RufusRufus is not a bad movie. In fact, it is almost a good one. One final rewrite of the script, the removal of one character, a clarification or two of the central figure, and a slice of about 20 minutes from the 110-minute runtime, and you would be staring straight at a modest Canadian independent production with strong cult appeal that would play very well on the festival circuit. As is, however, Rufus suffers from a lack of clarity and purpose. Director/screenwriter Dave Schultz overextends in what should be a more barebones effort; in the process, he muddles the narrative and leaves the audience wondering what might have been.

Newcomer Rory J. Saper turns in a solid performance in his feature film debut as Rufus, a character billed as a vampire in the promotional material, but one who has almost as much in common with Lon Chaney, Jr.’s Lawrence Talbot as he does with Robert Pattinson’s Edward Cullen. At the beginning of the film, Rufus arrives on the outskirts of a little town on the prairie. His elderly companion takes one look at the prospects for fun in their new location and walks straight in front of a tractor trailer. It’s a chapter out of “When Bad Things Happen to Good Monsters” as Rufus is taken home by Sheriff Doofus (David James Elliott), until the lawman, who goes by the nom de guerre of Hugh Wade, can sort the whole thing out.

It turns out the Wade household is the perfect place for a frozen-in-time teenager. Hugh and his wife, Jennifer (Kelly Rowan), lost their son in a tragic accident years earlier, but have left everything in his room in place, right down to the old baseball mitt. Even better, the town slut lives right across the street. She meets Rufus one winter morning wearing bunny slippers, while he is standing up in a tree. Minutes later, they’re naked. Hey, it’s a prairie town – what the hell else are they going to do?

Rufus may be old, but it’s his new girl, Tracy (Merritt Paterson) that has a past in the form of a jealous ex (Richard Harmon), Clay. It’s the old story of Girl spurns Boy, Boy Attacks Girl, Monster attacks Boy, thereby awakening Boy’s latent sexual desires. A surprising amount of the action plays out for good and bad in a batting cage.

The trio of young actors are strong, and their story, even with the metaphorical overlay, is compelling, contemporary, and relevant. That, along with the couple’s inability to move past the loss of their son, and their seeking one last chance for a family, is more than enough grist for this mill. Unfortunately, director/writer Schultz stuffs in the awkward subplot of a Big Pharma Vampire Hunter (Kim Coates) stalking Rufus with the one of the more bizarre claims of intellectual property you are likely to see.

Less could have been so much more with Rufus. Schultz could have foregone the Van Helsing (actually Van Dusen in this case) character and kept his focus on teens and parents. He could have skipped any explanation of what Rufus is or where he came from and allowed the timeless teen to be an existential question mark. He could have eliminated any reference to vampires from the script and allowed Rufus to be no more and no less than what he is – an old soul in a young body trying to fit in.

Two stars.

  1. I agree. A little more ambiguity would have served this movie better. Nice review.

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