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Dracula’s Guest (DVD)

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Dracula's Guest DVD (click for larger image)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.

Dracula's Guest DVD (click for larger image)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.

Dracula's Guest DVD (click for larger image)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.

Special Features

  • Audio commentary featuring Michael Feifer talking about his camera for ninety minutes

    Film
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    1/2 out of 5

    Special Features
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    1/2 out of 5

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    The Dollmaker Short Film Review – Welcome to Heebie Jeebie City!

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    Starring Perri Lauren, Sean Meehan, Dan Berkey

    Directed by Alan Lougher


    The loss of a young child drives a mother to take a set of unusual measures to preserve his memory, and all it takes is one call to The Dollmaker.

    When the short film by Alan Lougher opens up, we see a rather disturbing image of a little boy inside a casket, and the sound of a grieving mom speaking with an unidentified man in the background – he’s requesting something personal of the child to help “finish” his product, and it’s not before long that mom has her little boy back…well, kind of. What remains of the child is the representation of his former self, although it’s contained within the frame of a not-so-attractive doll, and the boy’s father isn’t a believer in this type of hocus-pocus (or the price to have this constructed, either). The doll comes with a specific set of instructions, but most importantly, you cannot spend more than one hour a day with the doll, or else you’ll go mad thinking that the soul inside of it is actually the person that you lost – sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?

    Well this is just too good to be true for Mommy, and as the short film progresses, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens to her mind – it’s ultimately a depressing scenario, but Lougher gives it that creepy feel, almost like visiting a relative’s home and seeing their dearly departed pet stuffed and staring at you over the fireplace – HEEBIE-JEEBIE CITY, if you ask me. All in all, the quickie is gloomy, but ultimately chilling in nature, and is most definitely worth a watch, and if I might use a quote from one of my favorite films to apply to this subject matter: “Sometimes…dead is better.”

    • Film
    3.5

    Summary

    Ultimately chilling in nature!

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    DIS Review – Not for the Faint of Heart!

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    Starring Bill Oberst, Jr., Lori Jo Hendrix, Peter Gonzales Falcon

    Directed by Adrian Corona


    I’ve made this claim many a time on this website before, and in the company of film friends as well: Bill Oberst Jr. is one of those actors that can literally be thrust into ANY role, and deliver a performance with so much harnessed electricity that you couldn’t believe that it was possible. I was the lucky recipient chosen to get a look at his latest project, titled DIS, and I think that I can honestly say – this is the stuff that nightmares are constructed of.

    Directed by Adrian Corona, this 60-minute dive into the black depths of hell, and in actuality DIS is located between circles # 6 and 9 in Dante’s Divine Comedy, and trust me when I tell you – there’s not a shred of comedic relief in this demented presentation. Oberst Jr plays an ex-soldier named Ariel, and his seemingly harmless jaunt through the woods will become anything but that, and judging from the film’s opening scenes, you are meant to feel as uncomfortable about this watch as any you might have checked out in recent memory.

    Perversion is the norm here, and lord help you if you’re caught where you shouldn’t be…my skin’s crawling just thinking about what I saw. Ariel’s travels are basically dialogue-free, but it only adds to the infinite levels of creepiness – you can tell he’s being stalked, and the distance between he and the horrors that await are closing in rather quickly.

    Visually by itself, this hour-long chiller can sell tickets without any assistance – hollowed-out buildings and long sweeping shots of a silent forest give the movie that look of complete desolation. Sliced up into three acts, the film wastes no time in setting up the story of a killer needing fresh blood to appease his Mandrake garden – seriously guys, I can’t type as much flashy stuff as there needs to be in order to describe this innately disturbing production.

    If you’re one of those types who tends to shy away from the graphic side of things, then I’d HIGHLY advise you to keep your TV tuned to the Hallmark Channel for some holiday entertainment, because this one registers high on the “I can’t believe someone thought of this” meter. So the quick recap is this: Oberst Jr in a standout performance, visual excellence, and an unshakable sense of debasement on a cellular level – keep the kiddies out of the living room with this one. Corona should be lauded (or locked up – just kidding) for his work on this one – HIGHLY recommended, and one that I’ll throw down as a top 5 for me in 2017.

    • Film
    4.5

    Summary

    Director Corona should be lauded (or locked up – just kidding) for his work on this one – HIGHLY recommended!

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    User Rating 2.92 (12 votes)
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    Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End Review – A Heavy Metal Massacre In Cartoon Form

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    Starring Alex House, Bill Turnbull, Maggie Castle, Melanie Leishman, Chris Leavins, Jason Mewes

    Directed by Richard Duhaney and Craig David Wallace


    “Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil” – Canadian television’s greatest blend of Evil Dead, Superbad and Deathgasm? Yes. That answer is yes. For two face-melting seasons, Todd “protected” Crowley High from episodic villains who were bested by metal riffs, stoner logic and hormonal companionship. Musical interruptions showcased stage theatrics like Sondheim meets pubescent Steel Panther and high school tropes manifested into vile, teen-hungry beasts. It was like a coming-of-age story got stuck between Fangoria pages – all the awkwardness with 100x more guts.

