While at a Spanish night club, Lucy meets a darkly tall and handsome gentleman who takes her back to his luxurious yacht and spends a romantic night with him inside his cabin on the sea. The next morning, Lucy suffers from a terrible case of amnesia, unable to recall where she’s met this mysterious man before or even remember her own past and as she relaxes in her hotel room after a soothing bath, a past life vision of herself entangled with her one night stand, otherwise known as Dracula, establishes her place amongst Dracula’s side as his undead love, but vampire hunters, Doctor Van Helsing and his faithful assistant Seward, are hot on Dracula’s scent toward his brooding castle in order to save Lucy from succumbing to Dracula’s cursed evil forever.
“Apostle of Dracula” is a Spanish retelling of the classic Bram Stoker “Dracula” tale, versed in Edgar Allan Poetry, and is directed and co-written by Emilio Schargorodsky. Also known more in other parts of the world as “Dracula 0.9,” Schargorodsky’s film boldly tiptoes through a minimalistic approach regarding the mythos of the legendary vampire that dabbles in some special effects when required and uncomplicated imagery that still relishes in wondrous imagery. The “Spirits of the Dead” poetic works of American macabre writer Edgar Allan Poe reinforces the Gothically garnished settings and costumes and heightens the gloomy sensationalism in Schargorodsky’s melodramatic horror soap opera that redesigns slightly Dracula’s origins and his infatuating love interest that isn’t Mina Murray.
Instead, Dracula’s focus is resuscitating the undead cursed life into Lucy dreamily and elegantly portrayed by model-actress Nathalie Le Gosles. Le Gosles has ghostly grey eyes that pierce vividly on screen through her Lucy Westerna performance that’s quite different than what audiences might be typically used to in the character. Lucy is the titular character, being the “Apostle of Dracula,” and Dracula (Javier Caffarena) spares no expense or time and effort in making Lucy his forever. Caffarena’s Dracula is very much overshadowed by Le Gosles’s beauty and performance as Caffarena’s acting experience before his freshman film only credits him in on other role in a short film directed by Schargorodsky, but Caffarena’s a busy body on this feature, delving into many facets from cast to crew as also one of the three co-writers and also donning not only the cape and fangs of the vampire but also creating a composing soundtrack, editing the film, and acting as a producer. In all honest, Paul Lapidus stole the show with his role as the most famous vampire hunter that was ever created – Van Helsing. Virtually embracing every facet of his time hopping character, along with the rest of the cast, Lapidus’s steadfast approach toward a more conventional Van Helsing relieves many anxieties of jumbling up Dracula’s mythology. Antonia Del Rio, Francisco Del Rio, Jose Luis Matoso, and Virginia Palomino round out the cast.
Schargorodsky’s indie Gothic Dracula feature is not immaculate; however, because Schargorodsky is an experienced photographer, a silver lining in his filmmaking playbook is his impeccable eye for cinematography. Whether in the framing or capturing the organic beauty of the landscape, Schargorodsky blends a dream with classic styles that had once scared the pants off people by incorporating shadow imagery that pays a dear homage to that of F.W. Murnau’s “Nosferatu” alongside Caffarena’s Dracula shaving his head and extending his fingers to be a lookalike Max Schrek. Captivating as many of the frames might be, the juxtaposition to the story doesn’t hold water as the story hops from one century to another without much regard for exposition. Lucy’s passionate yacht fling with a daylight walking vampire not only raises many vampire mythos questions, but also leads into Lucy displacing much of her memories of herself and her past. She then goes into a trance after returning to her hotel room, envision her great lineage self intertwined with Dracla and that story unfolds for a good portion of the film from the time Lucy’s bit to when Van Helsing and Seward interject at Dracula’s Castle. The story then returns Lucy’s back to present time where she then fights to urge to be a bloodsucker, but can’t stop her desires to be with her undead beau all the while a modern day Van Helsing and Seward, sporting sleek Secret Service-issues shades and wardrobe, seek to protect Lucy at all cost. Lost somewhere in the midst of the story is an important pice of the puzzle that goes unexplained.
