This Canadian Dracula takes an approach somewhere between John Johnson’s Alucard, with its faithful community theatre-level adaptation of the novel, and Guy Maddin’s Dracula, Pages From a Virgin’s Diary, with deliberately outmoded film techniques. In a distinctive, theological take, the former Vlad Tepes has a messiah complex and sees himself as a saviour, though his victims have differing opinions. When the Count flees London for Transylvania, Mina (Amanda Lisman) diagnoses ‘he has to retreat to his cave to rebuild his delusions, lest he go mad with self-knowledge.’
Writer-director Theodore Trout plays Dracula – with stuck-on sideburns, fangs and a bat-symbol breastplate – as a ferocious, demented shapeshifter. The vampire appears as a golden youth (Ethan Jensen) to Van Helsing (Mike Grimshaw) and manifests other shadow-forms, including a Nosferatu muppet and an iron-faced Grim Reaper/Ferryman. Quincy (Randall Carnell) diagnoses that Dracula isn’t just a vampire but a wendigo. It uses cartoons for some special effects, has Terry Gilliamish animation and collage sequences, and is mostly in stressed black and white, with occasional tints and colour splashes.
Some Stoker dialogue is flattened (the Count’s introduction is ‘I am Dracula, please come in’) and deliberately overheated lines (‘can he be destroyed – a dead mediaeval warlord whose evil is eternal?’) add a sly camp touch, though this is mostly a serious attempt to make the old story disturbing again. This Dracula has a harem of five vampire wives, who are hauled off Harker (David McPherson) and given a peasant baby to tear apart gruesomely. Harker later wakes in the castle to find the child’s mother (Alexandra Steinmetz) hanging dead outside his window.
A few Victorian social and sexual mores are interrogated – this Mina is Lucy’s maid, and Lucy (Denise Brown) suffers guilt-induced madness for cheating on fiancé Dr Seward (Ian Case) and becomes a blood-boltered, glowing-eyesocketed harridan vampire quite unlike any other depiction of the character. The score drones, with a few classical selections (Bach’s Toccata and Fugue) and goth metal selections, and a genuine handmade feel disarms criticism. Performances are good, if on the Canadian-accented side, and a real engagement with the material carries the film through rough spots and awkward passages. With Hal Hewett as Renfield.
Extract from Kim Newman’s Video Dungeon.