Friday, May 27, 2016

067. Dr. Tarr's Torture Dungeon and 068. Creepers

Jump to Creepers (1985)

067. Dr. Tarr's Torture Dungeon aka House of Madness aka The Mansion of Madness (1973)
Director: Juan López Moctezuma
Writers: Carlos Illescas, Juan López Moctezuma, and Gabriel Weiss based on “The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether” by Edgar Allen Poe
From: Chilling

A journalist travels to France to document a radical new technique for treating madness. When he arrives at the sanitarium, however, he finds that the lunatics have taken over the asylum.

Yes, it's the mad dictating to the sane, and there's not much else to say about it. The journalist is taken to the asylum by a friend and, as soon as he's dropped off, their carriage carrying the friend, the friend's cousin, and their bodyguard is attacked by the patients. The friend is tied up, the bodyguard knocked out, and the cousin is chased down and raped.

Yup. We're starting there.

And kind of ending there as well. There isn't any plot to speak of—the first half of the movie is the journalist being shown the grounds and the various examples of madness on display, and the second half is him, briefly, saving the daughter of the real doctor, then both of them being captured and held as the mad doctor's prisoners. In the end, just before the journalist is about to be killed by three people in chicken suits, the real hospital staff breaks free and overpowers the patients.

Yeah. Menaced by people in chicken suits and there's still nothing to say about the film. How do you screw that up?

The movie has inherent tonal problems. It's supposed to be a horror film and is aiming at something surreal and unnerving. From some of the content—the crucified man at the entrance to the titular dungeon quoting Dante, the liturgical dance about the world dying and being born again in the roots of the baobab tree—it's unsurprising to learn that the director worked with Jodorowsky as a producer on Fando and Lis and El Topo. And there are unnerving and evocative visuals at times. All that's undone, though, by a soundtrack that elicits thoughts of a British farce. The music has a trilling goofiness during high-tension moments that make it reek of slapstick. It's so bad a choice that it actually strips the movie of any tension it'd otherwise have.

So definitely not a recommend although, from a glance at Wikipedia, the Poe story that it's based on, “The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether” looks pretty interesting and, to the movie's credit, it seems the movie hit upon the key parts. Fortunately the story, as all of Poe's work, is in the public domain and can be read freely. Unfortunately, the movie, through previously public domain, has been pulled back under control due to GATT. The loss, I'm sure, is deeply felt by us all.


068. Creepers aka Phenomena(1985)
Director: Dario Argento
Writers: Dario Argento and Franco Ferrini
From: Drive-In

Jennifer is sent to a Swiss boarding school where a serial killer is on the prowl. Fortunately, she can communicate psychically with insects and may be the only person who can hunt the killer down.

Oh, how do move on from that plot synopsis? Where else is there to go?

A young girl in the Swiss countryside misses the tour bus that'll take her back to town. She tries to find help in a nearby house, but something chained up in the basement breaks free and decapitates her. Eight months later, her head is found and brought to the attention of the entomologist she was working for, Professor John McGregor (played by Donald Pleasence, Dr. Loomis himself). The lead inspector on the case, Geiger, talks to him briefly and then disappears until the end of the film.

There's more than a bit of, “just forget about that for now,” going on in this picture.

Meanwhile, Jennifer is being brought to the Swiss boarding school she'll be staying at for the next year. Her first night there, she sleepwalks and witnesses the murder of one of her schoolmates. In shock, she wanders into town, gets hit by a car, jumps from the car while the drivers are taking her . . . somewhere (it's not clear if it's the hospital or to kill her), and she's found by the Professor's chimp.

Dr. Loomis consults Lancelot Link
Did I not mention the chimp? There's a chimp. She helps the wheelchair-bound Professor and makes her first appearance wielding a scalpel.

Monkey with a knife. I love this movie.

Chimp takes Jennifer to the Professor, they share their enthusiasm for bugs, and, as things start to escalate, she returns to him for help and advice.

I'll refrain from saying much more except that the film probably has the most hilarious series of escalating “You're not helping” moments in its conclusion that I've ever seen. For a good ten minutes, the movie insists on adding more and more jump scares and twists and I never laughed so hard at such violence in my life.