Wild Eye Releasing MVDVisual present the 2012 “Apostle of Dracula” onto DVD for the first time in the U.S. The DVD, graced with a cover illustrating an unrelated naked female vampire crotched down and glaring outward, widescreen presentation sports a digitally shot transfer that fairly mediocre throughout despite soft details, faint aliasing, and spotty moments of digital noise during darker scenes. However, the worst technical aspect lies with the dialogue audio track that’s horrendously dubbed in non-optional English in such a flat, monotone voice that all the passion behind the actors is lost. If you watch close in the special features, clips of untainted portions of the film can be caught with the original Spanish track, bringing a whole new life into the scenes. There are no options to play the original language or even optional subtitles. Caffarena’s looming score comes out clean with subtitle details in the LFE emitting from Stereo audio which can be seen discussed on the bonus material about composing the score. Another special features contain a pleasant surprise with a never before scene interview with the late Jess Franco, who looked to be on his death bed, conversing his positive thoughts and praises on Emilio’s film that does have a faint resemblance to Franco’s work consisting of elements, but not limited to, the gothic, dream-like, and slightly sleazy. Bonus material comes full circle with Wild Eye Releasing trailers. Emilio Schargorodsky’s self-funded Dracula film proves any filmmaker can be a auteur without losing focus despite some flaws being on the grand stage of an iconic horror monster and while “Apostle of Dracula” flips the script on Bram Stoker’s telling of one of the greatest villains ever scribed, there’s something to be said for the multiple ways to skin a cat in this and still able to construct a solid story in this European horror.
Entombed under the volatile sands of what’s now the Iraqi dessert, an ancient Egyptian princess Ahmanet, who made a pact with an evil God named Set, lies and waits for more than 500 years to rise again and fulfill a destined promise to birth hell on Earth and rule the world. Ahmanet resurrects after being mistakenly unearthed by loose cannon treasure seeker Nick Morton and curses a reign of archaic terror over Nick and all of modern day London in search for a gem cladded dagger to make good on her pact. With the help of a well-funded secret organization called Prodigium ran by mysterious physician Dr. Henry Jekyll, and skillful researcher Jenny Halsey, the cursed Nick will need all the help he can muster to save himself and humanity from a mummified, hellbent she-devil.
Alex Kurtzman’s “The Mummy” is the gateway reboot that’ll give life once again to Universal’s classic monsters and place them in Universal’s newly established realm known as Dark Universe, think what Marvel accomplished with Marvel Comic Universe but with monsters. The kickoff action-horror has the delectable adventure wit seen from the Stephen Sommers directed, Brendan Fraiser starred trilogy from 1999 to 2008 while channeling the Boris Karloff mysticism and menace that made a frightening black and white classic. So, how did Kurtzman exactly provide new breath to an ancient, decrepit mummy that’s been redone two times over and has been spun off more ways than wrapped? One major way was to be the inaugural launch of Universal’s Dark Universe that opens the door for other classic monsters such as Frankenstein, Dracula, and The Creature from the Black Lagoon. In fact, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde makes a brief appearance as the head of the Prodigium, the ringmaster that’ll be the epicenter connecting creatures together. In another aspect, Kurtzman isn’t afraid to use practical effects, such as Ahamanet’s mummy minions, while also lighting up the screen with some brutal thrilling moments, such as murdering a baby and killing pilots with a murder of crows, that clearly separates the 2017 film from it’s 1999 predecessor, but watch for the quick scene easter egg that pays homage to the Fraiser film.
