Tag Archives: vampires

Day Shift (2022)

Check your shoulder, Bud
Check your shoulder, Bud

This action-horror-comedy was directed by J.J. Perry and was written by Tyler Tice & Shay Hatten. It stars Jamie Foxx, Dave Franco, Snoop Dogg, Natasha Liu Bordizzo, Meagon Good, Karla Souza, Steve Howey and Scott Adkins.

Poster
Poster

Bud Jablonski (Foxx) pretends to be a San Fernando Valley pool cleaner, but he is actually a vampire hunter. He earns his living by selling the teeth he extracts from the vampires he kills. Bud is currently a freelance hunter of vampires, but he really needs to make more money so that his ex-wife doesn’t move to Florida with his daughter. In order to pay for his daughter’s expensive school bills, Bud must go back to the vampire-hunting union that had kicked him out previously, because of his unorthodox hunting style that broke many of the union’s protocols.

Vampire!
Vampire!

Bud does get another chance to work with the union… but he is forced to work the day shift (which doesn’t pay as much) and he must also team-up with a strait-laced union rep called Seth (Franco).

To make matters worse, Bud has made an enemy of top vampire (and real estate entrepreneur) Audrey San Fernando (Souza), after he kills an aged female vampire that turns out to be Audrey’s daughter. Audrey swears revenge and sets her sights on Bud’s family…

The old vampire lady is actually Audrey's daughter
The old vampire lady is actually Audrey’s daughter

This sun-drenched, big & bright Netflix movie looks good, never drags, and has cool fight choreography. Some of the ways the vampires contort themselves during skirmishes are pretty novel and there are some fairly inventive kills!

A lot of these vampires are contortionists!
A lot of these vampires are contortionists!

I think the vampire-hunting union office in DAY SHIFT is an okay idea too, and I’m sure it was a world-building attempt to create a vampire-killing version of the hitmen organisation seen in the JOHN WICK films.

Snoop Dogg, playing a cool colleague of Bud’s called Big John Elliott, is not the greatest thespian ever, but he’s fun to watch when he’s on-screen. And I did really like Big Bertha: his lethal mini-gun!

Snoop Dogg is pretty tall, especially when he's wearing a stetson
Snoop Dogg is pretty tall, especially when he’s wearing a stetson
Snoop with 'Big Bertha'
Snoop with ‘Big Bertha’

Martial arts star Scott Adkins is good in a one-off action sequence, playing top vampire hunter Diran Nazarian. Actually, the more I think about it, the more I reckon I would rather have seen a movie about him and his brother Mike (Howey): they are great!

Jamie Fox, Scott Adkins, Steve Howey and Dave Franco
Jamie Fox, Scott Adkins, Steve Howey and Dave Franco

Within the mythos of DAY WATCH, there are different types of vampire, which are described and shown in the movie, but I must admit that I couldn’t really see what the differences were between most of them during the various action scenes.

Karla Souza is Audrey San Fernando
Karla Souza is Audrey San Fernando

The idea of ‘good vampires’, who choose to help out humans, is suddenly introduced later on in the story, without the concept being talked about previously, and I think this is an odd plot choice. During most of DAY SHIFT’s running time it seems that victims just become evil bloodsuckers if they are turned… and then, out of nowhere… characters can choose to be helpful to Bud!

The finale, involving main vamp Audrey kidnapping Bud’s family, is really rather weak, unfortunately. It’s the kind of ending we’ve seen in countless action movies before and it just lacks logic: why doesn’t Audrey just vampirize Bud’s daughter straight away, rather than keep her alive so that the hero dad can manage to save her? This finale is set in a large, pretty impressive, hidden Mayan-type temple, but the location isn’t really utilised in the action as much as I think it should have been. Shame.

When Audrey gets angry she gets ugly!
When Audrey gets angry she gets ugly!

Karla Souza, as villainess Audrey San Fernando, is okay, but I actually thought her main henchman Klaus, played by German actor Oliver Masucci, had a better look and old-school vampire vibe.

Oliver Masucci as Klaus
Oliver Masucci as Klaus

DAY SHIFT is colourful, forgettable fun.

