Riddle me this — how do vampires cross the sea? You can find out in Patrick Penta’s dark comedy Subferatu (2020). For a movie that doesn’t take itself seriously whatsoever, Subferatu is one well-produced, high-quality indie movie. Seemingly channeling the mind of Taika Waititi by cultivating an awkward but clever comedic vibe, Subferatu took me on a deep dive into American/German/vampire relations.
After their boat leaves them stranded in a storm, a group of Americans stumbles upon a submarine operated by a small but active crew of German naval officers. Taken in as hostages, the Americans realize that they are no ordinary Germans, but are in fact Nazis from 1945 who believe they are still in the middle of World War II. The seamen decide to use their hostages to negotiate a surrender to the U.S., as well as for fodder for their thirsty and ravenous cargo.
Seriously, hats off to the production designer of Subferatu, who, along with the cast, transported me to the depths of the sea in a steamy, creaky, and leaky submarine. The film’s atmosphere is built with intensely contrasted lighting that plays with shadows, making some of the German character’s more menacing moments seem all the more maniacal. Penta uses the confined setting of a submarine in such a way that Subferatu almost feels like a stage play, with all of the close blocking, one-room scenes, and frequent monologues. The film actually felt something like a soap opera as well due to the over the top performances from the ensemble, who each felt like they had theater backgrounds with the way they carried themselves and committed to their performances.
The German accents maybe a little too good in this movie because they were hard to understand at times — Jonathan Dichter, Martyn G. Krouse, Michael Reed, and Nate Pringle who all played the German comrades, if anything, certainly have a career in voice-overs after this, and were hilarious in Subferatu, bringing much of the comedy to the movie whether they were playing the straight man or the comedic relief. The only thing off about the movie was the lack of vampires, in fact, I was surprised to find by the halfway mark that I had yet to see any vampires still — somehow despite all of the comedy, Subferatu felt like it was cruising along at a slower pace than I had expected since I was anticipating at least some blood and danger with vampires seemingly at the center of the plot with a title like “Subferatu“. If you are looking for a vampire movie Subferatu may be a bit of a let down as this plot element is rather minuscule, however, Subferatu is a pretty good, slapstick Nazi comedy movie.
Bermuda Triangle, Hitler, time travel, and vampires — Subferatu has everything one needs (and doesn’t need) to be entertained. It took about 45 minutes for this movie to grow on me but overall I enjoyed watching this movie unfold, which felt like it drew inspiration from everything from Waititi’s sort of dialogue, Nosferatu-esque vampire styling, and Seth Rogan sort of character styling. Patrick Penta is infinitely impressive, having written, directed, and produced this film, as well as having written the music and lyrics for the film’s excellent and catchy end-credits song, “I Love You Miss Germany”, which reminded me of the end of Dr. Strangelove (1964). From Pontius Films and distributed by Wild Eye Releasing, Subferatu is available via VOD and DVD.
Adrienne Reese is a fan of movies - the good, the bad, and the ugly - and came to the horror genre by way of getting over her fear of... everything. Adrienne also writes for the Frida Cinema, and in addition to film enjoys cooking, Minesweeper, and binge-watching Game of Thrones.