Category: Vampires

Blood of Dracula’s Castle (1969)

Cover
One of the coolest VHS covers I’ve ever seen. Not that it has anything to do with the actual movie, of course…

Holy crap!  I don’t think I’ve seen a movie this terrible in a long time. I don’t just mean the plot is stupid, or that it’s boring, or that it doesn’t make any sense. I mean that the entire film is awful in every conceivable way.  If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear this was an Andy Milligan film and if it wasn’t for the lack of buckets of fake looking blood, it almost could be.  No, this film is the work of one Al Adamson,  the notorious schlockmeister who’s most famous for directing the infamous Dracula Vs. Frankenstein (which I really need to find a copy of). Adamson’s life could almost be a movie in its own right, especially the strange way that he died (killed by his live-in contractor and found five weeks later under a newly tiled floor in his bathroom). He’s one of those directors that could only have made a living during the end of the drive-in’s popularity when distributors would take anything they could sell to the exhibitors, who really wanted sleaze and blood to lure business back in.  Castle is certainly sleazy enough, but what’s up with the lack of gore?  What’s up with the nothing freaking happening, like, ever?

Blood of Dracula’s Castle is a movie about real estate. Nope, I am totally not kidding. There’s this suave vampire couple that live in this castle in the middle of the desert, even though it’s also strangely next to a beach (!), which they’re renting from a 108 year old man. When this man dies (I guess he wasn’t a vampire), he leaves his castle in the charge of his irritating 1960’s hipster photographer nephew and his irritating model girlfriend. They, of course, decide to head right to the castle and kick out the current tenants so they can…live in a castle in the middle of the desert? I don’t get it, and neither does anybody else in the film.
At any rate, the castle also has a few other tenants. The first is the butler, played by John Carradine. Let me just put this out here: I fucking love John Carradine. The man was a great actor that did not give a fuck. If you could pay him even a pittance, he’d be in your movie.  Hell, the man was not only in Red Zone Cuba, possibly the absolute worst film ever made, be he also sang the theme song for it! He appeared in over 300 films, in most of which he only had a small cameo part before he took his paycheck and went home, probably to drink copious amounts of whiskey. He was, the man, bar none and he gives his small crappy part an odd solemnity that it really doesn’t deserve.
We’ve also got Johnny, played by Robert Dix, son of silent and sound film star Richard Dix.  Johnny is a psycho that kills people because…he just likes killing people. He’s employed by our vampire husband and wife team to bring in young girls so they can drink their blood and stay young. He never does this in the actual movie though, just kills random people during a loooooong jailbreak sequence.  My favorite part is when he puts a dude in a car, runs it over a cliff, laughs, and walks away munching on a sandwich.  That’s cinema gold right there.  He’s also supposed to go nuts during the full moon but again, we never see this happen.
Rounding out the cast is your typical brain dead mutant servant character named, wait for it. Wait for it. Mango!  Oh, lord. I don’t even have a comment…
Oh, and they all worship a moon god name Luna and occasionally sacrifice nubile young things to him by burning them like Salem witches.  It’s like pieces of every clichéd horror movie plot ever, stuffed into a cake pan and over baked in the Arizona sun!

Okay, the problem with the film isn’t that it’s incompetent, it is. It’s not that nobody but Carradine can act their way out of a paper bag, they can’t. It’s not that the dialogue is stupid beyond belief, it totally is.  It’s that it’s a big ball of nothing. Like I mentioned earlier, it keeps talking about things that never happen and most of the film’s running time is either padded with chase sequences, cars going down the road, or footage from what looks like a  1960’s version of Sea World (again, I am totally not making that up). And then it just kind of ends.

So why was I so entertained by this movie? I have no idea. Maybe because it’s just so strange that it becomes oddly watchable. It feels like a 1940’s poverty row horror movie that was made in the 1960’s! This thing must have been musty and stale when it came out, now it’s just bizarre, especially combined with Adamson’s mind bending camera work (loooooong unbroken take, CLOSE UP, CLOSE UP, CLOSE UP!) and truly awful script. Did a human being make this movie? It’s really hard to tell but, for what it’s worth,  it really does feel like it might have been produced by someone who ended up buried under the floor in his own bathroom.

