(I know: This is technically a “vampire” flick, but this chick removes hearts and penises after sucking ’em dry. That’s “slashy” enough for me!)
Here’s the rub with 7 Sins of the Vampire: You’re watching and wondering why it looks the way that it does: like an ’80-era VHS SOV release — considering this came out in 2013, the era of digital cameras and software editing suites. Well, that’s because 7 Sins of the Vampire — shot and private-press released as Blood Seduction (year unknown) — was completed in 2002; its production began in the late-90s, not long after the completion and release of Snuff Kill in 1997. Personally, when considering how much Doug Ulrich and Al Darago improved as filmmakers across their three films, and the positive reception given to their best-known and distributed film, Snuff Kill, I’m shocked that it took a decade for the film — shot in Dundalk, Maryland — to make its first baby steps into national distribution platforms.
Another alternate title for the film — which sometimes appears as a tagline on alternate DVD pressings — is Invasion of the Vampire Hookers. Now, is team Ulrich-Darago going for an Al Adamson-patch job-starring-John Carradine vibe — without (thankfully) any John Carradine footage dropped in from another film? Probably, because these guys are one of us and have probably VHS O.D’d on way too many Al Adamson flicks with superfluous, edited-in-from-another-picture John Carradine (in lieu of superfluous John Rhys-Davies and Eric Roberts). Ugh. You’re making me remember Cirio H. Santiago’s inept Vampire Hookers and Nai Bonet’s inert vanity-fanger Nocturna: Granddaughter of Dracula — both with John Carradine. Oy. I don’t know if that’s a good thing . . . or a bad thing.
I hope you’ve read my reviews for Doug and Al’s previous three films (Scary Tales, Darkest Soul, and Snuff Kill) and previous SOV film reviews and analysis of the genre (click the “’80s SOV” tag at the end of this review to populate the site’s SOV reviews). You know how I feel about SOV films — and the respect I have for Doug Ulrich and Al Darago, who grew up as longtime, Patterson High School friends. Sure, 7 Sins of the Vampire is technically rough — and what SOV, whomever makes it, isn’t — and there’s artistic-disciplinary miscues, especially in the acting department. But team Ulrich-Darago’s storytelling matured in this ’70s drive-in styled, supernatural detective tale — that reminds of the law enforcement horrors of Christopher Lewis’s Blood Cult (1985) — concerned with two detectives who come to discover the recent rash of murders plaguing their city are being committed by a vampire pimp and his bevy of vampire hookers. And our vamp-pimp is a chauvinist and there can only be one: he can bite and turn any woman he wants, but the girls, after feeding, need to de-heart the Johns so they don’t turn. Oh, and remove their penis.
Groper and Butkus (our filmmakers Al Darago and Doug Ulrich) are rival cops, one always trying to outdo the other, always butting heads on cases. So, when they both end up at a crime scene with a man hanging by his neck and his guts slit open, Grouper calls it a murder: Butkus, a suicide. But that’s their relationship: opposites attract. Meanwhile, Groper’s grizzled “Dirty Harry” gets assigned a Slimski: a baby-faced rookie for a partner — whose teenage sister is the latest vampimp (a new word!) victim. It all comes to a head — pardon the pun — at the pimp and hooker’s abandon warehouse lair. It’s all very Carl Kolchak: The Night Stalker on a shoestring and couch change — and I like it. And it’s all wrapped up in just over an hour, making it the shortest film of Al and Doug’s quartet of films (Snuff Kill was the longest, at 80 minutes).
Is this gory? Of course. How gory? Well, when a John picks up one of our fair-fanged hookers, she doesn’t just fang ’em: she rips out his throat. And don’t forget the heart removals. Oh, and the penis-ripping. Oh, and this SOV ups its game with the casting of professional Baltimore-based actors — a first in the Ulrich-Darago’s canons — George Stover (100-plus credits; including John Waters films and Don Dohler’s The Alien Factor and The Galaxy Invader) and Vincent DePaul (140-plus TV and film credits).
So, yeah. Heart and penis removals . . . with subsequent licking, sucking, and munching. Lovely.
The DVD, a well-pressed and easy-to-purchase release via Amazon Prime and other online retailers, features a “Making Of” featurette, along with actor screen tests and make-up effects tests. Also featured is the 15-minute, black-and-white thriller-short The Devilish Desire of Dario Dragani (2012; thus why the DVD was issued in 2013). Shot by Mark Mackner in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for $100, it’s a modernized re-telling of the silent German short, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920). (But I’d have to film-drop the really cool Michael Caine black comedy, A Shock to the System (1990), with his put-upon executive resorting to murder to move up the corporate ladder.)
Here, Dario Dragani’s desires take a supernatural turn: he uses an office underling, Cecil, as a somnambulist to murder those who stand in his way to promotions — and winning the heart of Jane, the office heartbreaker. It’s very retro-homagey and very nicely done. You can watch a rip on Vimeo. Mackner — who has made four features films since 2008 — is completing his forth feature: Daisy Derkins and the Dinosaur Apocalypse. Now how can you pass up a film with a title like that?
The embedded clip below — courtesy of DarkFallFx — features the trailer and a couple post-production clips and camera test vignettes. When you go to that You Tube portal, you can also watch the short film The Prophet of Oz (2013), Doug Ulrich’s Christian-based inversion of The Wizard of Oz.
I’ve had a lot of fun revisiting and reviewing the Doug Ulrich and Al Darago canons this fine, and viewing-appropriate, October. I dig these dudes and so will you. Stream ’em.