02nd Feb2014

‘Dracula: The Dark Prince’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Luke Roberts, Jon Voight, Kelly Wenham, Ben Robson, Holly Earl, Stephen Hogan, Richard Ashton, Poppy Corby-Tuech, Vasilescu Valentin | Written by Pearry Teo, Nicole Jones, Steven Paul | Directed Pearry Teo

dracula-dark-prince-van-helsing

Dracula is one of the most prolific, some would say overused, characters in fiction – from literature, to theatre, to cinema and television, Dracula has been one of THE most re-interpreted horror monsters. Be it the well-loved Hammer movies, the silent black and white vampire of Nosferatu or more modern takes such as Francis Ford Coppola’s gothic take on the character, Dracula is often seen as one of the go-to horror icons. The character has even inspired a whole genre of vampire movies that, whilst not utilising the official moniker, are clearly influenced by Bram Stoker’s novella – and Dracula: The Dark Prince is no different.

Misunderstood, despised and hunted, Dracula (Roberts) is driven to pursue an ill-fated quest for the Lightbringer – a mythical weapon dating back to the days of Cain and Abel. According to legend only those direct descendants of Cain and Abel can wield the Lightbringer; in the hands of one it brings eternal life, in the hands of another, death… In his ruthless search for this coveted weapon, Dracula crosses paths with the beautiful crusader Alina and a further obsession is born as she becomes the object of his desire. Kidnapped and in harm’s way, will the renowned and feared vampire hunter, Van Helsing (Voight), be able to save her before Dracula sinks his teeth in.

It’s clear from the get-go that Dracula: The Dark Prince is heavily influenced by Francis Ford Coppola’s take on the vampire tale, well that and fantasy fare such as Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones… Much like Coppola’s film told the tale of Dracula and how he turned to darkness, this film offers a different take on the legend – this time set in the 16th century, 100 years after he renounces God and embraces evil (which is glimpsed in the prologue of the movie). It’s a side of Dracula you don’t see in the movies – and you sure as hell don’t see stories of 16th century vampire hunters wielding weapons that look like they’re out of Krull!

There’s a real RPG vibe to the film too – the vampire hunting crew are made up of the Archer (Van Helsing), the Dwarf (Andros), the Rogue (Lucian) and the Paladin (Esme).Even Dracula’s army is made up of orc-like creatures and a “Death Knight” style leader who looks like he stepped straight out of Dungeons & Dragons (in fact he reminds me of the old Warduke figure from the D&D toy line). Teo brought a very similar “gaming” feel to his previous effort Witchville too. Yet here he also manages to indulge in the dark, gothic storytelling he loves so much and brings some much-needed new life to an old tale by mixing genres in the same way his forthcoming Bedlam Stories looks set to do.

Of course there will be plenty of people who complain that this Dracula tale doesn’t feature much in the way of familiar vampire tropes – yes there’s the occasion flash of fangs and a smattering of naked breasts, but the bloody rampage usually found in these types of genre flicks (well unless you’re watching Twilight) is noticeable by its absence. Yet I enjoyed Dracula: The Dark Prince for that very same reason – this is more an action adventure movie than horror flick and as such is a refreshing change from the norm.

Perhaps there’s an arguement for not calling this a Dracula movie as it focuses on Van Helsing and Lucian rather that the titular character and it’s much more of a “loose” take on Dracula mythology, but either way this is still a pretty decent straight to DVD flick and for fans of Teo’s previous work (Witchville in particular) this is another must-watch.

Dracula: The Dark Prince is released on DVD on February 3rd.

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