In Amy Heckerling’s forthcoming new movie Vamps, which had a special screening at BAMcinematek on Saturday night, Alicia Silverstone and Krysten Ritter live out what Heckerling, in her post-screening Q&A, described as her fantasy of youth: go out every night, take film-history classes at NYU, avoid lasting attachments except to each other, and never age. They are, of course, vampires, who sleep in twin coffins, like a sitcom couple, and work the “graveyard shift” for an exterminator, subsisting on the blood of the occasional rat (which they slurp up through a tracheotomy straw). It’s very cute.
Ritter’s character, who turned in the early 90s, is a little younger than Heckerling (she gets visibly upset at the snark in an I Love the 80s-type special), and Silverstone, who’s been living in NYC since the days of Edgar Allan Poe. Despite her shoulder-padded blazers and love of Devo, Ritter is up on youth culture, in comparison to luddite Silverstone—lots of rants about texting and the impersonality of telecommunications. (In many scenes in Clueless, Heckerling made sure that one or two of the extras had rhinoplasty casts on; here, she scatters the lights of smartphone screens across the background.)
At the Q&A, Heckerling, with her slightly zonked hairdo and Bronx accent, spoke about the ghosts of New York (which reminded me of the work of another woman from NYU film school who made a little noise in the 80s). The New York exteriors in the film were picked up quickly, though, as the film was shot mostly in Detroit, for the favorable production rebates. (Detroit was enormously depressing, Heckerling recalled, with vacant buildings and “dumpsters full of cats.” Wally Shawn, also on hand for the Q&A along with Silverstone, observed that, though in many parts of America the very poor are often overweight, the poor of Detroit are skinny, as if on the brink of starvation. It was a weird little moment, he talks very slowly.)
Someone asked Alicia Silverstone if it was weird for her, as a vegan, to play a vampire who drinks the blood of rats; she nicely allowed that, although as an actress she doesn’t want to “just play vegan roles,” it was a little disgusting drinking the fake rat blood. Heckerling was asked if she had written the part for Silverstone; she insisted that she hadn’t, although “there is an Alicia in my brain when I write,” which was a nice way to end a Q&A for a movie that was, after all, screening in a series about female friendship on film.