– Summary –
Director : Pearry Reginald Teo
Year Of Release : 2013
Principal Cast : Luke Roberts, Jon Voight, Kelly Wenham, Ben Robson, Holly Earle, Stephen Hogan, Richard Ashton, Poppy Corby-Tuech, Vasilescu Valentin.
Approx Running Time : 110 Minutes
Synopsis: Something about Dracula trying to get his hands on the stick of wood Cain used to beat the crap out of Abel. The rest was lost on me.
What we think : Absolute gang-rape of the Dracula legend, a film worthy of consideration for being the worst of 2013 (or at least in the top 10 – I haven’t seen Grown Ups 2 yet!). Shoddy direction, atrocious acting, horrible scripting and a weird PG13-but-a-little-bit-R tone rip the guts from the bloodthirsty legend and leave it wriggling, toothless, in a bloody heap on the ground. Hardly worthy of the “Dracula” appellation. This could be any vampire, but to sully Dracula’s legend (like that hasn’t happened before, however!) with this dire, unmitigated turd of a thing, is inexcusable.
Dracula: dead and hating it.
Dracula, alongside Sherlock Holmes, has remained one of the most popular characters ever to grace the screen (large or small); as the most iconic of all vampire figures, he remains the personification of all things undead, and in the hierarchy of mythical horror creatures at least in the top two or three. Troubling, however, is Hollywood’s inability to really latch onto that which makes the character accessible to audiences – the last truly successful Drac venture came with Francis Ford Coppola’s version of Dracula, while the Blade franchise turned the character into some weird Euro-trash version that never even felt like the real thing. The 2013 edition of Dracula, subtitled The Dark Prince for reasons that are unclear to anyone deciding to watch this travesty, is a mindless, utterly wretched film experience, devoid of even the most minute element of faithfulness to the core text (Bram Stoker’s original novel remains the benchmark, which probably says a lot for Coppola’s version’s success) and is mired in pretension and truly woeful acting. It’s a brave effort, if you can seek a silver lining, but a wasted one, due in large part to Pearry Reginald Teo’s utterly unremarkable direction – the film looks like a Dracula mixed with Lord Of The Rings, complete with some armored “Big Bad” who comes across as a Sauron-esque villain with zero charisma or power.
The plot of the film….. where to begin? Starting with a passably competent semi-animated opening prologue, setting up the Dracula story (his one true love was murdered by backstabbing assholes in his army, while Drac went off to fight a war, so he came back with a mad-on for everyone) and catapulting us into the “world” of the film with something passably entertaining. However, once we get into the key emotional scenes, with Dracula waxing lyrical about life (or the lack thereof) with Renfield (a sly Stephen Hogan), and a subplot involving highwayman Lucian (Ben Robson) and super-spy Alina (Kelly Wenham), complete with second-string possibly-lesbian hanger-on Esme (seriously, there were no better names they could use?) in a totally wooden Holly Earle, the film falls apart completely. The romantic subtext between Lucian and Alina is contrived in the extreme – perhaps the film-makers were hoping to capture some of the tweenage Twilight market? – as is the inclusion of poor Jon Voight, who, after this and the recent turkey Getaway, looks like he’s succumed to just signing up for every shitty script that comes his way, as Leonardo Van Helsing, complete with fake nose and unremarkable presence. The film’s MacGuffin, the “Lightbringer”, is supposedly an artifact which can give Dracula all the power he needs to conquer the world, or stop him in his tracks if the Good Guys have their way. It’s the kind of thing Indiana Jones might hunt down for his museum; yet, as some kind of ancient item (the staff was the stick used by Cain to kill Abel, therefore it simply must have supernatural powers – what’s next, the staff used by Moses to part the Red Sea can be used to convert greenhouse gasses into gold?) the fact it comes complete with a weird metallic blade system in it feels a little too jarring.
The cast are uniformly terrible – not one single person escapes this train wreck with their dignity intact, especially Luke Roberts as one of the most undemanding Dracula’s ever put to the screen. Looking more like one of the Malfoy’s from Harry Potter, Dracula skulks about his castle waiting for all his henchmen to do his dirty work, grumbling and bitching about their ineptitude before finally deciding to get off his ass and do it himself. Roberts’ was probably asked to play Dracula as some kind of uppity, haughty nobleman, but he cannot muster any authority beyond what the sound effects and visual effects departments can muster, and Dracula feels either incompetent, or just plain idiotic. Kelly Wenham tries to give her thinly written character of Alina her all, but she’s incapable of bringing anything to the role other than to look good and have a nice ass. Her co-star here, the smouldering good looks of Ben Robson, is far too pretty-boy to work properly, with Robson’s weird thief character feeling like a third wheel in amongst the legitimate Dracula legends. Jon Voight should have known better, and the rest of the cast perform at a level I’d be proud of if this were some kind of high school end-of-year production. And if that production was a farce. Which this is.
Looking over director Pearry Reginald Teo’s filmography on IMDb, I’m obliged to point out that had I known what I was in for before I watched this, I’d probably have just slit my wrists to save myself the trouble. Teo’s direction of this film, much like the rest of his B-movie roll-call of slop, is horrid, lacking momentum, impact or even a soul; this is heartless, gormless, inadequate rubbish, this film, and unless he was trying to homage about thirty other films, then Dracula: The Dark Prince is simply a ripoff. Watch for the “Wrath”, a character looking vaguely like he’s stepped out of Lord Of The Rings, or Alina, who reminds me of Rhona Mitra’s character from that odious Beowulf film with Christopher Lambert, or the inclusion of a single hot guy (who might as well be any of the male leads from a Disney Princess cartoon, for all his depth) in Lucian. The fight scenes are horrendously shot, and I’m quite convinced Teo used much of the same footage over and over when he ran out of unique material to give these scenes any length. Plus, it’s all horribly bloodless, that malevolent PG rating obviously necessitating the removal of any arterial fluid and gore – although, I will give credit to the film-makers for using animated scenes in the opening prologue to display the visceral red of spilled blood to great effect. Plus the sight of a few boobs comes as somewhat confusing considering the lack of gore elsewhere. If you can show women’s nipples, surely you can show some limbs being hacked off, right?
So, you have a vampire film with no blood, two leads who are fated to be together romantically only because the script calls for it, a Dracula who is as inert as a bread stick, and a distinct lack of heart and soul in making this thing actually worth watching. If it was a genuinely low budget project, then fair’s fair, because everyone here makes a good fist of at least pretending it all makes sense, but the overall lethargy and incompetency behind the camera, as well as some truly poor acting performances (not helped by a turgid, dreary, confusing screenplay) leave any quality one might think this film has dragged through the mud from opening credit to close. Dracula: The Dark Prince is soulless, anemic pretend-vampire shit that survives for its entire running time not on any mythology it creates for itself, but rather on the goodwill generated by all who have come before. If you must watch it, then prepare yourself. For everyone else, just be glad you avoided it.