Dracula’s Curse (2006)

Rating: C+

Dir: Leigh Scott
Star: Tom Downey, Eliza Swenson, Rhett Giles, Jeff Denton
a.k.a. Bram Stoker’s Dracula’s Curse

Expectation management is in order. Franchises like Blade and Underworld redefined the vampire genre, leaving viewers anticipating a non-stop action extravaganza. Curse is not that; it is, in fact, pretty damn talky, between opening and climax. Still, as long as you know it, this isn’t necessarily bad, since there are a number of interesting ideas here. A small team of elite vampire hunters, led by Colonel King (Downey) and Jacob Van Helsing (Giles), are on a mission to exterminate the bloodsuckers. They do so well, the vampires are forced to negotiate a pact, in which they swear off humanity in exchange for a cease-fire. But five years later, the Countess Bathorly’s [sic] clan breaks the truce, and she must be stopped before she tracks down the purebloods, descendants of Draculya [sic], and absorbs their power.

The main strength is the thought put in: for example, the film has both Nosferatu style vampires, and the more classic, “cape + fangs” kind. Outside the clans are independents, who are tolerated (or more) by Van Helsing as informants. And, naturally, the various hunters each have their own agenda, not least Colonel King. The downside is, even at 105 minutes, an epic by Asylum standards, it’s too hard to fit everything in – we know more about one hunter’s choice of gun than about her. Also, the quality is very variable, in almost every area: acting, dialogue, make-up, story, go from “Wow, that’s cool!” to “Ugh, that’s awful,” inside seconds. The action may be the worst offender: there’s a great scene where Van Helsing gives a combat lesson to a rookie, while simultaneously explaining the back-story, but also a sequence of two girls in a boxing ring, that’s just embarrassingly bad.

Similarly, the climax makes no real sense: the Countess meets a nemesis from her past, yet fails to recognise him, even though he looks exactly the same as he did 500 years ago. Fortunately, Downey and Giles are excellent, standouts in a cast which is mostly the Asylum Repertory Company, and both are lots of fun to watch. Though falling some way short of perfection, if you liked Hellsing (the anime) or Ultraviolet (the Brit-TV show), then this will probably still be of interest, and is entertaining as such. But if your tastes run more to the fast ‘n’ furious style of vampire cinema which Hollywood currently prefers, then it’s likely less recommended.