Vampire movies are a dime a dozen. There are even more independent ones that are primarily an excuse for hot chicks to get naked. Then there is Vlad. Vlad is a surprisingly decent small film. The production quality of the film is excellent, at least for the first three-fourths of the film. Vlad was pretty inexpensive to make (well, relatively), but looks like it cost a lot more. The filmmakers look like they took the time to research their story thoroughly to come up with a plausible premise (and if two of the actors were speaking real Middle English than that's really cool), although it does lose some quality in the overall plot. The acting is about on par with what one would expect, and does slip into camp, especially once Vlad enters the final act. On the whole, Vlad works because it has this balance between seriousness and (unintentional) corniness.
The premise is that there is a necklace that belonged to Vlad Tepes (Francesco Quinn, The Translator, Nowhere Land) that, if brought back to Transylvania (now Romania), can bring him back to life. Four young students are trekking to Vlad's homeland to do research, and one of them has the necklace. A secret society is around to do something. It seems to exist to protect the world from Vlad's return, but the plot is pretty murky on specifics. American brother and sister Jeff (Paul Popowich, Silver Man, The Club) and Alexa Meyer (Pride and Prejudice, Catch Me If You Can), Romanian Linsey (Monica Davidescu), who has the necklace, and Brit Justin (Nicholas Irons, Soul Assassin) round out the students, with Adrian (Billy Zane, CQ, Claim) acting as their guide, who is actually frequently not there.
As Lindsey gets closer to Vlad's castle, she begins to hallucinate scenes that seem to be from Vlad's life. Then, Ilona (Iva Hasperger, The Girl Next Door, Frank McKlusky, CI), a girl from the Middle Ages, appears out of nowhere. The movie becomes a desperate race to return the necklace to its rightful place before Vlad can return fully to the world. Because writer/director Michael Sellers and co-writer Tony Shawkat keep the pace moving quickly it is easier to sit back and let Vlad just wash over people. They introduce some characters, then kill them off, they throw in some random nude scenes with Davidescu, and some almost nude ones with Haskin. There is always something happening on screen, which distracts some lingering questions about the story.
While the background seems sound, some of the stuff in the present makes no sense. Sellers succeeds in humanizing Vlad. He is partially motivated by love for his wife. However, this sometimes makes him come off as a wimp. He is more concerned with getting the girl than stopping the necklace, which should be his first priority. And if the necklace increases Vlad's power as it gets closer, why do they keep going? It was apparently in Paris for half a century, and nothing happened. Just go back there, and things should be fine. It just doesn't make any sense. Most of the effects consists of imposing Quinn's face onto a wolf, and a few where he scales wall like those seventies Spider-Man movies. There is a love scene that incorporates changing lights and players that is actually pretty well done in its conveyance of true weirdness. The one effect that brings the audience out of the film is a choppy scene near the end where Vlad is chasing some of the kids. This one effect is enough to generate a laugh, since it is so bad it feels like it was spliced in from another film. So "corny" probably isn't the best way to describe Vlad. "Brainless" is better, but not meaning "stupid," just meaning that one doesn't need to think when watching this film.
|Mongoose Rates It: Not That Good.|
|1 hour, 38 minutes, Rated R for sexuality, nudity, violence, and some drug use.|
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