The movie's not hilariously bad in any way, it just has the strangest logic. I mean, there's a point where Donald Pleasence figures out a way to use bugs and Jennifer's psychic connection with them—which, by the way, is not the centerpiece of the film. Girl with psychic bug powers is the b-plot. Glorious! Anyway, he figures out a way to find the killer's hideout by using bugs and Jennifer's power and sends the girl out on her own.

Apparently in the mid-80's, when you needed to send children somewhere children shouldn't go, you sent Jennifer Connelly. “There's a serial killer murdering young girls just like you, Jenn. Why don't you go check it out?” “David Bowie's all coked up and wearing a codpiece, Jenn. Why don't you go check it out?”

I can't recommend this movie enough. It's so out there, so steeped in its own logic, just grab some friends, some beers, and enjoy the ride. It's so worth it. This was not my first time watching it and it still left me giddy. This version, under the title Creepers is the US cut which has 20 minutes removed. It may be easier to find the full version under it's proper title, Phenomena, but even that may take some digging.

Friday, May 20, 2016

065. Crucible of Horror and 066. Beast From Haunted Cave

Jump to Beast From Haunted Cave (1959)

065. Crucible of Horror aka The Corpse (1971)
Director: Viktors Ritelis
Writer: Olaf Pooley
From: Pure Terror

A wife and daughter plot to murder their abusive husband/father, but when the body doesn't turn up where they expected, their fear starts to build.

Wyatt Eastwood rules the women of his family, wife Edith and daughter Jane, with a firm hand, but seems somewhat doting on his lawyer son Rupert. After twenty minutes, the plot starts to arrive when a member of the Golf Club visits to tell Wyatt that Jane has stolen 50 pounds from the club's safe. Jane, it seems, has also been pursuing a relationship with the man as he kisses her when he walks in and asks when she'll be visiting him again. Wyatt pays him back the money and then beats Jane that night with a riding crop, taking back the money she'd stolen.

The next day, Edith suggests to Jane that they kill him.

That weekend, Wyatt goes up to the family cottage for some hunting. Edith and Jane follow in the evening and poison him with Edith's sleeping pills. They position his comatose and, they presume, soon-to-be-dead body in the bed and return home. From there, they wait for the inevitable phone call reporting the discovery of his body, only the call never comes.

Instead, Rupert starts calling the house saying he won't be coming home for various reasons, asking after his father, and finally sending Edith and Jane back to the cottage where they find no body and no evidence of him having been there until they find him sealed inside a crate with a note taped to the top.

They worry about who could know and drive the crate far out of town that evening to push it into a ravine. Their fear mounts, though, as it starts to seem like someone has broken into their house. Wyatt strikes from the shadows, not dead at all, attacking Jane and leaving Edith in a catatonic state. The movie closes with Wyatt and Rupert gloating over breakfast while Edith stares, unresponsive.

The movie took its time getting started and then, once the decision came to kill Wyatt, really stayed in these empty spaces. There were hints that some kind of gaslighting was going on, but it was never clear who was organizing it and who was participating in it. The movie walks a fine line between subtlety and padding, and not always successfully. Some of the tension, honestly, just comes from them doing things badly.

In the first act, Jane is pouring some smoking chemical into a perfume bottle. I kept expecting that to come up later in the movie, an unexpected tool that she uses to fight back. Instead, it goes into her drawer and never comes back out. Also, there are weird issues with sexuality in the film. There are suggestions that Wyatt has incestuous feelings toward Jane—he feels up her bike seat when she comes home and there's a flashback to him catching her skinny dipping and then physically, not sexually, assaulting her. She's also kissed by the member of the Golf Club that comes by asking her if she'll be coming back to see him, even though he's there to rat her out for taking money from the club. Finally, when Jane and Edith finally attack Wyatt, Edith says she's read a book by de Sade, that Jane's read it as well, and they both liked it. There's a whole lot of, “Wha . . .?” going on there.

