Dracula: The Dark Prince is a 2013 American horror film directed by Pearry Reginald Teo (The Curse of Sleeping Beauty; Necromenta; The Evil Inside) from a screenplay co-written with Steven Paul and Nicole Jones-Dion.
In his search for the Lightbringer, Dracula crosses paths with a beautiful crusader named Alina who bears a remarkable resemblance to his murdered bride. One look at her and Dracula is immediately smitten. Could Alina be the reincarnation of his long-dead love? Dracula has Alina kidnapped and brought to his castle…
When I was a kid, Dracula was the horror character. The king of the bad men – no ambiguity, no white-washing. Dracula was scary, whether he was Christopher Lee and any lesser version. Then things began to change. I’ll put the finger of blame on the influence of Anne Rice and the 1979 Dracula, which first began to reinvent him as the tortured romantic character (Love at First Bite did likewise the same year, but at least that was a comedy). Since then, it’s almost guaranteed that Dracula movies (and vampire movies in general) will follow the same pattern, retooling the character as swooning material for teenage goths.
This depressing state of affairs plummets to new depths in the truly appalling Dracula: The Dark Prince (not to be confused with Dark Prince: The Legend of Dracula or Dracula Prince of Darkness), a film with all the charm and finesse of a SyFy production, but with none of the eccentricity or charm of those films. The only saving grace this film has – and it’s no saving grace at all, given how ham-fistedly it is executed – is that it at least tries something different with the Dracula myth. However, no-one was really crying out for a Dracula film that is a low rent sword and sorcery tale.
The film opens with clumsy animation setting the scene (and, in retrospect, acting as warning) as we see the Coppola-inspired origin of Dracula in 15th century Wallachia. A hundred years later, Dracula (Luke Roberts) is the master of… what, exactly? He seems confined to a castle, recruiting a useless army of desperately-trying-to-be-sexy female vampires (a few gratuitous boob shots being the only clue that this isn’t a SyFy Original) and a handful of warriors, alongside creepy assistant Renfield (Stephen Hogan in one of a handful of Bram Stoker name nods) where he frets about nebulous enemies.
These include would-be slayers (attention, Buffy fans!) Alina (Kelly Wenham) and Esme (Holly Earl), who are transporting miraculous weapon The Lightbringer to Leonardo Van Helsing (Jon Voight), when they are set upon by a band of brigands led by Lucian (Ben Robson). Before you know it, Lucian has joined forces with Van Helsing, the two Slayerettes and an unlikely viking Andros (Richard Ashton) to defeat Dracula, though why they are bothering isn’t entirely clear, given how little he seems to do. Alina is captured, and wouldn’t you know it, she turns out to be the spitting image / reincarnation of Dracula’s long lost love. Yes, the most well worn and annoying of the Dracula movie cliches is shamelessly trotted out again. Soon, she is torn between the personality free Dracula and the unpleasant Lucian, as the remaining good guys storm the castle.
The central idea behind the film is that The Lightbringer – a sword with assorted attachments – was used by Cain to slay Abel! As such, only a descendent of Cain can use the weapon and only a descendant of Abel – which includes Dracula – can be killed by it. The film does it’s best to convince us that these are two rare groups of people, when surely they would make up the whole of humanity if we believe the Bible. A quick check reveals that this weapon is not included in the original Cain and Abel story.
Shot in Romania – though you’d never know it, as any opportunity for location authenticity is buried beneath CGI and the sort of murky lighting that crap films mistake for atmosphere – this is a real mess. The acting is generally pretty shocking, the accents are all over the place – most of the leads speak with the sort of wooden, middle-class English stage school flatness that you find littering British TV, while Andros is curiously Northern and Voight adopts a scenery-munching Eastern European accent that makes no sense at all. The performances are also at soap opera level, so it’s hardly a surprise to find that Roberts is a Holby City veteran. Here, decked out in an unconvincing long blonde wig, he displays all the personality of a log and the idea that he is either a seductive charmer or a threatening monster is frankly laughable. He’s almost certainly the weakest Dracula ever seen.
Worst of all though, the film is numbingly dull. Little actually happens, and the few action scenes are clumsily handled. For the most part, it’s a series of scenes of people spewing exposition, wandering through dimly-lit woods or Dracula mooning over Alina like a lovestruck teenager.
Of course, the film might have somehow pulled all this together in the final five minutes, miraculously turning into a masterpiece of cinema. As my screener had a fault that rendered these final moments unplayable, I’ll probably never know, but I’m willing to go out on a limb and suggest that it remained as awful as the preceding 90 minutes.
This is the nadir of the ‘romantic Dracula’ films. If nothing else, it should at least be used to show others why they should avoid going down that route ever again. Let’s get back to a Dracula who wants to rip the heroine’s throat out, not give her a bunch of flowers and promise to still respect her in the morning.
David Flint, Horrorpedia
Luke Roberts, Jon Voight (Anaconda), Kelly Wenham, Ben Robson, Holly Earl, Stephen Hogan, Richard Ashton, Poppy Corby-Tuech, Vasilescu Valentin.
“The Dark Prince shows very little blood, no gore, and were it not for a trio of breast pairs briefly exposed here and there, it would seem that the film might have been intended for teenagers or mature women with its romance novel overtones. Given how many notes it tries to hit on the heart string and fantasy adventure fronts, it is indeed questionable who the target audience is. Even with brief nudity, the eroticism is toned down.” Culture Crypt
“A lot of the film is built in CGI, its ok but it does show. I kind of feel it wanted to be Castlevania but didn’t quite work out how to be epic. Nude boobs on show, for titillation purposes, just seem gratuitous. The film wanted to do something different, kudos for that, but it seemed to throw a lot in the mix, gave it a quick shimmy and hoped for the best.” Taliesin Meets the Vampires