It is hard not to be prejudiced when seeing the cover art for a film like Dracula: The Dark Prince. We see a young, little-known actor in the title role, a shot of Jon Voight as a means to draw in viewer interest, a couple of pretty ladies at the side, and lots of CGI bats. It would appear that Pearry Teo’s feature is shaping up to be another run of the mill Dracula flick that ultimately disappoints. I would be lying if I said that part of this description was not true, but fortunately Teo adds enough freshness and intrigue to his take on Dracula to make this a worthwhile venture.
The Dark Prince looks upon Dracula (Luke Roberts) as a misunderstood romantic figure as he hunts for a mythical device called the Lightbringer – which promises eternal life. Dracula soon crosses paths with crusader Alina (Kelly Wenham) who he takes back to his castle and gradually falls in love with. However, vampire hunter Van Helsing (Jon Voight) is hot on his tale with a rag-tag band of crusaders including ruthless fighter Esme (Holly Earl) and Robin Hood esque hero Lucian (Ben Robson).
Without any question, Bram Stoker’s Dracula is one of the most overused pieces of Gothic literature – so in order to remain fresh and watchable filmmakers’ need to do something quite bold with Stoker’s narrative. Whilst Teo doesn’t exactly present anything game-changing, The Dark Prince deviates enough to remain engaging and watchable throughout. Teo’s feature essentially removes any real horror from the legend and instead focuses on brooding Gothic romance and gung-ho action. Robert’s Dracula is a tragic figure, set up by his own allies that subsequently murdered his Bride and forced to live an eternal life of pain – whilst Roberts does not exactly light up the screen (he falls prey to more interesting supporting characters) he does a solid job at conveying this sense of misfortune.
In straight to DVD terms, there are an array of relatively impressive action sequences – most notably the film’s forest set battle scenes between Dracula’s army (in particularly impressive armoured costumes) and Van Helsing’s band of hunters. The Dark Prince is clearly a production with a limited budget – yet it still nails the Gothic atmosphere of Stoker’s text. Well-staged interiors convincingly showcase Dracula’s castle, whilst the dense and darkened forests look creepy enough to double as the Carpathian wilderness. At points, the CGI can be quite obvious but is unlikely to deter your enjoyment of the feature.
Roberts may not make a huge impression as the Dark Prince, but fortunately a scenery chewing supporting cast always ensure this is a lively affair. Voight appears to have taken acting lessons from Tommy Wiseau and is on incredibly watchable, yet particularly hammy form – in a role that gets a substantial amount of screen time. Kelly Wenham adds some glamour and charm as Alina, Dracula’s new love, successfully capturing the classic sense of longing and desire between the pair. However, Ben Robson emerges as the film’s standout as a Robin Hood like hero that commands the screen with a keen swagger and reckless charm.
Dracula: The Dark Prince is not going to deliver anything particularly new to fans of the character, although Teo puts a modestly intriguing spin on it. An emphasis on Gothic romance and atmospheric action, as well as some lively performances ensures that this take on Stoker’s tale is quite worth your time.
DVD Release Date:
3rd February 2014 (UK)
Luke Roberts, Jon Voight, Kelly Wenham ,Ben Robson
Buy: Dracula: The Dark Prince [DVD]