Frankly, the movie's a downer. We're supposed to be on Edith and Jane's side, but if that's the case then this is a grim world they're living in where all the men, including Rupert, their son and brother respectively, are aligned against them in a massive conspiracy to keep them broken and bound. And there's no sense of hope at the end, no sense that eventually things will change or that Jane will rise up and fight back, just that they're stuck there as Wyatt's property to be used as he and Rupert see fit.

The ending's what lost me. When I was trying to find out if this is public domain (it has a seemingly valid copyright notice, so I don't think it is), a lot of the references to the movie I saw said it was really dull. While it does take too long to start, once the murder plot gets under way, there's only tension. I kept anticipating jump scares that never came so there was never any release until those final moments. The film successfully made me feel the anxiety facing these two characters. Had the ending not been so grim, I might want to recommend it as a movie that actually does something well. The thing is, though, as thin as the character development was, I latched on to these characters' feelings, so their loss is my loss. Also, while the movie isn't brilliantly made by any means, it doesn't fall into that space of entertaining incompetence. The movie's just not fun and it's not well-crafted enough to be a piece of “serious cinema” that compels watching.


066. Beast From Haunted Cave (1959)
Director: Monte Hellman
Writer: Charles B. Griffith
From: Cult Cinema and Drive-In
Watch: archive.org; Elvira's Movie Macabre

A group of gangsters plant explosives in a mine to cause a diversion from their gold theft. As they retreat to a hideout in the wilderness, a monster from the mine tracks them.

A Corman production—this time by his brother Gene (how B-grade to you have to be to not even rate the best Corman?)—it was filmed concurrently with Roger Corman's Ski Troop Attack. They were already in South Dakota filming a movie involving skiing, so Corman just had the screenwriter, Griffith, write another movie taking advantage of the location. Griffith rewrote his earlier film Naked Paradise, swapping that film's storm for a blizzard and adding a monster. The resulting film, unsurprisingly, is pretty low-key and low-budget.

Alex is plotting a gold heist with his lackey's Byron and Marty. His moll Gypsy is along as well. The plan is they'll detonate some explosives in a local mine. As emergency crews respond to that, it'll leave a safe containing gold bars unprotected. Once they have the gold, they'll meet up with Gil, a ski instructor, who's been hired to take them on a cross-country skiing trip to his cottage.

The plan moves along nicely until Marty takes a girl he picks up at the bar with him to the mine to plant the explosives. After he's set the charge, a monster emerges and attacks the girl. Alex doesn't believe Marty's story and they go ahead with the heist. The next day, on their way to the cottage, Marty starts to suspect they're being followed and worries that the monster is tracking them.

And then not much else. They get to the cabin, get a little snippy with each other—Gypsy keeps hitting on Gil, Alex keeps threatening her to stop, Marty keeps having closer and closer encounters with the monster—and then it kind of wraps up with them all ending up in the titular haunted cave with the beast.

It's a quick little flick, just 72 minutes, and neither great nor terrible. While not as dull as other Corman we're-here-so-might-as-well-make-a-movie pics, it also doesn't have quite enough incident to compel multiple viewings. It's not bad by any means: there is some characterization and personality to each character even if they rarely move beyond cliché, the annoying comic relief gets a nice moment of nobility that I hadn't expected, and the plot works even if the beast really isn't in the movie at all. This isn't hilariously bad like, say, The Killer Shrews, but it also doesn't devolve into people shouting at each other while drunk in a room.

I'd call it an all right watch, definitely better with vocal friends. It's very riffable. This is public domain, but all three of my copies (how is this my life?) have some sort of bug burned in that keeps me from uploading them. There is, however, a nice avi at archive.org and this was also featured on Elvira's Movie Macabre which is streaming on Hulu.

Friday, May 13, 2016

63. Prisoners of the Lost Universe and 64. Blood Sabbath

Jump to Blood Sabbath (1972)

063. Prisoners of the Lost Universe (1983)
Director: Terry Marcel
Writer: Terry Marcel, Harry Robertson
From: Cult Cinema and Drive-In
Watch: Rifftrax, archive.org

Carrie, Dan, and a scientist fall through a portal to a parallel universe populated by strange prehistoric tribes and medieval warlords with modern technology. Carrie and Dan have to survive long enough to find both the scientist and a way back home.

