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Emmanuelle Vs. Dracula (2004)

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Starring Natasja Vermeer, Marcus DeAnda, Beverly Lynne

Directed by KLS


Freddy vs. Jason

Alien vs. Predator

King Kong vs. Godzilla

None of them can compare to the monumental showdown that is Emmanuelle vs. Dracula. The Lord of the Vampires vs. the Queen of Softcore Sex – a showdown that we all knew eventually had to happen.

For months I’ve seen this movie listed on Cinemax but ignored its call. I finally broke down and set a tape to record it so I could have a look at this clash of cinematic titans. Hell, it’s not like this is the first softcore sex film I’ve ever sat through involving vampires. After having watched Emmanuelle vs. Dracula, I can honestly say it might be the last.

Surely, everyone reading this is more than familiar with the character of Dracula. On the other hand, I suspect most of you probably have no clue who the hell this Emmanuelle chick is supposed to be. For those unfamiliar, Emmanuelle is a world famous character of French eroticism that was first originally brought to the screen back in the early 70s by actress Sylvia Kristel. The original Kristel-starring Emmanuelle movies were genuine attempts to erotic films with some artistic merit. Since then, the Emmanuelle films have taken a turn to the exploitative side with the all-knowing sex goddess Emmanuelle getting involved in plots that played out more like third rate Eurotrash action films sprinkled with explicit sex scenes, and, in recent years, have gone goofy with plotlines that involve Emmanuelle having to teach aliens about the joys of making love or portraying Emmanuelle as some supernatural sex fairy acting as sort of a casual sex version of Cupid. My only real exposure to the franchise has been from watching part of a Joe Bob Briggs hosted marathon on The Movie Channel eons ago and having taken in a few episodes of the monumentally stupid “Emmanuelle in Space” Cinemax After Dark series. I figured going into Emmanuelle vs. Dracula that this couldn’t possibly be any worse. I really should stop telling myself such things.

Since being originated on screen by Sylvia Kristel, actresses the likes of Laura Gemser, Monique Gabrielle, and Krista Allen have all taken turns in the role of the cinematic sex goddess. This time out the role goes to former model Natasja Vermeer. She’s attractive but nothing special. That’s pretty much the problem with all the women in the film. It’s not that they’re ugly; they just pretty much all look like over-the-hill rock groupies. As for Miss Vermeer’s performance, I’ll just say that she’s not a natural blonde and let it go as that. Who am I kidding? Nobody involved with this film was hired for their acting skills.

Emmanuelle is just one of the ladies invited to a small bachelorette party where she and her female friends sit in the living room of this fancy house engaged in an X-rated McLaughlin Group roundtable discussion about their sex lives for five straight minutes until a knock at the door leads to the introduction of a young Jerry “the King” Lawler look-a-like who claims his car just broke down. Everyone is quite taken with the man except for Emmanuelle; her “Horny Sense” begins warning her that something isn’t right about the guy. Upon being quizzed by the smitten women, he reveals that his line of work is giving women pleasure beyond their wildest dreams and all they have to do to experience it is to look directly into his eyes. A strange guy shows up at a bachelorette party talking about his amazing sexual staring powers and he’s not some male stripper they hired to perform… I’d like to think that these ladies would be a little less taken with the guy and just a tad on the uncomfortably alarmed side. No such luck. Only Emmanuelle senses that something is not right with this man as she is overwhelmed with strange flashbacks and weird voices.

Right in the middle of this bachelorette party, the bachelorette herself suddenly decides that she really needs to go upstairs and take a shower. Mostly she just pleasures herself in the shower while experiencing weird visions of a Renaissance fair lesbian threesome. When the musclehead strippers they did hire for the party finally arrive, Emmanuelle takes the opportunity to slip away and finds the bachelorette in the shower having slow motion sex with Count Sideburns.

