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Sins of Dracula, The
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by Jay Seaver

"Pastiche without passion."
1 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2015 BOSTON HORROR SHOW; Oh, man, so many angles from which to disdain "The Sins of Dracula", just one opening paragraph. I mean, I've recently seen one of the Hammer Draculas that this draws inspiration - do I come at it that way? Or maybe I should consider the question of whether Richard Griffin setting a movie around a community theater company shows self-awareness or a lack thereof. Then again, you don't really need an angle beyond "bad movie that tries to use camp as an excuse".

That starts from the beginning, when a winking warning tells the audience that this movie is about what happens in a faithless world. Soon, nice church-going boy Billy (Jamie Dufault) is telling his pastor (Carmine Capobianco) that he wants to do more than just sing in the choir, getting into theater with his girlfriend Shannon (Sarah Nicklin), even if all the others in the troupe - D&D-loving Traci (Samantha Acampora), self-named NuWave (Jesse Dufault), drug fiend Bandilli (Derek Laurendeau), and gay Lance (Aaron Peaslee) all seem to be people he shouldn't be near. But, of coruse, they aren't a patch on director Lou Perdition (Steven O'Brion) and his girlfriend Kimberly (Elyssa Baldassarri).

None of these guys are particularly convincing teenagers, although I suppose that the filmmakers would say that's part of the joke - it's a straight-faced spoof of shoddy horror movies and Christian scare flicks! The trouble is, it never feels like the genuine more-enthusiasm-than-talent camp that makes such movies memorable, nor does it have the targeted gags to make for good parody. It almost seems cynical, as if Griffin and company know by now that with a few exceptions, the people who show up in they work with aren't that good, so this sort of send-up/homage is done as an excuse. Or even worse, it can feel like laziness - when going for camp, you don't have to come up with actual scares or gags; you can just imitate what they are like.

I would sort of hope that doing a Dracula film would do something to counter that feeling of laziness - the character's rich history might scare away B filmmakers who don't have anything special to contribute - but Dracula is arguably the worst, laziest part of this movie. Michael Thurber basically just stands there, made up to resemble Vincent Price as Dracula (a surprising gap in horror-movie history which, if I ever get hold of a time machine, will definitely be rectified), not speaking or doing much of anything. It's an annoyingly generic horror movie, with its more entertaining ideas, such as a Jonestown musical, pushed off to the side.

It does occasionally manage a bright moment or two - Jamie Dufault, as he did in Griffin's Murder University, makes a good straight man. He's not a particularly good actor, but he does deadpan well, and he gets one scene that may be rather on-the-nose in its skewering of religious hypocrisy, but is pretty funny. He gets to spend much of the film playing off Sarah Nicklin (whom I thought had left Rhode Island for bigger and better B-movies), although the general capability of the cast drops off rather quickly after that, with Carmine Capobianco especially wooden whether it be deliberate or not, although a late appearance by Jose Guns Alves as a funky exorcist is at least energetic.

It's a little funny that this is set against a community theater backdrop, with the same people cranking out standards on a regular basis, which is sort of what Griffin does - he made three features in 2014, and I wonder what the economics of it are. How many marginal movies do you have to make before one is just good enough or checks off just enough boxes to sell to a small genre-specialized distributor and pay for the whole batch? This one checks things off, but doesn't even do that very well.

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originally posted: 01/28/15 15:50:03
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  26-Oct-2014 (NR)



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