Reginald the Vampire Is Here for a Good Time: Review

The post Reginald the Vampire Is Here for a Good Time: Review appeared first on Consequence.

The Pitch: Lonely, unfulfilled, and too insecure to tell his cute Slushie Shack co-worker, Sarah (Em Haine) that he’s into her, Reginald Andres (Jacob Batalon) is coasting through his twenties terminally disappointed with where his life has taken him.

But while taking out the Slushie Shack trash at the end of one particularly long shift, Reginald stumbles into a hypnotic new friendship with a smooth operator named Maurice (Mandela Van Peebles), and everything changes. Overnight, and at the most inconvenient moment imaginable, Reginald finds he’s been turned into a member of the undead.

This proves to be problematic for more reasons than just can’t go out in the sun, have to drink blood to survive — in Reginald the Vampire’s world, creatures of the night are vain, status-obsessed perfectionists who maintain their supermodel standards through a particularly vicious balance of bureaucracy and backstabbing.

Which is to say, Reginald just trying to live his un-life as a chill, fat vampire with a maybe-girlfriend he might (one day, if he plays his cards right!) also get to kiss, is seen as a full-on affront against vampiric nature. And with Maurice already vampira non grata in the local scene for mysterious reasons of his own, Reginald’s chances of surviving to see his first deathday are, well, not great.

A note: The word “fat” is used regularly and deliberately throughout this series, both in its most neutral (Reginald) and most derogatory (the vampire community) terms. Accordingly, the term is used throughout this review both ways, written in plain text when it’s a neutral descriptor, and in “quotes” when it’s reflecting the vampires’ bigotry.

A Novel Approach: One of four (yes! four!) TV adaptations of very different but very beloved vampire novels to be hitting the small screen this October, Reginald the Vampire takes its inspiration from Johnny B. Truant’s rompy Fat Vampire books. Set in Akron, Ohio (hot) and featuring both a smorgasbord of human awkwardness, vampy camp, and unrestrained slushie-based comedy, and a palette of oversaturated, corporatized primary colors, Reginald the Vampire is easily the least serious of the bunch. It is also exactly the show it wants to be.

Reginald the Vampire Review Syfy
Reginald the Vampire Review Syfy

Reginald the Vampire (Syfy)

In fact, pop culture’s classic, over-serious vampire is precisely the figure Reginald aims to skewer, as it positions its antagonist vampires as the broodingly sexy, endlessly vain, tediously self-serious vamps central to so many contemporary takes on the genre, and Reginald, the goofy, un-self-serious, “fat vampire” (quelle horreur!) as the sharpest thorn possible to plunge in their side.

Setting up human fatness as a foil to vampiric “perfection” is an ethical tightrope of a narrative proposition — especially for a campy Syfy series, self-assured as this one might be. For the most part, though, Reginald the Vampire maintains its balance.

Batalon, as a Marvel mainstay, is a widely known and beloved variable, and in his capable hands, Reginald the Vampire’s fatness is just one part of who Reginald the Person is, not good or bad anymore than his terminal shyness around Sarah, or his moderately extensive knowledge of pop culture trivia, or his out-of-tune but impassioned karaoke skills.

Yes, the main driving force behind Reginald’s undead life is the kill order the rest of the vampiric community has placed on his head for daring to be a “fat vampire,” but the series is extremely clear: That’s a them problem. All Reginald cares about is spinning his flirty friendship with Sarah into something more romantic, and hanging out with his new vampire buds Maurice and Mike (Ryan Jinn).

Where the show slips on its self-inflicted tightrope, it’s in how Maurice does — or, more accurately, doesn’t — train Reginald how to feed as a vampire in this world, or go into any details about the ethical considerations wrapped up in a good hunt. Setting the newbie vampire up to fail by not explaining the rules makes for easy conflict in early episodes, but when the conflict tips a bit too far in the direction of “you’re letting your appetites control you and you need to start severely restricting your diet,” that’s where easy turns into the toxic diet culture the show purports to be interested in confronting.