At this point, the film goes from being truly awful in a boring way to truly awful in a “none of this even makes an ounce of sense” sort of way. A sudden montage of sex scenes that appear to have come from entirely different films is followed up by a woman we’ve never seen before lounging next to a swimming pool in broad daylight while talking on her cell phone when someone or something invisible starts having sex with her, leading to five awkward minutes of this poor woman having to go through all the motions of a quite hyperactive sex scene with an invisible partner. I think the explanation was supposed to be that Dracula was using his long range psionic sex powers on her but I can’t say for sure. We’ll get another one of these with an entirely different female before the film’s end.

After that odd interlude, we’re back to the party where the bachelorette emerges completely dry and made up to look like someone’s forty-year old mother trying to pass for an 80’s rock video slut. From there on out, the greaser-looking vampire uses his powers to make the women either super horny so they’ll have sex with either each other (most of the time), him (some of the time), or the male strippers (one scene only) before he turns them into vampires that wear transvestite levels of lipstick and eye shadow. The only person that doesn’t fall into this category is Emmanuelle, whose own sexual strength makes her resistant to the vampires’ sex powers, and so she gets to spend the majority of the film making a constipated face and acting like a woman so dumb the average Scooby Doo mystery leaves her dumbfounded while a lesbian orgy breaks out around her every five minutes. It’s amazing that Emmanuelle in an Emmanuelle film doesn’t actually get naked or engage in any carnal activities until the very end, which is sort of like making a Friday the 13th film where Jason doesn’t kill a single person until the last five minutes.

Despite being called Emmanuelle vs. Dracula, it turns out that this vampire that crashed their party isn’t even Dracula. The vampire lord himself doesn’t actually appear until the last 10 minutes, and when he does he looks less like the Prince of Darkness and more like a coke-dealing European playboy. Instead of Emmanuelle vs. Dracula, their big final showdown is actually a sex scene where each tries to screw the other into submission. Frankly, I’ve seen more vigorous sex in just about any given Shannon Whirry film, but after several minutes of very tepid sex, Dracula inexplicably surrenders and Emmanuelle, who is straddling him at the time, up and pulls a Basic Instinct on him, only with a wooden stake in place of an ice pick.

In summary, when they’re not having sex, they’re talking about sex. When they’re not having sex or talking about sex, they’re dreaming about sex. When they’re not having sex, talking about sex, or dreaming about sex, they’re still finding a good reason to finger themselves. And even then there are constant flashback sequences that look to have come from an entirely different movie involving people in medieval/Victorian looking costumes engaging in sex.

Even looking at it entirely from the standpoint of a late night Skinemax film, Emmanuelle vs. Dracula is downright abysmal. I don’t know who this KLS person is that directed but if it’s a guy then he must be gay and if it’s a woman then she must be frigid because it’s rather amazing how a film that features almost wall to wall nudity and non-stop sex can be so utterly devoid of anything even remotely resembling sexiness. Even Howard Stern would be turned off by the lesbian sex scenes. The horror aesthetics are actually done better than the sex stuff that composes 95% of the running time. How many slow motion, shot in extreme close-up, sex montages can one film contain? In this case, about 85 minutes worth.

Emmanuelle vs. Dracula was apparently made as one part of a series called “Emmanuelle: The Private Collection” that I don’t know anything else about other than I firmly believe that Emmanuelle should keep these films somewhere private where people like me won’t be subjected to it. It’s the least she could do.

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Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters Review – A Timid Step Towards a Frightening Possibility

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Starring Mamoru Miyano, Takahiro Sakurai, Kana Hanazawa, Yuki Kaji, Tomokazu Sugita

Directed by Kobun Shizuno and Hiroyuki Seshita


The Godzilla series is the longest-running franchise in cinema history. With over 30 films over a 60+ year career, the famous kaiju has appeared in video games, comic books, TV shows, and more, cementing its place as one of the most recognizable cultural icons in the past 100 years. With Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters, the titular beast makes its foray into the world of anime in this first film in a proposed trilogy. While there are moments that are genuinely thrilling, the film unfortunately fails to capture the imagination and wonder that is at its fingertips.