Rating: Oh, what the Hell: B+

Random Things

  • It’s also been a long time since I’ve seen a print that looks this terrible. For most of the movie there’s these long green lines running up and down the screen, there’s obvious splices where the reel changes are, and there’s even a few quick scenes that seem to be missing! It looks like somebody pulled the film out of the garbage and it’s kind of awesome (and appropriate).
  • Mango is supposed to be undead, I think.  He gets shot like three times and gets an ax in his back, but he only flinches when the hero throws his pistol and hits him in the face!
  • Oh, Crown International. Was there a film those guys distributed that wasn’t a huge pile of feces? They really were a marvel.
  • Despite being weirdly old fashioned and mostly free of gore and totally free of nudity, there’s this streak of sadism that runs through the movie that really makes me wonder about the director’s mental health.  There’s that long murder sequence that appears to exist to just show people getting murdered, including a random girl who gets drowned in a river and a hitchhiker that gets shot in the face!

Bitten (AKA Vampire Apocalypse) (2008)

Poster
Wow, Jay got hot!

I should probably open this review by talking about Kevin Smith and Jay and Silent Bob and shit, but fuck it. You should know all that shit already. Is there any cinephile worth their salt that honestly hasn’t sat through Clerks or Mallrats? That’s what I thought. Whatever, I’ll bite: THIS IS A VAMPIRE MOVIE STARRING THE GUY THAT PLAYED JAY IN MOST OF KEVIN SMITH’S MOVIES. It aired on the Sci-Fi Channel in 2009 and finally hit DVD in 2010.  Now that I have so affably won your attention with that witty opening paragraph, onto the main meat of the thing. Are you still here? Don’t make me come find you!

Jason Mewes plays a paramedic that works the night shift in a shitty part of town. He spends most of his time resuscitating junkies and stitching together homeless people who try to commit suicide. Sadly, this glamorous job doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for a social life and his only friend is another paramedic named Roger, played by the great Richard Fitzpatrick.  Mewes love life is about as crappy as his social one and when the film opens, his last failure of a relationship has left a bunch of her stuff in his run down apartment.
Then one day he finds a random girl covered in blood who’s been left in the trash outside his humble abode.  Things are about to get sticky! Har har har.

Bitten (or its awful alternate title if you prefer) is a film that doesn’t quite seem to know what to do with itself. Is it a serious movie that uses vampirism as a metaphor for bad relationships or is it a horror comedy? Part of the problem seems to lie, no surprise, with Mewes himself. The guy is a decent actor when he has the right director controlling him but Harvey Glazer really isn’t that director and Mewes pretty much alternates between the character he’s supposed to be playing and, well, Jason Mewes.  Not that it isn’t really funny, but it doesn’t work within the framework of the film the whole time.
And not that Glazer is a bad director either, despite his other credits being Kickin’ It Old School and Van Wilder: Freshman Year (vomit). And the fact that his IMDB profile picture doesn’t really do him any favours. The film has enough interesting camera work to push it into the “they knew what the fuck they were doing” category. There’s a continued occurrence of long fade outs that almost suggests a use of motif as well as some well done montages that end up elevating the film above the usual bottom of the barrel straight to the Sci-Fi Channel/DVD slop.  (Can you tell I’ve been reading film analysis books lately?)
But what really makes the whole thing worth watching is Richard Fitzpatrick as the crusty thrice divorced paramedic. His performance is fantastic. He’s like a misogynistic but well-meaning uncle and he gets all the best lines, a lot of which seem to have been ad libbed. If Mewes wasn’t the center of the film, this character freaking should have been!
Erica Cox is also pretty damn good as the vampire antagonist even if it’s obvious that she was hired for her inflata-boobs rather than her acting ability, as they’re on prominent display throughout most of the running time. (Not that I’m complaining all that much, mind you).

