Despite its title and promotional artwork, it should be noted that The Curse of Dracula is barely about vampires. The latest release from Jinga Films – known as The Curse of Valburga overseas – brings Tomaz Gorkic’s Slovenian horror to UK audiences, but if you go in expecting a horror based around the iconic vampire, you’ll be disappointed. Instead, it’s much more of a cannibal-based comedy-horror, and more often than not, it has you pining for the vampire romp that was promised.
The film follows two brothers, Bojan (Marko Mandic) and Marjan (Jurij Drevensek), petty criminals whose latest get-rick-quick scheme involves hosting a tour of the ancient Valburga mansion, rumoured to house the cousin of Count Dracula. It starts off fine – the tour group are a rabble, but manageable – before members start dropping, and a much darker underbelly emerges in the basement of the mansion…
Yes, it’s been said before, but there’s really not much vampirism here, which begs the question of what The Curse of Dracula‘s identity actually is. It goes for a comedy-horror blend, but more often than not the comedy is shocking: we’re introduced to Bojan with him leering at a woman, and the garish misogyny of him and his peers makes it immediately impossible to like him. From there, the film just never seems to find its tone – you’ll go from scenes of characters being ripped to shreds by a saw to one of the tourists, a porn director, planning his next shoot with two models. This particular subplot feels so unnecessary, and encapsulates the tonal mismatch that permeates the film. The horror is barely held together – with villains devoid of much motivation, and violence that is engaging, but repetitive – but the comedy is really lets the film down.
Perhaps what’s most disappointing is how The Curse of Dracula starts as a really promising pastiche on horror. The premise behind the brothers’ plan – capitalising on the desires of tourists to see horrific events by setting up a fake horror tour – could’ve been used as a really interesting way of subverting our expectations of what a horror film could be, but Gorkic doesn’t capitalise on this. It tries to have its proverbial cake and eat it too – satirising the public’s desire for horror while also completely playing into it – but this lacks the critical viewpoint that seemed so refreshing to start with.
It’s a shame, then, because on a technical standpoint the film really holds up. You can’t beat practical gore effects, and blood supervisor Miha Rainer does a great job here, and the set design, particularly towards the end, is equally engaging. The script is the issue, though: it spends far too long being bland, only turning into anything interesting in the very last shot of the film.
And it’s really hard to look past this when thinking about The Curse of Dracula. It feels inspired by seedy, gruesome horrors like From Dusk Til Dawn, with two distinct halves and a bubbly tone throughout, but the execution here is much less effective. The characters are dull, their motivations are flimsy, and the ideas that are interesting here: the comment on horror culture, and the intriguing final scene, just aren’t used. The film doesn’t play to its strengths, and for that reason it ends up very forgettable.