Good intentions go horribly wrong in this film. This horror film is in black and white and, as the title suggests, the vampire as well as everyone else in this movie’s world are deaf and communicate through sign language, billed as “Signscope” in the movie posters and in the opening credits, as if this was a pioneering technical gimmick on a par with Sensurround. (Although considering how lame Sensurround was there may be something to that)
Never fear, though, there is also voice-over narration provided by different people for each actor, so that people who don’t know sign language can follow the story. Obviously this is all very noble, and in fact Peter Wechsburg, who produced this film and stars as Deafula, was responsible for an all-sign language newscast for the hearing impaired. That newscast originated in Portland, OR, which is also where Deafula was filmed.
Unfortunately, noble motives aside, this film proves that certain talents are needed to create an effective horror film and those talents were noticeably in short supply when Deafula was put together. (In England, the BBC series See Hear did this concept in a much more skillful and tasteful way, adapting several classic stories for the hearing impaired, including A Christmas Carol)
Our vampire, Deafula, is Steve Adams, a preacher’s son who, when the blood-lust is upon him, transforms into Deafula in a metamorphosis so thorough it’s more like a werewolf transformation. Steve’s hair-color changes from blonde to black, including his beard, his nose for some reason gets MUCH bigger and in one of many elements of this film that defy any pretext of logic, his street clothes turn into the traditional vampire’s garb of all-black formal wear complete with opera cape.
When his blood-lust is sated, he turns back into Steve and his clothing reverts to his casual street-wear. On top of that, Steve sometimes turns into Deafula in broad daylight, and has no aversion to holy objects, as he has spent a lifetime attending the church where his father preaches. Obviously we’re dealing with a very bizarre version of the vampire myth a la the horrendous film The Vampire’s Ghost.
It turns out Deafula is a human/vampire hybrid, and ever since he was born (and his mother, naturally, died in childbirth) his father has been providing him with some of his own blood on a monthly basis to feed his son’s peculiar appetites. A growing boy gets very hungry, though, and among Steve/Deafula’s childhood flashbacks we see him ravenously biting the neck of his puppy one sunny afternoon and draining its blood.
Meanwhile, Portland, OR is enduring the worst reign of terror since Hello, Larry was set there, as Deafula’s body count is now in the dozens. A very odd and very cranky police detective is in charge of investigating the killing spree and the department has saddled him with a British consultant from Scotland Yard, who is an expert on vampires. This consultant looks like a lawn gnome and sounds senile but he says he killed Dracula single-handed. Later in the film a flashback shows us a newspaper headline supporting this claim. No, I’m serious.
Our lead detective scoffs at the notion of vampires, but his own theories are even more out of touch with reality. He states the twin fang-marks on the victims’ throats made him at first suspect it was a wolf behind the killings (?) and as if that wasn’t strange enough he says he rejected that notion once some of the victims started getting killed in their bedrooms (it being a well-known fact that wolves aren’t allowed to enter bedrooms I guess).
Eventually Deafula comes face-to-face with the woman who served as a midwife at his birth. She’s named Amy and she’s been heavily into witchcraft ever since the horrific things she witnessed when Deafula/Steve was born. Witch Amy comes complete with a lackey named Zork who has a hunchback and … tin cans for hands. (Idle cans are the Devil’s workshop) Yes, I guess it’s supposed to be this film’s version of “mute” since without hands he can’t communicate in sign language like all the other characters can.
Amy says Zork was an evil man, so Satan took his hands. (This provided me with a mental picture of various mothers haranguing their pubescent children with the warning “Keep that up and your hands will turn into cans!”. Hey, it makes as much sense as saying they’ll go blind.) With the creepy, yet idiotic, faces he’s always making Zork is one of my all-time favorite supporting characters and I’d love to see him tie the knot with Petra, Keeper Of The Graves, from the Andy Milligan movie Blood!
Amy relates the story of Deafula’s birth and reveals that his father was none other than Dracula himself. Deafula wants to confront Dear Old Dad and makes his way to Drac’s coffin, where he pulls out the stake in Pappy’s heart.
What follows is the dumbest and most illogical scene in a movie loaded with them. The guy doing the voiceover for Dracula while he signs actually does a bad Bela Lugosi voice for him. Drac resurrects Steve/Deafula’s mother (don’t ask) and in the ensuing battle Deafula is saved by his mother, Maria, and by a ring that was a gift to Dracula from Satan himself, and from Drac to Maria, from Maria to Amy and from Amy to Deafula. The tag line for this flick should have been “Never before has regifting been so terrifying!”
Deafula and Mommy Maria re-stake Dracula, causing Mom to die once again, also. Next thing we know Steve is preaching at his father’s church (Dad died earlier in the film in one of the most laughably inept depictions of a heart attack ever presented on film) when the Scotland Yard consultant fingers him as the man behind Portland’s vampire killings. Enjoyably enough, a puddle of vomit was a crucial clue for the Britisher.
For some reason, now that he’s been exposed as Deafula, Steve is suddenly vulnerable to all the crosses in the church and also to sunlight and he dies spouting a demented, albeit impassioned, speech about sin and forgiveness.
We viewers are left with several questions, including:
a) How did our 2 detectives know to investigate the deaths of the 2 motorcycling hippies, since neither of them was bitten by Deafula, he just used his vampire hypnotic powers to send them driving over a cliff
b) What is the significance of the frequent use of the number 200 in this flick? I guess if Discordianists can have the Law of 5’s this film can have the Law of 200
c) Was the cranky detective really taking a leak when he had his back to the camera?
d) In a world where the Scotland Yard man’s slaying of Dracula prompts a newspaper story complete with a headline saying “Dracula Is Dead”, why does the cranky detective doubt the existence of vampires?
e) To what non-obscene use could Witch Amy possibly have put a simple-minded, hunchbacked servant with cans for hands?
f) Why would Satan’s ring disappear from Amy’s place every time Steve turned into Deafula?
g) Why did Steve let his father go on feeding his own blood to him once a month when he was chowing down on the blood of people in Portland every day and night?
h) Why was Deafula ever feeding on humans at all when the film made it clear he could drink animal blood? Dogs or cows would have worked just as well.
i) How come Steve’s puppy didn’t come back from the dead as a vampire like the puppy in the horror film Dracula’s Dog?
j) And most importantly, since the Scotland Yard man killed Dracula in England why was Drac buried in a cave underneath the Portland Museum?
What are you waiting for? This film is hilariously bad and the line “A moment ago I asked for some peanuts” is sure to become a catchphrase with you and your friends.