Sunday, October 11, 2020

Dracula the Messiah: Part Two – the Seducer – Review

Director: Gregory Motton

Release date: 2020

Contains spoilers

This is the second of a trilogy of films, based around the novel of Dracula and quite ambitious in scope – this part, which takes us up to Lucy’s funeral, is shorter than part one and comes in around 1.5-hours.

This shorter running length should have helped the film but it did drag. I mentioned when I reviewed Part 1, the deceiver that it was tonally reminiscent of necrorealism. Not so this part, probably because of the parlour drama side, but the film suffered because of it.

Lucy and Mina

This starts with the report of the shipwrecking of the Demeter – but we hear of it, not seeing anything. Clearly this was a choice born of budget and not wanting to add something in that looked poor, and so that is entirely understandable and forgivable. The film does make some specific changes in that we do have Mina (Charlotte Rogers) staying with Lucy (Olga Brook) but at the Westenra home, which is (conveniently) nestled between Carfax and the asylum.

Seward and Holmwood

The presence of the asylum indicates, of course, that we have the inclusion of Seward (Edward Sharp) and we also get Holmwood (Gareth McChlery), unfortunately neither character added much with the writing and performances making them ciphers only. Quincy is MIA but Mrs Westenra (Rudi Davies) is present. The first act, of course, focuses on the women, the predation on Lucy, her sleepwalking etc.

Lucy and Dracula

Unfortunately, this isn’t perfect. There are day for night shots that are obvious – something I never overly noticed in the first film but was glaring in this. Worst, I think, were the performances (possibly down to direction). The understated performances that were displayed by Harker (Brendan Kjellberg-Motton) and Dracula (Philip Blair) in the first film did work, but here the muted performances just slowed the film. Lucy, especially, was simply emo.

Mick Ford as Van Helsing

Renfield (Kevin McMonagle) is present but, I’m sad to say, pointless with his presence neither a barometer or enabler. That said, when Van Helsing (Mick Ford) comes into the film the performance pushes the film’s overall pace up a gear. There are some interesting non-cannon moments. Firstly is Lucy’s attitude. At one point she suggests that they are all “God’s victims”. This viewpoint is very much in line with the philosophy Dracula espoused in the first film and indicates she has been entirely seduced to his cultish perspective. Counterpointed is the revelation at the end, when Van Helsing is told Dracula’s name, that Dracula killed his wife 30 years before and he has spent his life hunting him. Not original, but not commonly used as an idea, it will be interesting to see if this is exploited in film 3.

disciples of Dracula

The biggest change is the actions of Mr Hawkins (Simon Usher). In the first film we see that he is a disciple of Dracula. In this Mina goes to visit him, unannounced, to ask of news of Jonathan. He seems reluctant but allows her in. Strange noises are dismissed as a servant who has burned themselves and he suggests he has company also. She leaves and he enters a ritual room, in there is a woman (Åslög Von Ros). There is a sequence, her bound to a table, him robed and veiled, but no substance or outcome. Later we see him in the woods, again robed with other robed disciples and a woman (again Åslög Von Ros) hanging by her arms from a tree and described as the daughter of Satan, so definitely the simple-minded prostitute from the first film brought to England, who will be used to give eternal life to the disciples. He tells them to use her roughly and she is carried off.

Renfield spies

Perhaps it was to remain within the boundaries of the art film that a gory and definitive denouement to these scenes was avoided – but it leaves the scenes hanging, interesting (in their narrative direction) but unfulfilling as a part of the film. The film also has the same sound issues that the first part had – with dialogue lost at times but also the original songs that just didn’t fit within the artistic whole, being too modern, overpowering to the visuals often.

Lucy dying

Again, I feel I am harsh – though less so as this had real issues within character direction/performance. It needed some umph that, eventually, Mick Ford added as Van Helsing. We will see how the third film goes, of course, but this one is definitely not standalone and for us who have seen part one, represents a dip in pace. That said it still has its interesting ideas, looks lovely (day for night shots notwithstanding) and is definitely a brave production given the scope it seeks to produce, and the film can be seen here. 4 out of 10.

At the time of writing there is not an IMDb page.

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