You know what? ENOUGH with these lousy horror films by no name directors! I’m tired of this new-fangled independent crap, or these massively overproduced snore fests! Give me a movie made by a director who KNOWS what the hell he’s doing!! What’s that? Dario Argento made a Dracula film a few years ago? Well what the hell are we waiting for!? With a director THAT good, it has to be amazing… right? I mean, I guess it COULD be a piece of crap by an aging film maker who’s still trying to hack it long after his creative spark has dissipated, but that’s not even a REMOTE possibility… right? Well there’s only one way for you to find out which one it is, and that’s to keep on reading!!
The movie begins in some European village (let’s go ahead and say it’s in Transylvania) with a woman and her mother who are about to retire for the evening. The first thing you’ll notice is that the cinematography looks terrible. The camerawork is pretty much on part with a 90’s sitcom and there’s not a single part of the set and costume design that doesn’t look completely phony.
The woman sneaks out after her mother has gone to bed in order to meet up with her boyfriend in a barn where they proceed to commit carnal sins of the flesh! Oh jeez. It is going to be one of THOSE vampire movies?
The sex concludes without much incident (or climax considering where he’s aiming that thing), but the girl is forced to walk home by herself because the man she’s sleeping with is married. She’s walking through the woods, and the cinematography improves a bit. It still looks fake, but the lighting gives off a decent enough mood. Wait a minute. On the soundtrack… is that a fucking THEREMIN!?
If you don’t know what a Theremin is, LOOK IT UP! If you’ve ever heard a cheesy ghost soundtrack (which by the way are AWESOME), then you know what a Theremin is. I LIKE the Theremin, but here it just sounds fucking silly!! It’ doesn’t evoke the terror of a predator slowly approaching its target, it sounds like Invaders from the Planet X are about to abduct her! Ugh… she’s walking through the woods, but she’s getting paranoid that something is after her. It’s not a guy in a badass cloak. It’s not a bat that turns INTO a guy in a badass cloak. It’s not even a cloud of mist or a wolf that turns into a guy in a badass cloak. You want to know what’s after her? An owl (that screeches like a hawk) that turns into a guy in a badass cloak. Sure. OK. Whatever.
So naturally, Dracula bites her and she becomes a vampire. We cut from there to the next day where some guy (Jonathan Harker) arrives at the nearby train station and takes a horse into town. Along the way, he gets growled at by some wolves who are CLEARLY NOT GROWLING!!!
Pretty much every aspect of the audio in this thing has been garbage. The music in uninspired and has a completely inappropriate Theremin throughout the entire movie, there’s random sound effects that don’t fit the scene, and on top of that, the English dubbing is pretty lousy. The super happy wolves give chase, but soon disappear which the movie tries to explain away by suggesting they might have been illusions, but I’m calling bullshit and guessing the script didn’t have an actual ending for that scene. Jonathan eventually makes it into town and finds a local tavern to spend the night in, as well as a place to right in his diary about the ghost wolves. We cut to later that same night where two men (one of them being the bitten girl’s lover) as well as a cop who are digging up her grave. I think their plan is to stake her in the heart so that she doesn’t turn into a vampire (why couldn’t they do that before burying her?) but the plan goes south when someone catches them in the graveyard. Surprise! I think the dude is a vampire who then bites one poor bastard’s ear off and takes out the lover with a shovel.
The cop get the vampire from behind though and… hits him with a stick. Wait, that’s it? I mean, it doesn’t KILL him, but it’s still enough to leave the creature of the night incapacitated. While the men were fighting, the woman apparently came back to life and booked it to Dracula’s castle. Question: If Dracula wanted the girl so badly (I assume he’s the one who sent the vampire), why didn’t he take her after he bit her? Oh well, as goofy as all of this looks at least the movie has a bit of life in it now. We get a quick scene of the girl getting blood from Drucula himself which serves no other purpose than to establish her becoming his servant, and to give us a gratuitous cleavage shot.