    That – for worse – was until Todd fell to a premature cancellation after Season 2’s clone-club cliffhanger. Indiegogo became the show’s only way to deliver a feature-length finale, except to reduce costs and ensure completion, the project would have to be in cartoon form. Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End suggests an animated curtain call for this otherwise live-action production, and from a fan’s perspective, familiar maturation follies befall our favorite bloodsoaked friend group. But for new viewers? Start with the far-superior original show – you’ll be lost, underwhelmed and baffled otherwise.

    Alex House retains his characterization of Todd Smith (in voice only). At this point, Todd has thwarted the book’s apocalyptic plan, Hannah (Melanie Leishman) has died, longtime crush Jenny (Maggie Castle) isn’t as horny for Todd anymore, and best friend Curtis (Bill Turnbull) has sworn Todd’s name to Hell (since Hannah was his girlfriend). Guidance Counselor Atticus Murphy Jr. (Chris Leavins) is now Janitor Atticus Murphy Jr. because Janitor Jimmy (Jason Mewes) is now Counselor Jimmy, yet Crowley High finds itself plagued by the same satanic uprisings despite these new changes. Why is evil still thriving! How is Hannah back in class! Who is the new “Pure Evil One” now that Todd has denied the book! Welcome to the end, friends – or is it a new beginning?

    At just north of 80 minutes, structure runs a bit jagged. We’re used to Todd battling one baddie over a half-hour block – backstory given time to breathe – but in The End Of The End, two mini-boss cretins play second fifth-fiddle to the film’s big-bad monster (well, monsters – but you’ll see). A double-dose of high school killers followed by a larger, more important battle with the gang’s fate hanging in the balance. Not a problem, it’s just that more length is spent singing songs about Todd’s non-functioning schlong and salvaging relationships from the S2 finale. Exposition (what little there is) chews into necessary aggression time – fans left ravenous for more versatile carnage, underwhelmed by the umpteenth cartoon erection gag. Did I mention there’s a lot of boner material, yet?

    These two mini “chapters” – “No Vest For The Wicked” (yarn demon)/”Zits Alors” (acid acne) – never come close to rivaling Hannah Williams’ doppelganger bombshell (“Songs About Boners”/”This Is The End Of The End Of the End”). Hannah [X]. Williams waking up in a room full of other Hannahs, emerging from some sleep-pod chamber; Todd’s gang facing off against this new “chosen one” in a way that erases “Sack Boy” and “Pizza Face” from memory. The End Of The End dashes dildoes-swinging into the show’s biggest mystery while dropping call-backs and bodies with equal speed – maybe too hastily for some.

    Now, about the whole pivot to animation – a smooth rendering of Crowley High and all its mayhem, but never representative of Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil‘s very Ash Vs. Evil Dead vibe. All the practical death effects (gigantic man-eating cakes, zombie rockstars) are lost to one-dimensional drawings, notable chemistry between cast members replaced by edited recordings lacking signature wits. This isn’t Metalocalypse, where dismemberment and bloodshed are gruesome on levels that outshine even live-action horror flicks. There’s no denying some of the magic is missing without Chris Leavins’ “creepy uncle” overacting (a Will Forte breed) or the book’s living incarnations of evil. Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End plays hooded minion to Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil’s dark ruler – less powerful, a bit duncier, but still part of the coolest cult around. Just try not to think about how much radness is missing inside hand-traced Crowley High?

    It’s hard not to strike comparisons between “reality” and ‘toon, because as noted above, live actors are sorely missed in a plethora of situations. Be they musical numbers, heretic slayings, Todd and Curtis’ constant references to wanking, wangs or other pelvic nods (no, for real, like every other sentence) – human reactions no longer temper such aggressive, self-gratifying cocksmanship. It doesn’t help that songs never reach the memorable level of “Horny Like The Devil,” but the likes of House, Leishman, Turnbull and Castle were masters of selling schlock, shock and Satan’s asshole of situations. Instead, lines now land flat like – for example – Leavins’ lessened ability to turn pervy, stalkerish quips into hilarious underage stranger-dangers. Again, it’s not Metalocalypse – and without that kind of designer depth, a wall prevents inter-dimensional immersion into Todd’s extracurricular madness.

    If this review sounds over-negative, fret not – it’s merely wishes of what could have been. None of this is to say Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End should be skipped. When you’re already known for masterstrokes of ballbusting immaturity, metal-horned malevolence and vicious teen-angst creature vanquishing, expectations are going to be sky high. Directors Richard Duhaney and Craig David Wallace successfully service fans with a smile, ensuring that rivers of red scribbled blood spurt from decapitated school children just like we’re used to. It’s just, I mean – ugh, sorry, I just have to say it one more time. BY DIMEBAG’S BEARD, this would have been an epic live-action flick. As is? Still one fine-with-a-capital-F-YEAH return to Crowley High for the faithful who’ve been waiting some 5-or-so years in a Todd-less purgatory.

    • Film
    3.0

    Summary

    Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End brings closure to hungry fans in all the ways they’d hope – albeit turned down a notch through animation. Over-the-top kills and headbanging metal riffs still reign supreme, they’re just drawn by hand instead of oozing practical effects this time.

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    User Rating 3.27 (11 votes)
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