Of course, having only been provided five (of ten) episodes for review, it’s entirely possible that this toxicity is being set up as a pin for Reginald to pointedly knock down in the season’s back half! But as of right now, it’s not promising.

Reginald the Vampire Review Syfy
Reginald the Vampire Review Syfy

Reginald the Vampire (Syfy)

He’s Got the Power: Every vampire story is, at its core, a story about power — who has it, who doesn’t, and what even “good” people without power would be willing to give up in order to finally wield some. This final point is made explicit in Reginald the Vampire, as one of the pieces of vampiric law it takes from the genre’s long history is the rule that mortals must give spoken permission to a vampire before being turned. (For another current example of this law in action, see AMC’s Interview With The Vampire.)

Of course, as Reginald the Vampire also makes explicit, it’s never truly possible for a mortal to understand what they’re giving permission for, as the gulf of both power and knowledge between vampires and humans is so vast as to be meaningless.

Still, Reginald the Vampire attempts to have its bloodcake and eat it, too, by bestowing Reginald with specific vampiric powers that go way beyond what any other vampire in history has been able to do. Is this outcome a karmic gift for the shit luck Reginald had been convinced he’d been handed in his human life? A “fair trade” for the fact that he “has” to live his eternal life without the “hope” of ever getting to not be “fat?” A mote in the eye of the bigoted, anti-fat vampire community? Sheer luck that just so happens to give Reginald’s side of the war he didn’t ask to be in a fighting chance? Five episodes in, it’s still unclear.

Oh, the Humanity: Sarah may be the light at the end of Reginald’s tunnel, but happily she’s not the only human in the game. Elsewhere in the series, we are given a chance to spend time with other Slushie Shack regulars, including Reginald’s bully of a boss (Aren Bucholz), his conspiracy theorist/stalker of a co-worker (Marguerite Hanna), and his favorite regular, Claire (Thailey Roberge), a sardonic latchkey 12-year-old who almost immediately becomes his only post-vampire confidante.

Each of these humans brings something fun to the show’s narrative, just as each broadens Reginald’s world beyond what he saw as possible when he was just human. Naturally, there’s tension (at least, with everyone but Claire) about when they’ll find out Reginald’s secret and what will happen when/if they do, but handily, they each seem to have some secrets of their own that may spill explosively in turn. Nothing particularly groundbreaking, in terms of serialized supernatural storytelling, but thus far, well executed.

Reginald the Vampire Review Syfy
Reginald the Vampire Review Syfy

Reginald the Vampire (Syfy)

The Verdict: Reginald the Vampire is not the most sophisticated vampire series you’ll have available to you this month, but it isn’t aiming to be. What it wants to be is a fun, goofy break from the vampire norm, featuring a charming ensemble putting in performances that range from adorably sweet to pure camp. This is, on the whole, great.

When it comes to the mythological long-game, though — that is, what the rules of its specific brand of vampiredom are, and where in the supernatural cosmology those vampires fit — it falls a bit short of its own ambitions, especially considering that cosmology features a supernatural entity that, outside of Supernatural, doesn’t traditionally have much at all to do with vampires.

It’s thus challenging for even the most committed expert on pop culture vampire lore to make much of any foreshadowing the series is attempting in its first five episodes. Not unrelatedly, its pacing could be more consistent, both in the macro sense (e.g., how the mythology all fits together) and the micro (e.g., where and how specific punchlines land).

That said, if you’re looking for a spooky season show to decompress with on a weekly basis, or a fun, low-stakes binge to save up for Halloween weekend, Reginald the Vampire is your man.

Where to Watch: Reginald the Vampire premieres October 5th at 10:00 pm ET/PT on SYFY, with new episodes airing weekly on Wednesdays.

Trailer:

Reginald the Vampire Is Here for a Good Time: Review
Alexis Gunderson

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