When I was in college, I remember seeing an early screening of Vampire in Brooklyn featuring a Q&A session with director Wes Craven. To this day I regret not asking, “Why shouldn’t I bludgeon you?” His answer, I imagine, would’ve been something along the lines of “Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should,” which ironically is the same advice I’d give to anyone involved with this film. Sure, Eddie Murphy can star in a vampire movie, but he can also record an album with Rick James, and how well did that turn out? I don’t know if Craven owed Eddie Murphy a debt or if he was just tired of making films that were — what’s the word? — good, but Vampire in Brooklyn has the distinct feeling of being phoned in. Long distance.
The story is by-the-numbers vampire lore, with Murphy starring as Maximillian, an upper-crust bloodsucker from an island in the Bermuda Triangle looking to seduce a Brooklyn cop named Rita (Angela Bassett), who must “give herself” to him voluntarily for some cockamamie reason. There’s even a Van Helsing-like scholar (Zakes Mokae) who tries to help Rita’s partner Justice (Allen Payne) kill the monster. The only unique twist is that unbeknownst to Rita, her mother once got freaky with a vampire, making Rita half-Nosferatu. Thus, Maximillian begins the quest that all men must undertake with their significant others at some point: he must bring out her natural inclination to suck.
Even without Murphy, Vampire in Brooklyn would’ve been a mediocre film, but with him, any attempt at drama is for naught (not helped by the fact that his Caribbean accent tends to veer into Gumby territory), and the few attempts at comedy are surprisingly fruitless. I don’t want to live in a world where Kadeem Hardison is funnier than Eddie Murphy. Murphy’s now well-worn penchant (fetish?) for playing multiple characters adds little here, especially following his inspired turn in Coming to America. The comedy and horror elements in Vampire in Brooklyn fit together like Kim Kardashian and class.
Maximillian is humorless for most of the movie, then suddenly masquerades as an over-the-top minister and gets trapped having to deliver a sermon…in a church! Wacky! Spit takes, pratfalls and rubber chickens are optional. The year after Vampire in Brooklyn came out, Craven and Murphy would redeem themselves with Scream and The Nutty Professor, respectively, but no one can give me back those two hours from 1995 that I could’ve spent selling “The Juice Is Loose” t-shirts.