But then the film stumbles at a few key points. For one, the misogyny. Yes, I do have a bit of a problem with it. The whole underlining theme of “women will ruin your life and suck everything that’s good out of you” is a bit hard to swallow unless you’re a dudebro with a fedora.
Then there’s the times that the film’s desire to be more than it is just ends up being pretentious. For example, at certain points to signify that time has passed, a day of the week will flash on the screen. Okay, cool. Pretty basic stuff. But for some reason it’s all in Spanish. I have no idea why. The movie isn’t set in a Spanish-speaking country as far as I can tell. I get the feeling that it’s just there to be “cool” which is total crap because it’s kind of stupid and pointless.
There’s also a loooong segment in the middle of the film where Mewes is having a threesome with his vampire girlfriend and a random woman from the street who’s going  to be dead soon after. Again, okay. Pretty basic. Show some boobs and get the frat boys to hoot and holler. But it’s done all artsty fartsy with deep shadows and weird camera angles so you really can’t see anything and it goes on forever! It’s like a cruddy music video in the middle of the film and it really doesn’t work at all.
And finally there’s a moment of offscreen animal cruelty that’s supposed to be funny but it’s really not and it just kind of pisses me off because I hate that shit.

When all is said and done, Bitten ends up being pretty entertaining despite it’s flaws, but it’s faults still keep it from being the really great movie that it probably should have been. Even though that’s frustrating, there’s enough boobs and blood on display to keep most horror fans satiated even if the movies ending is quick and unsatisfying and has a character that has been sympathetic the whole time suddenly turn face and be evil. I hate when screenwriters do that!

Rating: B-

Random Things

  • It’s always nice to see a dark violent vampire movie. I’m always afraid when I pick up random one’s now that they’re going to be stuck in vapid teenage girl land. Fucking Hell.
  • Would it kill stuff like this to have extras on the DVD? I know it only cost around five bucks, but still. Give me a trailer or something!
  • Oh well, I guess the outtakes during the credits count. It’s basically just Mewes fucking around but it’s funnier than most modern comedies. And I am totally serious about that.

Temptation (AKA Black Tower Temptation) (2009)

Poster

When we first meet our lady of the hour and a half, Caroline, she’s out for a night on the town with her ditzy friends, trying to forget about blowing off her lunkhead boyfriend earlier in the day.  When she comes to the realisation that her friends are terrible, she sneaks out of the bar while they are busy drunkenly playing a fruit machine.  Then, in a moment of booze fuelled weak mindedness, she accepts a ride with a random stranger,  who turns out to be a total scuzzo and graphically rapes her in an alleyway.  She is rescued before she can be horribly murdered, by a strange red headed women who speaks with a French accent. Caroline survives the horrible incident but it sets off a chain of events that are only going to get worse from there, for pretty much everybody involved in her life as well as herself…

You know, there’s a very thin line between art and exploitation. For example, there’s a scene in this movie where we get a lingering shot of a topless woman playing a violin. Now, how is the viewer supposed to take a scene like this? At first you’d think “Oh, it’s just to show some naked breasts.” But if you look at the credits, not only was this movie written and directed by women, most of the crew was female as well. So while there’s lots of nudity and lesbian vampire make outs, you at least get a sort of feeling that there was at least a bit of thought put into the meaning behind everything.  The problem is that a lot of Temptation still comes across as sleazy.  And not a fun kind of sleazy either. Not only is the opening rape scene very uncomfortable (as rape scenes should be) but there’s a female on male rape later that’s also very hard to watch. I spent a lot of this film’s running time honestly wondering if I was supposed to be enjoying what was happening onscreen and despite the obvious intentions of everyone involved, I really didn’t.  Even though it feels like it should be, Temptation is just not a very fun movie.

I will say this for it though: for a low budget film, it looks great. I tend to cut indie horror films a lot of slack in the looks and set design department but they really did a good job here. It’s probably hard to make London and Tower Bridge look like crap but to make them visually your own is also very hard to do. The acting is decent as well, but that might just be my American ears being fooled by the British accents. Damn them both!
Where the movie really fails, other than the odd tone, is in the story department. That’s really where things get inexcusable. Temptation isn’t horribly written but there’s no real central conflict until the whole movie is almost over!  I could sort of let that slide if the characters were more interesting, but they’re kind of not. If they had cut a lot of pointless stuff out of the middle (including some rather ponderous monologues that have very little to do with anything), I could have gotten to know Caroline and her family better and my investment in the film would have been a lot deeper. Hell, we get to know the evil French vampire and her lesbian playthings better than we do our central characters! Maybe that was the point? I don’t know. As it stands, Temptation ends up being frustratingly average instead of the stand out vampire film it was meant to be and really should have been.

