Lionsgate // 2008 // 86 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Paul Pritchard (Retired) // August 1st, 2008
Worst. Dracula. Ever!
Published in 1914, two years after his death, Dracula's Guest and Other Weird Stories is a collection of eight tales written by master of horror Bram Stoker. The first story in the book, "Dracula's Guest," is believed by some to have been the original first chapter of Stoker's legendary novel Dracula, which, due to a publisher believing it non-essential to the story, was deleted from Stoker's more famous tome. While the likes of Francis Ford Coppola and F.W. Murnau have taken their own stab at adapting Stoker's Dracula to the big screen, his other stories involving the fiendish Count have remained a less appetizing prospect for filmmakers...until now.
Considering this is the first film adaptation of "Dracula's Guest," you'd be forgiven for expecting a little more fanfare upon its release. With its timeless screen villain, previously played by the likes of Christopher Lee and Jack Palance, Dracula's Guest was surely to have been one of the big horror releases of the year; instead it's just being dumped out onto DVD with minimal advertising. What could they be trying to hide?
Bram Stoker's Dracula's Guest tells the tale of Bram Stoker (Wes Ramsey), a young estate agent, who is deeply in love with Elizabeth (Kelsey McCann). Planning to marry his true love, Bram finds his advances repelled by Elizabeth's father, Admiral Murray (Dan Speaker). Following her father's declaration, that he will only grant Bram his daughters' hand in marriage if they spend one year apart; a distraught Elizabeth runs away.
Following an altercation at a train station, Elizabeth is rescued by a suave, Eastern European stranger named, (yep, you've guessed it) Count Dracula (Andrew Bryniarski). Dracula takes Elizabeth back to his castle, in Transylvania, where he plans to wine her, dine her, and generally do bad things to her, ultimately making her his undead lover. Inexplicably, news of Elizabeth's abduction gets back to Admiral Murray who, rather fortuitously, happens to be something of a skilled vampire hunter. Before long, Admiral Murray and his crew are heading off to Transylvania to defeat the Count, unaware that Bram is also in pursuit if his lost love.
Though played straight (I think), laughs, no matter how unintentional, come thick and fast, in the form of the film's high school drama class acting. Conveying any emotion seems to be a feat beyond the entire cast, while the British accents would be insulting if they weren't so amusing. Trying to work out exactly what accent each of the actors is trying to pull off offers up an entertaining diversion should you ever have the misfortune of watching Dracula's Guest.
Even taking into account Dracula: Dead and Loving it, Dracula's Guest features the most laughable Dracula you're ever likely to see. It should be a source of great embarrassment for all involved that their Dracula struggles to keep his false dentures in place, throughout the entire movie. Sounding like the Count from Sesame Street and looking like an extra from an Iron Maiden video, he loses any semblance of Bram Stoker's iconic character within seconds of his first appearance.
It would be both wrong and unfair to assume that Bryniarski's performance is the sole reason the film's interpretation of Dracula falls so flat. The hackneyed writing is the real killer here, leaving very little for any of the actors to work with. Even if Gary Oldman (Bram Stoker's Dracula) had reprised his role as the Count, he too would have struggled to deliver a memorable performance with such miserable scraps to work from. I'm far from an expert on the character, but I have to wonder how familiar writer/director Michael Feifer is with Dracula, as what he has delivered is a poor caricature at best.
Totally lacking any artistic merit, Dracula's Guest is a shambles. The film is poorly lit, a big no-no for a horror movie, and fatally lacks any atmosphere whatsoever. Not once is Dracula's presence menacing, while I'd describe the characters of Bram, Elizabeth, and Admiral Murray as one-dimensional, except even that feels like crediting them with one dimension too many. Indeed, if it weren't for the title, you'd struggle to find any connection between this film and the crown jewel of horror.
Lionsgate put out a decent 1.78:1 transfer, with a poor-to-middling 5.1 soundtrack. The only extras included are a director's commentary and a stills gallery; perhaps even that is more than the film deserves.
Generally I try to avoid hyperbole; in keeping with this, I won't call Dracula's Guest the worst movie ever, but it's certainly a contender. Even now, a part of me wonders whether this whole project is just a big joke. Trying to find a redeeming feature for this release is a thankless task. I suppose the fact the DVD actually works could be considered a plus point, but on seeing the movie, I'm not so sure that's actually such a good thing. Guilty.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 86 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Director's Commentary
* Stills Gallery