Cinema/TV, Dracula

Your Daily Dracula – The Creeps (1997)

Your Daily Dracula, Phil Fondacaro The Creeps (1997)

‘This machine, when I get it up and running, has the power to transform to transform mythic cultural and literary archetypes into living entities.’

Perhaps purloining a premise from the 1939 cartoon The Bookworm, this has inadequate mad scientist Dr Winston Berber (Bill Moynihan) invent a device (‘an archetype inducer’) which brings characters from books into the real world.  He steals manuscript editions of Guy Endore’s The Werewolf of Paris, Nina Wilcox Putnam’s The Mummy (actually a screen treatment), Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Bram Stoker’s Dracula and hooks them up to the machine.  Vengeful librarian Anna Quarrels (Rhonda Griffin) and video store manager-cum-private eye Davey (Justin Lauer) intervene, snatching the manuscripts at a vital point in the process, which means that the Universal Pictures knock-off monsters — Dracula (Phil Fondacaro), the Wolf Man (Jon Simanton), the Mummy (Joe Smith), the Frankenstein Monster (Thomas Wellington) — emerge as dwarves (‘if memory serves, I was significantly larger when fictional’).  Needing to rectify the size situation (‘what are you going to do, go around all eternity carrying a step-stool so you can bite people on the neck?’), the monsters set out to capture Anna, whose sacrifice is needed to complete their actualisation.  The monsters mistakenly abduct Anna’s lesbian supervisor Miss Christina (Kristin Norton), who is briefly transformed into a Valkyrie, but the laboratory finale finds Anna and Davey hooked up to the sacrificial machine.

As usual with Full Moon movies, not much actually happens on very few sets in a brief running time, but Charles Band, personally directing this one, works hard to cover budgetary restrictions with odd character bits and even delivers an intellectual argument rather than an action scene for the finale — Dracula is persuaded to return to the world of make-believe, to live forever in everyone’s nightmares.  The Benjamin Carr script has the peculiar habit of sprinkling accurate literary and movie trivia throughout: Christina tries to get Anna to be her date at a Rita Mae Brown reading and masturbates with a first edition of Jane Eyre, Anna laments that an ex-boyfriend ‘thought Ayn Rand was the greatest writer in the world’, Davey fends off a customer who is after a Jesus Franco laserdisc set, the video store scenes are full of in-jokes about other Full Moon product (unable to rent Portrait of a Lady, a customer asks ‘is Hideous! available yet?’) and the cute fade-out is a discussion of the various film versions of Venus in Furs.

Though the scenes with the bumbling mad doctor and the inept private eye are feeble low comedy and the pint-sized monstrosities (three of whom have very little to do except lurch) are inherently ridiculous, The Creeps features a fairly adult sexual humiliation scene as Miss Christina is stripped and fondled by the Wolf Man and Full Moon regular Fondacaro plays a red-eyed Dracula in surprisingly straight fashion, which extends to a moving farewell speech.  It was shot in 3-D, which means many sequences of the monsters looming towards the camera, but like most Band product was tailored to the video market.  Like heroine Griffin (also in Hideous!) and those stumbling mini-ghouls, the film is at once awkward and oddly endearing.   It shows more respect for its famous monsters than any given Stephen Sommers film.


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