Sam Matheson (Torrance Coombs) sounds like a nerd. Sam Matheson sort of looks like a nerd. Heck, with his early in life vampire movie obsession it’s entirely likely that Sam Matheson was a nerd.
On Sam’s 21st birthday, everything changes when a mysterious gentleman offers him what seems like his dream job as an assistant to Simon Bolivar (Paul Hubbard), a 400-year-old vampire. Intrigued and excited, Sam accepts the opportunity to become this strange and neurotic vampire’s “familiar,” an assistant who remains fully human while both protecting the vampire and cleaning up his, um, “messes.”
Written and directed by Kody Zimmerman, The Familiar has already captured several film festival awards as a delightfully offbeat 22-minute horror short blending equal doses of horror, comedy and loving tribute to the old Hammer flicks that could masterfully blend the sort of horrific humor that is so completely absent from flicks today.
Rumored to have been inspired by Zimmerman’s own experiences as a personal assistant to an unnamed Hollywood actor, The Familiar isn’t so much likely to elicit belly laughs as it is chuckles of amusement along with a genuine admiration for Zimmerman’s obvious filmmaking craft. Actor Torrance Coombs (The Tudors) comes off a lot like Colin Hanks in any of his seemingly endless supply of teen/young adult comedies, giving Sam a sort of Office Space meets Shaun of the Dead sensibility with neither film’s comic nor graphic extremes. While Zimmerman frames Matheson as the central character, Paul Hubbard steals the show as the high maintenance, endlessly neurotic Simon Bolivar. Bolivar sort of resembles a David Johansen with fangs, a statement that manages to be simultaneously a compliment and insult. There’s a rather delightful kitsch to Hubbard’s performance and his scenes with Sam’s predecessor, played by Brock Shoveller, feel like we’re watching two old pals who’ve spent centuries getting to know each other. Rachel Sehl also has a solid supporting turn as a young woman who sparks Sam’s change of heart about his life long commitment to the boss from hell.
Shot on HD video with George Campbell as D.P., The Familiar blends excellent camera work with ever so slightly off-kilter special effects that nicely fit the film’s irreverent mood. Richard L. King adds to the mix a nicely complementary original score.
Continuing on the film festival circuit, The Familiar takes everything beloved about old school horror and mixes it magically with contemporary situations and modern-day technology to create one of the more delightful horror shorts to come across my desk in quite some time. If you get a chance, check it out!