Trying oh-so hard to come up with a fresh take on the well-worn legend, Dracula: The Dark Prince is an interesting, if fatally flawed, offering.

Electing to offer up a barrel load of sword fights and plenty of romance instead of the usual vampire tropes (there are no bats or capes here I’m afraid), director Pearry Teo’s effort shows plenty of promise – only to be hamstrung by a few very basic errors.

Chief of those is a disastrous, comical performance from Jon Voight as Van Helsing, but more on that later.

Jon Voight as Van Helsing

Jon Voight as Van Helsing

Rather than cast Dracula as an all-out villain, The Dark Prince elects for a different angle, and for much of the film’s running time the Prince is, arguably, the good guy.

Starting out as a military genius back in the days of the crusades, Drac is shafted by some of his supposed colleagues when they slaughter his missus while he’s away in battle.

Enraged, the Prince renounces God and elects to hole himself up in his castle – conveniently (and this is never satisfyingly explained) becoming an immortal vampire in the process.

Fast forward decades and the legend of Dracula is now alive and well.

And this is where Voight’s Van Helsing comes in, scouring the countryside looking for vampires to slay.

Into the mix is thrown Kelly Wenham and Holly Earl as sisters Alina and Esme respectively, along with Ben Robson as ‘lovable’ thief Lucian and Richard Ashton as warrior Andros, who decide to join Van Helsing for the ride.

To make matters somewhat more confusing, further plot developments are thrown in, such as the quest for the Lightbringer (an ancient weapon), as well as the fact that Alina just happens to be the spitting image of Dracula’s long-dead bride.

It all builds to a suitable castle-set climax, which does, at least, throw a few curveballs in at the death.

As stated at the outset, there is plenty to like here – Luke Roberts turns in a charismatic turn as Dracula, portraying the character as a tortured fallen angel, rather than the clichéd fangs and scowl merchant we so often see.

Kelly Wenham as Alina

Kelly Wenham as Alina

Wenham is also very pleasing on the eye, and I must admit my interest perked up whenever she appeared on screen.

Teo also does some neat tricks to keep things fresh – most notably throwing in some bloody animation every now and again to puncture the action sequences.

But, for every positive there is a negative, and the toe-curling antics of Voight wipe out so much of the good work.

Producing a scenery-chewing display, slaughtering an East European accent in the process, Voight’s Van Helsing provides a fatal distraction – with his moustache-twirling performance providing echoes of his similarly disastrous (yet hilarious) turn in Anaconda.

To be fair, it’s not all Voight’s fault – there are a couple of dreadfully corny love scenes, while some of the CGI on show looks as though it was mopped up from 90s kids TV show Knightmare.

Which is all a shame, as with those things corrected (and minus Voight), this would comfortably have sat in three-star territory.

But, as it stands, Dracula: The Dark Prince simply has to be placed in the ‘disappointing’ category.

EXTRAS: Cast interviews, Designing the castle featurette, trailer

VERDICT: [rating=2]

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.