I get that one of the cool things about vampires is their loss of inhibition and unbridled sexual appetite (in some interpretations) but the cheesecake her is just silly. Like everything else in this movie, it just feels fake. There’s no sexiness to any of it. It just goes “HERE’S SOME BOOBIES!!!” and calls it a day. The movie cuts to the next morning where Jonathan visits a friend of his wife’s (Lucy) who happens to live in town but didn’t think to ask her for a room. The scene doesn’t accomplish much other than to establish her existence (she’ll probably be bait later or something), confirm that Jonathan is here to work for Count Dracula (his wife will join him in a few days), and to establish that her father is the mayor which will probably be important later. After his visit, Jonathan strolls through town and we can see a funeral (I think) for the dead lover, and we see Jonathan almost get strangled by the attacker from last night.
Since it’s daytime and he isn’t burning alive, I’m guessing that instead of a vampire, he’s actually a werewolf. Jonathan eventually makes it to the count’s castle and meets him as well as the girl from earlier (Tania) who Dracula claims to be his niece. So is she not allowed to leave the castle considering that everyone down there thinks she’s dead? If he asks anyone in town about Dracula’s niece, are they gonna be dumbfounded? The guy playing Dracula (Thomas Kretschmann) has a perfect voice for the character (despite not doing the Lugosi accent) yet his look doesn’t quite work as well.
We find out that Jonathan’s job there is to get Dracula’s library in ship shape which considering its size is no easy task. After the tour of the library, he retires for the evening and gets pestered by Tania who can’t take a fucking hint to buzz off. She has zero sex appeal here because she comes off as annoying and bratty. She intentionally gets the dude’s photo of his wife broken and when he cuts his hand picking up the pieces, she starts furiously sucking like a two year old on a pacifier.
The next day, Jonathan is back at work and picks up a book that tells him the plot of the movie. No seriously, he starts reading a book about Dracula and the rules of vampires. Are you fucking kidding me movie!? This scene adds absolutely nothing and just makes the character of Jonathan even stupider. You’re giving him the information we already have about the Count, but since we’re still in the first act he isn’t going to do shit about it! It’s like in ghost movies where it takes the dumbass family forever to realize what that ghosts are in the house when the audience probably knew it from the get go. If you’re going to have your characters take forever to realize what the audience is already aware of (especially when the character is spoon fed information like what just happened to Jonathan), then you have to work extra hard to make sure that the journey there is exciting. Otherwise, you’ll just bore your audience who are ten steps ahead of you. So we cut to later that night to a scene that’s absolutely fantastic. Jonathan finds the picture of his wife completely burned up and confronts Tania about it. She doesn’t say a word. She just takes off her clothes right in front of the guy. Brilliant.
She asks the dumbfounded dude if he likes her (the answer is NO!!) and proceeds to kiss the guy. You know what? Fuck Jonathan. Fuck this guy for just standing there like an idiot. Either you want to fuck her or you don’t. Don’t just fucking stand there and go “Oh woe is me! How can I resist this 5’3” woman from forcing herself into my mouth?” How about NOT STANDING STILL!? Tania tries to bite him on the neck, but then Dracula appears at the door way and bum rushes her sorry (and shapely) ass.
After knocking her down, he grabs Jonathan from behind and around his waist proclaiming “HE IS MINE!!!!!” The crazy lady bares her teeth at Dracula, and so he force pushes her back twenty feet (apparently that’s one of his powers), but it’s made extra hilarious because of the terrible CG animation used to fling her. Dracula then bites the poor guy’s neck, which leads to Jonathan passing out immediately. He wakes up sometime later to find that he’s turning into a vampire. We then cut to the local jail where the presumed werewolf is being let go by Dracula who apparently has magic powers. To be fair though, he IS a fucking vampire, and they tend to have more rule variations than Dungeons and Dragons. Later that night, Jonathan stumbles his way out of the castle and into the middle of town where he gets attacked by a wolf. Naturally, the wolf is the criminal who Dracula released and we get a really bad CG transformation sequence.