Starring Richard Hatch from my favorite movie ever, Best Friends and his character’s just as charming here!

That is unfair. This movie is nowhere near as nihilistic and grim as Best Friends and even manages to reach some level of goofy fun. It’s not an accident that there’s a Rifftrax version of this.

Anyway, the movie opens with super upbeat and heroic music and then cuts to a shot of a woman hypnotizing a snake by humming. This is our heroine (and the term, unfortunately, needs to be gendered), Carrie who hosts a show about weird science. It may be the most WTF opening sequences I’ve ever seen since it goes from this tense stare down with a snake to a chipper, “we’ll see you next time” style closing sequence.

From there, Carrie learns that her crew is going to be delayed for her next shoot, an interview with Dr. Hartman who’s doing interesting sciencings. She goes on ahead to do a preliminary interview, but there’s an earthquake along the way that causes her to have a minor fender-bender with Dan, Richard Hatch. Dan’s car ends up stuck on the side of a mountain and his bokken (wooden practice sword) broken. Seeing as he’s our hero, he takes the whole thing as a man.

Sorry, I meant he takes it like a whiny pissbaby screeching at her about his broken stick. She’s so awful, such a bad driver, women like her, amiright? I mean, who can’t control their car in an earthquake? Richard Hatch couldn’t, but, *mumblemumble* bitches, amiright? When can I open for Daniel Tosh?

He bullies away her offers of help, which he needs, and money to cover the damages, which he needs, so she leaves to get on with her life like an adult. She gets to the scientist’s house where the doctor isn’t played by Clint Howard but should be. He shows her his experiment, a device that opens windows into other dimensions. While he’s demonstrating it, there’s an aftershock and he stumbles through the hole.

Meanwhile, Manbaby can’t get his car to move so he stamps up the hill to the doctor’s house, doesn’t get an answer when he rings the bell, breaks in, and gets hit on the head by Carrie because he’s an intruder breaking into a house! Sorry, I meant because, pfft, women, amiright?

She explains what happened to the doctor, Manbaby makes fun of her, sarcastically repeats the machine’s start-up sequence, and also falls through. Then Carrie follows him because she’s scared, or worried about him, or also falls. I forget because just the work of making them all fall into the hole was so contrived.

Relatively quickly into the movie, we’re in the titular Lost Universe. Carrie’s alone, saves a giant from quicksand, and he proceeds to follow her from a distance, periodically saving her from the curious threats of this world. Manbaby also shows up and starts just unrelentingly insulting her. Seriously, he just negs her the entire time. Of course, 27 minutes into the movie, they screw. This is shortly after she’s arrived in the world. Basically they’ve been on a long walk together so that’s time enough.

From there, she’s kidnapped by the evil warlord Kleel who’s played by John Saxon. Oddly enough, the film doesn’t list him as a star, just as a cameo, but he’s in a lot of the picture and is the central villain. Also, he’s hands-down the best part of the movie. He gets that it’s stupid and just hams it up throughout.

So, it turns out Kleel’s using modern technology developed for him by the doctor to keep his people in check. The rest of the movie is Carrie being abused/seduced by Kleel and Manbaby wandering across the world gathering a party to rescue her.

There’s a lot of goofy fun to be had here: the sound design is just off the wall including people making jaguar growls being thrown over a cliff to a videogame WOMP WOMP sound effect, there’s a character referred to as the “Green Man” who’s at best blue or grey, and, of course, Manbaby is just the worst sort of 80’s machismo dickishness that you love to laugh at.

That last element, though, is also what makes the movie a bit of a slog. This feels like what MRA’s wanted Mad Max: Fury Road to be and that’s what undercuts a lot of the fun. The plot is kind of obvious and there's more than a hint of camp at work here which elevates that very obviousness, but we have to spend so much time with this douchenozzle that it can be a touch wearying.