The story is quite simple: Earth is under attack by swarms of various kaiju who are wreaking havoc across the planet. Entire cities are being destroyed when Godzilla appears to vanquish humanity’s foes. Unfortunately, the King of the Monsters isn’t really there to help humans and its rampage continues until a race of alien beings arrive at Earth asking for a place to stay in exchange for defeating Godzilla. When they are unable to do that, the remaining humans board a giant spaceship to venture off into space in search of a new home only to come back some 20 years later, nearly 20,000 years later by Earth time (think Interstellar logic), to search for resources and, possibly, a planet that will welcome them once again. However, Godzilla is still around and isn’t keen on sharing.

The main character of the film is Haruo Sakaki, a young man who begins the film by nearly following through on a suicide bomber terrorist act that is meant to call attention to humanity’s loss of vision and failure to fulfill their mission of finding a suitable home for the remaining survivors. Even though he is accosted and jailed for this act, he is eventually freed when people realize that his lifelong passion of killing Godzilla is the foundation for research he’s done in finding a way to take down the creature…a plan that just might work. The other characters are so forgettable that I forgot their names during the film.

From there, the film essentially pivots into following a massive team of volunteers who land on Earth’s surface to lay a trap for Godzilla in order to destroy it. Since this is Earth 20,000 years after they left, the flora and fauna have evolved and changed so radically that the team have no idea what to expect or how to react, so caution is a must.

The problem with this is that while the characters have to be cautious, the film doesn’t nor should it. The movie has the chance to explore the wealth of imaginative opportunities at its fingertips and yet does almost everything it can to avoid doing just that. The color scheme is flat and uninteresting. The character movements lack smoothness and the action sequences fall victim to shaky cam syndrome. There are a few mentions of some of the changes that have taken place on the planet, such as razor sharp plants, but they’re so incidental or offhand that it feels like no one making the film has any interest in seeing anything other than man against beast.

Speaking of this dynamic, the action sequences are quite entertaining but also feel somewhat reserved. Godzilla barely moves and much of the destruction levied against the humans is seen from a distance, apart from an attack on a military outpost by dragon-like creatures. For nearly the entire film, I found myself thinking, “I’m okay with this but that’s about it.

The brightest moment in the film are the last few minutes and I won’t spoil what happens. Suffice it to say that it definitely has me interested in the second and third films but I really hope that this new world will be explored further in those entries. Otherwise, we’ve got a fascinating foundation that will be squandered.

  • Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters
2.0

Summary

Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters is a bland entry in a trilogy that has great potential. For a first course, there’s a distinct lack of flavor or complexity. The final minutes are the only saving grace and I hope that the second and third films make use of that grand wonder.

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Satan’s Cheerleaders Blu-ray Review – Sacrifice This Snoozer At The Altar!

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Starring Jack Kruschen, John Ireland, Yvonne De Carlo, Jacqueline Cole

Directed by Greydon Clark

Distributed by VCI


The ‘70s. Satanism. Sultry cheerleaders. Sex appeal. With these tools nearly any low-budget filmmaker should be able to turn out something that is, at the very least, entertaining. The last thing a viewer expects when tuning in to a film called Satan’s Cheerleaders (1977) is to be bored to tears. But that is exactly the reaction I had while watching director Greydon Clark’s wannabe cult comedy. Even on a visual level this film can’t be saved, and it was shot by Dean Cundey! No, unfortunately there isn’t a cinematic element in the world that can overcome a roster of bad actors and a storyline so poorly constructed it plays like it was written on the day. The only saving grace, minor as it may be, is the casting of John Ireland as Sheriff B.L. Bubb (cute), a hard-nosed shitkicker who adds all the gravitas he can muster. But a watchable feature cannot be built upon the back of a single co-star, as every grueling minute of Satan’s Cheerleaders proves.

