The Horror Of Dracula: From Transylvania To Klausenberg

3/5         

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A retelling of the classic Dracula tale.

I have long heard that this is one of the definitive takes on the classic novel, however, now after seeing I think that it lacks a certain something. Obviously, I am approaching this old film with modern sensibilities so some things will be lost in translation, but I think that it really suffers from clearly being very low budget. Now I know Hammer Horror was low budget and campy and that was all part of the charm, but I think here due to limitations Dracula, played by Christopher Lee, was able to be set up as a truly terrifying threat.

Moreover, I also think that this film makes a number of odd changes to the book that seem to serve no purpose other than to be confusing, as for the most part it is just swapping around character names and backstories somewhat. I don’t really understand why the film did this as it certainly didn’t add anything.

However, the incredibly strong positive this film has going for it is the legendary Christopher Lee, who easily blends into the role of Dracula and I thought was able to make the role his own and put his personal spin on it. Lee saves this film from mediocrity.

Overall, a very average film pushed up by Christopher Lee.

Pros.

Lee

It is very watchable

The final battle

Cons.

It makes strange changes to the source material for no real reason

It’s low budget hurts it in places

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The Invitation: If There Is One Thing I Hate About The Aristocracy It’s All The Damn Vampires

1.5/5      

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Ancestry.com leads to a young woman, played by Nathalie Emmanuel,  becoming the love interest for an evil vampire lord, played by Thomas Doherty.

This was barely a horror film, honestly after a point this film just becomes a superhuman action movie. The horror elements are fairly thin on the ground, the early parts of the film seem to be heading in the standard creepy British haunted house fare but then takes a drastic turn that really doesn’t help the film much at all. However, really the issues come in the final third when all the horror trappings are dropped and Emmanuel starts fighting vampires, this really takes out all the scare potential.

Also the final scene forces in a sense of girl power which leaves the film off on an eyeroll which is not what anyone wants. The more filmmakers and writers try and force in hamfisted political commentary into films the more I will criticise it, unless it is done well.

In terms of the vampire sub-genre this film struggles to do anything original, it inserts in its own version of Dracula who never really comes across as any kind of threat.

Honestly, the only thing I liked about it was the fact that it featured the legendary Sean Pertwee, and he is a saving grace but really isn’t given much to do.

Overall, a flawed horror film that makes a series of bad mistakes.

Pros.  

Sean Pertwee

Unintentionally funny at times

Cons.

The forced in social commentary

The weak vampire content

It makes a series of bad creative choices

It has pacing issues

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Night Teeth: Driving Miss Bloodsucker

3.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Benny, played by Jorge Lendeborg Jr, finds himself in the middle of a vampire turf war after he covers his brother’s, played by Raul Castillo, shift as a driver.

I enjoyed this film and thought that it had enough uniqueness to it that it stands out within the vampire sub-genre. It is very stylised and this again helps to give it flair with an almost comic book esque aesthetic, the action again reflects this with a lot of the big fight scenes feeling straight from the page.

Lendeborg Jr is a fine leading man, but he is greatly outdone by Debbie Ryan as Blair, one of the two vampires being driven around.  Lendeborg Jr and Ryan have an undeniable amount of chemistry together on screen and their romance is very believable. Moreover, Ryan’s character is also the most complex with her being this killing machine but also longing for more, with the idea that she has been forced or conditioned into this life never too far from the viewers mind.

The two areas where I felt the film was lacking was its villain and its originality. In terms of villain we have Alfie Allen as victor the big bad vampire boss who is making a play for the whole city, now the issue with Allen’s character is that we really aren’t shown him doing very much yet we are expected to believe he is a threat. This becomes a big issue when you get to the final part of the film where he is supposedly super powerful and unbeatable yet we hadn’t got a whiff of that before as it is not well set up. Moreover, in terms of originality, though I said the film is fairly unique it is also quite reliant on past tropes which serve as a disservice to it.

