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Being a vampire is so draining

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Can a morose teenage vampire with a yearning for friends -- and an aggressively indie soundtrack to differentiate him from other such teenage vampires -- find happiness with the girl next door, even if she is the town slut?

That's the conundrum in Rufus, a Canadian version (i.e., the boy's transformation into vampire kind of sucks, if you'll pardon the expression) of an old story. Rufus certainly won't generate the sexual heat, or the box-office glory, of the Twilight franchise, but it's not meant to.

This is a combination coming-of-age story, romance and analysis of small-town culture: three movies in one, for one low admission price. Rufus also cuts costs by having the vampire become something of a werewolf, too -- he grows claws and growls -- which saves one entire salary.

As for the plot, well, it was probably just a matter of time before the vampire legend ran up against an expos© of Big Pharma, and it took a little Saskatchewan film to do it.

It starts when Rufus (British newcomer Rory J. Saper) arrives in tiny Conrad, (actually Dunburn, Sask.) on the run from something. He's a morose kid with hair that flops fetchingly over one eye, and he is adopted by the local cop Hugh (David James Elliott) and his wife Jen (Kelly Rowan), who have morose issues of their own -- a dead son who, if I'm not mistaken, would be around Rufus's age now -- adding to the general malaise.

It's hardly lifted by Tracy (Merritt Patterson), the girl next door who spots the new kid in town and has him in her house and naked before you can say Parental Guidance.

Vampires, which battle zombies as the go-to metaphor for our age of global collapse, have their symbolic work cut out for them, and Rufus has an especially heavy load to carry. Hesitant, lonely, unlettered, lost and saddled with non-standard powers -- he doesn't burst into flames in the sun -- Rufus must also fill several roles in Conrad.

He's a missing son, a fill-in lover, an object of desire to all who meet him (straight guys apparently turn gay at the very sight of him), and protector of women's virtue, even though his claws are kind of dopey and his growling attacks on people's necks have all the menace of someone pouring ketchup onto his plate, which also happens, come to think of it.

Writer/director Dave Schultz stretches out this somewhat languorous -- not to say somnambulant -- material to almost two hours by adding a villain.

He's Van Dusen (Sons of Anarchy's Kim Coates in a creepily menacing performance), who is seeking Rufus for reasons of corporate malfeasance that complicate the film but add a important contemporary issue: how far can a drug company go to create a world with no sickness?

The question of how this would affect its bottom line is not addressed, but this is just a teenage vampire movie, after all.

Meanwhile, the bodies pile up as Rufus meanders somewhat aimlessly through his life, trying miserably to "fit in" and fending off sexual advances at every turn, while showing his prowess at baseball, of all things. It doesn't seem to fit with Saper's English accent.

As for the girl next door stuff, there's the expected trouble but love conquers all, even in the sexually ambiguous precincts depicted in Rufus. Him: "I haven't slept with half the town." Her: "No, but given the chance, you'd probably eat them." Or gloom them to death.

-- Postmedia News

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 27, 2013 G10

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