Character poster - Jamie Foxx
Character poster – Jamie Foxx
Character poster - Snoop Dogg
Character poster – Snoop Dogg
Character poster - Karla Souza
Character poster – Karla Souza
Character poster - Meagon Good
Character poster – Meagon Good
Audrey sheds a vampire tear
Audrey sheds a vampire tear

The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973)

Dracula falls into a thorn bush
The Count ain’t happy!

SATANIC RITES was the eighth film in Hammer’s Dracula series and it was the seventh (and final) one to feature Christopher Lee as the undead Count. The film was the fourth one to star Peter Cushing as Van Helsing: he played the original Van Helsing twice and a descendent of Van Helsing twice in the Dracula series (and he played the original Van Helsing in 1974’s THE LEGEND OF THE 7 GOLDEN VAMPIRES too, which wasn’t part of the Lee series).

UK poster with artwork by Tom Chantrell

This film takes place two years after the events featured in DRACULA A.D. 1972 and deals with Van Helsing helping the Secret Service to discover why a group of elite members of the British establishment are performing satanic rituals at a large mansion. The trail leads to the mysterious property developer D. D. Denham, who turns out to be Dracula…

It's Dracula!
D.D.D… is Dracula!

As with DRACULA A.D 1972, I think this Dracula-in-contemporary-times flick is a fun viewing experience!

Let’s face it – THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA is an outlandish, pulpy yarn. It involves biker henchmen, the Secret Service, blood squib gunplay, a secret cabal of senior UK figures taking part in occult ceremonies, Scotland Yard, female vampires chained in a basement, death by fire sprinkler and Dracula planning to wipe out all of mankind with a weaponised strain of bubonic plague!

Black magic rites!
Black magic rites!
Sheepskin-waistcoated biker with a silencer!
Sheepskin-waistcoated biker with shades and a silencer!
Blood squibs!
Blood squibs!
Vamps in the cellar
Vamps in the cellar
A biker gets blasted!
A biker gets blasted!

Many Hammer fans dislike this eccentric mix of disparate elements, but I like this bizarre brew! Dracula’s demise is usually the butt of jokes because he ‘just falls into a thorn bush’, but I think the way the Count ends up with his own ‘crown’ of thorns (in this story the thorn bush is disliked by vampires due to its link with Christ’s crown of thorns) is effective visually and, anyway, it is actually Van Helsing who offs Dracula with a handy fence post.

Crown of thorns!
Crown of thorns!

With Joanna Lumley replacing Stephanie Beacham as Van Helsing’s granddaughter Jessica, Michael Coles returns as Scotland Yard’s Inspector Murray, seen previously in DRACULA A.D. 1972. Freddie (FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED) Jones plays a mentally unstable scientist, Valerie Van Ost is a Secret Service secretary who falls victim to Dracula and William Franklyn, famous in the UK for his lighthearted commercial voice-over work, is quite effective as Secret Service agent Torrence.

Dracula comes calling…
Secret Service secretary Jane becomes a vampire!
Secret Service secretary Jane becomes a vampire!
Joanna (THE NEW AVENGERS) Lumley is Van Helsing's granddaughter Jessica
Joanna (THE NEW AVENGERS) Lumley is Van Helsing’s granddaughter Jessica
Plague victim!
Plague victim!
Cushing has a cross!
Cushing has a cross!

About this movie’s copyright issues: Warner Brothers released the film under its original title in the UK, but they didn’t distribute it in the U.S. The film was eventually released in America years later as COUNT DRACULA AND HIS VAMPIRE BRIDE. In the 1980s the film was falsely believed to be in the public domain in America and released on video tape by several companies, using a transfer culled from a worn 35mm print. The rights reverted back to Hammer Films in the 1990s, however, and Anchor Bay acquired the video rights. THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA was then released officially on VHS and DVD. 

Original US poster
Original US poster

One thing I can say is that I’m really pleased Hammer didn’t go with its original title for the movie: DRACULA IS DEAD AND WELL AND LIVING IN LONDON (!)