So let me get this straight. Dracula let this guy go, but didn’t tell him to NOT kill the guy he has a huge crush on? I mean, Dracula knocked Tania across a room to keep her from touching this dude! Is he gonna be happy that his wolf slave is trying to tear out the guy’s fucking throat!? Before we find out what happens to Jonathan, we cut to the next day where his wife (Mina) has just arrived in town and is getting picked up by Lucy. They chat about nothing of major importance (isn’t Jonathan SO awesome!?) and eventually make it back to Lucy’s place where she will wait for Jonathan to go back. I’m a bit confused as to why she doesn’t head to the castle immediately because it was my understanding that Jonathan’s job required him to stay at the castle. It seems like Mina is waiting for him to come back to town, but I’m not sure why unless Jonathan didn’t KNOW ahead of time he would have to stay in the Dracula estate. Anyway, because the movie decided to play the waiting game for the next twenty minutes, we essentially get a collection of small vignettes to help us pass the time, some of which include one where Tania drinks the werewolf’s blood and another in which some bald mother fucker kills Tania’s mother with an axe. We also get a scene where Lucy is in bed and suspects someone is watching her. After checking the window, she turns around and then there’s lightening. Actually it’s just a thunder sound effect while the screen goes white for a second. Dracula uses that one second of white screen to fucking teleport into her room and they proceed to make out before the screen goes to black. It’s a really fucking terrible scene. A jump cut followed by non-sexy foreplay. Ugh…
Naturally Lucy doesn’t feel that well the next morning and has started wearing a scarf for some reason. Of course, her father eventually checks underneath and doesn’t find any bite marks. So what is this movie implying? Is her illness unrelated to the vampire boning she was a party to last night, or that Dracula bit her somewhere else? Mina then goes into town and finds the guy who makes deliveries to Dracula’s castle. Oh look! The bald dude who killed that one old lady! Okay, so that was super relevant. She gives him a letter to give to Jonathan and goes about her day. Just to remind you all, we haven’t seen Jonathan since he was attacked by the wolf man. You want to fill us in on what happened there, or should we assume he’s dead? Mina has a bad dream that night about a wolf (for some reason) and wakes up finding mud tracked through the room. Really? She’s a werewolf!? Mina doesn’t seem too concerned about this because we then get a scene of gratuitous T and A where she’s giving Lucy a sponge bath.
And guess what Mina finds on the back of Lucy’s leg? Of course, Mina doesn’t recognize a vampire hickey and Lucy convinces her it’s nothing. Mina finally decides that today is the day she rides to Dracula’s castle and see her husband. Hold on, didn’t you JUST give a letter to the delivery guy yesterday? Do you want to maybe wait and see how that plays out, or did the movie sudden realize they had to get the fucking show on the road? Unfortunately, Mina runs into trouble along the way when a pack of wolves scare her horse into bucking her off and onto her ass. Oddly enough, the wolves are clearly ignoring her and eventually just run off instead eating her alive. So are they really going for the werewolf angle here? That’d actually be pretty cool! She falls unconscious for some reason but wakes up in Dracula’s castle some time later. These scenes with her and Dracula are actually pretty decent. Unlike Jonathan and Tania, there is actual chemistry between them with Mina coming off as slightly scared yet intrigued. Tania is watching them from the corner and is getting insanely jealous and hurt over it while the werewolf (who’s acting like HER slave now) looks at her mistress in pain and wants to help. I can get behind this! The characters have motivation and there’s enough elements going on to lead to some decent drama! Okay, it’s classic soap opera clichés but considering this LOOKS like a crappy daytime soap, it’s sort of appropriate.
