Cinema/TV, Film Notes

Your Daily Dracula – as Luke Roberts as Draka, Dampyr (2022)

Your Daily Dracula – as Luke Roberts as Draka, Dampyr (2022)

You’ve probably heard this before … but Sergio Bonelli Editore, who have been big in Italian comics publishing since launching cowboy Tex Willer in 1948, would like to branch out into the movies and have a Bonelliverse.  On their books are Martin Mystère, Dylan Dog, Zagor and many other characters – some of whom have been in movies before.  Their official first film is based on a comic book series by Mauro Boselli and Maurizio Colombo which has been running since 2000 – and owes a little to the manga/anime franchise Vampire Hunter D while feeling a lot like that run of 1990s/2000s vampire movies shot inexpensively in Romania or thereabouts (SubSpecies, Vampire Journals, Daughter of Darkness, Dracula 2000 sequels, etc).

After a prologue in which the lead character is born in an undated old timey past, the bulk of the film is set in the Balkans, 1992, with vampire action taking place during the wars attendant on the breakup of the former Yugoslavia.  A dampyr is the son of a vampire, often credited with Blade-like special abilities to fight vampires – which lead to a few jokes about Harlan Draka (Wade Briggs) being a superhero.  Arch-Vampires here tend to have Dr Strangelike powers of conjuring up colourful auras and zapping each other with CGI tendrils, plus the usual superspeed, limited flight, rapid healing and general 1990s comics idea of coolness – which extends to immortal demon lords of the night and doom-haunted anti-heroes alike not being able to comb their product-heavy hair out of their eyes.  Harlan is the son of Dracula stand-in Draka (Luke Roberts) and perhaps-unfortunately-named Velma (Madalne Bellariu Ion), raised by three witches – but somehow stumbling through extended late adolescence as an alcoholic con-man who goes round villages pretending to put down vampires.

When grizzled, brooding soldier Emil Kurjak (Stuart Martin) finds that a cross-shaped community is being terrorised by real vampires, one of his minions kidnaps Harlan – whose blood turns out to be fatal to the overconfident leather-and-silly-hairstyles goons who have been slaughtering folk at the behest of Draka’s old rival Gorka (David Morrissey), who could conceivably be the character Boris Karloff played in Mario Bava’s I tre volti della paura/Black Sabbath but is rather underdeveloped as a nemesis.  Tesla Dubcek (Frida Gustavsson) – it has to be said that Italian comics writers often come up with terrible names, with all-over-the-place associations – is the blonde cropped vampire girl who rebels against Gorka and sides with Harlan and Kurjak, presumably to go on and have more adventures.  Director Riccardo Chemello started out in advertising and makes a reasonable debut here – it’s an issue that every character arc, line of dialogue, situation and image comes from stock, but the whole thing is put together with some verve.  It’s especially good at vampire destructions – with some new wrinkles on the turn-to-dust business as bullets dipped in dampyr blood rip fiery holes through bloodsuckers.

Incidentally, casting Roberts – who doesn’t have much to do after the opening scene – is kind of a callback: known for the obviously limited role of Bruce Wayne’s dead Dad in The Batman and 219 episodes of Holby City, he played the title role in Pearry Reginald Teo’s Dracula: The Dark Prince (2013).


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