As I mentioned above, Rifftrax did a pass on this and that may be the way to go. Also, apparently it's public domain. Here's the post on archive.org. I'd add a DVD version, but Mill Creek stamped their logo on my copies, so I can't. This is definitely a pizza-and-beer/mock-with-friends film, but falls a little short of being an enjoyably bad watch if you’re alone.


064. Blood Sabbath (1972)
Director: Brianne Murphy
Writer: William A. Bairn
From: Pure Terror

David, a Vietnam vet, falls in love with the water nymph Yyalah. To be with her, he must become involved in the power struggle between the witch Alotta and the town she and her cult cruelly rule over.

Folks, I'm going to be straight with you. I've watched this movie, read its IMDB page, even read a blog post about it on WFMU, and I still don't know what the hell I just watched.

David is a drifter, just walking through the woods, when he gets buzzed by a vanload of hippies who initially seem to be offering him a ride, and then just flash him their tits and drive off. Later, after he's camped out for the night, the same band of hippies, now all naked, find him in the woods and start to chase him. It feels like it might be echoing Orpheus' death at the hands of the Bacchanal as the three naked women chase him until he slips and hits his head on a rock . . .

I'm kidding. It's just an excuse for titties.

Fearing he's dead, they leave him to be found and saved by the water nymph Yyalah. He wants to stay with her, but she tells him to come back tomorrow. He wanders until he finds the home of the hermit Lonzo who lets him stay, but tells him not to pursue Yyalah as water nymphs are fickle. Or something. I missed it because Lonzo asks David, “Where do you come from?”

“I came from Vietnam.”

Oooh! Brace yourselves, folks, we've got an important film here with a message!

Later, while looking for Yyalah, David, in voice-over, wonders, “She said 'tomorrow.' That was yesterday. Or was it? Vietnam. Was that yesterday too?” which leads to a flashback to Vietnam where it's revealed that David killed some kids.

Is it my birthday? Did you guys get me self-important bullshit? You shouldn't have. Really. You shouldn't.

So David finds Yyalah again who was avoiding him because she's an immortal and he's not. For them to be together, he has to get rid of his soul.

Meanwhile, Alotta [insert puns at your leisure], Queen of the witches, meets with Lonzo to convince him to turn David over to her. Normally, Lonzo brings a child from the nearby village to Alotta as an annual sacrifice in exchange for the village's prosperity. This year, she wants David instead. Lonzo refuses, but David finds out about Lonzo's job, condemns him, then learns that Alotta can take away his soul. So David cuts a deal with Alotta to be the sacrifice, she accepts on the condition that if Yyalah leaves him, he has to return and serve her. They have the ceremony, which is just basically a giant orgy, and David runs off to be with Yyalah.

Then Alotta starts playing everyone off each other. There's a priest in town that's been moving against her, so Alotta has David murder him. Lonzo tries to kill Yyalah because he thinks she's going to doom David, but David shows up and kills him instead. Yyalah leaves anyway because she's convinced she's a threat to David, which puts him in Alotta's service. When he returns, though, he kills Alotta instead.

Real blood-thirsty hero we got here.

As she's dying, she curses David to be killed by his “own people.” We flashback, again, to Vietnam, where it turns out David's in a friendly-fire situation, then back to the field where David is walking only to have the van of hippies from the beginning show up and run him down. He's knocked into the river from the beginning where Yyalah appears, wakes him up, and they embrace as the film ends.

What sort of Z-grade, Inception-style bullshit is this? Did David die in Vietnam during friendly fire and the whole movie is him traversing purgatory to eventually land in paradise? Is it all a dream from when he hit his head at the beginning of the movie? Is the movie pro-hippie or anti-hippie? The hippies that frame the piece are pretty monstrous, but isn't David on some sort of free love trip himself? Does Alotta even have magical powers or is she just tricking the townspeople into giving her new members for her lesbian sex cult each year?

Obviously a total recommend. Not really, but the movie is hilariously bad. The acting is at “I hate sand” levels of inept, the story makes no sense, and it's just relentlessly silly. Definitely fun if you have a group of friends and a few drinks. Outside of that, it's interesting for starring Philo From UHF as David and Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS as Alotta. A light Googling will find you a copy if you don't want to rent it from Amazon.

