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‘Vampire in Brooklyn’ (R)

By Hal Hinson
Washington Post Staff Writer
October 27, 1995

There's a problem with the new Eddie Murphy movie, "Vampire in Brooklyn": The audience gets it in the neck.

Directed by "A Nightmare on Elm Street" auteur Wes Craven, this paltry reworking of the Dracula story features Murphy as Maximillian, last of the legendary breed of vampires. Searching for his half sister, Maximillian comes to America in hopes of sustaining their kind.

The sister, as it turns out, is a New York detective who, at the beginning of the film, is called in to investigate a freighter that has mysteriously crashed into Brooklyn's waterfront—with all of its crew members dead. The daughter of a prominent expert in the paranormal, Rita (Angela Bassett) appears to be pretty well adjusted; on occasion, though, she experiences strange urgings that seem to come from nowhere. Maximillian—who talks with a silky Caribbean accent and dresses like Rick James—knows exactly where those urgings come from. And if he can simply get her to dance with him—just one dance—she will surrender to him.

Unfortunately for Max, Rita's partner (Allen Payne) is always hanging around, butting in at the wrong time. Throughout all this, Max maintains his undead cool, but while Murphy is sexy and assured as the vampire, he's not very funny. The script—by the star's brother, Charles Murphy, along with Michael Lucker and Chris Parker—seems sophomoric, as if its variations on the vampire myth were worked out with an audience of 13-year-olds in mind.

Murphy has said that he wanted the picture to work both as a comedy and a horror movie, but he has succeeded at neither. Director Craven manages to wedge in some of his signature bits, and yes, the movie does have a nice dream sequence. But Craven can't keep the comic elements in balance with the horror, and as a result there's no tension or dramatic pull.

Bassett is the movie's greatest waste, though. As Rita, this commanding actress has absolutely nothing to do except fret. One look at her and you sense immediately that she's the equal of any foe, undead or alive. But the movie asks us to see her as a weakling—now there's a joke.

Vampire in Brooklyn is rated R.

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