Thursday, November 06, 2008

Dracula’s Guest – review

dvdDirected by: Michael Feifer

Release date: 2008

Contains spoilers

For a budget flick this is actually rather sumptuous, and by writing that I bet you think I’m going to see the best in this but… candidly as sumptuous as it might be in places, and despite being picked up by a bigger company (Lionsgate), this really misses the mark.

Of course, whilst I have headed this as Dracula’s Guest, the DVD case states Bram Stoker’s Dracula’s Guest. Stoker did indeed write a short called Dracula's Guest… this is not it. I say that, actually the film does have a key moment of the story vaguely appearing but, well Bram Stoker (Wes Ramsey) certainly was not the protagonist of that story, just the author.

The film begins with Bram outside a… well I was going to say dungeon but it is more like a cave which is barred from the outside. Inside is Elizabeth (Kelsey McCann), Bram’s fiancée. She tells him she is broken, the Count (Andrew Bryniarski) has raped her and has planted ‘the seed of the beast’. When Bram says that he will kill him she warns that the Count is not what he seems. Bram states that he is aware of this – Dracula (for, of course, that is the Count we speak of) has killed Malcolm (Ryan Christiansen) and tried to kill Bram. All this has something to do with her father, Admiral Murray (Dan Speaker).

Bram and MalcolmOne week earlier and Bram is with Malcolm and they are heading to the beach to indulge in a little fencing. Both men, we hear later, went through military academy. Things become a little heated when Malcolm casts aspersions on Bram and Elizabeth’s relationship and Elizabeth has to intervene.

Mr Stevens is Bram's bossBram works as an Estate Agent (realtor) for a Mr Stevens. There is a new client, Dracula, who wishes a specific house to be found. Stoker knows of such a house – on Regent St – but someone lives there. At a Murray family picnic Bram tells how he went to see the owner but he had just died, of natural causes; Bram did manage to secure the accommodation. At the picnic the Admiral makes it clear that he disapproves of Bram and Elizabeth’s relationship and suggests 1 year of no contact before he will consent to give her hand in marriage.

boarding the trainAn incensed Elizabeth runs away and tries, without funds, to board a train. She is prevented until Dracula intervenes. Later we see them in a carriage – nicer than using the train suggest the Count. Dracula uses his mojo to put her asleep. In the meantime the Admiral has found out that the Count has her – Malcolm has told him but how he knew we do not know - and asks Malcolm to tell Bram. It is clear that the Admiral knows what Dracula is and so, it seems, does Stevens, begging the question of why he worked for the Count.

Transylvanian dinnerSo, where is Bram? Well he is away. It sounded as though he had gone to Benchurch but I assume they meant Bonchurch on the Isle of Wight. Why? Who knows? Meanwhile Elizabeth wakes up to discover that she is parked outside a castle in Transylvania… do the filmmakers realise just how long it would have taken a carriage to get from outside London to Transylvania? This doesn’t seem feasible. The Count, however, awaits and forces her to have… dinner.

ridiculous mojoOn his retreat, having had a chat to the caretaker Mrs Witham (Amy Lyndon), Bram goes for a walk. Now, there are some poor accents in this but Lyndon was awful, I cringed every time she opened her mouth. Malcolm shows up, tells her that Bram’s fiancée has been kidnapped and then decides to wait for him. On his own he notices a photo of Dracula and a noose and then Dracula appears, does some mojo and causes Malcolm to be hung via telekinesis.

Okay let’s stop a moment. Dracula can now project himself and his mojo halfway across Europe? He knows exactly where a noose will be? Bram is told what Malcolm has said by Witham but… How does he know that Dracula is responsible for Malcolm's apparent suicide (remember he claimed exactly that at the head of the film)? It is all bad plotting.

breeding stockMeanwhile Elizabeth wakes in castle Dracula and goes for a walk. Looking further into the castle confirms what the viewer suspected in the previous scene. The castle might look sumptuous (and clean) but is no castle… it is a mausoleum and we can see the resting places. This is not clever location, it is poor location, and it is assumes that we won’t notice that we are not in a castle. Dracula, who can daywalk, takes her to the cave and bites (and, off camera, rapes) her. It seems that the Admiral is a vampire hunter (and thus not a standard human, no that’s never expounded upon) and Vlad – the dialogue does mention the Impaler – is breeding with her to make a super-vampire. Or whatever…

female vampBram, after some adventures, gets to the castle. One of those adventures involves going through a village of suicides and being attacked by a bevy of female vampires. Next thing there is a dog at his throat and German soldiers save him – it is Walpurgis Nacht and this is the part that was lifted (vaguely) from Dracula’s Guest and took no more than five minutes. What the German soldiers were doing in Romania is beyond me!

What happens at the castle… well nothing shocking but lets not spoil everything.

This was bad, the story jumps around and the direction fails to hold anything together. Things are sumptuous at times but then inappropriate as well (the castle). Why Bram would meet Napoleonic thugs – presumably some 70 years after the battle of Waterloo – was beyond me and why the French would be at odds with an Irishman was another confusion. It all pointed at the scriptwriter (Feifer) not knowing the history or researching it properly. Incidentally the vampiric encounter and the Napoleonic thugs are the attempts on Bram’s life – how did he know the Count was behind them? Indeed it seems unlikely to be true in the case of the Napoleonic thugs.

Andrew Bryniarski as Count DraculaThe acting was mainly bad, a shame as many of the principles have quite long résumés. All of the accents, bar the Irish accent adopted by Wes Ramsey, sounded awfully false – indeed Ramsey was the only one, for me, who gave a consistent performance. Actually, after watching this I watched Brotherhood of Blood and didn’t recognise Ramsey until I researched the actors for review, showing that he has some degree of range, bravo. I thought Bryniarski looked the part as Dracula, his size offered an imposing feeling, but he didn’t sell the character to me performance wise. Dan Speaker was absolutely out of his depth as was Kelsey McCann. Now I have read praise for McCann but, honestly, a Victorian English debutante did, to me, prove completely out of her range. There was a lot of indignant scorn but little believable vulnerability.

Altogether a very poor effort that looks good on occasion. The fact that this looks the part, at times, actually conspires to push the score down as it raises expectations only to dash them apart. 1.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


Richard said...

"What the German soldiers were doing in Romania is beyond me!"

I've not seen the film but this might not be wholly unreasonable - Romania was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1897; I vaguely seem to recall the language of command in the army would have been German (or possibly Hungarian).

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Richard, your comment is well made.

I must admit that I don't really know the history of Romania that well but I understand that Transylvania was under the Austro-Hungary banner at that point and the language of Austria is German but...

the soldiers are not credited as German speaking but German soldiers and one feels they are there because German soldiers were involved in the story Dracula's Guest (that was set near Munich) which that part of the film seeks to emulate rather than because there were german soldiers stationed in part of the Austro-hungarian empire.

The T said...

Dracula when he was played by a wrestler, this should be named...

Afwul movie.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

No arguement!