The cheerleaders and jocks of Benedict High School rule the campus, doing what they want, when they want, with little else on their minds except for The Big Game. Their belittling attitudes rub school janitor (and stuttering dimwit) Billy (Jack Kruschen) the wrong way. What they don’t know is Billy is (somehow) the head of a local Satanic cult, and he plans to place a curse on the clothes (really) of the cheerleaders so they… suck at cheerleading? Maybe they’ll somehow cause the jocks to lose the big game? When Billy isn’t busy plotting his cursed plans, he spies on the girls in the locker room via a hidden grate in the wall. I guess he doesn’t think being a sexual “prevert” is fair trade enough; might as well damn them all, too. Billy has his own plans to kidnap the girls, for his Lord and Master Satan, and he succeeds with ease when the girls’ van breaks down on the highway; he simply offers them a ride and they all pile in. But when Ms. Johnson (Jacqueline Cole) gets hip to his plan the two tussle in the front seat and Billy winds up having a heart attack.

The squad runs off in search of help, coming across the office of Sheriff B.L. Bubb (John Ireland), who, as the name implies, may be a legit Satanist. Bubb invites the girls inside, where they meet his wife, Emmy (Yvonne De Carlo), High Priestess of their quaint little satanic chapter. While the girls get acquainted with Emmy, Bubb runs off to find Billy, who isn’t actually dead. Wait, scratch that, Bubb just killed him for… some reason. The girls figure out things aren’t so rosy here at the Bubb estate, so they hatch an escape plan and most make it to the forest. The few that are left behind just kinda hang out for the rest of the film. Very little of substance happens, and the pacing moves from “glacial” to “permafrost”, before a semi-psychedelic ending arrives way too late.

“Haphazard” is one of many damning terms I can think of when trying to make sense of this film. The poster says the film is “Funnier Than The Omen… Scarier Than Silent Movie” which, objectively, is a true statement, though this film couldn’t hope to be in the same league as any of the sequels to The Omen (1976) let alone the original. It is a terminal bore. Every attempt at humor is aimed at the lowest common denominator – and even those jokes miss by a wide berth. True horror doesn’t even exist in this universe. The best I can say is some of the sequences where Satan is supposedly present utilize a trippy color-filled psychedelic shooting style, but it isn’t anything novel enough to warrant a recommendation. Hell, it only happens, like, twice anyway. The rest of the film is spent listening to these simple-minded sideline sirens chirp away, dulling the enthusiasm of viewers with every word.

A twist ending that isn’t much of a twist at all is the final groan for this lukewarm love letter to Lucifer. None of the actors seem like they know what the hell to be doing, and who can blame them with material like this? I had hoped for some sort of fun romp with pompoms and pentagram, like Jack Hill’s Swinging Cheerleaders (1974) for the Satanic set, but Clark provides little more than workmanlike direction; even Cundey’s cinematography is nothing to want on a resume.

Viewers have the option of watching either a “Restored” or “Original Transfer” version of the 1.78:1 1080p picture. Honestly, I didn’t find a ton of difference between the two, though the edge likely goes to the restored version since the title implies work has been done to make it look better. Colors are accurate but a little bland, and definition just never rises above slightly average. Film grain starts off heavy but manages to smooth out later on. Very little about the picture is emblematic of HD but given the roots this is probably the best it could ever hope to look.

Audio comes in the form of an English LPCM 2.0 track. The soundtrack sounds like it was lifted from a porno, while other tracks are clearly library music. Dialogue never has any obvious issues and sounds clear throughout. Subtitles are available in English SDH.

There are two audio commentary tracks; one, with director Greydon Clark; two, with David De Cocteau and David Del Valle.

A photo gallery, with images in HD, is also included.

Special Features:

  • Audio commentary with director Greydon Clark
  • Audio commentary with filmmakers David De Cocteau & David Del Valle
  • Photo gallery
  • Satan's Cheerleaders
  • Special Features
1.3

Summary

Although the title is enough to reel in curious viewers, the reality is “Satan’s Cheerleaders” are a defunct bunch with little spirit and no excitement. The ’70s produced plenty of classic satanic cinema and this definitely ain’t it.

