphy’s Maximillian, a Caribbean vampire in search of a bride to continue his bloodline. 
One of the witnesses to Maximillian’s early misdeeds in the film which included ripping the heart out of previous Craven collaborator Mitch Pileggi’s hoodlum characters’ chest, is Julius Jones (Kadeem Hardison); a down-on-his-luck character that could be fashioned from Stoker’s Renfield character. 
Another actor who has worked with Craven before is Zakes Mokae (The Serpent and the Rainbow) who appears as a wisened soul who could very well be likened to the Van Helsing in this world, although with not as large a part. 
The rest is the piece is fairly loose in substance as Maximillian finds the bride he is searching for is none other than half-human, half-vampire Detective Rita Veder (Angela Bassett). Bassett, who had recently come to the fore with her portrayal of singer Tina Turner in What’s Love Got To Do With It, thankfully provides some much needed weight to the screenplay. Without her involvement, there really isn’t a lot on show. There are some cheap laughs to be had but the film lacks any originality and for Craven (who would be on the tipping point of creating a whole new wake in the horror genre, and the birth of yet another franchise in Scream),  would prove to be an example of how a greater budget and lack of creative control can lead to poor results.

– Saul Muerte