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‘The Sins of Dracula’ [DVD review]

008648f927446b48c6ba3961643cd912Billy (Jamie Dufault), a devout Christian follower, is tempted by his kind-hearted but alluring girlfriend Shannon (Sarah Nicklin). She convinces Billy to step outside his comfort zone and show off his singing prowess when auditioning for a small community theater. The seemingly innocent request sends the couple down a dark path that will culminate in murder and mayhem—not to mention the resurrection of the deadliest of all vampires, Dracula.

The Sins of Dracula (2014) is written by Michael Varrati and directed by Richard Griffin (Frankenstein’s Hungry Dead). The film also stars Johnny Sederquist, Jesse Dufault, Samantha Acampora, Michael Thurber, Steven O’Broin, Carmine Capobianco and Derek Laurendeau.

Billy has become weary of confining himself and his musical abilities to the local church choir. After a heartfelt discussion with his instructor Pastor Johnson (Capobianco), young Billy joins his girlfriend Shannon at the local theater. There she introduces Billy to the company’s actors and director Lou Perdition (O’Broin).

It is soon revealed that Lou has a secret and has been busy serving his own nefarious purposes. Specifically, Lou is a murderer who has used the blood of two of his victims to resurrect the dark lord of the undead, Dracula. In addition, the demented director aims to use Dracula to create new minions that can continue Lou’s killing spree and create an ultimate army of the undead. But first, the master of all vampires needs more blood to reach his full strength and optimum potential.

Billy finds himself utterly alone after each of the actors succumbs to Lou’s devilish devices. All of his new friends in the theater become undead soldiers in Dracula’s service and his girlfriend Shannon is abducted. Billy is forced to return to pastor Johnson for help and is shocked to discover that his preacher is a descendant of the great vampire killer Van Helsing.

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Together, this unlikely duo storms the theater to put an end to Lou and Dracula’s depraved plans and rescue the damsel in distress from the clutches of certain death. Can Pastor Johnson and Billy thwart Dracula’s return? Find out in The Sins of Dracula.

There is no question that The Sins of Dracula is not a pure horror film. Instead, it is a satire of the genre, which arguably reached its height in the 1980s via the slasher films sub-genre. Unfortunately, most of the movie’s jokes are delivered poorly by the actors, or suffer from a serious lack of comedic timing, or are simply not funny in the least. The best example is when Billy returns to seek the help of Pastor Johnson.

Here is the exchange of dialogue:

BILLY: I had sex with Shannon, now everyone’s dead!
PASTOR JOHNSON: Well, that can’t be a coincidence.

The joke is clearly present in the screenplay, but it is D.O.A. in the film. This is because actor Carmine Capobianco has no sense of comedic timing, at least in this particular scene. In fact, most of Capobianco’s performance feels contrived. In his defense, Capobianco is not alone, as only a few of the other cast members have any real acting chops. Indeed, there is plenty of second-rate acting to go around in The Sins of Dracula.

The lead protagonists are taken care of thanks to Jamie Dufault and Sarah Nicklin’s solid performances. Horror fans, especially of the Indy scene, will surely recognize Nicklin. She has become a prolific player since her arrival in 2006 and her innocent but sexy portrayal of Shannon should keep audiences interested on a visceral level, if nothing more. She definitely turns up the heat for poor Billy as she seductively works her lollipop over with her tongue in one particularly sultry scene.

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The diamond in the rough was the acting of Samantha Acampora as the “gamer” chick Traci. She delivers her dialogue in a very authentic way that helps the audience empathize with her plight. Acampora is not quite as believable once she is transformed into a vampire and begins going a little too over the top, but she is still one of the top-three performers in the picture.

Sadly, the worst of the bunch is Steven O’Broin’s portrayal of theater director Lou Perdition. His performance is so far-fetched that each of his appearances engenders disbelief, in direct contrast with the suspension-of-disbelief device and taking the viewer out of the experience.

