The Worst Dracula Movie Ever Made
Hello! Has this ever happened to you? You're up late one night, unable to sleep and also maybe stoned, and suddenly you have a hankering to see Count Dracula throw down with a notorious Old West outlaw, but in a movie that doesn't understand vampires, the Old West, or how to be a movie? Well, then, good news!
Billy the Kid Versus Dracula finds our titular bloodsucker somewhere vaguely in the American southwest, having probably followed a German family there, for reasons never explained. He definitely gets turned on by a photo of a teenager, though, and decides to make her his bride, beginning a convoluted process of murder, gaslighting, inflaming racial tensions, and not using his mind control abilities, all so he can groom a child the old-fashioned way – by posing as her uncle. The teenager, Betty, meanwhile, is already engaged to Billy the Kid, retired from outlawing and leaning hard into that suburban soccer dad lifestyle. Cue the versus.
What follows is less of a horror/Western mash-up than a briskly-paced drama about stolen identities, the interpersonal politics of cattle ranch management, and generalized xenophobia. Immigrants and Indians are disparaged constantly, with the movie swapping out the standard racist characterizations of Romani for the standard racist characterizations of Native Americans. It also seems to think Germany and Transylvania are one and the same, despite there being most of a continent between them.
The movie's understanding of vampire lore is similarly questionable. Vampires are explained as "ghosts" that leave their bodies at night, despite this not happening in the movie, nor being a thing anyone's ever said. Dracula's in the sunlight all the friggin' time, even though he makes a point of explaining that this isn't a Blade situation. And, speaking of blades, Dracula also apparently likes to slit the throats of lambs for fun – not bites, but slits, like, with a knife, and not as a man, but as a bat, according to eyewitnesses.
Drac's ultimately vanquished not with a wooden stake to the heart, but a silver scalpel the size of a bowling pin – and the silver has nothing to do with it. He literally sets up his lair inside a silver mine. Because he loves caves. Like, too much. Like, I'm pretty sure caves sexually arouse him. Also, bullets don't hurt Dracula, but a gun being clumsily thrown at his head knocks him out cold.
And, again, this really bears repeating: rather than a suave count or a debonair landowner or literally anything else, Dracula, King of the Vampires, chooses to be a creepy pedophile – and the uncle of his prey – and everyone seems fine with this.
Speaking of everyone: Billy the Kid's hiding his real identity, except when he's not. Also, he's not dead? And is maybe middle-aged now? This is never actually addressed. He's friendly with a sheriff (who knows who he is) despite being notorious for killing sheriffs and is easily bested by a farmhand with a dump-truck ass (who also knows who he is).
Billy also spends the movie rocking a wildly anachronistic V-neck sweatshirt. His fiancée, meanwhile, clearly walked off the set of The Brady Bunch.
The effects are terrible, with the same shot of a paper bat on a string being used every ten minutes. Saloons are decorated like Italian restaurants, and wolfsbane is waved around despite it pretty clearly being a chile pepper plant.
None of which is surprising once you learn that the "film" was shot in eight days and, according to the producer, was made "as cheap as movies can be made." John Carradine – who had previously played Dracula for Universal Studios' House of Frankenstein and House of Dracula, and was, presumably, tricked, Keanu Reeves-style into making this turkey – repeatedly called Billy the Kid the only movie of his lengthy career that he regretted.
Despite all of this, Billy the Kid Versus Dracula had a surprisingly long run as part of a drive-in double-feature alongside the similarly schlocky Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter and has since been released on both DVD and Blu-ray, thanks fan petitions. Because, much like our love of vampires, audiences seem to have an endless fascination with things that suck.
Eirik Gumeny is the author of the Exponential Apocalypse series, a five-book saga of slacker superheroes, fart jokes, and assorted B-movie monsters, and he recently added werewolves and assassins to The Great Gatsby. He’s also on Twitter a bunch.