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A Demon Within Review – Familiar Possession Beats To A Dreary Tune

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Starring Charlene Amoia, Clint Hummel, Patricia Ashley, Michael Ehlers

Directed by Ayush Banker and Justin LaReau


Possession flicks don’t often hold a long shelf life in the horror community, with Ayush Banker and Justin LaReau’s A Demon Within suggesting why. Hands emerging from the darkness, exorcisms, anxious priests – you’ll see it all again as you’ve seen it before. Early scenes glimmer a polish unlike equal indie products, but that’s just the devil playing tricks on you. Once the film’s main satanic takeover begins, cursing teens and stony glares become the been-here-before norm. Low-budget filmmaking isn’t an immediate detractor like some high-society snobs may believe, yet it’s surely no excuse either. Today’s review being an example of both mindsets.

Charlene Amoia stars as Julia Larsen, a divorcee who moves into Crestwick, Illinois looking for a clean start with daughter Charlotte (Patricia Ashley). Their dusty toucher-upper is a quaint, aged farmhouse in the middle of nowhere, complete with electrical issues and weird noises at night. Nothing to worry about, right? Julia’s focus is better directed towards town doctor Jeremy Miller (Clint Hummel), who she immediately hits it off with (after almost hitting *him* with a car). She’s eating stir-fry at his place one night, all things going well, and that’s when it happens – Charlotte is possessed by an evil force who enacts its sinister plan. Charlotte may physically be present, but only as a vessel for “Nefas.”

Without hesitation, A Demon Within lays predictable groundwork as small-town haunters have for decades. Charlotte’s new home is already infested with a spiritual squatter, Jeremy bottles (and drinks down) a blemished past that’s exposed too late, there’s plenty of characters sneakin’ up on one another – never with much “oomph.” Charlotte’s teeny-bopper voice drops to truck-driver deep at the height of possession, but it’s a distracting sound design that alone strikes little fear. Serious scares are attempted, be it a pitch-black basement slashing or Charlotte’s hide-and-seek pounce, just never delivered. An inconsequential failure to unite tone and atmosphere.

Performances are…well…rigid, to say the least. Amoia and Ashley strike a surprisingly likable chemistry as living humans, but once Ashley goes demonic, chemistry bottoms out. The way A Demon Within positions Charlotte when possessed is utterly dull and undefined; Ashley playing an unenthusiastic harbinger of death. It’s bad enough that Hummel’s tortured doctor masters the emotional range of Mona Lisa and the town’s pastor is hardly a scene stealer – but to have a demon be so vanilla (without a side of nuts, no less)? Getting past the limited lighting and Charlotte’s manly demon voice is hard enough, let alone her mostly relenting threats.

Making matters worse, the film’s third act is hardly a religious salvation that flows with ease. I had more fun watching Julia stammer over pizza and beers with Jeremy than their final fight against ghastly hellspawns. The truths of Jeremy’s past leak out in flashback form, only to reveal his stubborn inability to comprehend one’s own possession encounter in the very house Julia bought (useful information, eh?). The local priest shows up in the nick of time, a few cutaway jolts attempt cheap thrills, and some holy water mucks up an old painting – but again, minimal notability. Er…not even minimal? Shaky last-minute framing makes it hard to even notice the touch-ups to Charlotte’s face that signify her unholy imprisonment, even worse than blackened CGI mists.

A Demon Within tries, fumbles, and tries some more, but it’s best treated as a reminder of better exorcism stories that exist elsewhere. Even something like The Vatican Tapes is an improvement over this possessive redundancy, hokier than the honky-tonk love song that plays atop a pizza-chain flirt scene. There’s something to be said about getting out and creating original horror, but herein lies the problem – this ain’t *that* original. With harsher scares and tension, such a fate could be ignored. As-is? It’s hard to see past anything more than a January release placeholder.

  • A Demon Within
2.0

Summary

A Demon Within is a seen-it-before possession thriller that brings nothing new to the conversation. Not the worst, but also not a “hidden secret.”

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