Dracula gets killed yet again
Japanese poster
Japanese poster

Vampire Circus (1972)

Fangs anf blood
Fangs and blood…
Emil bears his fangs
Emil opens wide

Local villagers fight and kill Count Mitterhaus (Robert Tayman): a vampire who has been preying on the village’s children. As he ‘dies’, the Count curses the village, saying that the surviving children of those who attacked him will all die.

Count Mitterhaus
Count Mitterhaus

Fifteen years later the village is suffering from an outbreak of a plague-like illness, resulting in the place being quarantined from the surrounding area – if anyone tries to leave they are likely to be shot. But this doesn’t prevent a travelling circus from visiting the village, where it sets up camp to entertain the locals for the next few nights.

The dwarf removes his makeup
Beneath the makeup… is more makeup

Emil (Anthony Higgins), one of the circus performers, is actually the cousin of Count Mitterhaus, and it soon becomes apparent that the circus folk are out to kill those who were cursed by the Count and intend to resurrect his still-preserved body…

UK poster
UK poster

The actors playing the vampires in this Hammer production, directed by Robert Young, seem to all really overact when doing their fangs-out, neck-biting scenes and, amongst the various townsfolk, it is hard to see who actually is meant to be the film’s main protagonist.

Helga (Lalla Ward) shows her fangs
Helga (Lalla Ward) shows her fangs

Robert Tayman, as the Count, lacks the forbidding presence of Christopher Lee and certain plot points aren’t explained: how, for instance, is the female acolyte Anna Müller able to appear in the form of the circus gypsy woman (Adrienne Corri)?

Having said all that, there’s a lot to enjoy…

Dave Prowse flexes his muscles
Dave Prowse flexes his guns

Typical of Hammer films from this period, VAMPIRE CIRCUS mixes classic elements like a gothic castle, a Bürgermeister (played by Thorley Walters) and a bat-filled crypt with 1970s elements like nudity and some extra gore, such as the scene with the mangled corpses of the Schilt family (ripped up by a vampire panther) that Dora (Lynne Frederick) stumbles upon.

Panther attack!
Panther victim
One of the victims…

The circus setting is what gives this film its own distinctive feel. We get acrobats, a strongman (Dave Prowse), a dwarf who acts as the master of ceremonies, big cats, a gypsy woman and dancers.

The dwarf smiles scarily
Just because he’s smiling doesn’t mean that he’s nice…

Some of the circus acts involve Emil transforming into a black panther, acrobatic twins seemingly switching from bats to human form, and a sensuous dance routine involving a woman in tiger-stripe body paint. The transformations are conveyed by simply cutting between the actor and the panther (or bats), but the effect is fine, adding a ‘circus trick’ feel of the scenes.

Tiger lady dancer!

Another interesting element is the small hall of mirrors that houses a ‘Mirror of Life’, which shows people visions of a leering Count Mitterhaus or other vampiric tableaus. At one point the vampire acrobat twins are able to pass through this mirror, taking Dora with them.

There are two entertaining villagers-against-the-vampire fights (one at the start, one at the end), a death-by-falling-giant-crucifix scene, plus a novel end to the newly-revived Count: the vampire’s neck is jammed between a crossbow’s bow and stock and then the trigger is pulled, causing the bowstring to cut off the Counts head!

Brother and sister vampires die
The vampire brother dies from the same wound when his twin sister is skewered by the cross
The crossbow is used as a cross
The crossbow is used as a cross (before it then becomes a handy decapitation device)
A father discovers his dead sons
Children are often victims in the movie, giving it a nastier edge compared to other Hammer films

Oh yeah: the bats are generally handled well in this movie. Whereas earlier Hammer films featured puppet bats on wires, VAMPIRE CIRCUS uses real bats effectively, only using models for shots like a bat on fire (and there’s an animated cartoon bat used for the shot of the final bat flying away at the end).

The staked Count
The Count is staked… for now

Despite plot shortcomings and some fuzzy vampire lore, I think this is a watchable, colourful 70s slice of eccentric, quite gory Hammer horror fun.

