Back before Fire Marshall Bill, before Ace Ventura, there was Mark Kendall. Mark is a young man who is desperate to get into the pants of his girlfriend but finds himself to be the target of a local Vampire who wants to do more than just get into his pants. It’s a classic 80’s Horror Comedy known as Once Bitten.
Today’s Key Movie:
When a Vampire Countess finds herself in need of the blood of a Virgin male before Halloween, she soon discovers that finding a virgin in the 20th century is much harder than she expected. She soon runs into Mark Kendall (Jim Carrey) who might just be the man she is looking for.
Also starring Lauren Hutton, Karen Kopins and Cleavon Little, this is a classic 80’s horror comedy about sex and vampires in the modern age.
Why this movie?
I was far too young to watch this movie when I first saw it but, seeing that we loved our Vampire movies, nothing was going to stop me from seeing this film. The concept was simple, A sexy vampire needs the blood of a virgin male before Halloween, and that was enough to get my prepubescent mind going. Expecting something more in the line of Fright Night (which I had seen around the same time), I was treated with something closer to a comedy that took the classic Dracula story and twisted it on it’s head with a fresh take on female vampires that, looking at it from today, comes across as a little sexist at times.
At the time of it’s release, this was a classic 80’s raunchy comedy standard film, featuring a unique blend of sex and horror that takes the Vampire trope in a slightly new direction. You see, in this film, in order to stay young female vampires must feed on male virgins every few years. The clincher? The vampire needs to bite the virgin on his inner thigh three times before midnight on Halloween in order to get what they need. While it is fresh take on an old theme, it comes across as very inconvenient and quite frankly a little silly. Why would female vampires have different requirements than male ones? For some reason, even at a young age, that detail always bothered me. I mean, blood is blood right?
Getting past that small, and rather sexist, detail, the film is really a lot of fun. In many ways this movie serves as a comment toward the extreme nature of 80’s culture from lifestyle choices (it literally has a scene with a woman walking a lion down Hollywood Boulevard) to the over-sexualized world that existed in 1985. I mean, everything in the 80’s was about sex, drugs and/or rock and roll and this film comments on all of these things to various degrees.
Jim Carrey, in one of his earliest roles, plays the lead teen,Mark, who is seduced by the Vampire played by Lauren Hutton. Amazingly enough, this is one of Carrey’s least insane films taking place well before his antics in Ace Ventura and stint in In Living Color. Surprisingly, pre-In Living Color Carrey is actually quite good, keeping his later style of humor in control and proving that he actually has the chops to be a leading man. I have to wonder how he went from a solid Steve Guttenberg type to more of a modern Jerry Lewis in the prime of his career. That being said, this movie really shows the talent he had well before he became the mainstream actor we all know.
Sharing the lead are actors Lauren Hutton and Karen Kopins who play the Countess and Mark’s girlfriend respectively. Lauren Hutton nails the role of the Vampire Countess perfectly and really shows a chemistry with Carrey that is unexpected in a movie like this. Not only is Hutton gorgeous as the older Vampire, she manages to convince you that she is in fact a 300+ Vampire on the prowl. Opposite her is Mark’s girlfriend, Robin, who also manages to have a convincing and more innocent connection with Mark. In fact when the three get together on screen there is a real apparent chemistry going on that is utterly convincing. One of my favorite scenes in the film is a dance off at the high school Halloween party in which both women try to claim Mark as their own through what ends up to be quite the incredible dance routine. In a way, this very scene sums up the films plot as it is truly the battle for Mark’s very soul or virginity…either way it works.
Rounding out the primary cast is Cleavon Little as Sebastian, the Countess’ manservant, and Marks friends Jamie and Russ played by Thomas Ballatore and Skip Lackey respectively. As supporting cast these guys all fill out their roles perfectly, giving the primary characters a strong sense of believability that would otherwise have been lacking. The standout is Cleavon who is tremendous in his roll, playing the gay friend and servant to the ancient Countess. While he does fill in a bit of the gay stereotype of the time, he does so with a manner of respect and veritas that really makes him an endearing character despite being the servant to an evil creature.
With a great supporting cast in addition to the primaries, this is a fun 80’s horror comedy that has really stood the test of time. As with most 80’s films, this is one you have to remember when it came out and accept it for it’s place in time. To judge a film like this on modern standards would be unjust but I have to say, I would love to see an update to this film that takes place in today’s world. It would be quite a different story for sure but I imagine it would still be quite fun.
OK, where do I get this movie?
This one is amazingly still available on home release, even on bluray. You can even get a copy via your favorite streaming service. While it is a product if it’s time, I do recommend it for any fan of 80’s comedy or even those that enjoy a campy vampire film. Once Bitten is fun and shows how great Carrey could be even at an early age.
And of course, the trailer:
Late To The Game 3/19/2020
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