Outhier: 'Netherbeast’ vampire concept gets anemic fast - East Valley Tribune: Get Out

Outhier: 'Netherbeast’ vampire concept gets anemic fast

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Posted: Friday, September 12, 2008 2:09 am | Updated: 9:01 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

In the unwieldy vampire comedy “Netherbeast Incorporated,” Valley filmmakers Dean Matthew Ronalds and Brian Ronalds imagine a modern, cubicle-dominated office environment as it might look if staffed by a race of flesh-eating Nosferatus.

In the unwieldy vampire comedy “Netherbeast Incorporated,” Valley filmmakers Dean Matthew Ronalds and Brian Ronalds imagine a modern, cubicle-dominated office environment as it might look if staffed by a race of flesh-eating Nosferatus. Instead of Doritos, the employees snack on fingers. During work breaks, they gossip near a water cooler filled with human blood.

As comedy concepts go, it’s about on a par with those metrosexual Geico cavemen — a clever if limited amusement best suited for TV commercials or a series of comedy skits (in fact, “Netherbeast” started out as a short film). 

Shot in Avondale on a modest budget, the movie borrows heavily from “Office Space” as it sets out to reinvent the vampire genre. It takes place in the paneled, fluorescent-lighted offices of Berm-Tech Industries, a century-old telecom company founded as a cover for “nether-folk” (i.e., vampires). Aside from the ghoulish refreshments, it’s a pretty standard vision of workaday cubicle blahness. It even sports the obligatory out-of-touch office honcho (Darrell Hammond from “Saturday Night Live,” channeling Gary Cole and Steve Carrell).

The movie chugs along until screenwriter Steve Dellis, in an artless, 1950s education film-style block of exposition, invents an onerous nether-folk mythology covering everything from ecology to anatomy to the assassination of U.S. President James Garfield (Robert Wagner, bedridden and underused). At this point, the movie essentially becomes a lecture, and we glaze over like understimulated school kids.

How much better “Netherbeast” might have been if the audience were afforded a true outsider perspective, perhaps in the guise of Pearl (Phoenix native Amy Davidson), a spunky, nonvampiric single gal who comes to work at Berm-Tech due to a personnel error and strikes up a romance with the hero and narrator, Otto (likable newcomer Steve Burns). Through her eyes, the filmmakers could have shown, not told.

Instead, we get a horror-comedy hybrid that feels explanatory and staged, like an extremely ambitious TV pilot. The cinematic polish is lacking, too. Sure, the cast is impressive for a relatively low-budget independent film — Dave Foley (“Kids in the Hall”) and Jason Mewes (“Clerks”) play pencil-pushers, and Judd Nelson (“The Breakfast Club”) pops up as a diabolical efficiency consultant — but in technical matters such as lighting and scoring, the movie comes up short.

Maybe the Ronalds (Dean directs; Brian acts and produces) should have reinvested some of that movie-star money into a couple of new microphones. What’s the point of having a bloodthirsty Judd Nelson on the set if you can’t hear him suck?

“Netherbeast Incorporated” is playing exclusively at the Harkins Valley Art.

MOVIE REVIEW | 'Netherbeast Incorporated’

Cast: Darrell Hammond, Judd Nelson, Dave Foley, Steve Burns, Jason Mewes, Robert Wagner, Amy Davidson

Behind the scenes: Directed by Dean Matthew Ronalds, from a script by Bruce Dellis

Rating: Not rated

Running time: 90 minutes

Grade: C-

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