Donato, King of the Vampire Drags bites.
Too hokey? Not for this movie.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with
liking a little cheese with your blood — I get my kicks from the ludicrous undead the same as any other Stephenie Meyer-reading, True Blood-watching fleshbag. And Donato, King of the Vampire Drags is a promising title.
In the “Realm of Mist & Shadow,” the ancient vampire Balmoro is chosen to scourge humanity with his plague — though he could have just as easily won a frilliest-shirt contest. He turns Donato, proprietor of San Antonio drag club Peacocks, who then turns the club’s main talent, Jazmine, and it’s a game of distinctly clinical Dracula dominoes from there. There’s no sex, little blood, and nobody suffers an oh-shit-I’m-immortal breakdown, or seems to get the craving more than once. Glittering bracelets, meant to hide bite wounds on wrists, are passed from victim to victim like sticks of gum, and the newly made vampires notice that fang marks from gay and straight coworkers look different. Beats me why — I thought all vampires were bicurious, at least.
Lucky for the boring bloodsuckers, a gang of affluent ladies — fans of Peacocks’ signature drink, the “Pink Miranda” — who call themselves “Friends of the Light,” discover what’s going on at their favorite hangout and take time out of their busy socializing schedule to find a reversal for the curse of vampirism in the gay and transvestite community. Yes, that’s basically a word-for-word quotation, but based on writer-director Mary de los Santos Harder’s dedication to her deceased son, I rather think (and hope) her intent is more metaphorical than offensive.
Donato is comical, to a point, because in spite of its hokier elements, it isn’t played for camp, but with unconvincing earnestness. Yet it fails to lap up the possibility of its kooky moniker, silly dialogue, and bad props — or to exploit vampiric themes. It’s either deliberately B-movie bad — without any winks or nods to let you in on the joke — or an audacious but ultimately disappointing amateur experiment in full-length filmmaking.
Of course, this is partly sex talking. With the exception of a few genre digressions, let’s face it: Vampires are hot as they are hokey, and somehow, Donato packs less sizzle than the abstinence fable Twilight. Nevertheless, if you would do anything for fang and find yourself at the Josephine Theater, sipping a Pink Miranda at the Donato screening this Saturday night, let me do you a solid:
Drink — Whenever a character, straight-faced, talks about trying to “make” someone in a bathroom
Drink — When the music sounds like it belongs in a porno
Drink — When ridiculous explanatory text in goofy font is imposed onscreen. Hey, it’s the actor’s job to tell us if he’s “searching” or thinking “duh”
Drink — When a burly man’s man type dons a glittering bracelet as if it were no more than a big belt buckle
Drink — When a cut is inserted into the middle of a scene, and then the film picks up again at the exact same spot from the exact same angle
Drink — Whenever a character incorrectly refers to a fresh fang wound as a “scar”
Drink — Anytime a fake glare appears and a “glamored” victim’s eyes go yellow like they’ve been colored in with chalk
Finally, take two drinks when you see a plastic baby. Stay thirsty, my friends.