Thursday, May 16, 2019

Queen Dracula – review

Director: Curtis Everitt

Release date: 2017

Contains spoilers

Oh lord… This flick recently appeared on Amazon Prime and, of course, I gave it a whirl. Aside from gender swapping the antagonist (and thus altering relationships with said antagonist) this really was a poor effort. Indeed, the gender swap is rather interesting, though not explored in a particularly meaningful way, and the original source of the vampirism was interesting also.

Beyond those points things are mired in awful dialogue, budgetary malaise and rather poor acting – all of which we’ll come to.

'daylight' bulb
So, the film starts in 1987, at night with not great night photography and a cheesy electro soundtrack, and we see a man enter a house and replace a bulb. He sits outside until a woman returns home. He says he is a fan, and a detective, and mentions missing kids. He asks if he can come in, comments on how dark it is once indoors and she switches the light on. Presumably the bulb replicates sunlight (though it is not a UV light) as she falls down in pain (and off-screen). Eventually she predicts that *she* is coming and he finishes her off by placing his hands on her (below camera line so we see nothing) – they’ve been dipped in holy water.

postcard from Transylvania
We get some moments with Miranda Harker (Susan Fowler), a bible quote and a cemetery – she’s dead (we get no real timescale for this – her husband acts like it is recent, her eldest daughter said it happened whilst she was at school and she is 30). We then get a caption telling us it is present day. The Harkers are sitting down for dinner, Jonathan (Danny Zanelotti) is dad and refuses to say grace as Miranda is dead, his daughters are Mina (Abigail G. Holmes) and Lucy (Emily Miller). Jonathan gets a postcard from D (Leslie Stewart), his ‘friend’ in Transylvania (a ghost town apparently, not the European principality). Not knowing who D is, he decides to go there and find out (good job he didn’t get an email from a Nigerian Prince).

Mina and Lucy
A guy turns up at the house and introduces himself as Jack Seward (Jonathan Dixon), looking for Mina who (he has heard) is the fairest girl in all the land (honestly the dialogue was that tritely written). Lucy has answered the door, however, and realises he has heard about the dowries set for the sisters and sends him off with a flea in his ear. Mina is later chatted up by Arthur and then picks up a message where he accidentally records himself suggesting she is gullible, not his type but there is the dowry (Miranda left them both a large dowry in her will, I’ll return to this).

thick fake blood
Meanwhile Jonathan gets to Transylvania and meets D – or Dracula – and her minions. She overcomes his will by removing his wedding ring (though his lack of alarm as she started to seduce him with her chin covered in blood was telling) and we get a bite scene where the fake blood is so thick a clump falls off his arm! He comes back and tells the girls he is getting married. Lucy goes nuts and attacks her, ending up being placed in Seward’s asylum for her trouble. Eventually, however, she is rescued and Mina has also met a bounty hunter, Van (Aaron Mitchell) – yes, that would be Helsing to you and I.

meeting D
So, aside from the terrible dialogue there was a strange undercurrent of casual misogyny that one wouldn’t expect in a gender-swapped concept and I can’t help but feel it unconsciously seeped in. For instance there is an inference in dialogue that Lucy is a lesbian until she suggests (when the right boy comes) that she acts that way to scare men off (in other words there is a reading, which can be made, that the right boy ‘cured’ her – indeed he is the one who ultimately rescues her from the asylum), and then there is the dowry business; mom bequeathed them to take care of the girls, ensuring they wouldn’t be alone (inferencing that a woman needs a man to be whole – there is also an inference in dialogue that matrimony is a purely heterosexual institution, although it isn’t directly stated – and that being sold to a man, essentially, is more important than providing independent financial security). Of course the men (Arthur and Jack) are acting like gold diggers, inverting that stereotype somewhat, but the way they are acting around the girls is equally reflected in D – she mentions Jonathan’s resources and Van suggests she’ll use him up as a sex slave (he also suggests there won’t be a marriage as it is “holy matrimony”, forgetting registry offices and the civil source of marriages).

Van and Mina
This takes us to how D became what she is. We see her as an older woman (Melanie Calvert Benton) because Mina and Van kill her minions, bar Jonathan, and there is inference that she has a symbiosis with her minions (eternally feeding from them), and it should be noted that they are of both genders (in terms of the reading above, evil is thus equated with bisexuality). When she tells her story, she becomes young (Meredith Mohler) and says that she was a captive (in the age of exploration) who wasn’t fed enough and used for sex. She took to exploiting her captives and sucked their blood to drain their life-energy – calling it a shared interest, indicating the symbiosis again – and then she started to change. It is the most interesting part of the film but the film struggles to explore the theme meaningfully.

red eyes
With the budget, bad photography, some ill-fitting soundtrack choices, atrocious dialogue (it isn’t even stagy, just poor) and poor acting this film is rubbish but… beyond not thinking itself through (ie the casual misogyny), it does have an interesting source for the vampirism and an interesting use of symbolism (Jonathan being susceptible to D’s power when his ring is removed might ignore the secular source of marriage and focus on the religious, but there is a reading that can be found of the overwhelming power of love over lust/exploitation). This pushes the score up for me but it isn’t enough to make the film good. I need to mention the large amount of backdrop green-screening that appeared to take place, this didn’t actually detract and might have been an interesting style choice had the film got more right. 2 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

On Demand @ Amazon US

On Demand @ Amazon UK

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