'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.

Production

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.

Crew

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. 

With

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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