Richard Griffin is a busy man. The Internet Movie Database lists no less than 32 directorial credits to his name since 2000. In many cases, he's also acted as writer and editor on those releases. Choice titles include the likes of FEEDING THE MASSES, EXHUMED, SPLATTER DISCO, NUN OF THAT, THE DISCO EXORCIST and MURDER UNIVERSITY.

If you've seen any of the above, you'll know that Griffin has honed his craft well over the last fifteen years. You'll also have a fair idea of what to expect from one of his films: well-shot compositions, crisply edited action, and plot-driven films with bags of humour to go alongside their grindhouse-pleasing ingredients.

All of which neatly brings us on to his latest venture, THE SINS OF DRACULA.

This one begins with a troupe of church goers being conducted through choir practice by Pastor Johnson (Carmine Capobianco). Among them is the particularly puritanical Billy (Jamie Dufault), who is as clean-cut as he is vaguely dim-looking.

Via his girlfriend and much to Johnson's chagrin, he's encouraged to join a local amateur dramatics society in the promise of developing his considerable lead performing skills. He's initially reticent to stay with this motley bunch, however, as their open cursing and provocative body language go against his saintly principles. And his nose is decidedly put of joint when he learns that one of the group is homosexual. Billy prays to a man who was nailed to wood, as feisty Shannon (Sarah Nicklin) puts it, whereas his new gay acquaintance prays to be nailed by a man with wood...

But relax. This isn't about to descend into a litany of homophobic one-liners. Rather, the film then focuses then on the group's clandestine activities - such as murdering new recruits to their dramatic society, hacking off their limbs and feeding them to the coffin situated in their rehearsal building's basement.

Why? Because that's where Count Dracula (Michael Thurber) lies dormant. But not for long, as the blood of this lusty group's victims soon reanimates him into hungry, vengeful life.

Can Billy fathom what's going on in time to figure out how to stop the evil vampire's campaign of terror...?

With its tongue planted even deeper in cheek than usual, this at first feels somewhat lighter than your average Griffin film. A little trite even, perhaps. But as it progresses, it's hard not to be impressed by the sheer commitment of the camp cast, the garish colours which serve to bring some artiness to the cheap sets, and a brisk pace filled with knowingly cheesy gags (one character uses a victim's severed hand to pleasure another, and then quips that he "had a hand" when bringing her to orgasm ...) and regular bouts of agreeably old-school gore.

Cast-wise, Thurber and Dufault stand out. They're both Griffin regulars and their comfort with the director shows. The former in particular is always good value for money and he makes for a great Dracula here, despite the budgetary restrictions and inherent playfulness of the script. In fact, with a more polished and upmarket frame to showcase him in, this is the type of performance that would be lauded as a class interpretation of the Count.

It's nice to see Capobianco, of PSYCHOS IN LOVE fame, here too - even if he's underused.

Never dull, always entertaining and clever without ever being smugly "smart", THE SINS OF DRACULA works as fun. It stills a feels like it falls a tad short of some of Griffin's earlier efforts (the ambition and subtext of FEEDING THE MASSES; the dark impact of EXHUMED; the gloss of MURDER UNIVERSITY), but if you're looking for something unchallenging, peppered with jokes, gore and occasional breasts, then this may well fit the bill.

The film is presented here on MVD Visual's region-free DVD uncut and in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The picture, cropped by Griffin for that cinematic grindhouse effect (thankfully the only hint of alluding to retro cinema style is during the opening titles), is enhanced for 16x9 televisions and is very good indeed. It makes full use of the HD digital video shoot's sharp, clean possibilities. Images are crystal clear throughout, blacks are deep and noise-free; colours stand prominent and vivid.

English 2.0 audio plays without problem. All is evenly balanced, clean and easily audible during playback.

The disc opens to a static main menu page. From there, a scene selection menu allows access to the film via 12 chapters.

Of the bonus features proffered, the best is an audio commentary track from Griffin. Likeable, relaxed and generous with his insider reveals, this comes as a recommended listen for all aspiring filmmakers out there.

A second audio commentary track, from Nicklin and Dufault. This is a more anecdotal affair, frivolous and fun - but less engaging in the long run.

We also get a ridiculous (though enjoyably so) 6-minute short film from Griffin, entitled THEY STOLE THE POPE'S BLOOD. This is also available to watch freely on YouTube, however...

I like Richard Griffin. He works hard (he's more prolific than Dustin Wayde Mills, and that's saying something) and has an unpretentious air about his output. But THE SINS OF DRACULA, fun though it is, is not his finest 80 minutes.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by MVD Visual
Region All
Not Rated
Extras :
see main review