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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Bram Stoker's Dracula's Guest
Bram Stoker's Dracula's Guest
Lionsgate Home Entertainment // PG // August 5, 2008
List Price: $26.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Justin Felix | posted July 30, 2008 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

When it comes to low budget filmmaking, there doesn't seem to be a better way of making a fast buck than to produce something in the spirit of a well-known writer whose work is in the public domain and then slap that author's name onto whatever product is ultimately conceived. It happens to a lot of long-dead writers. Jack London. Jules Verne. And, of course, Bram Stoker - the author of the quintessential vampire novel Dracula.

And here we go again with distributor Lionsgate dipping deep into the low budget film world for Bram Stoker's Dracula's Guest. In a commentary track for this movie, writer and director Michael Feifer states his screenplay is actually an amalgamation of three of Stoker's short stories: "The Judge's House," "The Burial of the Rats," and obviously, "Dracula's Guest." I remember reading "Dracula's Guest" years ago as I sought it out after reading that it was supposed to have been the original first chapter of Dracula (although apparently this is now disputed). It's worth reading, if you ever want to check it out. And I think there may indeed have been a scene in this movie - set in a graveyard - that was inspired by that story.

However, I suspect that this movie's script has much more to do with Feifer than with Stoker. Feifer has been turning out quite a bit of low budget horror / thriller fare - indeed his take on the Boston Strangler - The Boston Strangler: The Untold Story - was just released on DVD last month. This effort looks far cheaper than its predecessor, but I give Feifer and his crew some credit for trying to do a period horror piece without significant gore or nudity.

Sadly, it just doesn't work.

Bram Stoker's Dracula's Guest envisions a young Bram Stoker basically in a Jonathan Harker role from the Dracula novel. He's a real estate agent who meets Count Dracula, a mysterious man from Transylvania interested in purchasing land in England. He's also in love with a young lady named Elizabeth, but her father Admiral Murray doesn't approve. Elizabeth is abducted by Dracula, and Bram Stoker travels to Transylvania to save her. So does her father.

The film is more complicated in its character interactions than that brief synopsis would suggest - and this is a decidedly dialogue-heavy period piece.

Unfortunately, despite its best intentions, Bram Stoker's Dracula's Guest falls flat. The actors seem sincere, but their faux Victorian accents are never convincing. Budgetary constraints clearly lead to the time period never being fully realized.

However, the biggest letdown of the film is Count Dracula himself. Stunt casting has the world-famous vampire played by Andrew Bryniarski, who played Leatherface in the two recent Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies. He is just not right for the part. He's too large, too built, and rather silly-looking in a cape. He looks like a cross between Count Dracula in the dreadful 1971 Dracula Vs. Frankenstein and a castaway from some pro wrestling TV show of the 1980s. I kept expecting him to jump into a ring for a smackdown.

Oh well. I wanted to like Bram Stoker's Dracula's Guest. And actually, Feifer's enthusiastic commentary track where he discusses low budget filmmaking only makes one want to like the movie more. But it ends up being dull and cheap-looking. Skip it.

The DVD

Video:

In his commentary track for this movie, director Michael Feifer states he used a Panasonic hvx200 camera to shoot the film. The 1.78:1 widescreen image looks okay, and it is anamorphic. Colors seem drained of life (ha, sorry for that pun) to give a sense of the time period.

Sound:

Two audio tracks exist on this disc. Both are English: one's a Dolby Digital 2.0 and the other's a Dolby Digital 5.1. The Dolby Digital 2.0 seems to be the default setting. It's rather uninspiring and a little on the light side. You'll want to turn the volume up a bit more than normal. Dialogue is captured with varying levels of quality - with outdoors scenes suffering the most. The dialogue early in the film during a scene shot on a beach is difficult to make out.

Extras:

When the disc is played, trailers automatically precede the main menu for The Spirit, Bangkok Dangerous, Dungeon Girl, Werewolf: The Devil's Hound, Return of the Living Dead: Rave to the Grave, and Skinwalkers. The trailers are also available collectively through an Also from Lionsgate link in the Special Features sub-menu. A separate link gives access to a trailer for Bram Stoker's Dracula's Guest.

A Stills Gallery feature disappoints. A background dominates the screen, a relative handful of stills are presented, and the transition from one to another (controllable via Back and Next options) is slow.

A much better extra is a feature-length commentary by writer, producer, and director Michael Feifer that I've referenced earlier in this review. He's enthusiastic about his work and low budget filmmaking in general, and talks energetically through the entirety of the movie.

Final Thoughts:

I give credit to Michael Feifer for taking on a period piece horror film inspired by Bram Stoker's short stories. Unfortunately, the budget is too limited here and the casting too improper to make it work effectively. Skip it. (Although, I will say that Feifer's commentary track is fun to listen to, as he is someone who seems to encourage low budget filmmakers.)

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