With a title like Lust For Dracula, one quite naturally expects either porn or a long-lost Hammer film. Probably the former. To be sure this 2004 direct-to-dvd flick is very erotic, quite explicit in many ways, and came out from a company called Seduction Cinema. Sounds like porn, albeit softcore. You can certainly treat it like porn, if you like. Who’s to stop you? But that would not, in the end, really be fair.
For one thing writer/director Tony Marsiglia does indeed have an artistic vision. Nor does it come down to “sex is fun.” His films have a surreal quality to them almost but not quite the equal of Rinse Dream and it shows with every frame. He re-imagined more than one classic horror tale and genre, infusing them with lots of lesbian sex but also genuine drama and a disturbing take on reality as well as mental health. Never moreso than in this.
On the imdb page, two plot synopses appear. Neither has much to do with the actual plot. Indeed figuring out the plot seems one job given squarely to the audience. In essence, this much seems clear (kinda):
Mina Harker (Misty Mundae) is the unhappy barren young wife of pharmaceuticals tycoon Jonathan Harker (Julian Wells) who keeps her drugged. One side effect of this is that she doesn’t notice her husband is a woman! Another is madness. The poor girl, who longs for a child, fantasizes a doll called Little-Bat is her child. Then, she attracts the notice of a mysterious raven-haired woman (Darien Caine). One night Mina meets the woman, who is evidently Count Dracula and the two fall in love.
Now, at the same time Mina’s sister Abigail Van Helsing (Shelly Jones) stalks Dracula in a manner that most resembles some kind of Acid Trip. She seeks to destroy Dracula but struggles also with her deep attraction to the vampire–who in turn leads her on a psycho-sexual odyssey nowhere near as lurid as it sounds. She’s trying to help Abigail achieve some new level of consciousness. Meanwhile, Jonathan has as her allies a vampire named Sara (Andrea Davis) and a young woman Sara loves and keeps drugged to believe she too is a vampire (although by film’s end she might well have transformed).
Marsiglia based this on a play he wrote in college, and from the DVD commentary as well as the film itself he clearly has centered his adaptation around far more than copious female nudity and lesbian sex scenes. Those are there! Don’t get me wrong! But more fundamentally he’s really taken his cue from the character of Renfield. This character is in one sense nowhere in the script. In another way, he’s everywhere because so many characters like him need professional (and ethical) care from mental health professionals. Simply, everyone is Renfield. Or almost everyone. It is a paranoid world-view, where to some extend madness is the only reasonable path in an insane world. The “sane” characters (if any can be called that) seem the most ruthless and most repellent. Even the vampires come across as not so terrible, especially Dracula. She at least seems capable of love. She also seeks to help Van Helsing in some strange way.
Let us also not forget the film is funny a lot of the time! Mina’s reaction to Dracula’s calm assertion she’s a thousand years old makes for more than a few smiles. Personally I found the scene where Dracula invisible watches the two sisters argue, neither one of them seeing her, worth a giggle.
Plenty of folks won’t like this film. If you’re much a prude, give this one a pass (rather a no-brainer that). Likewise if surreal cinema offers no appeal, this will frustrate. Dracula purists will find this appalling, nearly as much as Bram Stoker himself! But then, this feels more like a nightmare inspired by the novel rather than a straight (or lesbian, as the case might be) adaptation. And by “nightmare” I do mean as in a dream of horror. For one thing this movie has blood. Lots of it. For another it has horror, not just death and madness but rape and even deeper tragedies. Many parts of this film titillate, even arouse. No surprise there. But one can be moved. In the end, if you can find your way into entering into the film as you might a more linear flick, you’ll also be disturbed.
Which is actually something of an accomplishment when you think on it.