Dario Argento isn’t the only filmmaker to get a 3-D Dracula on the market. Malayalam writer-director Vinayan’s contemporary reworking was made in in Kerela, far from India’s Mumbai-centered film industry. Roy Thomas (Sudheer Sukumaran) – no relation to the comics writer – and his bride Lucy (Shradha Das) stop over in Romania en route to a London honeymoon and visit Bran Castle, a tourist spot associated with Vlad the Impaler. Out of curiosity, Roy performs a ritual summoning and Dracula shows up as a CGI Man-Bat lookalike, possessing him in a manner which evokes the opening of Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires. In Roy’s form, Dracula learns Malayalam and turns Lucy (who has been taking a bath with a towel modestly wrapped around her) into a vampire.
Assuming the name ‘Professor William D’Souza’, Roy/Dracula returns to Kerela and moves into the Warner Bungalow, a home (with crypt) found by Jonathan Harker analogue Raju (Prabhu), who is engaged to Meena (Monal Gajjar). That venerable glimpse-of-a-picture bit makes Dracula set his sights on Meena (yet again, the reincarnation of Vlad’s wife) though he also goes after her Lucy-like sister Thara (Priar Nambiar). Guru Soorayan (Nassar), father of Meena and Thara and uncle of Raju, subs for Van Helsing, though he needs assistance from an anglo-sounding set of locals – chubby Dr Paul Robinson (the Seward character) and police commissioner Benny Thomas (Roy’s brother), plus some ‘Romanian Bishops’.
Dracula’s arrival is the excuse for ‘Prince of Darkness, I Love You’, a non-diegetic pop video performed by bare-midriff Indian goths. The only other number is ‘Parijatha Pookkal’, a love duet for Raju and Meena that nametags flowers and puberty. Meena throws a smoothie in Raju’s face in a mall to show how much she loves him, but Dracula – shirtless as often as Wolverine, with bulging veins and Hammer-type fangs – cuts in, forcing her to drink blood from his chest.
The home stretch, derived from the novel, has vampirised Meena guiding the heroes to Dracula’s hideaway, a jungle cemetery. A fakir Renfield character (Thilakan) gabbles about his master to distract the good guys, but they eventually open the right tomb. Blessed with divine kung fu skills thanks to the just-killed guru, Raju has a fight with the vampire. In Stoker’s original draft, Castle Dracula collapses when its master is destroyed – this is the first film to dramatise that deleted scene as the death of Roy/Dracula causes Castle Bran to explode.
A long two and a quarter hours, with too many CGI bats flapping in poor red-and-green 3D. Some sequences are clumsily comical and others unintentionally so, all the heroes (and villains, come to that) are arrant fools, a repetitive orchestral score keeps trying to insist it’s exciting and a potentially interesting mix of religions simply adds to the confusion. Sukumaran’s glowering Dracula aspires to tragic hero status but just comes off as a creep.