Vlad (2003) Another Dracula riff, further cementing the (debatable) identification of Bram Stoker’s character with the historical Vlad the Impaler.
Romanian student Linsey (Monica Davidescu) is charged with returning a McGuffin amulet to Vlad’s tomb. Along with two Americans (Paul Popowich, Kam Heskin) and a Brit (Nicholas Irons), she is in the Carpathians for vague academic purposes, sponsored by members of the secret Order of the Dragon (Billy Zane, Brad Dourif). In the woods, the kids have flashbacks to the hard times of Vlad (Francesco Quinn) and the past leaks through in the shape of Ilona (Iva Haspberger), who speaks Chaucerian English and is fleeing the glowering prince, who CGI shapeshifts into a wolf and sports a batface but isn’t quite a traditional vampire. Of course, Vlad is after the lookalike of his dead wife, but Renfield-type Mircea (Emil Hostina) wants him to restore the nation’s glory and gets impaled for his pains.
The bigger names get killed off or written out early, too much dramatic weight falls upon the least-compelling performer (Popowich) and a late attempt to make the villain semi-sympathetic doesn’t work (he may look cool but he’s still a murdering swine). However, its odd historical frills, a few patches of literacy (including a reprise of Stoker’s ‘you would pit your wits’ speech), interesting secondary cast members (especially Irons, Davidescu and Hasperger), Romanian locales and general medieval romantic gloom are mildly distinctive. Written and directed by Michael Sellers.
Extract from Kim Newman’s Video Dungeon.
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