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Can A Vampire Movie Be A Biopic? ~ At The Movies With Kasey

Five years ago, El Conde surely would have had a limited release in arthouse theaters, so I am grateful that Netflix picked up this gem, giving many more people easy access to it. The movie really stretches the boundary between fiction and biography by reimagining the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet as El Conde (Jaime Vadell), a vampire who, after 250 years, has grown weary of taking part in violent revolts and the hatred he received as a dictator, and decides to die for good. His wife, Lucia (Gloria Münchmeyer); right-hand man, Fyodor (Alfredo Castro); and greedy brood of children are not keen on the idea. Plus, the Church has sent an ambitious nun, Carmencita (Paula Luchsinger), to kill El Conde. Meanwhile, The Narrator (Stella Gonet) explains the story as it unfolds until she reveals her identity in an outrageously sharp, satirical plot twist.

El Conde strives to critique authoritarianism through the guise of a monster movie. Often, I forgot that political satire was the point, as it was easy to get wrapped up in the love triangles, petty drama, and vampires. This film has an odd, very arty approach to the subject matter, but I truly laughed out loud when the narrator said her name.

Although I thought the intended critique should be more pointed, the movie was gorgeous. A rich orchestral soundtrack gives the unfolding drama pomp and whimsy at turns. Using black and white film lends a serious, ironic tone to the historical comedy. Some scenes, such as one of a new vampire flying, are strikingly framed, and choreographed, creating moments of beauty that contrast the more brutal horror elements.

Although El Conde could be classified as a horror film, it uses gore and violence moderately, with a few bursts of blood. Instead, it focuses its fear on the tendency of authoritarianism to retreat into the shadows, only to be revived again.

El Conde was written by Guillermo Calderón and Pablo Larraín, who directed. It is rated R and runs 110 minutes. The film can be watched in the original Spanish with subtitles or dubbed in various languages.

For something entirely different, Theater Camp is now streaming on Hulu. In this mockumentary, filmmakers start a project about AdirondACTS, a theater camp run by an eccentric New Yorker, Joan (Amy Sedaris), but just as the season starts, Joan falls into a coma and her son, Troy (Jimmy Tatro), struggles to keep the camp open. Meanwhile, longtime counselors Amos (Ben Platt) and Rebecca-Diane (Molly Gordon) work on that summer’s musical production. New counselor Janet (Ayo Edebiri) tries to hide that, despite what her resume said, she knows nothing about theater, and the campers give their all in performances, even under dubious circumstances.

Theater Camp reminds me of Christopher Guest’s films, especially in the silly, over-the-top characters and how seriously they take even issues that might not seem like a big deal to anyone else. For example, in one scene, Amos and Rebecca-Diane discover that a camper has been using a “tear stick”—mentholated eyeliner to help them cry onstage—and their response rivals what you might hear in a Scared Straight program. These eccentric characters were crafted with a great deal of care, which is good because there is not much going on with the plot.

Although Amos and Rebecca-Diane drive a lot of the film with their angst over the musical and their futures, I enjoyed the subtler hilarity of Janet more, especially when she tries to get the campers to explain to her what stage combat is when she is the one supposed to teach it. Ayo Edebiri’s lowkey performance makes bits like that one work. As a good-natured “bro” in charge of a theater camp, Jimmy Tatro’s Troy is a misfit among misfits, and that layering of awkwardness adds a lot of humor to a pretty cliched storyline.

Theater Camp criminally underuses Amy Sedaris, but the performances by the ensemble make the film very funny. As Glenn, Noah Glavin delivers a barn burner of a finale, and Nathan Lee Graham provides outstanding line readings throughout. Molly Gordon and Ben Platt have good chemistry as best friends. For these performances, and those of the wonderful child actors, Theater Camp is worth streaming.

Theater Camp was written by Noah Galvin, Molly Gordon, and Nick Lieberman. Molly Gordon and Nick Lieberman also directed. It runs 92 minutes and is rated PG-13.

Kasey Butcher

Kasey Butcher

She is proud to be a Ft. Wayne native, a graduate of Homestead HS, Ball State University & Miami University. She became involved with journalism editor-in-chief for her high school magazine. She authors the "At The Movies with Kasey Butcher" review. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer