Sunday, February 18, 2007

There's More To The Legend Than Meets... The Throat!

So I've finally done it. I've broken my friends. I've finally found a movie so retched, so godawful that my friends may not come back for a bad movie night. So, what was this film? This steaming pile of celluloid crap? It was Zoltan! Hound Of Dracula. And it really wasn't all THAT bad. Paradoxically, that may have been the worst thing about it.

Zoltan(named, I assume, after a Hungarian ruler in the 10th Century) isn't so much Dracula's hound as he is the hound of one of Dracula's servants, Veidt Schmidt. When the Russian army(I think their Russian, based on their uniforms, but no one has any kind of accent) unearths Dracula's tomb, they decide to burn all of the corpses, but not before some foolish soldier decides to pull the stake out of Zoltan's body, allowing him to regenerate and drain the blood of said soldier. He then helps his master, who decides to track down the last surviving heir of Dracula. At least, they call him the last heir in the movie, but he has two children, so wouldn't THEY be the last surviving heirs? There's a bit of a mythological problem here, as well. Veidt Schmidt is the vampire's servant, and not a full vampire. Yet he has immortality and can regenerate after death, all while walking in daylight and not needing blood. I don't know what Renfield's problem was, sitting in that asylum and eating flies.

At the beginning of the film Dracula is seen(in Zoltan's flashback!) about to feast on a lovely young women in the 1800s. Zoltan interrupts his feeding, so Dracula transforms into a bat and instead feeds on Zoltan(why don't vampires do this more often, instead of courting danger by feeding on young, socially popular women?), who skips the whole 'dying' part of the process and goes straight to vampire doggie. On their way out they drain and turn Veidt Schmidt(played by Reggie Nalder, whose wrinkles are more frightening than anything in this movie), who also skips the 'dying' part. I mention this because it's odd for them to have done that, as it's clearly established later that the victims DIE after being drained of blood.

The film quickly moves to southern California, where Michael Drake(the aforementioned Last Dracula) is taking his family on a two week camping trip in their RV. For plot motivation they also bring along their two dogs and a litter of puppies. Almost immediately weird things happen; Puppies disappear and the dogs are always howling at night. Of course, neither of those is odd, really, it seems to me a logical occurrence when you leave newborn puppies out in the wilderness all night, and howling is just something dogs do. But this bothers the family, who are worried and confused. Luckily for them, a Van Helsing-type character shows up in the form of Jose Ferrer to tell Michael all about his vampiric family tree and help him defeat the undead canines.
Really, as I said before, the film isn't anything spectacularly atrocious, which is it's downfall. It's just middle of the road, never taking itself seriously enough to be campy, but also not self-aware enough to be tongue in cheek. There's no suspense to the film, since aside from the Russian soldier in the beginning there are NO human deaths, just a lot of animal cruelty. It's competently directed(by Albert Band, who would pass on the legacy of mediocre, competently bad horror movies to his son, Charles Band), with a clean print for the DVD. The dialogue is notable for this type of film, due to it's believability. The characters may be boring and idiotic, but they speak in a natural manner(Michael's first thought after learning he's a Dracula is that he's going to get rich on royalties for all those movies). There is, however, a growing army of vampire doggies, and the oh-so-cute and cuddly widdle undead puppies.

Had it been a bit more over-the-top, just a little bit more awful, the movie would have been classic. As it was, I had fun and a few laughs, but just enough to feel justified in having seen it. I often think my reviewing of bad movies is suspect, because it really takes a lot for me to hate it. Even if the movie is awful and irredeemable, I usually feel the better for having seen it. If I hate it, at least there's a good rant in there somewhere. So, in the end, I can never accurately say whether you, the reader, should go track it down. I say you should, but then, unlike most of my friends, I've had a fondness for horror movies involving animals since I saw Food of the Gods as a child.

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