Overall, a strong vampire film that benefits from casting Debby Ryan.

Pros.

Ryan

The romance

Some interesting new ideas

Cons.

A little too reliant on tropes

Alife Allen is wasted

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Nosferatu: Dracula By Any Other Name

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

An unofficial retelling of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

I have seen many different versions of the Dracula story over the years, most of which just feel like the same old thing trotted out yet again, however here it feels different. This is because of two things, firstly though it is an unofficial retelling and has different character names and a few new twists and turns this film does feel in many ways like a very faithful adaptation of the novel. Secondly, this film has enough of its own personality and style to stand out and create something for itself away from the Dracula myth.

I found the Count, played by Max Schreck, to be quite a striking villain. The design of his monster makeup is very well done and results in a very terrifying and memorable character on screen. Further adding to this I liked that the film did not go down the trite rabbit hole of having Dracula be sexy. In many vampire films the vampires don’t look monstrous and scary instead they are made to look sexy, this ruins the threat and it many ways hamstrings the sub-genre.

My main issue with this film was the timings of the inter-title cards. Some were too quick and others took far too long to leave, this became an issue as the film went on as the ones that were too quick made me feel like I was missing out elements of the film and the ones that were too slow bored me and took me out of it. Both resulted in the same effect, me becoming less engaged.

Overall, a good vampire film and one that is a classic in its own right. However, that is not to say it is perfect the inter-title cards have timing issues and some of the shots are difficult to translate, leaving you once again struggling to know what is going on.

Pros.

A faithful adaptation

Not making the monster sexy

A strong sense of style

Cons.

Some of the shots are hard to understand, the techniques used now feel confusing.

The inter-titles

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American Horror Story: Winter Kills

1.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

The vampire like monsters finally meet their comeuppance and the black pills go nationwide.

Why? Why do you kill off your most interesting characters, Belle, Frances Conroy, and Austin, Evan Peters, within the first half of the episode without even giving them one strong final scene? Moreover, why do you keep the boring and unlikable characters alive? It makes no sense. If it was not for Leslie Grossman I would have just turned this episode off.

This program doesn’t even feel like AHS anymore, it feels like a poor imitation. Where once the show had strong writing that all fit together nicely and worked to enrich the whole now we are given plot holes and throw away characters just for the sake of it.

It becomes strikingly apparent during the second half of the episode that other than Grossman none of the actors playing the characters left alive can really act and their wooden performances become all the more glaring thanks to extra screen time. In that vein, the child actor playing Alma is shockingly bad in her performance and becomes almost cartoonishly evil by the end of the episode in a scene that is more than a little bit dumb.

Overall, this first half of the season was a train wreck that has forever tarnished AHS.

Pros.

Grossman

A few interesting scenes

Cons.

The performances aren’t good

The child actor

The ending

It taints the legacy of the show

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Interview With Michael Caradonna (Producer) And Geoff Ryan (Writer/ Director): Blood From Stone

Written by Luke Barnes

Hey Everyone! I recently had the chance to chat to Michael Caradonna (the producer) and Geoff Ryan (the writer/director) about their neo-noir, western, vampire flick Blood From Stone. We talk about

Q: How would you sum up Blood From Stone in a word?

MC:  Honest. I have been a fan of the Vampire genre for as long as I’ve been a fan of film. Blood From Stone shows the realistic problems today’s vampires would deal with should they really exist.

GR: Unique. I wanted to make something different from anything else out there – for better or for worse – and judging from both critic and audience reviews it seems like we succeeded. 

Q: Who is your filmmaking inspiration?

MC – I enjoy films of all genres which has opened the door to appreciating the likes of Soderbergh, Kubrick, Scorsese, Lucas and Spielberg, but looking at a whole catalogue, I’d have to say Quentin Tarantino. From writing True Romance to his latest Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, he inspires me as a Producer.

