Friday, November 06, 2020

Drácula de Denise Castro – review

Director: Denise Castro

Release date: 2018

Contains spoilers

Viewed at the 2020 IVFAF, this was a feature that had an interesting premise but did just enough to turn me off through its running length. Now, that might seem unfair, coming straight out of the gates and some may be my own prejudice coming through – but ultimately aren’t reviews always coloured by the critic’s prejudices and biases? Yet despite this, after thinking about what was done with the film, it became less embedded in my prejudices and I realised that it was interesting in its own right.

running through the woods

The film started with a quote from Dracula, “We learn from failure, not from success!” Then we get running through a forest, in a found footage style that, for me, didn’t bode too well. Regular readers will know it takes a lot for found footage style to move me. We then get a legend which suggests that Denise Castro wants to shoot a new adaptation of Dracula and, with a small crew, she is headed to Transylvania.

Claudia and Ricard

We then meet her two actors, Ricard Balada and Claudia Trujillo in rehearsal – the conceit is everyone plays themselves. They both have copies of the novel but Claudia recognises that it is epistolary and doesn’t have a script for her to act. Denise suggests she sent some lines to Ricard and Claudia should improvise. Ricard is clearly playing the part of Dracula and Claudia is simply bemused. As things move along, and lines are given, Claudia then recognises that some of the words given are from the movie (Dracula (1992)) – this is denied at first. But Claudia complains that there are just random lines from the movie and the original novel – Denise suggests that she has supplemented from Coppola as she prefers the lines to Stoker.

pointing at the castle

There is mention that Ricard has worked with Denise before – and, in reality, he had as he starred in her vampire movie Salvación. I, admittedly have not seen that as it is unavailable with English subs (that I can find). So, they travel to Transylvania, along with camera man Alfredo Ruiz, and arrive at Bran Castle and we see them, first of all in the marketplace below the castle. Now, here my prejudices come in. I like Bran castle and had great fun exploring it but it has little or nothing to do with Vlad Ţepeş and, of course, Ţepeş had little to do with the character of Dracula. More, the castle was not Bram Stoker’s inspiration for either the novel or Castle Dracula (as claimed in film).


Whilst I might be getting a tad ranty, so is Claudia. She is clearly beginning to feel exploited. She is shocked to learn there will be no more cast and crew. She complains to Ricard, who she has started a relationship with, about the fact that they have paid for themselves with a promissory of being paid back by Denise at some vague future point. As they go through the castle Claudia realises that it is a tourist trap. Ricard is defensive of Denise, having worked with her before. He is also a thief, stealing a necklace from a display in the castle and giving it to Claudia as a present. Denise, later, tries to tie the necklace to the Bathory legend.

Blank eyed

Denise, in many respects, is the vampire of the movie. She is siphoning the young actors’ talents and money. She sends Alfredo to follow and film them in free time, she sets up a camera in their room and steals their passports blaming a break in but clearly proud of her masterstroke as she shows the hidden camera the pilfered documents. Claudia is prepared to refuse use of her image but Denise has a contract with her giving her rights. However, something supernatural is afoot also. Claudia becomes somnambulistic – this seems connected to the necklace that Ricard has gifted her – her eyes become blanks, she is visited by something invisible and she walks off, in her nightdress, into the forest. We do get fast cuts of a vampire. We are also in Blair Witch territory film-wise.


It was probably brave of Denise Castro to show herself in such a negative light but her character/caricature did nothing to endear. This isn’t found footage, the footage is never lost to be found. This is about a filmmaker exploiting her actors (we get footage at the very end of the film highlighting this) and there are casualties. In that respect her leeching of Coppola’s lines, of exploiting the tourist trap connection of Castle Bran to Dracula, of her leaching the talents' money and ability, even her plans for the final footage makes her more of a vampire than perhaps any supernatural vampire that they accidentally find. It was this, after I thought about the film, that softened the prejudices I felt round some of the content (and round the found footage style). Ultimately it was massively subversive and this makes me re-evaluate a score that might have been particularly low but comes out stronger with a little bit of hindsight. 5.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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