One important detail left out of the official police report on Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow’s 1930s UScrime spree was the small, but significant part about the outlaw lovers’ supernatural encounter with the Prince of Darkness himself, Dracula.
Maverick B-movie filmmaker Timothy Friend’s entertaining vampire/gangster mash-up finds the outlaw duo cutting a swathe of bloody violence across the American landscape, where fate brings the hard-boiled lovers to the house of the deformed, bagheaded Doctor Loveless, who just happens to be harbouring the most villainous vampire of them all.
On a shoestring budget, Writer/Director/Editor Friend successfully crafts a believable universe with well-rounded characters, smart dialogue, and a lavish period setting, taking time to ensure we make a real emotional investment in the quirky narrative. Like From Dusk Till Dawn, this smartly written heist road-movie is careful not to take a sharp right turn into supernatural territory until its full-on, vampire batshit mental final third.
Veteran ‘scream queen’ Tiffany Shapis oozes class, sexuality, and charm as sassy Bonnie, a remorseless devil in a blood-spattered yellow dress, grinning and cackling as she slashes at throats with a straight-razor. She sparks zesty chemistry with her on-screen beau, portrayed with gutsy aplomb by Trent Haaga. Haaga plays the wounded tough guy role well enough, though his performance is occasionally so ’stagey’ that you may expect him to burst into song. He might not always convince, but does enough to ensure we care about this ruthless cold-blooded killer.
Come on, Vamp…make my day
We witness much of the action from the perspective of Loveless’ sister/slave Annabel (Jennifer Friend, wife of Timothy), a humorously naive woman-child, and reluctant assistant in her brother’s quest to resurrect the almighty fanged one. Kooky Indian headdress-wearing, harmonica-tootling Annabel emerges as likeable and sympathetic, her sub-plot providing the story with an engaging moral centre, even if at times the actress looks like she’s struggling not to giggle.
“How…did I get this part?” You’re the director’s wife.
Allen Lowman, as bag-headed, dermatologically-challenged scoundrel Loveless, unleashes full-blown scenery-chewing bombast with a gravelly, rasping clichéd villain voice to match. His blackguard is bags of fun and the surest sign this film is not to be taken remotely seriously, while Russell Friend (Timothy’s brother), makes for a suitably dashing, deep-voiced Dracula. While his screen time is brief, he makes quite an impression, delivering one of the picture’s most pleasing, macabre monologues.
The script is of a higher calibre than one might expect from such maniacally-monikered fare, full of twists and turns, including a sneaky red herring opening sequence. The banter sizzles, delivered by a cast that attack the material with vigour, while the plot draws us right in, keeping its cards close to its chest. When the creepy denouement does arrive, the pay-off features a wonderful twist that solidifies Bonnie andClyde’s status as the perennial outsiders whose love for each other knows no bounds.
Unfortunately, this road trip occasionally veers off into the realm of hokey twaddle. Loveless’ motivation for aiding Dracula is annoyingly never explained beyond the fact that they’re baddies and this is the sort of stuff movie baddies do. Friend’s dialogue can also verge on the self-indulgent and bewildering, like during one minor character’s exceptionally odd monologue about a manhood-maiming goat.
It’s not a carrot!!!!
It is a weird, awkward moment, an attempt, perhaps, at diverting, scattershot Tarantino-esque dialogue that falls horribly flat.
Friend also manages to crowbar in some unnecessary gratuitous nudity that relegates things to a regrettably avoidable, sleazy level. I guess B-movie audiences must expect to see some boobies.
Friend minimises the use of special effects, looking instead to dazzle us with his smart writing, though the FX that do feature are pretty poor. His dissolving vamps look abominable, while a dodgy CGI spiked fence, cooked up to make the doctor’s mansion look ‘creepier,’ is obviously fake and ill-judged. Loveless’ shoddy monster make-up, too, is a harsh reminder of the budgetary constraints. Features unveiled, the deformed doc looks like a lump of cheap, shiny, purple plasticine – he should really have kept that bag on.
For a Dracula movie, you really should expect more vampire action.
Do I have something in my teeth?
It takes far too long for our feisty duo to start blasting bloodsuckers, the discordant parallel narratives feeling like two completely unrelated films, until their eventual, contrived convergence. Frustratingly, the final battle is over all too quickly, with Dracula proving a disappointingly weedy opponent. The stakes never feel that high, though the brief gangsters versus vamps shootout is gratifyingly gory and explosive.
This creative mash-up may be awkward and uneven, but displays a lot of heart and crazy ideas, helmed by a shrewd operator who just about manages to keep all the plates spinning. In this alternate B-movie reality, where expectations are suitably lowered in accordance with the preposterousness of the film’s title, this rough-edged gem is an unlikely, rip-roaring triumph.
Take a Drink: each time Annabel does something ‘kooky.’
Take a Drink: whenever we actually see Dracula. (Spoiler: It’s not that often)
Take a Drink: every time Annabel looks like she’s about to piss herself laughing.
Bonus Shot: when Bonnie and Clyde FINALLY encounter some vampires.