Dracula informs Mina that Jonathan is out on an errand for the day and tries to get Mina to stay at the castle until his return. Mina refuses (knowing what might happen if she does) and instead rides back into town. Once she gets there though, she learns that Lucy had died. Now I’m not sure why Mina does what she does next, but it’s still a damn good scene. She confronts the local preacher and starts demanding answers as to what the hell is going on in this town. I mean, sure Lucy died mysteriously, she’s having wolf dreams, Jonathan disappeared, and Dracula is kind of a creeper, but none of this seems like problems a priest would know the answer to. I mean if she knew Mr. D was a blood sucker then yeah, go to the priest but I don’t get the sense she knows that yet. Anyway, she asks the priest what’s up with all the weird shit going on, but doesn’t get any real answers. What she DOES get is the name of someone who can help and even though they don’t say it on screen, we can all guess who it is, right? After Lucy’s funeral, the leaders of the village (the mayor is not there for some reason) have a private talk about what to do about this Dracula fellow. Sure enough Dracula himself crashes the party, but can you guess what form he took? Nope. Whatever you were thinking of, that wasn’t the answer. He comes in the form of a swarm of fucking flies. Yeah…
You seriously couldn’t have gone with bats here? It’s a CG effect so it’s not like it would have cost the film makers more to use BATS INSTEAD OF FLIES!!!! Anyway, Dracula isn’t happy about them talking shit about them so he proceeds to massacre everyone there except for his delivery guy (who you may recall killed Tania’s mother with an axe earlier). It’s a pretty good scene. There’s too much CG, but other than its pretty well staged, lots of fun, and the guy playing Dracula really does impress here. I may not like his look, but he does play a damn fine version of this character.
With no one around to threaten his position of power, he moves forward with what must be his master plan, which is to kidnap Mina. Before that though, we cut to Mina who’s taking care of Lucy’s father but then turns around and OH Van Helsing has arrived. WHAT!?
There’s no fucking build up to his arrival. We don’t even hear his name until now, which is a weird way to introduce someone who’s going to be one of the main characters for the rest of the movie. He’s obstentiably the hero of this story (the man who will kill Dracula), but he’s given no sort of fan far for his introduction. He just appears out of fucking nowhere inside someone else’s house. So Mina tells him about what happened to Lucy and he decides that taking care of her is his first priority. He goes to the tomb to find it’s empty and also realizes that Mina surreptitiously followed him there. Soon after that though, Lucy does return with a local girl who she’s just bitten. There’s a brief brawl between her and Van Helsing that ends with Lucy being burned alive. It’s weird because it takes a long fucking time for the flames to completely engulf her, but at no point does she think to stop drop and roll.
Having destroyed one vampire (and then staking the girl that Lucy bit), Van Helsing then explains to Mina what a vampire is and how he came to discover them. He worked at am insane asylum, and one day Dracula came by and started eating some of the inmates. Wait, what?
Why the fuck did Dracula take his ass to some random insane asylum to indiscriminately (and unsubtly) feast on crazy people!? After telling his story, Van Helsing prepares himself to fight Dracula, while Mina is being protected by Lucy’s father. Dracula however has some tricks up his sleeve to try and stop the vampire killer. What’s his plan? Send Tania to fight Van Helsing. Okay, not too detailed but it’s not necessarily a bad plan, right?
SO yeah, apparently this sixty year old dude can just take out vampires left and right despite their super powers. It’s not like he’s even outsmarting them or anything. He threw a lantern at one and stabbed another who was trying to bum rush him. And so we must say farewell to Tania. You, and your massive boobs, will be sorely missed. What happens next is the stupidest fucking thing in this entire movie. Just think about that. Stupider than Dracula turning into flies. Stupider than adding a fucking Theremin to the soundtrack. What happens next tops all of those. Dracula has come for Mina and has taken a new form to do it.
Wow. Seriously, look at that again. This is the director of one of the best horror films of all time (Susperia) and he’s doing shit like this!? Wow. Dracula kills the poor bastard and transform off screen in time to catch Mina who just opened the door and passed out immediately from the stupidity she just witnessed. Van Helsing has come by to check on Mina before confronting Dracula and realizes that she has been taken. He enlists the help of the preacher who resists at first but eventually gets his sorry ass to the front lines against the forces of evil. Before he leaves though, Van Helsing apparently needs to forge a silver bullet (because that’s how VAMPIRES work) and gets interrupted by the bald delivery guy. Their fight scene is freaking pathetic because all that happens is that bald guy approaches Van Helsing, Van Helsing pushing bald guy, and bald guy dies by getting stabbed in the back of the head.
We cut back to Dracula who’s telling Mina about his wife who died a long time ago and how Mina looks just like her. Mina, despite being kidnapped, still seems to have some interest in the guy which is kind of an interesting twist. Maybe she DOES want more out of life than being the wife. Maybe immortality has some sort of appeal. We cut Van Helsing and the priest searching the castle until the come upon a coffin containing Jonathan. Oh hey! He was in this movie! They stake his sorry ass almost immediately which I’ve gotta say is a good call. The guy was a terrible actor.
