In other words, it’s more than a little dry, and a lot like watching a slideshow. Instead of being a first-class treatment of its undeniably interesting subject, it can’t afford standard doc fare like film clips, so it settles for scrolling over movie posters for anything not in the public domain, leaving us with grainy scenes from “Nosferatu.”
Shot, written and directed by Michael Bayley Hughes, his film
relies on many talking-head narrators. There’s really nothing wrong with that approach, as long as you don’t let them ramble, which he does. One unnecessarily showy interviewee wears a top hat and rolls his Rs; the guy is really into the thick of things, reminding one of taking a visitors’ tour and being at the mercy of its overly enthusiastic guide. Hughes also utilizes a lot of maps and beautiful scenery of Romania — or as beautiful as Romania can get.
Viewers will learn something about Stoker and his never out-of-print novel, like how he didn’t walk until the age of 7, that he introduced the word “undead” to a baffled populace, that he reportedly was lazy and may have died of syphilis if euphemisms are to be believed. Yet, the documentary never rises above the quality of a travelogue. It’s not an embarrassment; it just has no energy. —Rod Lott