GR – So many to choose from! With this one I’d have to say the most overt influence would be Tarantino. From the genre-blending to the character banter punctuated by extreme violence, to the non-traditional story structure… it’s got a lot of his early works influencing it.

Other big influences would be Peter Greenaway, Paul Verhoeven, Robert Altman, The Coen Bros, and on and on…

Q: Other than your film, what is your favourite vampire film?

MC – Many films come to mind, but I would say Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark. There was always something gritty and honest with that film and one of the first films I thought of when I read Blood From Stone.

GR – Let the Right One In. I love that it’s a great movie that perfectly balances being a beautiful character story and a haunting vampire tale.

Q: How did you gauge the emotional tone of this film, between having the character seem sympathetic whilst also being a blood thirty monster? 

MC – I defer this question to my writer/director Geoff Ryan.

GR – As anyone who has been in a toxic relationship knows, the emotions can go from deep love to vicious hate in a matter of seconds. Or, at the big picture level, how a society with so many enlightened and progressive advancements is still capable of primal brutality, selfishness, and tribalism. To me, vampire lore was a perfect way to explore these ideas: It was a way to explore the way our own worst impulses, no matter how much we try to deny them to ourselves or bury them in the past, still make up so much of who we truly are. None of the characters want to be monsters and go to great lengths to convince themselves they are good people (and in many ways they are), but their actions matter. I wanted to really show how actions have consequences no matter our good intentions.  It is something all of us do. I personally might not be a vampire or a killer, but I am a citizen of a nation that wages wars, I buy products from exploitive companies, I eat once living animals, I’m sometimes a crappy friend, and so on. These are things I don’t want to define me but to those who are impacted by these actions it is who I am. And, so, in the story it’s about the search for balance and how we live with the monster inside of us. 

Q: Do you have any funny on-set stories?

MC – Oh my, where do I start?  The crew that worked together on this film was full of its own great characters. From the encounters with the Las Vegas Police Department when I get pulled over while getting the crew food at 3am and they discovered “blood” all over the back seat, to casino security, with hand on gun, following up on a video feed showing dead bodies being dragged down a hall where there were supposed to be no people. We had such a great time on set. While getting every shot that Geoff required, there were infinite moments of fun, laughter and comradery.

GR – So many funny stories! This was really a once-in-a-lifetime type of film for me because the team that came together to work on this was a phenomenal group of fun people. Add to that the ridiculousness of what we were filming, and it made for some funny moments. Like when casino security had to do a safety check because they saw us dragging dead bodies through the hallways or having to explain to a policeman who pulled us over why there were blood stains all over our car (my car’s backseat is still a blood stained mess). On the Blu-Ray there’s a bloopers segment that captures some of the fun but nowhere near the almost constant state of joking, hijinks, and lunacy we went through. 

Q: How would you describe the current state of the Vampire horror sub-genre?

MC – Just as in the myths and legends, vampires will never die. While I am biased, I think that Blood From Stone is up there with many other great vampire films throughout filmmaking history. There are many bad vampire films that are good and many good ones that do not get the attention they should. Every once in a while there is a film that truly stands out like The Hunger, The Lost Boys and even What We Do In the Shadows. These films draw us in and, as fans, we suck it all up. The current state of the Vampire films is alive and well.

GR – Just like all movie genres, there’s a ton of mediocre-to-bad with some exceptionally unique and amazing work shining through. Plus, there’s some really exciting new Dracula/Nosferatu films in the pipeline that I’m eagerly anticipating. Much like vampires themselves, the genre won’t ever die, and great artists will continue making great vampire films while some will suck the corpse dry for whatever cash-grab potential it has. 

Q: Was there a message you were trying to communicate with the film? And if so what was it?

MC – I defer this question to my writer/director Geoff Ryan.