Upon first hearing Tom Cruise would star in a reboot of “The Mummy,” a long moment of hesitation washed over like a cold wet blanket as the “Mission Impossible” star hadn’t tackled a horror film since the adaptation of Anne Rice’s 1994 Lestat film “Interview with the Vampire” during a time when Cruise bathed in dramatic thrillers and added quite a bit of finesse to his characters. However, with every passing year, Cruise becomes more and more involved with not only his love for acting, but sides heavily with the unquenchable need to a part of action films and “The Mummy” promised to display his enthusiasm for accomplishing his own rigorous stunt work and the script provided the heart-throbbing intensity that’ll sure to awe audiences. Cruise’s performance as a shoot first, ask questions later Nick Morton snugly fits the razor sharp mold the megastar has equipped himself ever since the first “Mission Possible” film over two decades ago, but as a selfish knucklehead, Cruise short sells the charm with a flat expressive tone and doesn’t progress his shell of Nick Morton to a enlightened savior battling for the fate of humankind. Yes, there are other actors in “The Mummy” other than Cruise. Russell Crowe fills the mighty big shoes of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, splitting his personalities into two and fulfilling both characters to the very epitome they’ve been classically scribed. Love interest Annabelle Wallis (who was also in John Leonetti’s “Annabelle”) sparked little-to-no chemistry with a overpowering Cruise and she felt rather like a Robin sidekick in a Joel Schumacher Batman film, but Wallis did a fine job as a historical researcher with a lifelong goal of discovering ancient artifacts. Algerian actress Sofia Boutella as the titular character was almost non-existent until the filmmakers had to scramble to redesign the villain due to similarities in another film, but the dark features of Boutella and her elegant performance made Ahmanet lustfully scary with dual irises and body-riddled tattoos, like a wild animal with deep blue eyes, and she sinks into Ahmanet’s malevolent soul and embraces the darkness that is the mummy. Jake Johnson (“Jurassic World”), Courtney B. Vance (“The Last Supper”), and Marwan Kenzari, who will star in Guy Ritchie’s upcoming “Aladdin” film, costar.
Now while “The Mummy” is overly successful and generally positive, an itch of amiss pains a slimly slithering way nearly through the entire runtime. Perhaps because the premise involving a mummy sets itself more in the dank and dark allies of London rather than in the hot Egyptian sands where thirst, heat, and isolation provide a slew of dangerous possibilities. During multiple scenes, a looming sensation that Jack the Ripper would pop out with blade in hand ready to strike at Jenny Halsey’s non-prostitute neck, but like a good adventure film, the story’s progression goes through numerous UK hotspots such as the Natural History Museum and tries to blow up London with every Mummy superpower. Ahmanet compounded concerns about her powers such as the introductory prologue of her characters, told in flashback scenes, where after she obtains all this evil power, the princess is easily taken down by Egyptian guards with blow darts and spears. You figured a Demigod like Ahmanet would be able to summon creatures to her aid, mold the sands of Egypt to free her, or resurrect other Egyptian dead, but none-the-less she was mummified alive and buried thousands of miles away under a giant crypt.
“The Mummy” is a win for the first of many Universal reboots under the Dark Universe label. The September 12th release of the 2-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo set, with also a digital copy, clocks in at a hour and 50 minutes and is presented in 1080p High Definition 2.40:1 aspect ratio with no flaws in the image, quality is crisp, and the coloring is naturally lively. The digital effects don’t exhibit an amateur hour complexion that was more attuned to the 1999 film, a different time two decades ago. The Dolby ATMOS is booming with LFE action that reverberates nicely with every nail-biting mummy scenes; certainly balanced with the surround sound. The dialogue is coarse at times during these intense sequences but overly prominent and clear for the most part. Extras on the release are about as monumental as the antagonist with deleted and extended scenes, Cruise and Kurtzman: a conversation, Rooted in Reality – a behind-the-scenes look at the making of “The Mummy,” Life in Zero-G: Creating the Plane Crash, Meet Ahmanet – the stark villain, Cruse in Action – a segment involving Cruise’s action in the film, Becoming Jekyll and Hyde, Choreographed Chaos, Nick Morton: In Search of a Soul, a graphic novel about Ahmanet, and featured commentary. “The Mummy” is all Cruise, all the time, but lives and breathes like a true Universal classic monster movie in modern day, providing superb visuals, an engrossing storyline, and delivers an action-topping-action ferocity. A whole new line of respect must be bestowed upon star Tom Cruise for his insane work ethic and his dedication to any project, especially a one half horror film that redesigns the gender of the iconic villain while maintaining the values of the original.
