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DVD Review: Transylmania – Unrated Edition (2009)

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Transylmania opened in December of 2009 to universally bad reviews and one of the worst box office records in recent history (actually, the worst opening ever for any movie that debuted on 1,000+ screens). It’s got to be one of the worst movies ever, right? Well, you see, readers, I am what some would call an “eternal optimist.” Even if a movie gets ridiculously panned but it looks somewhat interesting to me, I’ll watch it regardless and at least give it a shot to decide for myself. Sure, critics can tell you if a movie is good or bad, but in reality, that’s just their opinion and it really doesn’t count in the grand scheme of things (oh, if any newspapers are hiring for critics, I’m available!). It is with this that I am here not only to tell you, but to beg and plead with you not to waste your time on Transylmania.

Interestingly enough, this isn’t even really a stand-alone movie. This belongs to a National Lampoon (remember when that was a good thing to be associated with?) series known as Dorm Daze. The first Dorm Daze, released in 2003, followed a group of kids on the crazy adventure known as “college.” It was filled with all the gross-out and toilet humor you would expect, but to be brutally honest I actually kind of liked it. The sequel, Dorm Daze 2: College @ Sea took some of the returning cast onto a semester at sea situation and threw in an old fashioned treasure hunt side-plot for giggles. It didn’t work as well, but you know what? There are worse things in the world than this.

The "worse thing" I just mentioned is the third film, the one I am (eventually) going to be talking about, known simply as Transylmania. Much like the Star Wars series, these films seem to be following an “every three years” rule, even though logic dictates most of these people should have graduated by now. In this installment, it focuses around a group of college kids going to Romania for a semester (I assume). Some of them are from the other films (the stoners Pete and Wang, the ditzy Lynne), and some aren’t (like our hero, which I will get to… right now!). So why did these crazy college kids decide on Romania? Well, because they were conned into it by mutual friend Rusty (Oren Skoog, and yes, that’s his name), who wants to go to Romania to visit his Internet girlfriend and finally geeeeet laaaaaaid (like in every college movie ever).

So they get there, and they find out the story of Radu (not Space Cases Radu unfortunately), a vampire who still roams the night in search of the music box his true love is trapped in. Of course, no one believes that story… but just you wait! They get acquainted with their surroundings, only going to one class which is taught by Teodora Van Sloan (the always awful but pretty Musetta Vander), a descendant of the vampire slayer who music box-ed the vamp’s girlfriend and still believes the vampire to exist, much to the chagrin of Dean Floca (David Steinberg), the diminutive head of the school. Floca’s daughter, Draguta (Irena A. Hoffman) happens to be the woman Rusty is romancing. When Rusty meets her, he finds out her dirty secret: she’s got a really ugly (and fake looking) hump on her back, but instead of running like he wants to, he is forced to stay and play nice or else Dean Floca will have him chained up in his dungeon (I think they are standard for any Romanian basement). Floca has also secretly kidnapped one of the girls (I really don’t care who) and has removed her (still alive!) head so he can transplant Draguta’s head onto her slender not fake hump body.

Meanwhile, the music box has ended up in the hands of Lynne (Jennifer Lyons), who keeps getting possessed by Radu’s woman, resulting in “hilarity.” Radu goes to find her, looks just like Rusty, a bunch of mix ups, some unfunny jokes, and the return of James DeBello (reprising his loser slacker role of Cliff from the other films) for about 20 minutes, yadda yadda I’m bored now.

Transylmania should have never been released in theaters, and the fact it was is a testament to the fact that Hollywood is infatuated with vampires and will release anything vampire-related to the screens, even if it’s like this. Everything, from the acting to the sets to the caliber of the screenplay, screams straight-to-DVD schlock and should have stayed that way. The jokes are insulting, stupid, make no sense, and are just plain awful. I chuckled about three times, and spent the rest of my viewing experience completely silent and not the There Will Be Blood-style “OHMYGODGREATESTMOVIEEVER” kind, either. The acting is putrid, especially from Lyons, who has really dragged that “ditzy” thing down to the ground through these movies. She’s especially painful here. The lead actor, Oren Skoog, is over the top in the Kevin Farley way, and that is not a compliment. No one had any chemistry, and everything on screen was just plain stupid. I understand stupid can be sometimes good, but this was painful embarrassing stupid, the kind that repulses and dismays.

I always try to find the good in movies though, and believe it or not, there is a little bit in Transylmania. The idea of denim pants being like currency in Romania was an amusing idea, but it ends up being run into the ground. The stoners Pete and Wang have some mildly okay moments, and David Steinberg hams it up to the best of his ability as Dean Floca. He’s the third best dwarf actor next to Peter Dinklage and Warwick Davis and can actually do roles that aren’t just based on his height. Here, he does what he can, but the script is so bad that it’s hard to make lemonade.

The best part is James DeBello and his character of Cliff. DeBello has criminally never gotten the chance to do anything bigger than straight-to-DVD comedies since his mainstream debut in Detroit Rock City, and he has been typecast as a stoner loser idiot. It works for him though, and he gets the funniest lines of the whole thing. He got me to actually laugh instead of chuckle a few times. It’s always good to see DeBello get work.

On the whole, Transylmania is as bad as everyone says it is, even if you like the other two Dorm Daze films (I admit it, I will turn them on from time to time). This one is lifeless, unfunny, completely stupid, and lacks any rhythm or charm. It should have never been in theaters, and everyone’s violent reaction to this is a good reason as to why. If I were you, I would avoid this like the plague that it is, because even a few bright lights cannot save this ship from crashing into an iceberg.

Special Features:

  • Filmmakers and Cast Commentary
  • Alternate Opening and Ending with Optional Commentary
  • Behind the Scenes Featurette
  • Gag Reel

Technical Mumbo Jumbo: Presented in 1:85:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound.

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About Jonathan Sullivan

  • http://www.examiner.com/x-2896-Phoenix-Movie-Examiner Joseph J. Airdo

    Jonathan, thanks for taking a moment to read my review and comment on it. I appreciate the fact that you are able to respectfully disagree. I am disappointed you were unable to enjoy it the way that I was able to enjoy it, but, as you said, comedy is subjective. I still believe “Transylmania” is among the guiltiest pleasures of last year but you certainly have the right to your polar-opposite opinion. Hopefully, we can both agree that the best way our readers can determine if any movie is good or bad is by seeing it first-hand.

  • Levi

    movies like this play a pretty important role in the beginning of alot of movie careers for actors to break in to the movie industry. I have a lot of friends who live in North Hollywood and they are all trying to make their living as extras or getting on the dating game or a show like that, and getting themselves in a movie like this is usually a pretty big step for them so they can then move into a role on daytime TV or even a small role in an actual feature film. So as awful as a lot of these can be I hope they never stop making them because they play a pretty valuable role. If you follow a career of a lot of A-list actors back far enough you’ll probably find them in a movie alot like this. So hopefully they’ll never stop churning this crap out! :D

  • http://www.filmcalamity.com/ Jonathan Sullivan

    Oh, I definitely have no problem with people churning out stuff like this. It gives actors their foot in the door and sometimes it actually ends up being pretty watchable (like the first two Dorm Dazes). I don’t want them to stop, not at all.