Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring Andrew Bryniarski, Wesley A. Ramsey, Kelsey McCann
Directed by Michael Feifer
Distributed by Lionsgate Home Entertainment
After spending the last year of so churning out several low rent exploitation pieces based on real-life serial killers, such as Ed Gein: The Butcher of Plainfield, Chicago Massacre: Richard Speck, and the just released Boston Strangler: The Untold Story, filmmaker Michael Feifer has now branched out with an attempt at old fashioned gothic horror movie making that forsakes gore and nudity for literate horror and an atmosphere of dread. You have to admire the attempt on his part to make a movie like Bram Stoker’s Dracula’s Guest even though the film turned out to be so insufferably tedious I strongly suspect most viewers will either turn it off or fall asleep well before it’s over. The kind of horror movie he’s attempted here doesn’t get made very often and had he pulled it off it could have been something special. I hope he continues to try in the future. Bram Stoker’s Dracula’s Guest is a total failure, but a noble failure.
Based on a Bram Stoker short story I’m not at all familiar with, I suspect this film owes more to Feifer than Stoker since I don’t believe Stoker ever wrote any short stories casting himself as the protagonist battling Dracula. The badly miscast Wes Ramsey, a young, blond-haired, American actor best known for playing the adult version of Wyatt on TV’s “Charmed”, stars as author Bram Stoker, here a novice real estate agent in late 1800’s England in love with the lovely Elizabeth against her Admiral father’s wishes. She’ll soon encounter Count Dracula at a train station. The legendary vampire is immediately taken with the young lady and she’ll get taken against her will to Castle Dracula (Dracula’s Hostage would be a more appropriate title I think) where he’ll have his way with her. Bram sets out on a journey to rescue her, as does her father, who it turns out is already versed in the art of vampire hunting.
A whole lot of nothing happens for 80-minutes and on those rare occasions when something does happen it’s generally over before it even gets started. For example, a very brief encounter with Dracula’s brides consists of little more than random shots of ghostly women reaching out to grab Stoker. I couldn’t help but notice that a good deal of what little action there is involved tumbling about on the ground. The high school Shakespearean production quality climactic sword fight isn’t even between Dracula and Stoker.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula’s Guest is perhaps the talkiest Dracula movie ever. How can a movie based on a short story contain this much exposition? The script must have weighed 30 pounds. Just one conversation after another; it’ll talk your head off. Nothing wrong with a talky movie assuming what’s being talked about is dramatic and engaging. Too bad that’s not the case here. None of the Victorian era prose sounds authentic either. It does sound suitably stuffy which only adds to the level of disinterest. Game as everyone is, the droning dialogue does the actors no favors and it seemed to me that almost everyone turned in exceptionally flat performances trying to maintain their phony-sounding accents.
That brings me to an amazingly misguided bit of stunt casting. Andrew Bryniarski as Dracula? The big brawny guy who portrayed Leatherface in the Platinum Dunes’ Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies as Bram Stoker’s Dracula? I could see Bryniarski cast as Mr. Hyde or even Frankenstein’s monster, but Dracula? Did Feifer decide Robert Z’Dar was too old for the part or what? Give Bryniarski his due for trying to branch out, but there’s no getting around just how ridiculously miscast he is here. The name “Count Beefula” kept coming to mind. Try not to laugh watching the huskiest Dracula ever attempting to be seductive, waving his hands and cape around, and showing his fangs. I wanted him bite someone on the neck just to see if he could keep the blood out of that big burly mustache. The only way casting Bryniarski in this role could ever work would be if he were playing Dracula in an Andy Sidaris flick entitled Hard Ticket To Transylvania.
Feifer tries really hard on his minuscule budget to recreate the look, talk, and manner of a Victorian era vampire movie – not an ounce of it feels authentic, like an old PBS production by way of The Asylum. Faded picture quality doesn’t count as atmosphere in my book either. Or did this Dracula sustain himself by draining most of the color out of the cinematography?
And after all that hard work to create an authentic Victorian era vampire film, what do we hear over the closing credits – death metal.
1/2 out of 5
1/2 out of 5
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