The Satanic Rites of Dracula
Review by Mike Finkelstein
Two years ago Dracula died (we know: spoilers!). This event was depicted in the movie Dracula A.D. 1972, and since then Dracula hasn't been heard from. However, a cult of demon worshipers have recently risen to prominence, taking girls and using them as sacrifices for their dark ceremonies. Now a British agency in charge of handling cases with occult ties is investigating these missing women, and somehow it all ties back to Dracula. Is the evil vampire lord back? Is he still looking for revenge against Van Helsing? Only time will tell...
It's rare that this reviewer watches a Hammer movie and doesn't have much to talk about. Normally we can discuss the sets and costuming if nothing else, noting how lush the production is, but The Satanic Rites of Dracula defies us. Nothing about this production was good. The best was can say was that it wasn't offensively bad, just boring.
From the start the movie has a muddled plot that doesn't really make much sense. The detective from the previous movie, Murray, is back as some kind of secret agent now (it's not entirely clear who he works for) and the movie is mostly about his investigation into the cult. Somehow that cult ties into Dracula, eventually, but the vampire is only in a few select scenes, so mostly we just see minions and other vampires. This all ties into some business scheme and Dracula's resurrection (which apparently happened off camera two years prior when no one was looking). Oh, and something about spreading the black death around the world to kill all the humans.
This last part is really dumb. Clearly, in the previous movie, it was established that vampires need humans alive to survive - they have to nourish themselves on human blood. If all the humans are dead from a plague, how exactly is that a win for vampires? I mean really, Dracula think things through.
This movie was so disappointing for so many reasons. Beyond the plot, the who style of movie was just chintzy. Nothing is filmed very well so it's hard to get a feel for what's going on, and since everything is still modern day (like the previous film) we can't even enjoy the lush costuming Hammer used to pride themselves on. It's just cheap and muddy all around.
And then there's the cast. As noted Dracula is barely in this movie. Van Helsing fares a little better, actually showing up in a few scenes, but he's not the main character of the movie -- that would be Det. Murray -- so aside from a few scenes at the beginning and the end, Van Helsing goes sight-unseen. The heavy lifting falls on the rest of the cast, then, most of whom this reviewer found dull. Murray was not an interesting character in his first film, and giving him the lion's share of work to do this time around was not a wise idea. Meanwhile the one other bright spot from the first movie, Jessica Van Helsing, has been recast for this sequel and the actress, Joanna Lumley, shows none of the spark or life of the previous actress.
In short, the Satanic Rites of Dracula is just a bad movie. It's not entertaining, it's not lively, but it's also not so bad it goes back around to being good. There's nothing so terrible about the movie it'll make you want to turn it off, but there's very little to keep you watching either. It's just... boring.