Film Review: ‘The Impaler’

'The Impaler' Review: Derek Hockenbrough's Unintentionally

Offering up a bunch of American youths on a Romanian holiday, this weak low-budget horror-thriller finally pays off only in unintended laughs.

Rather than plain old Dracula, “The Impaler” names as its villain Vlad the Impaler, 15th-century Transylvanian prince and a source of vague inspiration for Bram Stoker’s fictive creation — though the real-life figure’s claim to fame wasn’t bloodsucking but rather liberal impalement of enemies during a notably cruel reign. Don’t expect further history lessons, however, from Derek Hockenbrough’s slasher pic: Offering up some American youths on a Romanian holiday as cannon fodder, it’s a weak low-budget horror-thriller that finally pays off only in unintended laughs. Limited theatrical bow on Halloween is unlikely to do more than raise the pic’s profile for VOD release.

A Hollywood Hills party introduces us to the usual rather mature-looking movie collection of alleged high schoolers (Web sources list one thesp as 31 years old), who are traipsing off to Europe together during the summer between graduation and college. Because Adam (Christian Gehring) has had a dream luring them there, the seven friends are starting their vacation with a full week at “Castle Dracul,” onetime home to guess who. Soon experiencing that same dream is Dominic (Teo Celigo), who’s of Romanian heritage and — because every horror movie needs a virgin or two to survive longer than other characters — is saving himself for marriage with fiancee Chelsea (Marcienne Dwyer).

They’re greeted by Veronica (Diana Busuioc, also credited with the pic’s story), the kind of “caretaker” who portends evil doings so subtly she might as well sport a tattoo of blood dripping from her smirking lips to her ample bosom. As she relates to her latest guests via a rather laughable historical flashback, the original Vlad (patronym Dracula) arrived home one day in the 1470s to find his castle being sacked by Turks, and pledged his soul to the devil to save his wife’s life. It doesn’t take a lot to guess who Veronica really is, or what restless spirit starts laying waste to the lodgers one by one.

These Yanks can’t die fast enough for the viewer, since even before bad things start happening, they’re whining things like, “Please don’t tell me we have to walk anywhere” and “It smells really old here.” You know that characters who, for expediency’s sake, could be labeled Bitchy, Slutty, Fatso or Stoner (that one played by Rocco Nugent, son of noted political commentator and cat-scratch-fever treatment advocate Ted) aren’t going to make it very far; ditto those who enjoy sex outside wedlock, or just pay too much attention to their cell phones.

But the violence is weakly handled, the pacing slack, and the atmosphere/suspense pretty much nil. What starts at and stays on the lower echelon of B-movie horror mediocrity for quite some time finally clicks into gear — though it turns out that gear is the one that drives the pic straight off the cliff of unintentional camp hilarity. Performances get worse as the characters get more annoying in the throes of crisis; by the time what are billed as “Demonic Concubines” turn up looking like Victoria’s Secret models, it’s hard to believe this isn’t all some kind of joke. Unfortunately, the tin-eared dialogue suggests that joke is on the filmmakers, not by them.

Tech/design aspects are adequate.

Film Review: 'The Impaler'

Reviewed online, San Francisco, Oct. 26, 2013. Running time: 86 MIN.


A Flawless Prods. release of a Full Moon Films presentation in association with Afflatus Productions. Produced by Daniel Anghelcev, Diana Busuioc, Derek Hockenbrough, Steve Snyder. Executive producer, Anghelcev.


Directed by Derek Hockenbrough. Screenplay, Hockenbrough, Steve Snyder, from a story by Diana Busuioc. Camera (color, HD), Snyder; editor, Ethan Holzman; music, Ramin Kousha; production designer, Joe Mauceri; costume designer, Brett Kreidberg; art director, Robert Bravo; sound, Dean Andre; sound designer, Holzman; re-recording mixer, Maui Holcomb; assistant director, Frederick Gourgue. 


Diana Busuioc, Teo Celigo, Marcienne Dwyer, Christian Gehring, Christina Collard, Rocco Nugent, Katelynn Derengowski, Mark Jacobson, Gregory Lee Kenyon, B.D. Freakin. (English, Romanian dialogue)

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  1. Dennis Harvey says:

    I wrote the character “portends evil doings so subtly she MIGHT AS WELL sport a tattoo of blood dripping from her smirking lips to her ample bosom.” I didn’t say she actually HAD blood dripping etc. etc. It’s an interesting coincidence if an image like that appeared in your trailer, but in my review the phrase was just something I thought up to illustrate what I saw as the obviousness of the character’s ulterior motives. Again, I have not seen your trailer. And again, I did watch ALL of your movie, right through to the last credit (as I had to copy down crew names and confirm the runtime anyway). I’m sorry if you have a problem believing that.

  2. Dennis Harvey says:

    I did watch your entire film via the link to an online screener provided by your publicist. I have not seen the trailer. I can understand your not being pleased by a negative review, but if you’re going to allege I didn’t actually see the film, could you please specify just what about my review was inaccurate?

    • Daniel says:

      Dennis, no need to get into the details of your very generic review, but here is a quick one: You wrote about the caretaker talking about “…blood dripping from her smirking lips to her ample bosom …” and clearly you are referring to the trailer scene where we show exactly that, trying to make the character look like the evil vampire. But that scene was not even included in the movie, it was a scene shot for the trailer to show something else, set the audience for a twist in the movie. In the film, if you watch it all the way to the end, you will notice that she is not the bad character but a victim fighting to bring back her true love , Vlad The Impaler. This is “the twist” that you can only get if you see the film entirely. Overall I felt that your review was superficial but that’s fine, it may not be your favorite genre or type of film. Just wish you would have taken the time to review it right. I may have been a bit rough in my previous comment, so I apologize; thank you for the review and do watch the film if you get a chance, you may find that there is a plot to it and understand the acting and why each actor did an amazing job representing one of the seven deadly sins.
      Thanks again for the review

  3. daniel says:

    I am the producer of this film and after reading this review I can guarantee that Mr. Dennis Harvey did not watch the film and was rather inspired by the trailer. Thank you variaty fir your review , shame on you.

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