‘Where’s the crucifix?’ ‘If only it worked. This evil’s non-denominational.’
A lot less peculiar than George Anton’s no-budget 2009 Dracula, this bland, inexpensive 2012 vampire movie pulls basically the same gag (as had the gender-switched Lust for Dracula) of relocating Bram Stoker’s storyline to a budget-friendly contemporary Los Angeles and sticking his character names (or approximations of them) on a variety of cops, docs, goons and victims. There’s a lot of driving around, but no sense of urgency – and things pan out predictably.
Seizing on the fact that Stoker’s hero is an estate agent, the film’s protagonist is LA realtor Jonathan Harker (Corey Landis, of Dinocroc vs Supergator), who sells a large, disused industrial building in a bad neighbourhood to sinister, non-specifically foreign Vladimir Sarkany (Stuart Rigby). Because it all takes place in LA rather than straddling Transylvania and London, it’s hard to understand why Sarkany – who is only referred to as Dracula in the end credits – needs the empty building since he already lives in a perfectly acceptable posh Malibu pad. Sarkany is seen as a CGI-faced vampire attacking another estate agent, Petra Hawkins (Christina Carmine), before the credits, and further demonstrates undead cred by swiftly slaughtering three overage gangbangers who hassle him in his new lair (the sort of thing Count Yorga used to do). Copping that portrait/reincarnation angle that’s been around versions of Dracula for years, Harker notices that Sarakany owns a picture of a strange nude who exactly resembles his British wife Lina (Victoria Summer, of The Zombie Diaries), with whom he has had a tiff because she wants children and he’s not ready (even with over $300,000 in commission coming his way) for fatherhood. Ranting Quincy Morris (Krash Miller) pops up in the back of Harker’s car, claiming Sarkany is a vampire who’s seduced his girlfriend Lucy (Linda Bella) and turned her into a vampire (Amy Johnston). Jonathan and Lina visit the Sarkany mansion, where a bald waspish Renfield (Ian Pfister) is majordomo, to look at the picture, and their car (and cellphones) loses power on the winding road home, forcing them to sleep in the open air – Lina wakes up with ‘spider-bites’ on her neck and Dr Joan Seward (Dani Lennon) diagnoses anemia.
With whole chunks of Stoker’s plot lost on the floor, this has a military-looking Van Helsing (Keith Reay) barge in and kill two cops, Detective Holmwood (Preston Hillier) and Detective Varna (Charlie Garcia), who have been mind-controlled by the vampire then co-opt Harker into a vampire-killing expedition rather like the (perfunctory) finish of Tod Browning’s Dracula. Van Helsing and Sarkany fight and, like the Van Helsings in John Badham’s and Werner Herzog’s films, the fearless vampire killer gets lifted up and impaled, with Sarkany pulling out and squeezing his heart. But Harker and Lina stake Sarkany back and front only for, in another Yorga touch, a newly vampire Lina to bite the hero (‘I’ll never forget you’) and, in a Daughters of Darkness/Hunger sort of way, to take over the vampire’s home, wealth, minion and style. The British-accented Rigby, a Birmingham ex-bricklayer who has been a professional Tom Cruise impersonator under the name Thomas McKenna, rasps his lines in a Terence Stampish British accent (Stamp was a stage Dracula) and stares into space often, but writer-director Patrick McManus makes the odd choice to overlay his face with marble pallor, blue veins, hollow cheeks and neon eyes in post-production image tampering which just looks cartoony. With few locations, clumsy action, dull soap opera set-up scenes and no sense of Sarkany/Dracula as a growing threat to anyone much, this is one of the less-felt screen Draculas.
NB: not to be confused with Dracula Reborn (2015).