Sometime in the 1980s, devout Billy (Jamie Dufault), star of the church choir conducted by Pastor Johnson (Carmine Capobianco), is persuaded by secular girlfriend Shannon (Sarah Nicklin) to join a theatre troupe. He is confronted by decade-specific stereotypes – D&D addict Traci (Samantha Acampora), muso NuWave (Jesse Dufault), stoner Bandilli (Derek Laurendeau) and gay Lance (Aaron Peaslee). Producer Lou Perdition (Steven O’Broin) drops a proposed production of Godspell in favour of a musical called Jonestown Jubilee, but his grand scheme is to sacrifice his cast to revive bald, moustached, Lugosi-garbed Dracula (Michael Thurber).
Rhode Island auteur Richard Griffin (The Disco Exorcist, Murder University, etc) has a track record with sly genre spoofs. Here, he draws on Hammer (like Christopher Lee in Dracula – Prince of Darkness, this Count maintains dignified silence … until a ‘Marcel Marceau in Silent Movie’ punchline) and the ‘80s likes of Fright Night, while envisioning a fundamentalist Christian scare movie pitching a good-natured churchgoing lad among stage folk he finds almost as threatening as vampires. The community theatre setting is appropriate since Griffin’s best work has the feel of a good, home-made production with talented if little-known actors giving it 110% and production values dependant on borrowed locations and general goodwill. He mostly stays away from the gross-outs – aside from anal impalement in the spirit of 2001 Maniacs – endemic in low-budget comedy horror, daringly trying for subtler humour (Billy’s prayer monologue is a hoot) and at least half-serious monster scenes.
Cast standouts are O’Broin, who combines Christopher Guest in Waiting for Guffman with Christopher Neame in Dracula AD 1972, and Acampora as the pedantic gamer whose costume is modelled on the outfit worn by Beverly Randolph in Return of the Living Dead. The last reel reverts to Disco Exorcist mode to bring on a Shaft-cum-Blade exorcist/vampire hunter (Jose Guns Alves) to team up with the Christian krewe to face the Prince of Darkness … which leads to an infernally witty punchline. Scripted by Michael Varrati.
Extract from Kim Newman’s Video Dungeon.