Friday, May 06, 2016

061. Eyes Behind the Stars and 062. Blood of Dracula's Castle

Jump to Blood of Dracula's Castle (1969)

061. Eyes Behind the Stars aka Occhi dalle stelle (1978)
Writer & Director: Mario Gariazzo
From: Sci-Fi Invasion

An investigation into the disappearance of a photographer and his girlfriend uncovers a conspiracy suppressing the reality of alien abductions. Now the reporter must decide whether or not to pursue the investigation, possibly at the cost of his life.

A photographer and his girlfriend are doing a photo shoot in the woods when they notice their watches and radios suddenly stop working and they feel like someone's watching them. The photographer returns to the site after developing the film and seeing people in the pictures who weren't there originally. At the site, he's abducted by aliens in a sequence that's actually interesting.

His girlfriend contacts a reporter who starts investigating and finding himself stymied by the police, even though the police chief is his friend. The model gives the reporter some of the negatives and then is abducted herself.

And then it gets very talky and boring pushing an agenda about this being “the truth!”

The reporter visits a UFOlogist who tells him about all the ways “the truth” has been covered up, particularly by a group within the government called “the Silencers” who are basically the Men in Black. They track the reporter, encourage him to drop the case, and finally rough him up a bit to make him hand over the negatives he has. They argue that they're keeping the reality of aliens a secret because they have no way of defending against the aliens and if the truth got out, there'd be a global panic.

Here's the thing: they're right. In fact, when they bring the reporter back to his home, the aliens have already been there and ransacked it looking for the negatives. When the Silencers beat the actual negatives out of him, the aliens immediately swoop in and steal the evidence. The Silencers aren't the villains—access to this information makes you a target of the aliens. The Silencers protect people from becoming targets of the aliens.

The movie doesn't see it that way, though, and the reporter persists in his quest for “the truth!” He initially thinks the UFOlogist he's been working with has betrayed him and is about to punch the man when the UFOlogist suggests it might be the reporter's secretary. When they visit her, the reporter doesn't hesitate at all and just starts smacking the crap out of her. She denies it, just as the UFOlogist did, but then a wire recorder she'd had hidden goes off and she's revealed.

The reporter and UFOlogist learn that the model has been returned by the aliens, but is catatonic, so they kidnap her from the hospital she's at and take her to another institution where a psychic—yup, cause that's real, too—can read her mind and reveal what's actually going on. Unfortunately, the aliens take over the psychic's mind and kill the model. The reporter, psychic, and UFOlogist walk toward the woods next to the hospital where the reporter shoots into the trees. The Silencers arrive and machine-gun the reporter and UFOlogist (cause how many more people are these two going to get killed?) and then they and the psychic watch the UFO fly away.

An odd little flick that's desperate to lay claim to more truth than is maybe justified. The opening credits list the writer/director as Roy Garrett, “Member of the National Investigation Committee on Aerial Phenomena (N.I.C.A.P.) and Field Investigator of the Aerial Phenomena Research Organization (A.P.R.O.) of the United States of America.” How can you doubt the authority of Roy Garrett?

Well, it doesn't help that Roy Garrett doesn't exist. This is actually made by Mario Gariazzo, the director of The Eerie Midnight Horror Show, another film that included a title card insisting that it's “based on actual events.” This one instead claims that all quotes “are factual.”

It's a silly piece that mostly bores when it's British dubbing isn't unintentionally hilarious (they pronounce UFOs as “You-Foes”). A big problem with it is that it's not a movie about aliens and conspiracies and secrets but rather a polemic about “what they're not telling you!” A mission movie is far less interesting than a movie about someone on a mission, but this doesn't have to be entertaining because it's TRUE!

And maybe I have less patience for this because of the public resurgence of flat-Earthers, gravity Truthers, and, as always, climate change deniers. Just before watching the movie, I had a conversation with my dad about one of his co-workers saying temperature doesn't exist.

Temperature—a shared standard for measuring physical reality—doesn't exist. And don't get him started on inches. His wife's already had that discussion.

