Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Be Our Guest, Be Our Guest, Put Your Patience to the Test: "Bram Stoker's Dracula's Guest" (2008)

Writer/director Michael Feifer makes a fatal mistake in the opening minutes of this low-budget film- a mistake the film cannot recover from.

Young Bram Stoker (Wes Ramsey), a real estate broker, is charged with finding a house in London for the mysterious Count Dracula (Andrew Bryniarski). Bram is also courting Elizabeth (Kelsey McCann), but her father (Dan Speaker) forbids the two to see each other for one year before they can become engaged, just to make sure their love is true. Elizabeth pouts and runs away, and as unbelievable coinkydink would have it, is kidnapped by Dracula. She's held in a cave as both Bram and Elizabeth's father (who has his own secret about the family bloodline) rush to the rescue.

The opening scene of the film has Bram finding Elizabeth in the cave, hearing that she has been raped and impregnated by Dracula, and swearing revenge. Then the film flashes back to a week earlier to start the story...why? Feifer's structural flourish makes watching Bram's trek across Europe completely pointless. We know he survives the dog attack, and the robbers in a house; and is uninjured in the forced suicide of his best friend, which he grieves for about twenty seconds. We know where Elizabeth will end up, so her dull escape from her father offers no suspense.

Feifer could have dropped the opening scene, but that would not have solved all of this film's problems. While the casting of Bryniarski, who looks like an NFL linebacker, as Dracula is interesting, the cast is terrible (sad, considering Ramsey's excellent work in "Latter Days"). This was shot in southern California, which does not substitute for England and Transylvania very well. Everyone tries an accent, and everyone fails. Feifer shot this on video, and I wish the money saved had been spent on a tripod. Many scenes left me woozy as the director tried to cover the lack of budget with a constantly moving screen. There is no gore, not even bloody bite marks, and the finale leaves too many unanswered questions, which is ironic considering the spoiler that kicks off the film.

The title, with Stoker's name included, is meant to sound literary and important. The resulting product would be unwatchable and disappointing. (*) out of five stars.