Monday, September 09, 2013

Honourable Mention: The Impaler

The Impaler is a 2013 film directed by Derek Hockenbrough. It has been mentioned as a vampire film in articles I have read and thus you may be wondering why this is an honourable mention rather than a straight review.

The film does have Vlad Ţepeş (Gregory Lee Kenyon) in it, there is most definitely a supernatural element and blood drinking. We even get an, almost too brief, flash of fang and the V word is most certainly uttered on more than one occasion. But in honesty it is not the thrust of the film.

bleeding the Turrk
The film starts with a cloaked man (clearly Vlad) by a campfire. A Turk soldier is impaled on a spear. Vlad utters that she will live and they will die, calling it a pact. Slits the throat of the Turk, capturing blood in a goblet and then drinking it. As he raises his head his mouth does look to contain rows of sharp teeth in the brief glimpse we get.

Christian Gehring as Adam
Cue a party as new high school graduates celebrate prior to going to college. We have Adam (Christian Gehring) the rich kid and his girlfriend Ashley (Christina Collard), clean cut Dominic (Teo Celigo) who wants to wait till marriage before he sleeps with girlfriend Chelsea (Marcienne Dwyer, the Telling), stoner and online gambler Sean (Rocco Nugent) and his girlfriend Levy (Katelynn Derengowski) and finally tubby food obsessed Gregory (Mark Jacobson). In a romantic moment Dominic gives Chelsea a promise ring before Adam calls the gang together.

part of a dream
He announces that he has had a dream, one that he can’t get out of his head, about a castle and a woman, her face hidden by a veil who has told him to bring the seven. Some research online showed him that the castle was Castle Drac in Transylvania the castle that belonged to Vlad Draculea. Sean quickly googles and points out that the castle belonging to Vlad was Bran’s castle but Adam counters with the assertion that Bran’s Castle is a tourist trap and this is authentic. He then announces that he has booked the castle for a week and booked flights for them all to Transylvania.

the castle
Now I need to point out at this conjuncture that the story is set in Transylvania rather than Wallachia, in all likelihood because the filmmakers know that viewer’s will be more familiar with the story of Dracula rather than Vlad Ţepeş. Later Wallachia is mentioned in passing in a way that would suggest, to those who don’t know the geography, that Wallachia and Transylvanian are one and the same. The gang travel by air then train (cars can’t get to the castle anyway) and then are led to the castle by a creepy guide called Andrei (B.D. Freakin). There is much complaining about walking, lack of phone signals and 3/4G and the fact that the castle has no electricity (only revealed by Adam when it is too late to turn back). On the way to the castle Chelsea removes the promise ring as it is hurting (she thinks it needs resizing) and asks Dominic to look after it. He trips later and drops the ring without realising.

the gang with Veronica
Adam is given the keys to the castle but, as they are entering, the portcullis comes crashing down behind them and a door ahead is opened by a woman, Veronica (Diana Busuioc). He thought they would be alone in the castle but Veronica introduces herself as the custodian of the castle. She shows them to their rooms and prepares a meal. When Dominic – who is of Romanian heritage – is drawn to a book, she explains that it contains the history of the Order of the Dragon.

Vlad makes the pact
They ask her to tell them the history but what they really want to know is how Vlad became a vampire. She tells a story of his campaign against the Turks and how he came back to the castle and found it captured by Turks, his servants all killed and his wife, Elisabeta, captured. He turned his back on God and made a pact with the Devil, swearing that he could have Vlad’s soul in exchange for the death of the Turks, with the proviso that Elizabeta’s life was be spared. The pact was sealed (as we saw at the head of the film) with blood. We do not see the carnage in the castle – we do hear the veiled Elisabeta ask him what he has done – but a Turk slits her throat. She is carried to the campfire and Vlad reminds the Devil of their pact, the blood is sucked back into her wound, which heals and then chains whip out of the dark, ensnaring Vlad’s arms and he is dragged to Hell.

reminiscent of the brides
And that is as far as I am going to go, though you can, I am sure, guess that the gang are in trouble. The moment we saw with the pact being sealed with blood is the moment that looks like Vlad is a vampire. Later we see some concubines who were reminiscent of the standard Dracula brides (though there were four not three). The film itself is a variant of Ten Little Indians but it uses the seven deadly sins as a template. I actually thought it had a definite style about it, especially around the use of the veiled Elisabeta. The acting was at a level needed and the fact that most of the friends came across as self-absorbed fit into the storyline well. The castle setting was nicely atmospheric.

stylish imagery
I have said before that, so long as it is not purporting to be an accurate rendition of Bram Stoker’s novel, I have no issue with the tying of Vlad and the vampire myth together. This had its own, unique story and so it was fair game – though it is more the gang who tie Vlad Ţepeş and the vampire Count Dracula together in their dialogue rather than the actual narrative of the film. The truth is that we do not know exactly what Vlad became, we just have hints and my looking any deeper at those hints would prove a spoiler too far.

The film has a homepage here (with a facebook page and twitter feed also available) and is due to premier at the Bram Stoker Film Festival. The imdb page is here.

No comments: