Writer, director Joe Demuro’s film was an audacious project. He took some of the most iconic figures in classic horror, who also happen to have some of the most fervent fans, reinvented their journeys and did what others have tried and failed to do, he didn’t screw it up!
In 2015’s Tales of Dracula, Dracula, having been bested by VanHelsing, leaves England and returns to his native Carpathian mountains. Since his last bride was destroyed by VanHelsing and his vampire hunters, Dracula sets his sights on a young farmers daughter.
After being attacked by the Dark Prince the girls father, with the help of the local inn keepers and a mysterious stranger, take her to a doctor who has taken up residence near town. This is the same doctor that the stranger is seeking in the hopes that he may be able to help him with a terrible malady, and hopefully before the next full moon.
Doctor Henry Frankenstein is away on a research excursion, but young and brilliant Victoria Frankenstein is more than happy to help, once she realizes has a source of vampire blood! This blood injected into the monster created by her grandfather could grant the beast eternal life and untold strength!
I won’t go into any more detail, I think you get the idea.
The word “homage” gets used a lot lately. I almost cringe when I hear any film maker use the word. Too often “homage” becomes a bad antonym for “denigrate”.
I was happily surprised by Tales of Dracula. Everyone involved appears to have a true affection for the classic monsters. There are shades of Hammer Studios, but I think the Universal films of the 30’s and 40’s are most represented.
While there is humor to be found in the film, it was never insulting to the source material nor was it disparaging to the audience and the fans of the genre. No, this was one of the best examples of a film actually honoring the originals that I have seen in some time, if ever.
Now, all that being said, and to be honest and fair, Tales of Dracula is not a perfect film. The visual effects are passable, but wisely kept to minimum. Some viewers who are more accustomed to the high end special effects of modern film and TV may find these a little laughable.
I felt much the same way with some of the acting,.. passable. There WERE a few stand outs. Tom Delillo, as the cursed wolf man, channels Lon Chaney Jr’s passion and angst, and the father-daughter inn keepers, Dwight Kemper & Cassandra Hayes, are so much fun together! Then there is Wayne W. Johnson as Dracula. That is a man who enjoyed himself. He turns that joy, with an ironic twist, and creates an evil, cold and villainous Count.
I also enjoyed the snarky young adult turn about on the Dr. Frankenstein by Courtney Bennet. She easily slips between showing her affection for the the creature she grew up with and her ambivalence bordering on contempt for everyone else.
There were however several side characters that brought some of the scenes down for me. I understand that a small budget film, (reportedly $20,000), can only throw their casting net so far, but I wish they could have reached out just a little further.
A highlight of the film, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention it, is the make-up! Put together by artist Ron Chamberlain, the make-up effects may be the true star of the film! The potential restraints of the film being in black and white could be a challenge enough, but to this movie watcher, being tasked to recreate and subtlety update the designs of Frankenstein’s Monster, the wolf man and Dracula all in one film, seems a daunting task!
Somehow, and with great effect, Chamberlain pulled it of with each creature bearing the resemblance of the classic monster. Wolf man takes the prize for most like the original. As much as Delillo channeled Chaney Jr., Chamberlain must have been channeling Jack Pierce. (There is even a splendid lap-dissolve transformation scene!)
To the casual horror fan, this film may be a bit dull. To the true “monster-kids”, Tales of Dracula will fit nicely next to all the classics that it so respectively pays tribute to.
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