Review Roundup - HALLOWEEN 2014

BLOODSUCKER FEST 1st-31st October

Part the Seconde: SHLOCK-TOBER

While the first segment of this little marathon focuses just a few of the incarnations of Dracula that have come about over the years, sequels and spin offs were always slightly different in tone. Which may be putting it lightly when it comes to Hammer releases over their later years. To be brutally honest, most of their sequels to their first attempt with Christopher Lee... are varying degrees of bad. Scars of Dracula is the only one I can enjoy for what it is. Considering all the direct follow ups in terms of story, it's strange that this one appears to be a standalone effort (even if they start it with yet another absurd resurrection scene... where to they keep finding Dracula's ashes if they blew away in wind in 1958?). Lee actually gets some dialogue this time, even if it's just in a few early scenes which is good to see. It's been reported that many of the films have no speaking part for D though whether it's because he refused to read them or if they didn't write anything in the first place has been disputed. Though the fake bats are still really awful and their are some comedy moments which are out of place, it's still entertaining for the most part in a silly kind of way. Their attempts at adding more violence and sex this time are still really tame which is kind of endearing, and I guess adds to the fun.

On the subject of adult content though, I found that The Vampire Lovers is case of reputation over content. Hammer's take on the Carmilla story is oddly uneventful, it's cult status and the advertising material for it are pretty misleading seeing it for what it is, a product of it's time from a mainstream studio. A few decapitations are all this does in the way of real horror and most of the vampire moments are done in vague dream scenes which lack any kind of atmosphere. All the supposed erotic content is very low key unless the idea of a few shots of naked skin are to be considered adult content. How racy! As for the story itself, Ingrid Pitt is fine but the character isn't developed and whether miss Carnstein is evil or just lonely isn't explored. Some weird plot threads are left hanging (she has a few helpers early on who are not explained) which doesn't help. Worst of the General played by Peter Cushing is barely in it, what a crime.

Luckily he appears as Van Helsing in one of the strangest entries here, Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires. The good doctor is in China... for some reason. Something about discovering if local folk tales are true, unfortunately the local academics will have nothing to do with it. Also in town is Dracula (Not Christopher Lee) for reasons even more vague. He's set up shop disguised as a priest while a group of (golden masked) vampires terrorise the locals for him, or so it appears. The thing is they were doing this before he showed up, so their arrangement is less than crystal clear. In fact he is totally superfluous, appearing in the opening and then being dispatched in seconds at the end. Though I guess at this stage Cushing is a pro after all. But story isn't the focus here - it's all about the undead action. This is a collaboration with the Shaw Brothers, and the team up brings plenty of fight scenes to the film. It's total nonsense but this strange circumstance could only ever result in a strange movie.

The nonsense continues with Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter. A British military captain who uses a Japanese sword and has a rather German accent (yeah I have no idea) travels the land, often taking off his shirt and occasionally fighting evil. It's kind of a kitchen sink approach, as shown which his sidekick - both a professor and hunchback. After a while it's easier not to question this kind of thing. They throw in some unique (perhaps fabricated) vampire lore, including life draining species rather than ones that drink blood, and an idea about using dead frogs to discover if someone is the undead. I guess you'd have to call this an adventure story rather than any kind of horror, but it kind of works. Where else are you going to get a finale where the hero smiths a sword and duels with the vampire?

(Part one) (Part three)