DECEMBER 15, 2012
SOURCE: THEATRICAL (REGULAR SCREENING)
I really miss the way the Moviepass program used to work, where every eligible title in your area would show up on their website and you'd click to see where it was playing. It was a great way to find the smaller/indie films that were showing; the movies were ranked by popularity, so I'd go to the last page and see what obscure potential gems I could find. Now it's all app-based, and only popular/ mainstream releases show up - smaller things like Saint Dracula 3D, playing on one screen (and only one showing per day) take a little more effort to dig up.
Well, hopefully I'm not missing too many "have to see it to believe it" movies like this, which is bad in that special way where I spent most of the runtime just trying to understand how the movie even got funded, let alone given a theatrical release (to qualify for potential Oscar nominations, no less!). I can throw just about every criticism of a movie ever given at this thing - poor acting, nonsensical dialogue, incomprehensible storyline - but I'd rather just encourage you to see it as soon as you can so I can be assured I didn't somehow hallucinate the entire thing. As of this writing, there are no actual user reviews on its IMDb (just a guy who watched the trailer) and the only link in "external reviews" goes to a dead page. Come on! I need someone else to verify that there's a Dracula movie out there with an out of nowhere musical number!
Actually there was one other guy in the theater, who came in after it started and spent most of it looking at his phone (he was behind me, but the blue light in the corner of my eye if I turned my head to the right served as my proof that he hadn't walked out), but I was pulling mine out to take in theater notes (usually I just try to memorize them in a sort of "I went shopping and I bought..." process), so maybe he was another reviewer and doing the same thing. Or he was just doing what I WANTED to do, which was text friends and ask them to join me at once, but since I was in front of him and thus in his eyeline, I restricted my phone usage to quick notes.
Unfolding like any religious based Dracula movie, albeit filtered through the inept acting/production of The Room, Saint Dracula 3D (yes, the 3D is part of the title, even though this was a 2D screening) tells the story of a much more romantic Dracula, who has resurfaced after a few decades and has set his sights on a woman who has recently become a nun. Meanwhile, this monk guy (who looks like Jeffrey Donovan and sounds like Jason Statham, and isn't 1/10th as charismatic as either) is after Dracula, suspecting him to be the murderer of a few girls, all of whom have had hair ripped from the back of their head. Don't ask me if Dracula was indeed the killer, I couldn't make heads or tails of this subplot, mainly because I couldn't stop laughing at lines like "All of the victims... they were GIRLS!" to focus hard enough to follow it.
Because even when I wasn't chuckling (or just laughing out loud - it got THAT ridiculously awful at times), this was a nigh on impenetrable movie, thanks to the editor's apparent inability to, well, edit. Scenes come out of nowhere more often than not, introducing characters and major subplots in the middle of other scenes, with no sense of how much time has passed from one to the next. It's also often unclear if something is supposed to be a flashback or present day; some scenes are monochrome (except for red, giving it a bad Sin City wannabe flavor) and I THINK those are all the flashback ones, but others seem to be taking place at least a few days before the last one. Worse, it seems the movie was re-edited rather late into the post process; at least twice I caught a snippet of a third shot during a fade, which is a common problem editors face when trying to cut chunks out of a film that's already been edited on a different machine (or at least after the original elements have been lost/erased). IMDb says the runtime is 2 hrs (literally - not "120 minutes", just "2 hrs"), and this only ran a little over 90 minutes, so maybe 30 minutes were cut, or maybe it's just another piece of evidence that these folks aren't that good at their jobs. On that note, the sound mixing is also non existent - get used to the sound of hard cuts between two locations (and their respective room tones), or strange dead sounding interior scenes where the lines are clearly from an ADR session.
There's also a classic bit that left me howling; in a flashback (I think?) Dracula is checking out a woman at a club, and follows her up to a mirror where she is checking her makeup. Now, being a vampire, he has no reflection, but obviously director Rupesh Paul apparently couldn't figure out how to do this effect, so he clearly just has the guy playing Dracula (named Mitch, by the way - least likely name for a Dracula actor ever? Generic vampire costume too, akin to Dracula 3000's ridiculous getup) stand in a position where the camera will see him, her, her reflection, and some space where the easily fooled will think his reflection should be - it's an easy, old-school trick. Only problem - Paul then cuts to a different angle and we can see his reflection just fine.
Then again, maybe his "invisible" reflection in the first shot was just a poor choice of framing, as the "rules" are laid out but had one or two modifications. However, most of them are standard - no sunlight, wooden stake to the heart, etc, and yet our hero listens to them as if they are mind-blowing revelations. The great thing about the fact that there have been 49068 vampire movies (IMDb lists 300 just for the Dracula character alone) is that you don't have to waste time explaining the rules unless you're breaking them - this does the opposite, quickly dismissing the ones that don't apply and focusing on the ones that anyone in the theater would already know about in advance.
But if you don't know too much about the Bible, this is a terrific place to start, since roughly half of the film's dialogue consists of characters trading verses in order to make their points. You've seen the sort of thing in a bunch of movies, someone will say "Judge not lest he be judged! - John 3:17" and the other guy will reply "Ah yes, but Matthew 5:7, 'Let he who makes the best pie serve the worst beer.' (obviously these are made up and make no sense at all, I can't think of any specific examples right now - my mind is too fried from watching Saint Dracula 3D), and usually that'll be it. Not in this movie though, each time has at least TWO rounds of such quoting, and it seems another one pops up every 10 minutes or so. Corinthians, the Song of Solomon, Leviticus... books I thought I had forgotten (remember: I went to Catholic school for 8 years - they always skipped over St. Dracula's story though) came flooding back into memory, courtesy of gibberish dialogue in a bad vampire movie.
Oh yeah, the 3D. Well this was a 2D screening, so obviously I can't judge its quality, but I CAN tell you how the drive to show off the technology has had a detrimental effect on the film. Every establishing shot of an old castle or church runs for like 30 seconds, as the camera slowly pans around a spire or wall, which probably looks really cool (but still too long) in the format that few people will apparently get to see it. Apart from that and the ridiculous title sequence (swooping around a graphic - sort of like the 1989 Batman credits), I didn't quite see any reason for the extra dimension - it's a talky, action-lite movie set mostly in interior locations, and even the exteriors (like a goofy bit where the hero whips himself) aren't particularly interesting. So even if the technical details of the 3D process are top-notch (if I'm understanding, it was shot in 3D, not a convert), I still can't see much reason to spend the extra dough to see it that way, should the opportunity arise.
However, the out of nowhere musical number (which seems to be the focus of the film's insane push to get an Oscar nomination) is worth every penny. I don't know if it was its randomness (it appears over an hour into the film, in a scene that typically comes out of nowhere and has no real connection to the one before it), the fact that the singer sounded like Voltaire ("When you're evil..."), or just the sheer fact that it was a musical number - including dancing! - in the middle of an otherwise non-musical Dracula film that I found so intoxicating, but it was at that moment that I decided this was that special kind of bad movie that I wholeheartedly recommend to anyone with a sense of humor, an abundance of free time, and the pure love of how wonderfully random movie-going can be if you take the time to find everything that's out there. Thank you, Saint Dracula 3D.
What say you?