Subferatu (2020) poster

Subferatu (2020)


USA. 2020.


Director/Screenplay – Patrick Penta, Producers – Tom Hillman, Patrick Penta & Laura Pomeroy, Photography – Craig Melville, Music – Shwilson. Production Company – Pontius Films.


Mike Dooly (Captain Gavin McCloud), Martyn G. Krouse (Commander Rudolf Braunschweiger), Robert Pidde (Herr Gluhwein), Claire Webber (Scarlet), Michael Reed (Lieutenant Valentiner), Thomas Nichols (Roosevelt), Chris Bender (Ribbonclerk), John Gardner (Atticus), Nate Pringle (Lieutenant Bierficker), Jonathan Dichter (Lieutenant Meine), Jeremy Moller (Grady the Butler), Chelsea Tolle (Ellen/Vampire)


Gavin McCloud, the captain of a cruise ship, and several of his crew are rescued after being shipwrecked at sea. They discover they are aboard a German U-Boat captained by Rudolf Braunschweiger. Braunschweiger and his crew were serving in World War II and believe it is still 1945 just after Germany has lost the War. They are on their way to the USA to surrender where Braunschweiger hopes that he can obtain a career on Broadway. As the Germans teach McCloud and his crew the workings of the submarine, the others realise that the secret cargo the U-boat is carrying is a vampire.

Subferatu was the second film for filmmaker Patrick Penta. Penta had previously made the non-genre Early Music (2017), as well as The Life and Times of Harry Jobs (2015- ), a series of spoof shorts that air on a YouTube channel.

Subferatu didn’t get many good reviews. The idea of a vampire on a German WWII submarine seemed a bit of a head scratcher but I decided to go with it. It seemed like another variant on The Keep (1983) and its plot of Nazis confronting an ancient evil imprisoned in a fort in Romania. Maybe a comedy version of The Keep, although this turns out to not quite be the case. Six months earlier there had also been the Australian-made Blood Vessel (2019) about shipwreck survivors encountering vampires aboard a German vessel at sea, although that was played serious.

It very quickly becomes apparent that Patrick Penta is less interested in the vampire and horror element (or even horror comedy element) than he is the comedy element. Everything is played in terms of broad farce. The performances are all at a level of hysteric pitch only slightly less than that of tv’s Allo ‘Allo (1982-92) – Robert Pidde delivers his performance with an outrageous fake German accent in a high falsetto. In particular, Mike Dooly as the American captain gives a loud and over-stated performance as though he was on stage and was still thinking he has to project to be seen by those in the back row. Everything is played with a self-conscious silliness.

Mike Dooly, Martyn G. Krouse, Claire Webber and Thomas Nichols in Subferatu (2020)
(l to r) Captain Mike Dooly, German commander Martyn G. Krouse, Claire Webber and Thomas Nichols

Penta gives us several scenes a few minutes in taken directly from Nosferatu (1922) which tends to set up the suggestion that the film is going to play out as a major homage. The disappointment of the film is that its vampire gets to do almost nothing throughout. She makes a few appearances but Penta seems disinterested in any of this side of things. Where Penta’s interest lies is with the scenes of the various Americans and German submarine crew interacting, which could have easily played out as a regular comedy without any vampire element.

The film also never does anything to explain why a WWII era German U-boat and its crew happens to have temporally displaced in the present-day. This does lead to some amusing culture clash moments – like a scene where the Germans prepare to torpedo jet skiers – but sits in a confused vacuum as to why things are happening.

Trailer here

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