Run Time: 107 minutes
Director: Leigh Scott
Cast: Thomas Downey, Eliza Swenson, Rhett Giles, Christina Rosenberg, Jeff Denton, Amanda Barton, Tom Nagel, Rebekah Kochan, Sarah Hall, Chriss Anglin, Justin Jones, Sarah Lieving, Leigh Scott, Marie Westbrook, Jennifer Lee Wiggins, Vanessa Rooke, Marat Glazer, Vaz Andreas, David Shick, Noel Thurman, Michael Tower, Elissa Bree, Griff Furst, Monique La Barr, Ruffy Landayan, Mia Moretti, Crystal Napoles, Kat Ochsner, Derek Osedach, Erica Roby, Nick Wall
If you're like me October and the Halloween season is a great excuse to watch horror movies that you probably wouldn't normally watch at any other time of the year. Sometimes this can lead to great enjoyment but, alas, sometimes it can also lead to confused bafflement. (Thus explaining the fact this review is being posted in December!) For instance when you're barely 40 minutes into a movie with a listed runtime of 107 minutes and you catch yourself thinking, "How much more of this crap is there?" you are in trouble.
Which brings us to Dracula's Curse, a movie that had massive spoof potential but which went astray. It isn't horribly bad, just full of horribly irrelevant dialogue (and characters) that seem to keep getting spoken (and appearing) without any end (or relevant point) in sight.
On the surface a clone of John Carpenter's Vampires trying to be Blade or Underworld that borders on the sort of surreal 101 degree fever hallucination one might face if forced to watch LARPers stage an impromptu stage version of their favorite "episode" while hopped up on meds. Dracula's Curse has all the earmarks of being the sort of surreal horror-fantasy tale LARPers might have dreamed up during a masquerade party. It's the sort of movie role-players might enjoy, and probably get a few ideas from, sadly it is not half as good as a movie made by hardcore oldschool camarilla LARPers would be. To understand why let us begin with. .
There's a war raging between Vampire Hunters and vampires. The war is going none too well for the vampires so a cabal of representatives from the major Vampire Clans call a ceasefire to meet with the hunters. For reasons beyond comprehension the vampire hunters agree and the ceasefire results in a truce, though the movie refers to it as a 'pact', in which both sides agree to stop hunting and killing each other. Of course, as with all ceasefire's, something goes wrong.
Enter Countess Bathorly. .
If you're looking at that picture with an incredulous eye asking how THAT character, who's wearing off-the-rack "Modern Female" vampire, could be based on Countess Bathory. .
A character who has been portrayed in film by such iconic actresses as cinema siren Ingrid Pitt. .
You're not alone. Countess Bathorly has an anemic screen presence. For a character who is essentially the main villainess she strangely has little more than a overglorified bit part. Worse we have a actress whose screen presence shouts, "Junior year college drama club major acting like a stripper playing the part of strutting Catholic School Girl drama queen pretending to be a hardcore biker chick, who is secretly a vampire."
But the poor woman put in a valiant effort. Most of the dialogue ranges from banal to execrable but those involved with this production made the best of what they had. Seriously if the script were a cheese it would be Vieux Boulogne.
But this is a B-movie. B-movies are notoriously bad. Why complain about ham and cheese acting?
Because the dilemma of Dracula's Curse is it took over an hour of plodding ham and cheese disorientation to get properly started. Yet. .
There are some well put together scenes that, when viewed as stills, definitely stir interest in the movie. Yet there's no real reason for a character to be dressed like a cheapjack Laura Croft aside from the fact that character is a recognizable visual. And that's a large part of the problem. Dracula's Curse wastes time trying too hard to be a little bit of this and a little bit of that and not enough of it's screen time on being one thing in particular. Namely either a serious vampire horror film or gonzo mad action filled vampire horror spoof.
Roughly the first six or so minutes are an action sequence that sets up the meeting for the truce. While the character interaction is a bit unsure and wooden this part is fairly well shot. .
However the scene composition on display here is repeated virtually throughout: long shot of character group cutting to medium close-ups of select members within group which then cuts to individual close-ups. It's very formulaic and, in some ways, reminds me of the repetitive camera work in Hercules vs. the Hydra that mananged to always shoot Jayne Mansfield facing toward the camera.
As a result what follows over the course of roughly the next fifty some odd minutes is some of the lamest, dullest, laboriously plodding soap opera nonsense imaginable. Ostensibly the "pact" has been broken. Vampire hunters and vampires are supposed to be worried, the tension should be ratcheting between them, only it's not. All we see are a bunch of hapless idiots wandering around looking for random encounters as the movie becomes an endurance test of weapons grade monotonous monologues.
Interesting as the underlying premise may be the story gets buried beneath tired old clichés and confusion stemming from lack of lucidity. What starts out as a potentially great low budget effort in the vein of John Carpenter's Vampires vainly attempts to morph into some crazed hybrid of Blade or Underworld with possible shadings of Queen of the Damned alas this makes for squandered spoof potential that quickly sours into a pallid Buffy the Vampire Slayer mystery sleuth mockery.
Dracula's Curse tries to be a little bit of everything thus loses it's identity in the avalanche of unessential details while utterly ignoring elements that should be essential to plot development. Time is wasted introducing pointless characters in scenes desperately trying to be harrowing that are merely vapidly hollow. Worse, by the time the archetypal vampire characters are introduced they appear as pathetic caricatures.
There's no sense of suspense, no thrills or chills, it's almost as if the director was just trying to get every suggested scene shot and crammed into the final edit; story be damned. And therein is the problem. About half the characters, and their scenes, are totally superfluous.
I have mixed feelings about this movie. On the one hand Dracula'c Curse manages to achieve a heck of a lot for a low budget indie production. Yet, for a vampire movie, it is not much of a horror film. The frights just aren't there. Nor is there much in the way of the usual low budget fallbacks of grue or eroticism. I wanted to like this movie. It looks far more professional than the usual fare from direct to DVD filmmakers. Sadly it is a horror movie, or at least is supposed to be, that's lamed by overtly long nattering and melodrama that's neither mellow nor very dramatic.
When it comes right down to it there's nothing fresh or interesting here. Dracula's Curse just trots out the tired old vampire clichés and character archetypes and parades them around as if the audience is meant to applaud their mere presence. The dialogue fizzles, the action plods, and while a scene or three rocks visually there's very little to recommend the movie as a satisfying viewing experience.
Yes, the vampire characters are all based on established genre personae. .
Yes, Dracula's Curse is not quite like any other movie. Yes, it has some well shot scenes. Alas it's a plodding mess in need of severe editing. Perhaps if you're having a party and lots of alcohol consumption to dull your guests better judgment is involved you could throw this movie on. Even then it's iffy and not advisable. So unless you're planning a bad movie night marathon I suggest hanging garlands of garlic around your door to keep this cursed Dracula movie away.
Copyright © C. Demetrius Morgan
[This is an archived review. Originally posted here.]