US poster
US poster
Belgian poster
Belgian poster
French poster
French poster
Australian poster
Australian poster

Dracula A.D. 1972

Dracula holds out his hand
Respect the ring!
Dracula AD 1972 poster

In 1872 Count Dracula (Christopher Lee) battles Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) atop a runaway coach in London’s Hyde Park. Dracula gets impaled on a broken wheel spoke, causing him to disintegrate. Van Helsing also dies… just as a youthful Dracula acolyte (Christopher Neame) arrives on the scene and collects the powdery remains of Dracula. He hides the evil dust in a church graveyard where Van Helsing has just been buried, then the camera points up at the sky… and a jet plane flies overhead!

Dracula AD 1972 titles
A jet plane! In a Hammer Dracula film?!
Dracula is impaled!
Dracula gets spoked!

This entry in Hammer’s Dracula series is very enjoyable!

This was the first of Hammer’s Dracula series to take place in a contemporary setting, with Dracula being brought back to life in modern London by an acolyte called Johnny Alucard (also played by Neame). Dracula then preys on a group of young ‘hip’ partygoers, one of whom is actually a descendant of his arch enemy… Van Helsing.

Johnny Alucard
Johnny Alucard! Wait… what if you spell that backwards?

DRACULA A.D. 1972 (1972) was the sixth Hammer film to star Christopher Lee as Dracula, with Peter Cushing returning to play Van Helsing: the last time he’d played the part was in THE BRIDES OF DRACULA (1960), which hadn’t featured Lee. So this film was also the first to star both Lee and Cushing in their respective roles since DRACULA (aka HORROR OF DRACULA) in 1958.

Caroline Munro
Caroline Munro’s character doesn’t find the ceremony that funny anymore

This film is looked down upon by many Hammer fans and critics, and I am aware of its shortcomings. Dracula never strays from the derelict deconsecrated church and the ‘swinging London’ trappings seemed dated even at the time of the film’s release (as filmmaker Brett Piper pointed out to me a while back: the “kids” are some old men’s idea of “the younger generation”). It’s also hard not to smile at the scene where Cushing needs to use a pen and paper to work out that ‘Alucard’ is ‘Dracula’ spelled backwards!

Lobby card
Groovy!

But I think the modern day setting does add to the story: just how many more period-set Hammer Dracula stories could have been made? The ‘hippy’ protagonists are far more interesting than the rather bland leads in the previous couple of Dracula outings, Christopher Lee looks great as the Count and Cushing is good, as always, playing a descendant of Van Helsing. Christopher Neame is memorable as smarmy acolyte Johnny Alucard, who has a great fight with Van Helsing, Caroline Munro & Stephanie Beacham supply the Hammer glamour and Michael Coles provides solid support as Inspector Murray.

Johnny Alucard meets his end in the bath!
Bath time for Johnny
Michael Coles would go on to play Inspector Murray again in the next Hammer Dracula movie
Stephanie Beacham's character would also return in the next film, but this time played by Joanna Lumley
Stephanie Beacham’s character would also return in the next film, but this time played by Joanna Lumley

There’s an enjoyable final showdown between Lee and Cushing, where the contemporary score (guitars, etc) contributes to the sequence as Van Helsing combats the Count in the church ruin with a silver knife, holy water and a stake-filled pit.

Dracula is in trouble!
Van Helsing vs Dracula
Fight!

Mike Vickers’ great soundtrack has a blaxploitation vibe to it, really adding to the viewing pleasure of this film, which has been re-evaluated by the likes of Kim Newman, who chose DRACULA A.D. 1972 as one of his top 10 favourite vampire movies. Newman also featured a character called Johnny Alucard in his fantastic ANNO DRACULA series of novels.
Author and actor Mark Gatiss is a fan too, setting the third episode of his BBC/Netflix DRACULA (2020) miniseries in modern times. The episode sees the descendent of Van Helsing lying in a hospital bed, and the number of her ward is… AD | 072.

Dracula AD 1972 poster
The place: Kings Road, Chelsea

Give the movie another viewing, I’m sure you’ll dig it, man!

Dracula decays
Dracula is defeated once more… until the next time

Hammer pre-production flyer, illustrated by Tom Chantrell, for Dracula Chelsea '73", which became Dracula AD 1972
Hammer pre-production flyer, illustrated by Tom Chantrell, for Dracula Chelsea ’73”, which became Dracula AD 1972