Friday, March 10, 2006

Dracula Rising – review

Release date: 1992

Director: Fred Gallo

contains spoilers

Christopher Atkins plays Vlad Dracula is this flick. Though, in a mildly interesting twist, one of the very few in this movie, he is not Vlad Tepes. Rather it is apparent that he is the son of the impaler, who is already walking the earth as one of the undead. Vlad Jr. is taken as a child to a monastery, where, as an adult, he becomes a monk.

When Theresa (Stacey Travis), a survivor of the plague, crosses his path he falls in love and subsequently falls off the celibacy wagon. Their blossoming love is noticed by fellow monk Alec (Doug Wert). Alec arranges for Theresa to be burned at the stake as a witch, in one of the most lack lustre witch burnings ever committed to celluloid. Other than a few screams when she is taken to the pyre, she seems generally unconcerned about her fate and Atkins over acts terribly, for a few seconds, then gives a pathetic, simpering look.

Vlad Tepes then turns up, complete with “Hannibal Lector” mask (that conceals what I suspect were hideous burns) and offers his son the return of Theresa. Just one catch he must surrender himself to his father and wait for her to be resurrected. Vlad Jr. is turned by his father and attacks Alec, who is then turned by Tepes for reasons that weren’t too clear. Vlad Jr. seems confused by what he has become, though it is unclear why as we have already established that his father is a vampire.

This story is told in flashback scenes.

Cut forward 500 years and Theresa is an artist and art restorer who meets a mysterious stranger (Vlad) who she feels she knows. She is hired by Alec to travel to Eastern Europe in order to restore a painting (of Vlad Tepes). Vlad (I’ll stop putting Jr now as his father plays no part in the modern story) warns her away as he no longer wishes to turn her despite waiting 500 years for her to reincarnate and, in quite a good biting scene, vents his frustration on a nearby wench. He wants to know what Alec is up to, and Alec reveals that by turning Theresa Vlad will be at peace with his own nature, though it’s likely he just wanted to torment Vlad.

Theresa is, understandably, freaked by Alec – cue a catacomb chase scene and an unseen attack on a train as she tries to escape, pre-empted with the corny line delivered by Alec in a guard’s uniform, “I see you have a ticket to Hell.” In a confused cut we switch to a scene from Hell, though it turns out to be a valley somewhere, where Alec declares he wants Theresa and Theresa declares she wants Vlad. There then follows a mystical battle for all of a few seconds at the end of which Vlad summons a flock of bats that (in a scene owing much to Hammer’s Kiss of the Vampire (1962)) tear Alec apart. Vlad then stakes Alec's remains and informs Theresa that if she is to live he must die, and promptly surrenders himself to the sun.

One of the few novel ideas in the film concerns a scene where Vlad has painted a cross, in his own blood, on Theresa’s chest to ward away Alec. (EDIT: I believed this to be novel when I wrote this review, but it is actually 'borrowed' from a device used in Hammer's Kiss of the Vampire (1962) T_ttlg 16/6/06) Most of the acting is below par, though Wert seems to be enjoying himself. He looks the part too, with his evil goatee beard reminiscent of a 1950’s Satanist – given that this is a Roger Corman production I was not surprised.

When vamping out, the makeup department applies liberal face paint around he eyes, which reminded me of Blood of Dracula (1957). The problem here is that it looked kind of cool (or at least had B-movie chic) in a 50’s drive-in movie, makeup effects have moved on since. By the way, the soundtrack really grated.

Melodramatic, poor acting and clichéd, I could only give this two out of ten.

The IMDB page is here.

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