Rating: C+

Random Things

  • Of the two indie vampire films from 2009 that I’ve watched now, I’d rather watch this 10 times than Bled again. I’d rather fuck a love doll fashioned from a Saguaro cactus than sit through that boring mess a second time…
  • What is up with the strip club in this? When we first see it, the dancers onstage are costumed like 1920’s flappers and when we enter it a second time, they’re dressed straight out of a Madonna video and doing a T-Rex dance! Bizarre.
  • Caroline’s boyfriend is another odd bit I didn’t quite get. Are we supposed to like this pushy Pete? He’s an idiot but then he gets horribly murdered and you feel bad for the guy. I just don’t know how to feel!
  • I would love to watch this movie with an MRA just so I could hear him whine about how it’s sexist towards men. And then laugh at his fedora and smelly smelly armpits until he cries. Cries into his fedora. That’s right Mr. Men’s Rights. Cry away your pointless pain into your stupid looking hat. There there. There there.

Bled (2009)

Poster

All of the promotional materials as well as the DVD case for this one use “from the executive producer of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” as a selling point. Oh great, you’d probably think (or at least you should):  a post-Twilight vampire film and this asshat that was involved with the digital cancer cells on the horror genre’s ass known as the 2000’s Texas Chainsaw films is also involved in this somehow. Thankfully he didn’t direct it, he left that to some dude named Christopher Hutson who’s previous directorial credentials are…a TV movie and a couple other no budget horror flicks. Great! Good thing that it was a only a dollar…

So what we have here is an “art film.” Not only is it about an artist, the gorgeous Sarah Farooqui who’s biggest claim to fame besides a killer pair of male attention grabbers is a small part in Iron Man 3, but the film itself wants to be taken seriously as a work of art. It’s not content to be your run of the mill throat slashing, holy water throwing, stake pounding vampire film, no! It wants to be all serious and moody and different. Here’s a sort of run down of the plot (as much a I could understand it, anyways):
So Farooqui is an artist and she has an art show to show off her art and this creepy dude, Jonathan Oldham who had a small part in Ghost Rider, talks her into going back to her apartment where he introduces her to this tree branch which she can smoke to “help her artistically.” When she inhales the smoke from its sap, she goes into a trance and is transported to this fantasy type forest where this monster dude turns into her boyfriend and gives her neck some of the good old bite and suck. And that’s pretty much the entire premise: evil tree sap, fantasy forest, vampires. There’s some other people that get mixed up in things and some plot “twists” but most of the characters are so flat and uninteresting that I honestly started to zone out whenever they were onscreen and the “twists” are so hard to understand that it’s pointless to even try.

Okay, so I actually thought that the main ideas the film had were actually kind of interesting and it’s nice to see a vampire film that actually tries to do something different. Unfortunately Bled has way too many flaws. Added to the flat characters and their confusing motivations are a glacially slow pace and a low budget that works against everything, especially the sets. Other than the fantasy forest which looks small but decent, there’s only a few other locations and most of those are curtained and/or in deep shadow, a sure sign that they didn’t have enough money to build actual sets. It gives the real world scenes this odd soap opera feel which really isn’t helped by the fact that several actors in this have actually made appearances in soap operas! And then when you get right down to it, nobody really seemed to know exactly where to go towards the end and the film just kind of peters out without actually doing anything interesting. ZzzzzfuckingZZZZZZ.

There’s just nothing worse than wasted potential, is there? The whole vampirism as a drug thing could work a mint but it sure as hell doesn’t here.  If you want to see the concept done right, check out Guillermo Del Toro’s 1993 film Cronos and just skip Bled.

Rating: D-

Random things

  • So whenever a girl enters this fantasy land, she’s fully clothed, but the guys are always shirtless. I guess that’s how you keep things classy?
  • Speaking of classy, the main monster vampire thing looks like a rejected Power Rangers villian. Remember Lord Zedd? He’s Lord Zedd but shit.
  • Not only is Oldham’s character playing this film’s Renfield, his character’s name is actually fucking Renfield! I can’t decide if that’s really clever or really stupid.
  • While writing this review I really had to search my brain to try and remember exactly what happened in this movie. It’s one of those types of filmic experiences, the kind that just sort of leaks out of your memory as soon as it’s offscreen.  I don’t think that’s really what you want as a director or screenwriter…