With a title like The Impaler it’s a pretty safe bet that we are stepping into the origin of the Dracula legend, so it’s no surprise as the film opens with Prince Vlad Tepes sealing a pack with the devil by drinking a goblet of blood fresh from the slit throat of a Turkish warrior.
Cue to the present and seven friends celebrate their high school graduation in the Hollywood Hills. Obnoxiously cocky jock Adam (Christian Gehring) reveals that he has booked the original ‘Dracula’s Castle’ for the first week of their Euro trip and pretty soon we realise what’s being set up. Adam’s companions consist of greedy food obsessed singleton Greg (Mark Jacobson), techno nerd Sean (Rocco Nugent) and his girlfriend Levy (Katelynn Derenngowski), Adam’s materialistic squeeze Ashley (Christina Collard) and the mysterious Dominic (Teo Coligo) and his jealous partner Chelsea (Marcienne Dwyer). Dominic is of Romanian descent and has made a pact with Chelsea to remain pure until they marry.
Once in Romania the gang trek overland to the castle where the guardian of the castle, the fabulously sexy Veronica (played by one of the film’s writers, Diana Busuioc) greets them and shows them to their rooms. Over dinner they persuade Veronica to reveal the legend of how Vlad became a vampire and things start to take a creepy turn from there when Sean takes off to get a mobile signal and Greg heads for the kitchens to stuff his face.
I have to admit that when we found ourselves at the graduation party my heart sank a bit. As the generally unlikable characters of the gang of seven unfolded my initial thoughts were that we were in for yet another variation of the old ‘teens visit creepy old house and then we cheer along as each of them gets murdered’ stories, albeit with much better scenery this time around.
However The Impaler is much more than your average teen slasher. Yes some of the cast are set up to meet their ends in fairly predictable ways, but it is all executed very stylishly. The castle sets are all very dark and creepy and the suspense is lovingly layered through a combination of camera work, sound and score (by Ramin Kouska) leading to some genuinely unexpected shocks. Most of the female cast just do the daft girl goes to pieces sobbing and sitting down in the woods thing, but their weakness is more than counteracted by Veronica’s overwhelmingly sensual presence. The conclusion when it arrives is genuinely quite clever even if it isn’t a complete surprise, thanks to a fairly liberal sprinkling of clues throughout the movie.
Watch the trailer below:
The Impaler is due to be premiered at the Bram Stoker International film Festival in Whitby, UK over 24 – 27 October with the US premiere on Halloween itself!
For your further reading and viewing pleasure:
Vlad the Impaler: In Search of the Real Dracula by MJ Trow
True crime historian MJ Trow peels back the Dracula legend to reveal the really quite nasty man behind it all.
Dracula Prince of Darkness (Hammer 1966)
When Father Sandor warns four British tourists about visiting a Transylvanian castle, do they listen to him? Sounds familiar? Worth watching for Barbara Shelley’s transformation from repressed frump to predatory sexual vamp and a nice comic turn from Thorley Walters as the lunatic Ludwig.
Review by Simon Ball
Connect with Simon: @RealShipsCook or here.