Now, the best way to describe the technical aspects of the film is with one word: tawdry. This is very perplexing, because many of the behind-the-scenes elements are done quite well. The sound mixing, editing and production design are exemplary.

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Cinematography and lighting design are up to the task, but there are some tremendous opportunities missed in the film. While the use of brilliant color does help the picture’s mood and overall feel, not unlike director Dario Argento’s Suspiria (1977), there is way too much light present in the film’s final confrontation. The theater is literally flooded with bright light for this climactic showdown. Dark shadows and low-key light are important ingredients when it comes to creating a scary movie’s flavor and these techniques are sorely missed here. It’s a horror film, even if it is a satire, so why not build the suspense and tension with low-lighting techniques?

Second, the setting is a theater, so if the final battle had occurred on stage, rather than in a backroom, the director and cinematographer could have easily incorporated the theater’s lights into the mix. Imagine, a darkened auditorium with colored lights rising and falling to build the heebie-jeebies. Instead, audiences get Pastor Johnson and Billy walking into a well-lit room full of 100 watt bulbs. It’s just small, but poor filmmaking choices like this, which reveal a novitiate level of movie-making ability.

There are not a lot of special features, but what is available to view is top notch. First, there is a commentary track with the writer and director discussing the picture. Griffin and Varrati discuss everything from how the story found life to the visual look of the picture to many of the 70s and 80s references to horror film clichés.

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Second, there is an additional commentary which includes actor Jamie Dufault and the lovely Sarah Nicklin. This is the better of the two looks behind-the-scenes. Fans will get an inside peek at how the pair approached and performed the film’s primary sex scene. Nicklin and Dufault’s discussion of their cinema coitus is actually more interesting than their on-scene escapade, which is just perplexing.

Finally, there is a short film titled “They Stole the Pope’s Blood.” This minute movie is even more entertaining than the main event. The picture is about six minutes long, but really makes use of the time it has to work with. You will recognize many of the actors from The Sins of Dracula, including Dufault, his brother Jesse, and Thurber.

The Sins of Dracula misses the mark as an effective satire and especially as a horror purist’s film. Sins may want to be Scream (1996) or even Scary Movie (2000), but it isn’t anywhere near the same caliber. Is it scary? No. Is it funny? Definitely not.

On the plus side, the film offers a trio of solid thespians along with some inventive editing and terrific sound mixing. But, sadly, the questionable storytelling, a lack of adequate ensemble players and just dreadful comedic timing leaves Dracula out in the sun to burn to a crisp. The DVD is a renter, at best, and just not worth buying for anything more than a few special features.

Billy (Jamie Dufault), a devout Christian follower, is tempted by his kind-hearted but alluring girlfriend Shannon (Sarah Nicklin). She convinces Billy to step outside his comfort zone and show off his singing prowess when auditioning for a small community theater. The seemingly innocent request sends the couple down a dark path that will culminate in murder and mayhem—not to mention the resurrection of the deadliest of all vampires, Dracula. The Sins of Dracula (2014) is written by Michael Varrati and directed by Richard Griffin (Frankenstein’s Hungry Dead). The film also stars Johnny Sederquist, Jesse Dufault, Samantha Acampora, Michael Thurber, Steven…

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About Steven Thrash

Thrash graduated Cum Laude from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Mass Communications, focusing on film studies, journalism and theatre. He then pursued his MFA in Writing from Lindenwood University. Dubbed a "prolific" writer by Hollywood icon Kenneth Johnson (The Incredible Hulk, V, The Bionic Woman, Alien Nation), Steven has been honored by the Arkansas College Media Association for his story writing prowess. He has also received recognition for his dramatic writing from the Eerie, Shriekfest and Screamfest horror film festivals, and his first play "Subconscious Lee" was published in December of 2017. Other publications include: Carroll County News, Benton Courier, Saline Courier, Forum, Echo, ABC Financial, Moroch, Dread Central, Morbidly Beautiful, Rue Morgue and Screen Rant.

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