Published Jul 25, 2013Treading the line between accessible teen vampire romance and blood-sucking art house piece, Dave Schultz's Rufus comes off a bit like the type of film Gregg Araki might make were he an inexperienced Canadian.
The angst-ridden story of an outsider looking for affection and finding sexual and emotional confusion would fit with much of the Mysterious Skin director's oeuvre. Rufus is even shot with a similar slick, soft-core-porn-meets-soap-opera sheen, albeit minus any overt indicators of style — this is a low-budget Canadian film, after all.
Rory J. Saper is the plasma-craving loner trying to make a fresh start in a remote town in what appears to be the Prairies. Playing the role of infiltrating cuckoo, this old man in a teenager's body is taken in by the local sheriff and his wife. Both are eager to have a young boy in the house again after losing their child and Rufus seems perfectly in need of nurturing after a bloody incident leaves him stranded and alone in an unfamiliar town.
Tracy (Merritt Patterson, who resembles a less sultry Megan Fox), infamous around town for her sexual appetite, takes an interest in the pale, skinny new boy, inviting him over for a game of "show me yours and I'll show you mine." Either she's easy even for someone with a low self-esteem and high libido or there's some solidarity among outcasts business going on. Their coital friendship ignites the jealousy of Tracy's former fling, Clay (Richard Harmon, Grave Encounters 2).
Following an altercation that outs Rufus as an aberration, not just a socially awkward kid with an abnormally low body temperature, Clay, the town bully, reveals his feelings for his new friend, comparing his homosexual desires with a vampire's thirst for blood.
Committing to a glacial pace that captures the doldrums of being a teenager and feeling like you're never going to grow up, Schultz's low-key, character-driven medical oddity drama (there's nothing mystical about these rules of vampirism) will appeal more to fans of Martin than The Vampire Diaries, though it lacks the psychological complexity of George A. Romero's masterpiece.
Rufus is a distinctly teenage story hampered by stiff performances, a lack of cinematic vision and an awful score that sounds like a 16-bit version of a '80s daytime soap theme. All of the components for an insightful, emotionally honest story are present, but Schultz falters in ensuring across-the-board quality control.
It's a shame the plain presentation will most likely limit the audience for Rufus; we could use more films about coming to terms with the horror of realizing how abnormal we all are at an age when it feels like it matters. (eOne)