A group of vampire hunters, going about their business, are invited to meet with the High Council of vampires. Invoking an old pact between Abraham van Helsing and “Lord Drakulya”, the vampires offer a truce between vampires and humans.
However, a rogue force that does not feel bound by this pact threatens to unravel the truce; and so vampires and humans have to collaborate in order to see off this threat. But in this difficult constellation, no-one knows who they can trust.
This may sound like a simple enough premise, but Dracula’s Curse is burdened with a ton of lore and back-story. The film is organised into chapters, but not even that approach can bring order to the sprawling and confusing story.
Since this is a project by The Asylum, no-one will be surprised to learn that this is a bad film. But it is also a film where you feel that a number of people in this project set out to make a decent B-movie. There are several reasons why they failed to achieve this goal. Amongst the more prominent reasons I would count the convoluted story and generally weak script, as well as the fact that this film tried to do a lot of things that were clearly far beyond its budget or the abilities of its team.
For example, many lines of dialogue are either weak or are feeling like someone was trying too hard. In a similar vein, the fight choreography is solid, but for the most part the actors, while following the choreography, are unable to muster up the speed or the prowess to make it really look good.
Likewise, the achievements in make-up are impressive, but the monster make-up is frequently way “too much”, turning these characters into clownish figures instead of threatening ones. There is a sub-reddit called “Awful Taste, But Great Execution” – and this phrase very much sums up the monster make-up in this film. Mind you, it is difficult to decide who is to blame here, but I would tend to blame director Leigh Scott – either for having bad taste, or for failing to rein in the make-up artists who got carried away.
Other practical effects, like green blood packs for staked vampires, as well as things such as melting faces, look good and generally work well. But the special effects (mainly gunfire flares) are rather poor.
The acting is mostly abysmal – the majority of the cast seems to have escaped from an Overactors Anonymous meeting. But there are some cast-members with a semblance of talent, including Thomas Downey, Jeff Denton, and Rhett Giles; but none of them can make these badly-written characters or their poor lines of dialogue work.
The film’s writer, director, and editor Leigh Scott has carved out an odd career-niche for himself. He writes and directs low-budget films, often for The Asylum, and apart from doing mockbusters like Transmorphers, his preferred method of writing seems to be to take pre-existing material that is out of copyright and build his own stories around it: Dorothy and the Witches of Oz, King of the Lost World, Pirates of Treasure Island, Frankenstein Reborn, etc. Scott also seems to stick to the same group of actors for most of his projects, many of whom have to fulfil other functions in the production as well, as drivers, designers, or composers. Scott also has a tendency to cast himself in his own films. He plays “the old one” in Dracula’s Curse, and despite his hammy performance I would say that he is better at acting than at writing.
The film tries to overcome some tired genre conventions, but fails.
It tries to deal with the getting-the-band-back-together trope by “hanging a lantern on it”, as they say: 40 minutes into this film, the main character Rufus King literally says: “I’m puttin’ the band back together”. That’s certainly one way of dealing with this issue, but it is not a good one. This film is simply not nearly good or clever enough to have earned this line, or to be able to make it work, despite of Downey’s decent delivery (and the well-chosen camera frame) in that scene.
The other issue that the filmmakers tackle is the problem of exposition. After 36 minutes we get a major scene of exposition (which is rather late for a film that is so convoluted and confusing). That exposition is sort of unusual, in that it misinterprets the film-making mantra “show, don’t tell” by taking it far too literally. Still, this could be interesting, were it not for the fact that this exposition does not explain anything but is actually even more confusing than the previous 35 minutes.
In order to enable this exposition to take place, the filmmakers pull a rabbit out of the hat in form of a new character who is being introduced into the hunters’ world, acting as the audience’s proxy. This character turns up again at a later exposition-heavy scene, but has little to no function in the story, which is simply sloppy writing. And that later exposition scene is really late: 58 minutes into the film, we are actually given a description of the hunters and their personality traits. If a film has not been able to show us these basic things during the previous hour, but instead has to rely on a cheap and forced bit of exposition, then there is something seriously wrong.
To top off the really bad writing, the film ends on a rather stupid plot twist.
Now that we have established what the film failed to achieve, let’s try to work out what story Leigh Scott was actually trying to tell. This film tries to do a lot of world-building, and Scott invents lots of new lore around the customary Dracula myth. But this film cannot handle all that lore, and so the world-building simply gets in the way of the plot. On top of all this lore Scott piles the theme of feminism, which is here presented as a destructive force of unbridled ambition and which is also lumped in with lesbianism and witchcraft.
This film feels like fan-fiction, or the result of a bunch of cosplayers getting carried away (which would also explain the acting… ). In other words, every single idea that ever popped into Leigh Scott’s head seems to have ended up on screen. There seems to have been no selection process, no sifting through, no weeding out. Good or bad, strong or weak, it all ended up in this film for us to behold. And it is all far too much for this little film to handle. If this is indicative of Leigh Scott’s other work involving pre-existing material, it does not bode well for his audiences.
I can think of no reason why anyone should watch this film. And even if I acknowledge some of the effort made here (including the passable soundtrack by lead actress Eliza Swenson) I cannot rate this film any higher than 1.5 to 2.0 out of 10.
PS: the film’s credits, some of which are done in graphic novel style, have some mildly amusing lines at the very end, which can be found in the imdb trivia section.