Con-artist brothers Bojan and Marjan whip up a quick-cash scheme by price gouging tourists to roam the Slovenian grounds of the infamous Valburga castle, a restricted and vacant manor estate that was once owned by a ruthless inhabited, known by the people as the Baron of Blood, believed to be a cousin of the vampiric legend Count Dracula. The lore itself would bring in lucrative customers and lucrative cash would be easily raked in or at least the brothers thought so until the types of tourists attracted to visiting Valburga castle are anything but easy targets with a pair of German alcoholic partiers looking for a good time, a sleazy Russian porn director scouting locations to shoot his two beautiful starlets, than demonists, goths in search to become vampires themselves, and Swedish demonists on the hunt for ultimate power. Biting off more than they can chew with their new venture, Bojan and Marjan must also contend being trapped with an industrial-sized circular saw wielding maniac roaming the mazelike passageways of the castle.
Let us preface this review with the “The Curse of Dracula” almost entirely has little to do with Count Dracula. The original film title, “The Curse of Valburga” was altered to “The Curse of Dracula” in an appeal to a broader, Western audience who may not have a clue what or where Valburga is on a map and for those who do not know, Valburga is a quaint little settlement area in Slovenia, the birthplace of the 2019 film and the birth home of “Killbillies” writer-director Tomaz Gorkic. Gorkic plays the Americanized game of Seven Degrees of Kevin Bacon with a story that links Count Dracula to a mysterious Baron of Blood who once resided and laid down massacring roots in Valburga, but instead of a grave tone surrounding one aristocrat’s austere penchant for sadism, “The Curse of Dracula” plays out a dark horror-comedy with a cynical sense of humor and a punk-attired killer. Gorkic coproduces the film with fellow “Killbillies” producer Nejc Saje for 666 Productions in association with Strup Production, MB Grip, NuFrame, Supermarket Production, and Sonolab.
The opening driver of the story is setup like a buddy comedy revolving around two brothers Marjan and Brojan (Jurij Drevensek and Mark Mandic) joined by business associate Ferdo (Ziga Fodransperg) who has the keys to their castle con and when I say keys the toe castle, I mean it literally as the owner of the security company that services over the grounds. Sifting through their snarky teasing, you get the senses the three are close despite their tough guy act and jabs at one another who leveling onto Marjan price gouging unrestricted tourism plan. While Marjan and Brojan are seemingly being carved out as principal characters, that feeling quickly diminishes upon the arrival of the tourist group that includes Sven (Niklas Kvarforth), a Swedish neo-necromancer clandestinely on the scour for the eye of the baron – yet, we’re never told what the eye of the baron is or specifically why Sven is searching for it other than it can summon demons, connecting back to the prologue scenes of staticky, post-industrial score with him conducting satanic-like ritualistic hand movements and unheard chanting verbiage. Then, you have the Russian porn director Vasily (Luka Cimpric) with his two floozies, Dasha (Zala Djuric) and Anastasya (Sasa Pavlin Stosic) trying to make sexy-time promo happen on the Baron’s rundown manor. However, a favorite out of the bunch are the German man (Jonas Znidarsic) and wife (Tanja Ribic) who just keep pulling beer from the wife’s tiny purse – a good gag by the way – and treat the whole contention and violence as one big party. Despite all their idiosyncrasies and motives, not a single one of them are redeemable from out of their petty and conceited intentions. “The Curse of Dracula” rounds out with Katarina Stegnar, Gregor Skocir, Odina Kerec, Matevz Loboda, Neza Blazic, and Anton Antolek as a one-of-a-kind subjugator of souls with his wild circular saw blade slingshot and Nazi helmet.
Now, the title already irks me. Insinuating or, better yet, incepting an idea that hapless tourists will be become victims of Dracula’s curse was a terribly misleading campaign strategy to get the Dracula, or just simply the vampiric, fanbase to hop aboard a quick cash in on the Lord of Darkness. However, “The Curse of Valburga” is an apt title for a slasher-survival tale around the sawblade killer who hunts trespassers for his crypt-dwelling clan in the cellar. Gorkic never fleshes out the enjoyable turn of events with the mysterious group that causes all of the tourists’ troubles in full disquisition and tries to sneakily skimp by with just a rudimentary, flyby explanation that doesn’t clearly paint the picture or really denote a reason. One thing Gorkic didn’t convey confidently was the appearance of the chief who wore a MM35 or MM40 style German helmet on top of a metal and chainmail masked face and sported a cutoff sleeve shirt while flinging giant-saws from a handheld slingshot rifle. I wanted to know that guy’s backstory! Yet, each character is cut short and never massaged with arc to care about and, frankly, wanted them all to feel the serration of the saw from how terribly poor they’re written. It’s as if the characters were farmed to be massacred, having no sense of purpose to live or garner audience sympathy to overcome the struggle, and just like the characters, the story is also equally deprived of a proper concluding finale that leaves us hanging, waiting for that satisfying high-five. The script written by Gorkic might be poor in arc development, but I will say the Slovenian filmmaker does have a small taste for comedy as there are moments that will have you chuckling, especially the phone call between Sven and Gregor Skocir in what’s llike a classic Abbott and Costello dialogue gag.
If you’ve never seen Slovenian horror, then I suggest checking out the bloody chuckles of Tomas Gorkic’s “The Curse of Dracula” now available on DVD distributed by MVDVisaul in collaboration with Jinga and Danse Macabre. The poorly designed DVD cover of a wide-eyed, gaping mouth vampire with fangs drawn superimposed behind a cracked open upright coffin with dirty/bloody hands stretched straight out overtop and bats positioned adjacent to the coffin on both sides doesn’t do this story an ounce of actual justice, but the DVD is presented in a widescreen 16X9 aspect ratio with a solid 5 to 6 Mbps of data transmission, rendering the picture fair for DVD image quality. Some of the details in the background and even on the characters are not as finely crisp but the picture maintains an above adequate quality. The English, Slovenian, Swedish, Russian, and German Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound is nicely robust but offers the same quality as there Stereo 2.0 when toggling back and forth between the two audio options and never distinguishing the difference between the two. Dialogue is clear albeit the broken English and thick accents when characters are speaking English. There are option English subtitles; however, they do contain a handful of errors and are text size is a bit small so if you have a 42″ or smaller TV, you may need to squint. The release is region free, has a runtime of 82 minutes, is unrated, and does not contain any special features or bonus scenes during or after credits. “The Curse of Dracula” is a slaughter-horse of a different color with a fascinating villain and a blindsiding coven of flesh-craving basement dwellers that pivot the narrative in a wild direction but the story lacks comprehension that results dissatisfaction.