A young group of phony ghost ass kickers who call themselves Paranormal Activity Security Squad, aka P.A.S.S., setup a reality show to earn quick cash from gullible callers. When the calls for help trickle into their call center, aka their garage, P.A.S.S. eagerly answers the call, but they become intertwined into the sinister plot orchestrated by a real nasty demon named Vladimir Van Housin. Now, they must obtain the assistance of a slightly unorthodox, if not totally narcissistic, sorcerer, a brutishly strong Asian man-child, and the loyalty to each other to stop the powerful Van Housin demon from entering their world, tilting their very existence.
“P.A.S.S.” is either the prime candidate for the schlock of Troma or needs to be seriously considered by Jonathan Turell, CEO of The Criterion Collection, for upscaled distribution with all the bells and whistles. To be honest, my initial thought was another stupid horror-comedy with bathroom jokes while camera focusing a lot on Katie Heidy’s Wrench character’s cleavage. Lots of cleavage I can deal with, but when Rigan Machado’s dimwit character dumps a log out of his brown soaked whitey-tighties and then proceeds to pick it up and eat it, I nearly gave up on P.A.S.S….and eating anything…ever. But I continued to watch. And watch. And watch. And the more I watched, the more I witnessed untapped creativity and enigmatic entertainment that kept me enthralled to the cliffhanging end.
Among nearly all the other credits for P.A.S.S., writer, director, and star Alex Wraith has astronomical vision, using his galactic gonads to implement slight rotoscope technology and practical specials effects that develop a wicked comic world of insane determination. “P.A.S.S.” breaks all the laws of filmmaking. When a film attempts to homage an untouchable classic, in this case Ivan Reitman’s “Ghostbusters,” the project nearly gets blacklisted by fans. If you don’t believe me then check out the critical responses to this year’s “Ghostbusters” remake. Wraith’s film incorporate’s the humorously stiff commercial, the transformed hearse, and a team of four amateurs that all attach itself to the beloved Bill Murray comedy while also adding in public domain footage of retro horror from “Night of the Living Dead” to Ted Browning’s “Dracula” in the montage introduction and seriously ripping Star Wars. Wraith and some of his cast aren’t exactly newbies to the Hollywood game with Wraith having minor roles in “Savages” and “Taken 3,” and Sean Stone in also “Savages” and “Wall Street.” Katie Heidy and Jean-Claude Van Damme’s daughter, Bianca Bridgitte Van Damme, bring the squad’s, if not the movie’s overall, sex appeal while Dale C. Reeves portrays an awesome antagonistic spawned from hell demon who can’t be defeated and who also looks like Darth Maul. Don’t miss appearances by Dawna Lee Heising and “Amateur Pornstar Killer” director Shane Ryan!
Aforementioned, the rotoscope and practical effects are not top shelf material, but achieve a otherworldly sensation and set the tone for the film’s kooky and demented nature. Wraith loved to overuse the lens flare which works favorably for the world he was trying to create. Also, at some point in time in the duration, I felt as if I was inside the video game series “Twisted Metal.” Perhaps because three of our heros were pitted against a evil clowned-faced giant reeking havoc in an alternative universe. I truly believe this piece of work is a look into the warped mind of some very open minded individuals who eager seek to spill their madness onto paper and onto the big screen.
“P.A.S.S.” feels rightfully inexpensive due to Wraith and his team’s self funding, but the finished product reveals a smartly written script and some superb editing that keep the laughs rolling and the craziness fresh, turning up the intensity dial to beyond the max! I’m unable to critique the entire package as I was handed a screener link to review and I believe “P.A.S.S. has yet to find home distribution, but the handheld camera footage for the squad’s reality show looks amazing even if purposefully hectic at times and the audio is equally as clear and as balanced. Check out “Paranormal Activity Security Squad” wherever the film ends up and, I promise you, this film kicks not only demon ass, but the ass of many independent movies.
