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Dracula’s Last Rites (1980)

aka Last Rites
Directed by Domonic Paris
Paragon Home Video VHS

THE FILM
Dracula decided to take a personal day. In his absence, the office expectedly became a bit of a mess, but no one missed a deadline. Let’s hear it for hard work.

Director Domonic Paris has a great name. Before taking the T&A out of the T&A comedy (Splitz) and blazing a path through the magical land of 80s compilation tapes (Film House Fever, Bad Girls In The Movies), he also made one great film. Serving both as Paris’s debut and (so far) career apex, Dracula’s Last Rites is a quiet, sincere dip into homespun horror circa 1980. Don’t ignore your expectations: The edges of set ceilings are in plain view. Seasons roll over twice in the span of two days. Dracula does not appear in the film, but Mr. Lucard does. Feeling restless? I haven’t even gotten to the really good stuff yet.

Inside Mr. Lucard’s funeral home, you’ll find vampires with bad eyes, even worse teeth, and a very unconventional lifestyle. Bald Lucard spends his days collecting the almost-dead in the guise of an undertaker, sucking their blood with his friends, then staking the victim before new fangs sprout. Enter Mr. and Mrs. Ted Fonda. Marie’s (that’s Mrs.) mother hits the couch after a stroke. Lucard arrives before Marie does. Ted thinks that something’s fishy. He’s right, but it’ll take the greatest fake-dummy-smashed-through-a-foyer-window scene ever filmed to find out exactly what.

If the mild Dracula’s Last Rites didn’t seep with stylish, no-fi sincerity, we’d be in trouble. By keeping the plot simple, yet haphazard, director Paris lets the surface level elements shine through. The fishy-eyed camera placements make for a consistently well composed backyard movie. Think Nathan Schiff with more resources and the participation of adults. Morbid subject matter and dreary locales mix with whispery moments of incidental eeriness. Moogs chime in with analog mood. The general movement of the film makes little sense, but the sum rarely suffers. The gloom is too thick to clear.

Drac’s back and he’s pleased by what he sees. Did anyone even miss him?

AUDIO AND VIDEO
Rough, but very ready. The screen was sometimes layered with transparent yellows and greens. Ghosting hops on during darker scenes and rides it out ’til the end. The mono sound was kept company by a marvelous layer of chunky hiss. This is one case where the chapped presentation adds an enormous amount of personality to the film itself. As I’ve come to realize about films like Ogroff and The Devil Master, Dracula’s Last Rites wasn’t built for the DVD age. It just wouldn’t make sense.

EXTRAS
You’re always a peach, Paragon. Following the feature, we get fifteen minutes of sleaze-crud trailers for hits like New Year’s Evil, Doctor Butcher, M.D. (gross!), Prime Time (insane!), and Escape From Death Row. Sweet and juicy.

FINAL THOUGHTS
Dom Paris gave ‘em heck and made out just fine. Dracula’s Last Rites is not a crucial addition to your collection, but it’s great for what it is: an overcast slice of cut-rate Americana trash. Give it a tumble sometime.