GR – I kind of touched on it in the early question about tone but the primary theme I wanted to explore was about our interconnectedness. It’s why the two main characters only share two scenes together: I wanted to tell a story of how their lives are connected even when their actions aren’t directly to each other. And, I intentionally told the story in a way that offers a lot of ideas in a way that will allow the audience to create their own opinions on it. It’s been fascinating to hear from audiences about how they see the characters and the story. Some see it as a tragedy, some as a love story, some as a dark comedy. Some people think Jure is a monster and others think Darya is the real monster. 

But the most important line of the film to me is when Viktoria tells Jure, “There are no endings, only cycles. It’s your choice: Creation or destruction, vengeance or forgiveness.” This to me is the message of the film. We all have those choices in our lives. Are we creators or destroyers? Do we seek forgiveness for our own sins, or do we seek vengeance for wrongs against us? The choices we each make will shape the future for humanity. Do we circle back to another dark ages or do we progress forward into a brighter future? 

Q: How important were western and neo-noir elements to you as you were filming? 

MC – I defer this question to my writer/director Geoff Ryan.

GR – To me they were very important! For Jure, the movie is a western. For Darya, it’s a noir. Even the score represents this with Jure’s music being composed of guitar, banjo, and lap steel to evoke that country/western vibe. And Darya’s music is reminiscent of Bladerunner with pulsing Moog and sparkling synth Arpeggios. He’s rooted in the old world and she aspires for the future. 

Westerns especially are iconic American stories. The lone hero is a trope that has its virtues but also has been used to justify some of the worst elements of our society from our wars (“You’re either with us or against us”) to our gun culture (“Only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun”). Jure sees himself as this lone hero. At the beginning, he’s riding into town to save the girl, and at the end: He’s riding off into the sunset (or sunrise). He sees himself as the good guy, even a god amongst men, but modern society has forced him into the shadows. He resents this new era where he can no longer act with impunity. It was often joked that Jure should wear a hat that says, “Make Vampires Great Again”. 

Similarly in noir it was often a “damsel in distress” that turned to the guy to save her, but she was usually hiding a dark secret. And Darya at first is portrayed to be that “damsel in distress” but over the course of the film she evolves into a force of nature. She is from an old world and holds an old idea of who she should be. She hides her true self just wanting “to be normal”.  But over the course of the story there are glimmers of light showing her breaking through that and discovering her power to shape her own destiny. 

Q: Sequel ideas and future plans?

MC – I defer this question to my writer/director Geoff Ryan.

GR – I would love to! It kind of sets itself up for one and I have notes for where the story will go. Much like this one had a yin & yang between Jure and Darya, the sequel would have that between past and present. It would juxtapose life for the vampire women of the story after Jure (spoiler!) and life for him before modern society – and how those timelines impact each other. Sort of like a hybrid of Unforgiven and Thelma & Louise told through Aronofsky’s The Fountain! But, unless Blood From Stone develops a much bigger fan base than it currently has, the prospects for a sequel are unlikely. 

Q: If Blood From Stone ever won an Oscar or other award who would you thank in your acceptance speech?

MC – First and foremost, Geoff Ryan for trusting me to produce this project for him followed by the rest of the amazing Blood From Stone family. Geoff Black, Nika, Adeshola, Sarah, Alethea, Carl, Steven and, of course, our solid cast, including our stars, Vanya and Gabriella. Thanks to all of you!

GR – My BFS Family: Our small and wonderful team who put so much of their trust, time and talent into helping make my crazy fever dream a reality on a budget that did not merit the scale of what we made. Linda & Michael of Indie Rights who believed in this film back when it was just a concept in my brain. The people of Las Vegas who opened their doors and contributed so much to this movie. And, my cat Pafoofa who passed before the film came out, but her voice is immortalized in the music score. 

If you would like to check out Blood From Stone you can find it on all good digital media marketplaces, Vudu, Amazon and of course you can buy the Blu-ray and DVD director’s cut as well. As always I have a review up of the film on my site now, so check that out as well!

