Friday, December 23, 2016

The Trail of Dracula

Director - David Mitchell (Personal Ghosts, Nocturnal)
Release - 2013
Genre - Horror
Tagline - "From folklore to screen"
Format - DVD (Personal Collection) (Screener)

Rating (out of 5):

     My generation of horror fans grew up in a time when blood, gore and boobs were what defined horror.  When I say my generation I am referring to horror fans that were born at the tail end of 1970s and early 80s.  These people were born or grew up during the golden age of slashers and completely missed the drive-in era.  What set us apart from the previous horror generations was the type of films we had.  We had the Friday the 13th series, A Nightmare on Elm St. series, the works of Lucio Fulci, Dario Argento, John Carpenter and so on.  These films are now iconic and whenever you mention horror this is what most people think of.  However, as much as we love these films that does not make them perfect.  Not by any means but prior generations had a different kind of horror.  Sure, it had blood, some gore, and sexy women but they had stories that provoked your imagination.  Until the late 70s and early 80s almost every generation of horror fans prior had an incarnation of Dracula they could latch onto.  The 30s and 40s saw the Universal Dracula that is easily the most recognizable Dracula while the 50s saw the rise of Hammer Horror and their Dracula series that would carry into the 70s where it would die.  Since then horror has been unable to bring a Dracula character that would could love and enjoy as much as previous generations had.  Recently, I was sent the documentary The Trail of Dracula from Intervision Film Crops.  This documentary covers Dracula in a literary sense before going over Dracula in cinema.  This was something I was very interested in so I want to thank them for sending this one my way!
     The documentary begins with a little history of the folklore and myths surround vampires.  What they are like and how Bram Stoker and America changed what they are to what we know them as today.  Prior to this they were almost like modern day zombies until they were romanticized.  We then touch on Stoker's take on vampires with his legendary tale Dracula before touching some on his personal life.  We quickly move to the film Nosferatu which was the first adaptation of Stoker's tale before moving to stage plays and then back to Dracula in context of film starting with the Universal Dracula film starring Bela Lugosi and making its way to the Hammer Horror Dracula series starring Christopher Lee.

     I love documentaries.  I've said this so many times before.  I often catch myself rushing from documentary to documentary on Netflix about stuff I have no knowledge of.  Just recently I finished a documentary on indie games, steampunk, and  revisited one of my favorites, Winnebago Man.  With that being said, I rarely visit a horror themed documentary because they tend to not teach me anything new.  Luckily, The Trail of Dracula was somewhat informative in many aspects.  This documentary has some very interesting interviews ranging from authors and historians to film critics and movie buffs.  The interviews at the beginning of the film are mostly authors of vampire literature, Bram Stoker historians, and anthropolists who study European cultures.  This gives the viewer some insight to the culture and folklore surround vampires before moving on to movie historians and fans of Dracula who have dedicated their lives to the character.  With that being said, the direction of the interviews seems to be lacking.  At the beginning of the documentary we start out with some vampire folklore prior to Stoker's Dracula before we slowly spill into Stoker himself.  This transition is not seamless and we see some jumping back and forth between topics which results in a little confusion.  It feels like the editing is just a little off.  Also, this section of the story is not that in depth.  The myths and folklore around vampires is so rich that a mere 20 to 30 minute segment in the film is nowhere near enough time to cover that enormous topic.  As the documentary progresses we hit Dracula in cinema and this section was more focused towards Universal and Hammer's Dracula.  Some other Dracula films were mentions but very little attention was given to them.  Would have loved to see a more in depth look at some other Dracula films over the years instead of the ones that are the most common and well known.  Finally, this documentary flows very well and seems to be edited together nicely with the exception of the chaotic first quarter of the film.  After this first few hiccups the film runs smoothly and follows one solid topic at a time.  Overall, The Trail of Dracula is a solid horror documentary that explores the myth and legend of Dracula from his literary roots to his larger than life film history.  Very few legends can topple the legend of Dracula and this documentary does him justice.

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