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Film Review: The Sins of Dracula (2014)

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SYNOPSIS:

When Billy, a young man of faith, joins the local theater group, he finds more than teenagers involved in all manner of vice, but also a secret cult of Devil worshipers who are hell-bent on resurrecting Dracula, the King of Vampires, from his grave. Will Billy survive, or will he suffer the sins of Dracula’

REVIEW:

The Sins of Dracula begins with a message to viewers: ‘The following motion picture is a dramatic retelling of actual events that could potentially occur in a faithless society. Please, watch responsibly, and consult with your local parish upon completion of viewing.’

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I’ve watched a lot of religious films, each more ridiculous than the next. While I don’t necessarily appreciate being preached to, some of them are too awful to pass up. I will say, however, that I’ve never seen one of these films billing themselves as a horror. If this was a serious ‘thing’ (which it isn’t – we’ll get to that later) then I’d have been missing out. Really.

The opening scene features Scott (Johnny Sederquist), an impossibly naïve college student who arrives at the theatre to audition for a part in Godspell, the musical. Realising that the rehearsal room is empty, he starts to poke around, only to discover that he’s not alone – and, naturally, when he approaches the axe-wielding stranger, he takes a swing to the gut. Nasty.

We’re then introduced to the main character, Billy (Jamie Dufault). He’s a devout Christian and member of his church’s choir. After a conversation with the Pastor Johnson (Carmine Capobianco), he makes the decision to take a break from the choir in search of something new – specifically, he wants to join an amateur theatre group which his long-term, non-Christian girlfriend, Shannon (Sarah Nicklin) is already a part of. The theatre group is composed of a host of stereotypes: NuWave, a musical elitist (Jesse Dufault); Bandilli, a tweaker (Derek Laurendeau); Traci, the resident D&D player (Samantha Acampora) and Lance, whose defining characteristic is his homosexuality. Of course, they all represent something that our religious protagonist takes umbrage at.

The theatre group is headed by the director, Lou Perdition (Steven O’Broin), who epitomises the flamboyant villain. However, he has a hidden agenda: together, he and his lead actress/lover, Kimberly (Elyssa Baldassarri), set out to resurrect the Prince of Darkness himself – Dracula. The theatre group, made up of social misfits, is the perfect feeding ground, and acts as the beginning of his vampire army. He even goes as far as to write a play, ‘Jonestown Jubilee’ (guaranteed to be a barrel of laughs), through which he intends to harvest innocent blood, a necessary component in the reawakening of Dracula.

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Though some of the special effects are undeniably cheesy (hello, mannequin head), they never feel out of place. I appreciate the use of practical effects over CGI. There are quite a few sex scenes, too, which vary from bizarre to just plain awkward.

Michael Thurber’s Dracula, while not necessarily conventional in terms of his appearance (for me, he was strongly reminiscent of a missing Chuckle Brother – those of you outside of the UK might have to look that up) had a great screen presence. He doesn’t have much to say, but his silent performance felt like a real nod to Hammer horror and the Draculas of old.

While it might be easy to mistake this for something more serious at first glance, the film mocks itself (and its message) from the outset. I was cackling throughout. Plenty of religious films use scare tactics in an attempt to drive home a moral message, and The Sins of Dracula does an excellent job of parodying the kind of propaganda that was prevalent in exploitation films during the seventies and eighties. I could almost believe that it was the real thing, if it wasn’t so absurd. The synth soundtrack, scored by Timothy Fife (which, I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for), is the icing on the big, bloody cake. Great stuff.

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Overall Richard Griffin, working with a fantastic script from the talented Michael Varrati, has really hit the nail (or the stake, har har) on the head with The Sins of Dracula. If, like myself, you’re a big fan of low-budget horror, then it’s definitely worth checking out.

A little side note: if you do watch The Sins of Dracula, and you enjoy it, I’d highly recommend looking into more of Griffin’s work, especially Murder University (also starring some of the cast of this film). Happy viewing.

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