The two men continue their search and the priest ends up getting killed by the werewolf (in human form), but then gets killed by Van Helsing. As over the top as this scene is, I like the raw emotion the werewolf guy displays here at the loss of his mistress. Even if it was a one sided thing, he still cared about her and is pretty pissed at Van Helsing for killing her (he could smell her on him).
Van Helsing looks out one of the windows and sees that Dracula and Mina are in the Graveyard, so he proceeds to their location with great haste. We cut to the graveyard where Dracula shows him the grave of his dead wife to try and convince Mina of his reasons for picking her. Now as far as I can tell, Dracula doesn’t have some plan to put the soul of his dead wife in Mina’s body (a la The Mummy), but instead just wants her to accept becoming a vampire so they can be together. Okay, not the worst sales pitch, but it does seem weird that Mina is going along with this so much despite the fact that she still has no idea what happened to her husband (Jonathan who just got killed). For whatever reason, she does indeed let him bite her neck, ensuring her transformation into one of the undead. Van Helsing arrives just after the bite and Mina tells Dracula to kill him. Wow, she’s really gone full evil at this point, huh? Dracula obeys (sorta) and the scene is fantastic. So Dracula speed runs so that he’s right in front of Van Helsing in a second. Van Helsing is holding a stake but Dracula bitch slaps it out of the dude’s hand. Now what makes this scene hilarious is that Dracula doesn’t attack yet, he just stands there while Van Helsing reaches into his pocket, grabs his gun, and points it at Dracula. Really dude? You’re gonna let this vampire hunter grab his weapon? It doesn’t do Van Helsing much good though because Dracula then bitch slaps the gun out of his hand, and THEN proceeds to start beating the shit out of him. Despite the fact that we saw him kill some people with a single blow, he can’t seem to do that again here just punches Van Helsing a bunch of times.
Mina for some reason is starting to have a change of heart and picks up the discarded gun. She points it at Dracula and orders him to stop hitting Van Helsing. Looking betrayed, Dracula tries to approach Mina, but she shoots him in the chest. The silver bullet seems to be all it takes to destroy him, and for some reason Dracula rips off his shirt so that we can all see his body slowly decay.
After Dracula’s death, Mina tells Van Helsing that she never wanted to be with Dracula and that he was charming her the entire time. Aww… That’s kind of disappointed. Granted, the alternative had some of those Twilght implications (abusive and controlling relationship), but I still thought that Mina was more interesting when she was at least SOMEWHAT interested in what Dracula had to offer. The movie ends with Van Helsing and Mina leaving the graveyard, and a weird ending shot of Dracula’s ashes swirling in the wind and forming wolf that rushes towards the screen.
This movie is depressingly awful. Considering that it’s directed by Dario Argento who’s created some of the best horror films of all time, this is an embarrassment. Even if he was working with a miniscule budget, it shouldn’t be this fucking bad. The staging shouldn’t have been this fucking static. Even if they couldn’t do much camera movement, they can put the fucking camera in different and creative places. I wouldn’t be surprised if Argento just put his name on it and did almost no actual directing. There are moments where this movie does work, mostly when Mina enters the film, but it’s really fucking stupid too often and has some of the dumbest moments in any vampire movie I can recall (PRAYING MANTIS!?!?!?). I fucking hated this movie when it started, I got used to it and started to like it somewhat in the middle, but by the end it just left me feeling sad. I’m sad that this is the best that one of the living legends of cinema can do at this point. This is Bela Lugosi in Bride of the Monster bad. Raul Julia in Street Fighter bad. Al Pachino in Jack and Jill bad! That said, if we take away the fact that this was directed by someone who should know better, is it still worth watching? I’m gonna have to go with yes on the so bad it’s good excuse, because there really are some baffling moments throughout the film. It’s a bit too long (almost two hours) but it’s got enough really silly parts as well as genuine bright spots to be worth checking out if you’re looking for an ASTONISHINGLY crappy horror film to enjoy this Halloween.