Saturday, September 25, 2010

Red Scream Nosferatu – review

Director: David R Williams

Release date: 2009

Contains spoilers

I read that “Red Scream Nosferatu is an edgy, blood-drenched revisioning of the classic original vampire film.” This makes director/writer David R Williams very brave or very foolish – especially on a budget. After all Nosferatu is a classic piece of expressionist cinema.

Of course, it was based on Dracula but changed much in order to try and dodge a copyright bullet that found its mark anyway. Why then would someone add elements of Dracula, otherwise expunged, back into the film? One wonders, as the film is watched, how much of the original film was truly understood…

Jonathon and Mina
The film begins with a man, later revealed as Professor Von Helsing (Michael O’Hear), suggesting that the images are placed in order – using a form of words that almost lifts Stoker’s own introduction to the novel, bar the fact he mentions documents rather than images. One has to wonder at this. In the novel much play is made of placing the various companions’ papers in order but these are images… what filming or photography took place in the bedchamber of Jonathon (Richard Lovejoy) and Mina (Hillary Leising)? It made me think that little thought was going into this.

Renfield and Harker
Jonathon heads to work and a hobo speaks German to him – eventually translating to The Dead Travel Fast… Jonathon decides to walk to work, his bus is late. So what era are we in… a bus suggests contemporary, but his long coat and pocket watch (that appeared to have lost its hands) suggest earlier. In a moment of charity let us assume it is an alternate world. Jonathon works for Renfield (Robert Bozek) and I have to say I wasn’t impressed with the performance when it came to Renfield. Anyway, Renfield sends him to Transylvania to deal with Count Orlock (Alex P).

Lucy and Mina
Mina isn’t happy, possibly because all the colour has drained, what with her superimposed on a scene from the original film. I have to ask why… and this lifting from the original gets worse but we’ll come to that. Jonathon is leaving her in the capable hands of their friends Lucy Westenras (Tara Alexis) and Dr Seward Westenras (Aaron Krygier). The name changes annoy me. Okay, names are interchangeable in versions of Dracula but why give them the original surname of Lucy and then misspell it, and why give Jack his own surname as a forename? Picky, perhaps, but it is a pointless noodling.

A dream within a dream...
Jonathon has a dream of a tomb and evil and so, when he spots a tomb, he goes looking in it… as you do. To be fair I was impressed that, perhaps, Dracula’s Guest had been slotted in. Not quite. The occupant of the tomb was Carmilla – a legend suggests that she was "of Gratz in Styria" and "Sought and found death in 1801". The rest of the legend is from Dracula’s Guest but the name is, clearly, not Countess Dolingen (the name offered in Stoker's short/chapter) but the eponymous name from Carmilla, which was set in Styria itself. Was it trying to connect the two works or just using a more well known name? We don't know but, nevetheless, a vampiress attacks until (elsewhere) Orlock opens his eyes and she rips her own throat out. Jonathon runs and arrives at the castle.

30 seconds of research finds a map
Ok, research time… We have already established, from Renfield's dialogue, that Orlock is in Transylvania. The tomb is either in Gratz, Styria part of Austria and some distance from Transylvania (as per a merging of Dracula’s Guest for the reference to Gratz and Carmilla for the physical location) or the tomb is 400 km west near Munich (as per Dracula’s Guest). Okay I know I am being picky but… Well I even decided to get a map; locations shown are Munich, via Gratz to the Borgo Pass… Boy Harker can run fast!

Orlock is some young Gothic dude
After Orlock appears, and he is some Gothic looking young dude with tribal tattoos running down onto his hands, I am beginning to feel really irked. Where is the rat faced Orlock of Nosferatu? Clearly the iconic imagery of the original depends heavily on the marvellous, and horrific, look that was created via Max Shreck. We get moments that fail to gel, such as when Jonathon looks for a library, claiming that he was in need of reading material, yet his initial meeting with Orlock was in a room full of books (and, incidentally, the library scene is clearly shot inside a church - all stain glass and organ pipes with no bookshelves)…  but then we get the film's saving grace… sort of.

what big fangs you have...
The brides, played by Heather Daley, Hollis Witherspoon and Cara Francis… Okay, the strange juxtaposition of old-fashioned and contemporary continues as they all wear latex dresses; red, black and white. Okay, I’m thinking the one in red is a terrible actress (or really struggles with the huge fangs she wears). Then Orlock goes, leaving Harker to his fate, and there is a moment of genius. The brides decide to (physically) heal Jonathon before (mentally) breaking him, turning him and making him the new master (though one has to question the misogynistic logic that would make them want a new master… but lets leave that a moment).

bitten lip
We get stabbing, biting and crucifixion of Jonathon and it all adds an interesting new slant to the entire thing. They tempt him with the idea that, when Orlock bores of Mina, he’ll still be young and able to claim her back. More than that. The one in white is younger than the others and feels that she is hated. She gets berries that can drug the vampires and feeds it to a village boy, who she then gives to the other two. They are slumbering and she deals with Jonathon to kill them and make her his first and favourite.

head removal
He places a crucifix on them to bind them, then seals them (with holy water, perhaps, though that wasn’t explained). He then stakes them and cuts off their heads. Following this he turns on the third bride and kills her before setting out for Mina. Later Von Helsing suggests that sunlight is the only sure way to kill a vampire but that seems odd (especially with the idea that Orlock steals the light from Mina’s veins and replaces it with darkness).

Orlock of the rubber mask
I mentioned another lift from the original film stock and the entire voyage of Orlock (on the Dementer rather than the Demeter) is lifted – giving us the oddity that we have seen the young Goth Orlock and now he is Max Shreck! Later, in the final confrontation, he further becomes rubber mask, bat eared Orlock and they would have been better keeping him as young Gothic Orlock. The ending is bloodier than the original (as, to be honest, the film is considerably bloodier all the way through) and the coda perhaps owes more to the end of the 1979 remake.

So, brave or foolish? Probably the latter through much of the film. Noodling where it didn’t need noodling and struggling due to lack of budget and locations. However the gore was well done and the twist to the bride segment was magnificent. Not magnificent enough to increase the score too much, however. Cruel as I am in my conclusions; this touched, perhaps even violated, a classic piece of cinema and most of the touches were the fumbling of a clumsy virgin, only in the one mentioned section did the virgin become Casanova. My advice, take the bride section and make something new and original with it. 3 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


Zahir Blue said...

Would you believe I just started watching this on YouTube?

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Yes I would :)

Feel free to let us know your thoughts when you are done.

Christine said...

OK, there seems to be good, even great ideas - we are dealing with Dracula, Dracula´s guest and Nosferatu here, folks! - but Dracula looked horribly unimpressive and brides in latex costumes? Dear Lord! Bravely foolish, perhaps?

Giovanni Maximiliano Tavares Lanza said...

Watching this right now. Can't say I'm a big fan but there are some interesting things sprinkled in. Didn't like how they incorporatec Dracula's Guest

Taliesin_ttlg said...

fair enough Giovanni - I thought the Dracula Guest insertion brave, at least.