Studio: Midnight Releasing
Director: Derek Hockenbrough
Writer: Derek Hockenbrough, Steve Snyder, Diana Busuioc
Producer: Daniel Anghelcev
Stars: Diana Busuioc, Teo Celigo, Christian Gehring, Christina Collard, Marcienne Dwyer, Katelynn Derengowski, Rocco Nugent, Mark Jacobson, Gregory Lee Kenyon
Seven high school friends take a trip to Castle Dracula in Transylvania where they become embroiled in a satanic plot to resurrect Vlad the Impaler.
NOTE: This film is available under the titles "Dracula: The Impaler" and also "The Impaler."
Suspicion is immediately aroused whenever writing credits are conspicuously absent from a movie’s opening titles. “The Impaler” slides in a “Story by” credit attributed to actress Diana Busuioc at the beginning, although the scroll at the end identifies Derek Hockenbrough and Steve Snyder as the names next to “Screenplay by.”
This is pure speculation, but when the three principal writers behind a movie are the director, the cinematographer, and the top-billed star, one can wonder if the story might simply have been made up on set as filming moved along. Although even if they did type something up and hand out printed pages to cast and crew, they didn’t create anything much more focused than an improvisational effort anyway.
The weird thing is, “The Impaler” has some potentially fresh takes on tired concepts hiding at its core. It is just that an uninspired production fails to capitalize on turning those twists into anything genuinely unique.
Two of the most overused setups in horror movies are the teen slasher and any rehash involving Dracula’s overdone origin. Yet instead of the familiar keg party in the woods or haunted house trespassing, this group of teens takes a Transylvanian holiday for a getaway in Vlad’s castle. And instead of the usual neck-biting and mesmeric seduction of Dracula’s reincarnated wife, “The Impaler” just about dismisses vampiric aspects altogether in favor of a focus on a pact made with the devil.
Cool enough. Throw in a thematic connection involving the Seven Deadly Sins as meaningful motivation underneath the premise and these are concepts I can get behind for a different take on old ideas.
Then “The Impaler” takes its dots and connects them with unoriginal lines of thought, plotting, filmmaking, and dialogue. The finished product results in both a by-the-numbers body count thriller and a predictable Dracula retread, the very things that the movie seemed to be setting itself up to avoid.
“I can’t believe we’re going off to college in just a couple months,” says Chelsea, one of the seven “teens” at the story’s center. I can’t believe it either. Unless they mean they are going there to drop off their kids, since they certainly look old enough to have them. It is barely six minutes into the runtime and the film has already exhausted the limits of disbelief suspension.
Even though nothing important would need to change if the cast were characterized as their actual ages instead of as 10 or more years younger, “The Impaler” insists on having a septet of high school stereotypes powering its engine. Beer pong playing and porn downloading discussions sound an immediate klaxon that the next 85 minutes are about to be spent with an insufferable lot of thin personalities.
Based on a dream involving a sultry woman and a creaking wooden door, apparent rich kid Adam is inspired to take six of his closest guy and gal pals to a castle in the Carpathian Mountains for a post-graduation celebration. And why not, since the group’s token male virgin Dominic is descended from Romanian bloodlines. Hmmm, I wonder where this is headed…
At Castle Dracula, the group meets Veronica, an alluring caretaker who bears a suspicious resemblance to a portrait of Vlad Tepes’ wife Elisabeta. The seven friends start revealing themselves as mostly despicable people, gorging on food, sleeping with someone else’s girlfriend, and incessantly checking a cell phone, like I wanted to do while watching this movie. Soon, they begin dropping one at a time, and an occult ritual mystery is uncovered that plans on resurrecting Vlad the Impaler from the dead.
“The Impaler” has an obviously low budget, a cast of unknown names, and behind-the-camera talent that has not yet reached a level of seasoned professionalism. These are understood ingredients in independent horror, and it might earn the movie some leeway if the effort on display had a sincerer appeal.
But even with decent enough starting blocks to build something out of inspired passion, “The Impaler” barely attempts traversing into original territory. Describing the acting as “not very good” would be a charitable way of putting it. Wonky editing cuts scenes together sloppily. And the whole package is wrapped with a growling death metal song over the end credits, hinting that the filmmakers are perfectly content with being just like every other average horror movie that audiences are destined to forget.
“The Impaler” comes out of the gate with a few bonus points in its favor based on potential from its premise. Then it squanders all goodwill with a presentation and production value suggesting that everyone behind the lens did not care about being different as much as they should have.
Review Score: 40