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Forgive the filmmakers for 'The Sins of Dracula'

Billy (Jamie Dufault), a devout Christian follower, is tempted by his kind-hearted but alluring girlfriend Shannon (Sarah Nicklin).

Shannon 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 which 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 becomes 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 Lou has a secret and has been busy serving his own nefarious purposes. Specifically, Lou is a murderer who 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 who 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 Shannon is abducted. Billy is forced to return to pastor Johnson for help, and the boy is shocked to discover his preacher is a descendant of the great vampire killer, Van Helsing.

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 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 they suffer from a serious lack of comedic timing. Most of the time, they're 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.

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 sultry scene.

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 which helps the audience empathize with her plight. Acampora is not quite as believable once she is transformed into a vampire, and she begins acting a little 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 each of his appearances engenders disbelief which is in direct contrast with the suspension-of-disbelief device. Unfortunately, his screen time will take viewers 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.

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 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.

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, and Nicklin and Dufault’s discussion of their cinema coitus is actually more interesting than their on-scene escapade.

Finally, there is a short film titled “They Stole the Pope’s Blood.” This movie is even more entertaining than the main event. The picture is about six minutes long, but it 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. 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 it's not worth buying for anything more than a few special features.


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