Filled with cynicism, self-deprecation and utterly disenchanted views on society, Summer Of Blood feels like a vampire comedy straight from the mind of Woody Allen. Set against the backdrop of Brooklyn’s most desolate locations, it’s writer/director/actor Onur Tukel who channels his inner mumblecorian while lambasting the hipster-ish nature of overly gentrified NYC suburbs, turning to Allen’s collection of darkly honest comedies for inspiration. Tukel uses a vampiric eternity to address his own thoughts on finality and superfluous happiness, yet his voice is projected through a character who refuses to keep his mouth shut for more than a millisecond. This rapid-fire barrage of wry humor works in chunks, but after an overbearing assault of dialogue, Tukel’s existential messages become nothing but the egotistical ravings of a selfish man who does not believe that silence is golden. Aren’t vampires supposed to be lazy and low-key?
Tukel plays Erik Sparrow, a man who seemingly has it all yet couldn’t care less. Avoiding responsibility and positivity at all times, Erik dances around any topic that requires commitment or future planning. In his most recent fit of avoidance, Erik refuses to marry his girlfriend Jody (Anna Margaret Hollyman), which finally motivates her to end their fledgling relationship. Erik tries to get over Jody by testing the dating waters again, but he consistently finds himself yearning for the familiar love he once felt. Directionless and empty, Erik’s life is turned upside down by a man who asks a simple question – “Do you want to die?”
Summer Of Blood becomes a polarizing affair based solely on Tukel’s portrayal of Erik Sparrow. Resembling the lovechild of David Cross and George Lucas, Tukel’s obnoxious characterization will be immediately off-putting to a handful of audiences who won’t find any redeeming traits inside such a brutish social pariah. Erik babbles on and on about how there’s no such concept as “safety” anymore, and how embracing life’s horrid nature leads to complete freedom, yet Tukel’s mile-a-minute delivery fills viewers up faster than a Thanksgiving dinner. Insight and hilarity are found at times, but it’s almost as if Erik spews an endless stream of jokes hoping that at least one or two stick while the rest thoughtlessly miss their mark. In acknowledging that too much of a good thing can be overwhelming, digesting Erik’s deplorable slacker is like eating an entire canister of Duncan Hines frosting – sinfully sweet at first, yet nauseatingly overindulgent come the final spoonfuls.
Erik’s unappetizing human nature is quite a drag, because when Summer Of Blood transitions into a goofy vampire comedy, there’s a blood-soaked charm that could have possibly been a winning endeavor. We’ve seen down-on-their-luck characters perform a confident 180 after experiencing a monster’s bite, yet Erik’s transformation boils down to some contact lenses and two sharper incisors. Sure, his outlook on life changes a bit when embracing eternity, but the grounded nature of his vampire physicality makes any blood-sucking rampage seem like a quaint sideshow instead of a murderous rampage. By keeping deadly activities understated, feeding scenes turn into civilized chats where Erik passes around a bleeding corpse while discussing the daily hubbub of vampiric life. It’s a shame that Tukel waits so long before turning Erik into a vamp, because those horrific notes are more genuine than anything we see pre-vampire-bite.
There is one memorable schtick that Tukel plays around with while Erik creates his vampire “army,” and that’s a question I’ve often pondered myself time and time again – does it feel good to be turned? No, for serious! When in the heat of passion, a “kiss” on the neck turns into a hickey the next morning because it feels good at the time. Why wouldn’t a vampire bite be the ultimate form of the famous foreplay act? According to Summer Of Blood, my assessment couldn’t be more correct, as we learn that vampires have the best sex. I knew it! If I start dating a vampire, now you know why.
For all of the sexy hijinks and mindless conversations, Summer Of Blood ironically prides itself on featuring a character you’re supposed to love to hate. Some might see this as a cultural attack on society’s caged, predestined nature, a movement countered by Erik’s belief in saying “fuck it” to every ounce of conformity (jobs/families/commitment), but all I got was a whiny main character selfishly wasting every opportunity thrown his way. If Erik’s disgusting personality was intermittently toned down I’d find myself singing a different tune, but as is, Tukel drowns his viewers in weightless, preachy dialogue, assuring that you’ll hate Erik almost as much as every other character does.
Onur Tukel goes to great lengths to ensure you hate his main character Erik Sparrow, and with only that mission in mind, Summer Of Blood is an unfortunate success.