When you get to that point, you're not even speaking the same language. So I couldn't help reflecting, while watching the movie, that somehow there's never enough evidence for climate change, but the lack of evidence of aliens or cryptids or ghosts or whatever tonight's AM Coast to AM is about is the absolute proof of its existence. I like ghost stories, I like alien stories, I like conspiracy stories, but don't insist that I have to take these fantasies seriously.

There's no copyright notice on this print, but it's an Italian film so I'm guessing it's covered under GATT. Also, I'm not inclined to break a sweat trying to share this 92 minutes of thumb-twiddling. Just pull up the weakest mytharc episodes of The X-Files on Netflix for the same story but better acting.


062. Blood of Dracula's Castle (1969)
Directors: Al Adamson and Jean Hewitt
Writer: Rex Carlton
From: Cult Cinema

Glen and Liz learn that they’ve inherited a castle that’s home to the Count and Countess Townsend. Glen and Liz think asking the Townsends to leave will be easy, but don’t realize that the Townsends are actually Count Dracula and his bride and they have no intention of surrendering the comforts they’ve grown accustomed to.

Another movie featuring abductions and a photographer/model couple. The similarities to Eyes Beyond the Stars ends there, though. The movie opens with a long credit sequence where, in classic b-movie/MST3k fashion, we watch someone drive a car. They just drive and drive while Tom Jones soundalike Gil Bernal performs the entirety of his song “Next Train Out.” While it has nothing to do with vampires, castles, or the movie at all, it’s a peppy enough little tune that suggests the movie’s going to have a nice campy tone.

That tone persists as the car breaks down, the woman driving cheerfully gets out in the middle of nowhere, and starts walking. She sees the Draculas’ handyman Mango—a mix of Igor and Frankenstein’s monster—and faints. Mango takes her back to the castle where she’s chained up in the basement and bled by the butler played by John Carradine. The Draculas sample that night’s serving of blood, note its vigor, and go into the basement to chat with the new prisoner.

It’s all light, goofy, and absurd. It feels like Gilligan could show up at any moment, and I like that. Then the Draculas give Mango one of the prisoners to take into the other room to use at his pleasure.

Could we just not with the rape? That other movie I was just watching, the one with the ardently polite vampires, “Dreadfully sorry old chap, but I have to suck all your blood out. Nothing personal, just a compulsion, my curse, really, sure you understand” is so much more interesting. It’s what Tim Burton aimed for in Dark Shadows and, from what I understand, was managed successfully in What We Do In the Shadows. Why do we leave that movie for sadism?

Here’s my beef with lo-budget films going for "edge": they fail. They always fail. They don’t have the money to go all-out with gore effects unless they commit to them à la Herschel Gordon Lewis, but wit doesn’t cost anything, personality doesn’t cost anything. In fact, it makes people more eager to support your movie. So to get a movie like this that starts out on the right track only to shruggingly shuffle away is really disappointing.

Anyway, while the couple that owns the castle is driving, the Draculas’ friend Johnny (who is foreshadowed to be a werewolf and is mentioned as being a werewolf in some cuts but isn’t a werewolf in my version) is escaping jail to meet up at the castle. While escaping, he drowns a woman he finds sunbathing, shoots a hitchhiker in the face, and shoves a stolen car off a cliff with the owner still inside.

I want my camp back.

The rest of the movie proceeds as you’d expect: couple arrives, Draculas refuse to leave, couple gets stranded at house, finds out secret, overpowers villains, escapes.

One interesting twist is the Draculas are also the high priests of a Satanic cult so the couple is forced to watch the sacrifice of one of the girls. It’s an odd wrinkle in the Dracula story. The Satanic Rites of Dracula invokes that trope a bit, but that’s more Dracula posing as the head of a cult to turn its followers into slaves. Here it just feels like more padding.

This just isn’t fun the way it needs to be. There are hints that it’s going to be silly—the Count and Countess chatting with their food, Johnny having a heartfelt conversation with the guard that’s helping him escape, the couple attempting banter and failing—but that tone is abandoned for a not-even-grim stroll through the perfunctory plot points. If there’s any promise in the film, it lies in cannibalizing the good parts to make the kind of film this should have been.