Judge Ike Oden is pulling for a follow-up: Bonnie & Clyde vs. C.H.U.D.
When gangsters meet vampires, there's bloody hell to pay…
Famous outlaws Bonnie (Tiffany Shepis, Nightmare Man) & Clyde (Trent Haaga, Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV) have hit a wall in their criminal careers and their relationship. On the lamb, strapped for cash, and starved for excitement; the pair holes up with fellow outlaws Henry (F. Martin Glenn) and Jake (T. Max Graham, Eraserhead). While lying low, the love struck killers plot to rob some local bootleggers blind. When the plan goes awry and Jake is injured, Bonnie must seek help from the reclusive Dr. Loveless (Alan Lowman, Watch Out), who, along with his mentally handicapped sister/servant Anabel (Jennifer Friend), is keeping Dracula (Russell Friend) as a house guest.
I wasn't expecting too much from Bonnie & Clyde vs. Dracula. I requested it because I'm a long-time admirer of Tiffany Shepis, who emerged from late '90s Troma stardom to become the micro-budget heiress apparent to scream queens of the 1980s. Shepis encompasses everything horror fans want in a scream queen, tackling her roles with charisma and sex appeal in equal doses. For this reason, she is the banner star of B&Cvs.D as the main draw for most horror fans.
If there is any drawback to Shepis' career as low budget horror's queen bee, it is that she often attaches herself to some of the worst movies to ever be distributed. For every Tromeo and Juliet and Nightmare Man, there are fifteen Dorm of the Dead type movies plastering her name on the cover. When you're as prolific an actress as Shepis, such a trend is bound to happen, but it often results in her most ardent fans being burned on, well, crappy direct-to-video dreck. That B&CvsD is decent at best will relieve the hopes and cash of many of her loyalists, but its mediocrity is surely to leave a bad taste in everyone else's mouths.
Her fans will be glad to hear that Shepis puts in one of her best and most complex performances to date as the borderline psychotic Bonnie, creating some great chemistry with Trent Haaga, who wonderfully plays Clyde as an emasculated gangster with worse bite than bark. They make a fine play on the legendary figures, a cheeky poke in the eye to the iconic Dunaway/Beatty archetypes audiences have grown so used to. I only wish the film could live up to the promise of their performances.
Writer/Director Timothy Friend (Cadaverella) has a hard time juggling the duel narrative of Bonnie & Clyde's plight with the story of Dracula's enslavement at the hands of Dr. Loveless. Both storylines have their strengths, but ultimately feel half-assed on one level or another. The mad scientist zaniness of the Dracula plot feels ripped from an AIP horror film, which is fitting enough, but main villain Dr. Loveless feels more like a mongoloid riff on G.I. Joe's Cobra Commander with the voice of He-Man's Skeletor. Even more out of place is the sympathetic half-wit sister, a comedic foil and walking McGuffin whose Rain Man antics are awkward at best. When these characters are paired with a hooded, emo Dracula the results are…sort of random. Our characters do everything from hosting a vampire dinner party to playing with action figures to operating a machine that pulls defecation from Loveless' deformed chest. This sublime nonsense sometimes amuses, but mostly leaves the audience scratching their heads, wondering what's going on. That Dracula is among them is something of an afterthought in comparison the random weirdness of the rest of the film.
The Bonnie/Clyde subplot is much more subdued, playing like a "B" movie crime/drama with a strong leaning toward black comedy. It isn't great, but it's consistently entertaining based on the performances of our two leads. Friend's careful direction only stumbles Bonnie and Clyde's action set pieces, which are marred by CGI muzzle flash, awkward offscreen violence, and an inconsistent usage of bullet squibs (practical, CGI, or otherwise). Part of what makes up the legend behind Bonnie & Clyde is the sheer violence the couple perpetrated. Theirs is a story defined by sex and violence, and while sex appeal is pretty well pulled off by Shepis, the poorly staged violence mars the film's credibility.
When these subplots finally merge, the results are…brief. Vampires are shot, characters are infected, and the third act lasts all of ten minutes. Not only that, Bonnie & Clyde never actually fight Dracula. Much like Frankenstein Meets The Wolfman or any other versus based franchise pre-Freddy vs. Jason, the final battle is anticlimactic and hardly worth the price of admission. I only have to assume that this is purposeful on the part of director Friend, but the film never maintains a consistent enough "throwback" tone to justify such a cheap move. There are no rules to the film, which means it cannot work in the style of something like Grindhouse or Black Dynamite, though it really, really wants to.
What's most frustrating is that it easily could have. The filmmakers could have easily stripped the film down to its genre parts and played with tropes the way that the similarly no-budget Call of Cthulhu or The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra did, justifying the film's technical limitations as a storytelling device. Bonnie and Clyde vs. Dracula doesn't, and suffers as a byproduct. It's sloppy, piecemeal, and redeemed only by the ambitious performances of its lead actors and some respectable direction. The film is a feather in the cap of Haaga and Shepis, but would make a far better trailer than an actual movie (check out the stylishly awesome end credits if you don't believe me).
A DVD-R screener was sent for review and an official release for the film remains in question. The anamorphic 2:35:1 transfer was impressive for this sort of release. The film has the photography and lighting of a late '90s Full Moon release, but the transfer makes it look a little better than it should. The 5.1 audio track is uneven, overpowered by a slightly pretentious, booming score.
Shot down in a blaze of potential glory.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Indican Pictures
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