Alicia, a reporter working tirelessly on reports of missing children, receives a letter from Erda of Limbo, a haven for unwanted children located in an isolated area of Argentina. When Alicia arrives, she can’t shake strange inklings that the children’s faces seem familiar to her. Come to find out, all the children are vampires, created shamelessly by adult vampires, and now some of the vampires, some elder in age who are stuck in the body in which they were turned, live under the care of their human caretaker Erda. However, the children are not safe as vampire hunters have assembled around their serene community, lying and waiting to drive a stake into each of the timeless vampires. Their survival depends on Erda, Alicia’s reporting, and the 90-year-old grandson of Dracula himself. Though the community of vampires seek to reap the world of mortals as they have an apocalyptic plan to put in motion.
“Children of the Night,” also known under the original title “Limbo,” is written and directed by Ivan Noel and under the thumb of numerous Argentinian producers and actors, the mythology of Dracula lives yet again on screen. The film uniquely puts a different spin on the old Prince of Darkness tale, creating a jutting story that surrounds a scenario with Dracula’s bloodline kin. While the idea touches on the rarity of vampire children, contrasting with “Interview with the Vampire” or more recently “Let The Right One In”, there arguably lies missing pieces to Noel’s film to properly complete a story of this size and, perhaps, the microbudget hindered and faltered under financial stress rather than just becoming a medium of storytelling. For instance, much of the background on Erda’s writing to Alicia’s to travel to Limbo isn’t necessarily forthright and that feels neglected not on purpose, but rather feels neglected absentmindedly and financially.
Secondly, the children characters vary in age and the girth of their long lives should have been explored more to develop more meaningful characters. Noel’s version bypasses many valuable characters and their traits to make the children of the night more likable, or hated, or something, because in Noel’s version, the children could live or die and not an emotion would be concerned. Noel does bring a certain enigma to children’s position in the world as we’re not totally convinced their evil or well-intentioned. Children caregivers are similarly forgotten when regarding their attributes. Alicia’s and Erda’s hemophilia condition is suppose to echo the children somehow, but the idea barely misses the cutting room floor completely and is only mentioned briefly upon Erda’s and Alicia’s initial meeting.
The specials effects are minor, but effectively garnered. The majority of the effects shine through the second and third acts, especially during the all out bloody vampire hunter and children vampire brawl in an open field where children will be children and play with their food before slicing and sinking their teeth right into the necks in a blood splattering type fashion. I also thought the wooden stake on a rotating drill was a fascinating, if not very phallic. Along with this gruesome play yard greet and eat, comedy is sprinkled in throughout the duration, but some of the material falls flat; the comedy feels dated or obsolete, offering nothing new to that side of the genre. “Children of the Night”, simply put, is a vampire film with a feat of a concept, but the film lies at the fringe of being a horror-comedy that stirs up calamity with my critique about Ivan Noel’s semi-serious take on the Dracula mythology.
The performances are little to be desired for with the inclination that the actors, mostly involving the children, are being spoon fed dialogue or given cue cards, especially in more serious toned scenes. Dracula’s grandson The Count becomes the poor performance scapegoat. Child actor Lauro Vernon portrays The Count and his naturally sculpted ominous almond shaped and gloomy eyes, protruding upper lip, bronze skin, and lanky thin features creates a stereotypical creepy child archetype, but Vauro’s attempt to execute a Dracula-esque character, waning the powers of Dracula, is less expressive and more passive in deliverance. The Count in the script is powerful; one who oversees the children as a protector and a worthy warrior against a vast superior, well armed vampire hunting band of men, but instead the character weakly wanders from scene-to-scene even when his flock is being picked off and staked one-by-one.
