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.
Don’t quite count out the vampire genre just yet. Like the blood thirsty undead, the vampire genre just keeps resurrecting. Vampire films might be critically castrated for the majority of the time, but there are times when a vampire film just had a lot of heart, especially in a no to low-budget project like the film I’m reviewing in this article – The Caretaker. Directory Tom Conyers has no feature film directing experience. Actor Mark White has no feature film acting experience. Must can be said about the rest of the cast while a couple of them also worked in shorts and television series, but The Caretaker is a real test for the cast on such a venturous storyline.
Mosquito bites cause what many believe to be an epidemic of the flu in the area of Melbourne, Australia. What the residents of Melbourne believed were wrong…dead wrong. The bites cause the victims to turn into vampires that reaches out beyond the lines of Melbourne and spread across the world. A small, on-edge group of four humans hold up on a small vineyard plantation where a vampire has claimed his nest. In exchange for their protection during the day, the vampire offers his protection against his own kind at night. The tension is thick not only between human and vampire, but also between human and human.
Now not to rain down on The Caretaker’s parade even though I do like the movie, but I feel there is always too much melodrama. Melodrama seems to be a plague for many low-budget horror films just because the crew can’t add in top dollar special effects to entertain leaving a “talking head” movie syndrome inevitable. But I can divulge that the fact that in spite there being melodrama spewing from every orifice, this doesn’t make The Caretaker a bad movie. The characters are complex enough to welcome some of the “talking head” script. There are internal conflicts in the characters themselves and they are also projected upon the other survivors causing turmoil in the house or “nest.”
When I said that many low-budget horror films just don’t have the dough to afford high-tech special effects, I didn’t intend on that to mean that The Caretaker’s effects were awful. I rather enjoyed the effects as they were minimal and believable. Some effects make a movie campy, but The Caretaker was all serious business and took the vampire story on a different level with an earnest commitment. Mark White’s as the protective vampire Dr. Ford Grainger who never reveals a good side or an evil side. We just know he is a bad ass vampire vampire slayer. The human characters give off the same complexities with only Colin McPherson’s character Lester portraying anything that resembles a villain as the 50-year-old creepy vineyard owner who loves to chase after young women and that young woman happens to be the manic depressed Annie played by Anna Burgess. Guy and Ron round out the last of the characters played by Clint Dowdell and Lee Mason and these two are buddy buddy at first until Annie’s secret comes to the forefront and then it is game on between the four humans and the lone vampire.
The Caretaker won’t knock your socks off, but comes off as a decent vampire genre flick. Don’t expect flying body parts or gruesome scenes of vampire attacks with blood squirting in every direction. Take it in like a worth seeing television soap drama and try to see the heart in the center like I did. Then, after it is all over and you still didn’t care for The Caretaker, you can rip out that heart and eat with a side of lima beans and wash it down with a nice cold beer, but hey, at least you gave it a try, right?