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Vampire Mob Review

on Wed, 09/22/2010 - 00:00

Vampires have become a hot commodity as of late. From the Twilight move franchise to the Emmy-nominated HBO drama True Blood, it seems that America has a huge appetite for the blood-sucking fiends. The country also has a fascination with the criminal mobster, however, a love-hate relationship that goes back decades to the original The Godfather and extends all the way to another Emmy-honored HBO series, The Sopranos. Boston-bred Joe Wilson has now found a way to combine these two genres into the humanly realistic, often humorous and entirely gripping web series, Vampire Mob.

Don Grigioni, the main antagonist of the series, may be a member of the undead but he is no Edward from Twilight or Bill from True Blood. There is no moping in Vampire Mob, no tormented souls or seeking of redemption either. In fact, Don and his wife Annie are practically human in every way possible except that they drink blood for nutrition and cannot go outside during the daytime. “I wouldn’t choose it but it’s pretty good,” Annie tells her sister in regards to being a vampire. “I mean, I’ve lost weight. I feel great. I was always trying to stay out of the sun anyways. And Don and I... I think it brought us closer. I mean, we’re the only ones who understand each other, what it’s like.”

Although Don Grigioni is a member of the mob in addition to being a vampire, he is also not Michael Corleone or Tony Soprano. Instead of being a crime boss, he’s a mere hit man who drains the blood from his victims and then brings it home in large jugs to share with his wife. “Gotta love mixing business with grocery shopping,” Grigioni remarks. When the pickings prove slim, he muses about having to take on more jobs and even purchases a synthetic brand, similar to True Blood, from Marty Five’s Castle and New Organic Dispensary.

Vampire Mob is filmed as a documentary/reality show with Don Grigioni’s unseen nephew Mikey working the camera. In addition to showcasing the action of the web series, the narrative device also offers the opportunity for the characters to privately share their thoughts with the audience, much like the NBC comedy The Office. “I was shot,” Grigioni tells the camera in the first episode. “And then I did the whole ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ thing. Heard voices. Annoying voices. Relatives’ voices. Voices of... business associates? So I chose this. You know, live forever hopefully. Most of my business is done at night—it’s a good fit.”

His initial reaction to the transformation was positive, especially in regards to his wife. “I thought it would be good for our marriage,” Grigioni explains. “I could relax because there’d be more wives. They wouldn’t live forever.” But although he tells Annie that the reason he eventually turned her into a vampire was because he loved her, in reality Don’s action stemmed from the simple fact that he was hungry. Annie, however, has no such hidden motives when it comes to her own family. “If I’m going to live forever, I want my mother to live forever,” she remarks to the camera. “So I can complain about Don.”

“Now I’ve got a wife and a mother-in-law that are going to live with me for eternity,” Don Grigioni in turn confides, his voice dripping with both regret and fear. Therein lies the true brilliance of Vampire Mob—while the web series may indeed be a masterful mash-up of the vampire and mobster genres, in reality it’s the spot-on story of a dysfunctional middle class family struggling to get along with each other.

In addition to the exploration of domestic life, however, Vampire Mob humanizes its characters in other ways as well. “I miss meatballs,” Grigioni tells the camera about his inability to now eat like a regular person. “Huge meatballs with gravy. I could care less about the pasta.” And despite the fact that food consumption gives them “the runs for a couple of days,” he still makes Annie cook dinner. “I like to sit down and feel like I’m having a meal,” he explains before feeding his plate to the dog.

The initial advent of the web series as a creative medium resulted in a rush of productions that were poorly filmed and written, but Vampire Mob joins a number of recent projects that benefit from strong writing and directing. Creator Joe Wilson produced Vampire Mob as part of the new Screen Actors Guild guidelines regarding web series, which gave him access to professional performers like John Colella (Don Grigioni), Reamy Hall (Annie) and Chris Mulkey, adding to the quality of the finished project.

“I worked as a bartender in Boston for a while and had a few regulars who were involved in organized crime,” Wilson explains in regards to the origination of the web series. “Don is partially based on one of them. The world of the mafia in Vampire Mob is based on the Boston mob in the late eighties and early nineties, which was messy due to FBI busts and mafia shootings.”

Although the roots of the series originate in a Boston bar, it took a few years before the concept fully crystallized. “I originally came up with the idea for the story in 2009 while I was working as a private investigator in the intellectual property field,” Joe Wilson continues. “I joked about how the vampire thing doesn’t seem to be going away and, at that time, Johnny Depp’s movie Public Enemies was out, so where’s the ‘vampire mob’ show?” From there, Wilson crafted Vampire Mob as a one-act play that was initially performed by the Ruskin Group Theatre in Santa Monica before enhancing the narrative for online viewing.

Joe Wilson has created a web series that is as much a combination of offbeat humor and dysfunctional family drama as it is a mix of the vampire and mobster genres that, amazingly enough, works on all of those levels. While Vampire Mob may never achieve Emmy recognition on par with The Sopranos or True Blood, it is a creative equal to those series nonetheless and gives new meaning to the phrase, “Take a bite out of crime.”

Anthony Letizia (September 22, 2010)

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