“Artsploitation Films” releases this 2014 Spanish-languaged Argentinian film on Blu-ray and DVD. The Blu-ry is presented in a widescreen 1.87:1 aspect ratio and looks fairly decent during daytime or lighted scenes with slightly noticeable ISO noise. However, with a film titled “Children of the Night,” night scenes more common and also reek more havoc on the quality as many of the night scenes maintain a blocky posterization with the digital film. Digital noise also plagues the digital film produced during low lit scenes, creating undefined shadows and blob-like shapes. Overall, “Children of the Night” has a fair share of budgetary quirks and flaws and the story loosely presents itself with an unclear and oddly edited lineage. Totally ignoring this release would be a mistake as producer, writer, and director Ivan Noel has fain under the limitations and manages to technically achieve a few great medium and long shots, though Noel seems to be attached to the closeup. Check out “Arsploitation Films” Blu-ray or DVD release of “Children of the Night” for another take on the mythology of Dracula!
Billy, a good church-going man, reluctantly leaves his choir to join the community theater at the request of his girlfriend Shannon. What Billy doesn’t realize is that there are all different kinds of characters who partake in the community theater – the nerdy gamers, the anti-establishment antagonizers, the gays, and, of course, Dracula. Yes, Dracula – the Prince of Darkness. The theater’s director is a satanic worshipper who feeds off the sins of his actors to resurrect Dracula and start a whole new world order of vampires. “The Sins of Dracula” film is a homage to multiple horror genre branches. Decades including the 1970s and the 1980s source the brilliantly colored and expression heavy of the Hammer horror era and combine it with the gore of video nasties marking all present and accounted for in this ode to classic horror and that’s the creative style of director Richard Griffin and his Scorpio Film Releasing company which quickly produces many independent films that hit many media platforms. My previous film experience with Griffin includes “The Disco Exorcist” that implements film stock imperfections and the hardcore porn of the 1970’s. The other Griffin film, “Murder University,” aims to create a satirical look at a murderous cult gone collegiate. Lastly, my very first Richard Griffin film was Feeding the Masses wanted to be a social political zombie following in a George A. Romero fashion. So there is no surprise here that Griffin does what he does best, but after seeing “The Disco Exorcist” and “Murder University” both which I liked in previous reviews The Disco Exorcist review here and Murder University review here, “The Sins of Dracula” warranted high hopes for Griffin to do something new and cut ties with the old, regurgitated scenes. Enough about Griffin, let’s talk about “The Sins of Dracula.” Just from reading the synopsis alone, one can conclude that this horror-comedy will come off as a bit outrageous, delving into and dissecting the sins of certain kinds of people who walk in all kinds of life and exploiting them for the sake of our good boy Scott’s heroic journey and also exploiting them to awake the evil Dracula. The story doesn’t waste any time putting to waste the sinfully deemed characters and going on a Godsend vampire hunting spree. At the end, most peoples’ personal views are made light of in a satirical fashion. Michael Thurber, a staple actor of Griffin’s, does a solid job as a Hammer horror Dracula mirroring the likes of the vampire exposed Christopher Lee. Steven O’Broin, as Lou Perdition the satanist devotee theater director, had some excellent lines and quips and made his Vincent Price-esque character enjoyable when on screen. Another of Griffin’s minions, Aaron Peaslee pranced around fairly well as a gay theater actor and his raunchy sex scene with fellow actor Johnny Sederquist was the most controversial aspect of the film. I can’t say that about the other characters. Other characters fell a bit flat and didn’t convey their characters intentions well enough to pull off a spoofy-stereotype. The fact that their characters where put to death way too early in the film doesn’t give the character a chance to make their presence more well established. The blood letting could have been, well, bloodier, but there is enough letting to super soak and saturate one’s thirst. Some of the scenes are restaged from the likes of “Fright Night” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” the movie. Like I was saying early in the review about the film’s originality, the lack of new material makes the likelihood of repeating a viewing of “The Sins of Dracula” very unlikely which is difficult to say about a solid homage. “The Sins of Dracula” is good for a one time single viewing and but lacks new and fresh material to really captivate attention. The MVDVisual DVD cover also doesn’t explicitly want you to go out and rent this title, but the disc art is amazingly detailed and you shouldn’t judge a film’s material by the cover. I do strongly suggest to check out “The Sins of Dracula” if you’re into the Hammer horror scene and into Griffin’s Quentin Tarantino homage style of directing.