Sunday, March 20, 2011

Dracula – review

Director Bhooshan Lal

Release Date: 1999

Contains spoilers

Whilst there are obvious cultural differences between films from Hollywood and films from Bollywood, the songs and dancing being the obvious ones, the Bollywood vampire movies I have looked at here, thus far, have been interesting and entertaining. With that in mind, prepare to be disappointed by Dracula, which proves that poor filmmaking knows no borders.

First of all I have to warn that, despite the title, this is not a remake of Bram Stoker’s novel. Rather the word Dracula is used as a species name – for want of a better description – interchangeable with the word vampire. This is not without precedent, indeed some Japanese films do the same.

snake charmer
Now, normally, this is where I would offer a description of the plot. Unfortunately there is very little plot available. We begin with a snake charmer who suggests that he will play his snake flute and draw out the snake who will give him the jewel (that being the snake jewel, which is the central point of the film). He plays but a wind builds and a voice laughs. This scares the charmer who is then arrested as the police are looking for escaped prisoners.

dance of the snake
These prisoners number six in all and include, in their number, Abdullah (Kiran Kumar), a snake charmer and guru of the other snake charmer. Later we see how Abdullah charmed a snake that turned into a woman – who then sang and danced around for a bit before giving him a jewel (which was subsequently lost). Being a group of criminals they don’t trust each other.

some of the good guys
Another group involved in the stories are, ostensibly, the heroes of the piece. A guy and several girls – the number seemed to fluctuate but all in all there seemed four with him and a fifth who they didn’t travel with but turned up anyway. The ‘good guys’ brave the cemetery but are scared off by singing. Now, normally there would be a lot of song and dance but the only real dance was given by the snake and the main singing is the Dracula… over and over… threatening to kill everyone who enters the graveyard.

scarred woman
The ‘good guys’ go to a nearby haveli (a private mansion) and encounter a scarred woman – who has very little plot (if you can call it a plot) impact. They fluctuate character wise, all being mightily afraid and then suddenly growing a backbone individually and braving the graveyard – this often leads to a death – if they survive they then bemoan any other who is brave enough to dare the graveyard. I keep putting good guys in quotation marks because they are there for the jewel, which they failed to get on their last visit. However they did kill a Thakur (the name seemed to be used as a title rather than a surname) who is the vampire.

after a victim
So, he is after revenge and kills those who enter the graveyard (note there is a distinct lack of sets, the graveyard, the police station, the haveli and a swimming pool are those that spring to mind – I may have overlooked one but I doubt it). He gets his revenge by strangling people, generally, though one person – a criminal known as Bhadraswami – is actually choked to death by a tree for no adequately explored reason.

the only bite
Now I know what you are thinking – that isn’t very vampire like. We do get one bite towards the end (of a girl who shows up later in the film, unrelated to the ‘good guys’). Other than that the Dracula is a scarred individual with ever present blood on his hands – even when emerging from the swimming pool. At the end of the film he seems to be killed by being stabbed by an ornate spear or staff wielded by a holy man. The holy man claims that the evil of Dracula has been destroyed by God.

fangs on display
Dracula does not have fangs that we see. The same cannot be said of his victims who, despite having all been strangled, return as vampires and sport ridiculous plastic fangs. Other than that, there isn’t much lore.

The filming is atrocious, the quality flipping through blurred video footage to nearly clear. The framing cuts people out of shot. I have mentioned the lack of sets – though I should say that in a near Ed Wood moment we saw grave markers sway in the wake of the wind machine used, though to be fair this graveyard used plywood markers only. All in all this isn’t even B movie filmmaking.

gratuitous cleavage shot
The film itself is only available on vcd in Hindi. As far as I can tell there isn’t a dvd version flying around or a multi-lingual version, but there are English fan-subs available on the net.

All in all 1.5 out of 10 is probably being generous.

The imdb page is here.

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