Blood From Stone: Even Vampires Go On Benders, Blood-lust Quenched

Blood From Stone is a vampire western film directed by Geoff Ryan. The plot follows decades old vampire Jure (Vanja Kapetanovic), as he goes on a rampage killing human victims left and right. Revealing himself in the process.

When I first thought vampire western, I imagined it literally, and while this is not that, it is so much more. This feels more like a character study to me, a study in what happens to a person, or in this case a vampire, when they have been denied something they desire for a long time. We see that relapse in all its gory splendour here.

This is a tale of two vampire primarily and though Darya (Gabriella Toth), is a strong character in her own right this is really Jure’s film. I would be remiss if I didn’t take this opportunity to say that both Toth and Kapetanovic both give terrific performances. There is something broken in Kapetanovic’s performance which just feels so right for this role.

The horror of this film is not really the sort that makes you jump; it is more akin to dread. Think about how you feel when you watch a biopic knowing it’s a sad ending, or when you watch a film about banker robbers knowing they can’t keep getting away. You get that feeling right from the off and you know it is all going to end poorly, but you can’t help but watch and hope that it doesn’t.

Overall, a very tragic but also fascinating film that enthrals you from the get-go.

Pros

Kapetanovic

Toth

The horror

The sense of dread

The ending

Cons

None

5/5

Reviewed by Luke      

Vampires Vs. The Bronx: The Conspiracy Theorists Were Right, Gentrification Is The Work Of Vampires

Vampires Vs. The Bronx is a comedy horror film directed by Oz Rodriguez. The plot sees a group of gentrified vampires try to buy up and take over the Bronx, killing residents as they go, it is down to a group of young kids to defeat the hordes of the undead.

This film was one of the best horror comedy films I have seen in a while, it did both in spades. The jokes made me laugh, or at the very least smile, and the chills were quite effective when used; the bodega scene speaks for itself.

I enjoyed the gentrified twist of Vampires and I think that it worked well as a more meta comment on societal change and keeping one’s identity. I liked the Vivian (Sarah Gadon) twist, I thought though it was quite obvious, I was glad that they developed her character rather than just have her as a plucky helper character for the main group. I also enjoyed it when Vivian became the evil vampire general, I thought Gadon played the character well with just the right amount of menace.

I also thought it was an inspired choice to go a bit more old school and out there with the vampire characters, like at one-point Vivian is flying after the boys, I just think it adds extra whimsey to the film and is a nice difference addition.

Overall, a fun film that is far deeper than it might first seem. Very much worth a watch.

Pros.

The vampires, and going old school

The comedy and the horror

Developing Vivian

The surprisingly emotional turn with Tony (Joel ‘The Kid Mero’ Martinez)

Cons.

Slightly familiar

4.5/5

Reviewed by Luke

Let Me In: Fresh Blood

 Let Me In is a horror film directed by Matt Reeves. The plot follows a young abused boy Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee), who befriends a reclusive neighbour girl Abby (Chole Grace-Moretz). The two form a bond, and then it is revealed she is a vampire. It is an American remake of the Swedish film Let The Right One In.

I think this film is genuinely quite creepy and well done. Vampire films have been done to death, so they need to be novel and inventive to stick out to me and this did. Yes, there are some elements of it that seem a little familiar, but the idea of a vampire who is trapped in the body of a 12-year-old girl falling in love with a 12 year of boy who then becomes her familiar is something I have never seen before. It is horror romance done right, take notes Twilight.

There are some pretty gnarly scenes and some of the gore is wince inducing, that is a pro in my book. The scenes where we see Abby hunting and killing are also well done and Moretz does a hell of a job making us scared of a tween.

My one complaint would be that the runtime was too long and that at almost two hours the film feels oppressive, there is no reason this couldn’t have been an hour and a half. Films need to be tighter.

Overall, a great vampire film that proves that there is still fresh blood in the subgenre

Pros.

Moretz

The gore

A unique spin on the genre

An intriguing ending

Cons.

It is way too long

4/5

Reviewed by Luke