Leave it to indie filmmakers to come up with some wacky ideas that Hollywood seems to lack. Whereas we get a Dracula origin story in Dracula Untold from the mainstream, director Richard Griffin and his crew come up with The Sins Of Dracula. Not only does the film lampoon Christian scare films, but also does a throwback to 80s horror films. Certainly sounds far more interesting than recent vampire fare, doesn’t it? But like all potentially entertaining films, an interesting premise is only one part of the equation. Does Dracula suck in more ways than one?
Billy (Jamie Dufault) is a devout Christian who sings in the church choir, but longs to express himself in another way. His non-Christian girlfriend, Shannon (Sarah Nicklin), suggests Billy join her community theater group, headed by director Lou Perdition (Steven O’Broin). At first Billy is unsure of how to deal with those outside of his religious circle, but it soon becomes a regular activity. Unfortunately for the group, Perdition has ulterior motives. Namely, he plans to use his latest production, Jonestown Jubilee, as a means to provide the innocent blood needed to resurrect Count Dracula himself (Michael Thurber) and build an army of undead misfits.
Chemistry between principal actors is always key in a film, but especially so in a film such as this. Thankfully, there’s great chemistry between Nicklin and Dufault. The two have made appearances in Griffin’s previous films and are seemingly at home here, bouncing their lines off each other and other actors with believable smoothness. O’Broin as Lou Perdition is also quite good. There’s a good mix of flamboyance and menace that while you can easily see the character’s sinister motives, it still works. Taking a cue from Hammer horror films, Thurber doesn’t talk a lot as the Drac Man, but lets his presence and body language do it for him and makes it fun.
As touched on previously, The Sins of Dracula is meant to be a satire of those Christian scare films that browbeat viewers into following the straight-and-narrow. The parody works for the most part, poking fun at the stereotype while also being funny (Dufault’s talk with God where he convinces himself to sleep with Shannon is a highlight). The film also scores points with various homages to 80s horror films. Not content with just the Hammer horror Dracula, Griffin also throws in a nice reference to Dario Argento with the use of coloured lighting (I miss that), as well as dropping references to The Lost Boys and Fright Night. It all makes for a fun time when the jokes are on point.
Negatives are in the minor. Some of the jokes, while funny, don’t quite hit the mark as they were intended. As such, some of the material ends up coming off feeling a little on the awkward side. Aside from the main cast, the supporting actors aren’t quite as strong with their performances, making their characters feel uneven when compared to Dufault’s and Nicklin’s performances. Lastly, while I dug the majority of the practical effects, some that were used as an establishing shot sticks out like a sore thumb. It’s a small complaint, but it felt incredibly awkward, especially when compared to the rest of the film.
Overall, The Sins of Dracula is a nice slice of satire, helped along the way with some great acting and multiple nods to classic 80s horror. While the humour might not always connect, there are still plenty of moments that do elicit a chuckle. Dufault and Nicklin are a treat as an onscreen couple, and Thurber does a nice homage to Christopher Lee’s Dracula in his performance. While it’s not for everyone, those in the mood would do well to check this one out.
Presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, the video presentation boasts some great colour and good detail (love the coloured lighting). Being shot digitally, there’s little in terms of film grain. Overall, it’s nothing that’s going to blow you away, but it looks as high quality as it can be for an indie film.
As is with the video, the Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track is adequate. Dialogue is clear and easily understood with no level issues. There’s no distortion or hiss present to distract. Again, nothing spectacular, but it’s presentable.
First up are two audio commentary tracks. The first one has director Richard Griffin and writer Michael Varrati talking about the origins of the film, its look visually and in costumes (and how many 80s references ended up on the cutting room floor), behind the scenes tidbits and more. Quite the informative track.
For the second commentary, Griffin and Varrati are joined by actors Sarah Nicklin and Jamie Dufault. This is the more livelier of the two tracks, as the group discusses the planning of the sex scene (and how Dufault looked like “a milk bottle with shoes”), how Dufault’s singing was actually dubbed by his brother, the actors’ theatrical backgrounds and how it prepared them for certain scenes, and talk of scenes that were cut for pacing.
Lastly, there’s a short film (more like a trailer) called “They Stole The Pope’s Blood” (which was banned in 47 countries, especially Peru). It’s done in the typical Grindhouse style, complete with bad dubbing, faded and scratched-up video. The premise for the film has criminals stealing a vial of Pope Jean Paul’s blood from the Vatican, and features gangsters, Scotland Yard detectives, nuns and Nazis. Goofy fun.
As a bonus that you sadly don’t see very often these days, there’s an Easter Egg where Jamie Dufault ad-libs progressively dirtier sex talk for several minutes while filming his love scene with Nicklin.
Given the two commentaries, this is a nice little package for the film, although sadly we don’t get the film’s actual trailer.