Although at times some of the acting is a bit stiff and the special effects are a bit lacking, Bram Stoker’s Dracula’s Curse, the latest release from director Leigh Scott and The Asylum Home Entertainment, is still packed full of enough gun fights, sword fights and vampire action to deliver a “popcorn” rollercoaster ride of a fun movie.
The film, which was also written by Scott, is probably one of the best from the director and Asylum. It is packed with the actors that fans of the studio will recognize including Rhett Giles, Tom Downey, Eliza Swenson, Noel Thurman, Erica Roby, Tom Nagel, Jennifer Lee Wiggins, Christina Rosenberg, and Jeff Denton.
In true Scott tradition, the movie is a blend of action, horror, and some comedy. Even with this large a blend, Scott makes sure that one style never overtakes the entire film. The movie will draw comparisons to other recent vampire flicks, such as Underworld and even John Carpenter’s Vampires, but also makes sure to add enough new material to carve out a niche of its own.
The film’s plot centers on a group of vampire hunters, led by Rufus King (Tom Downey), who make a pack with the very vampires they hunt to stop the war. The pact says the vampires will no longer hunt humans for food, and the hunters will no longer hunt the bloodsuckers. Naturally, this pack doesn’t hold up, and the war is back on almost as soon as the pact is signed – it last about five years.
The vampires are also facing a civil war – due to one clan breaking the pack and hunting “pure bloods” (humans that carry the bloodline of the original Dracula). This civil war forces the vampires (who are weak from not feeding on humans) to turn to their hunters for protection from the other clan – led by Countess Bathorly (Christina Rosenberg).
Although they don’t trust the vampires, the hunters, which include Jacob Van Helsing (Giles), agree that for the moment Bathorley and her clan are the greatest threats, and that the peace pack can be saved if they help kill her. This leads to the group reforming, stakes and bullets flying, and a major showdown between humans and vampires. While all that is going on, the film also has several subplots developing dealing with the different characters in the film.
Gracie Johannsen (Swenson) doesn’t want to return to a life of killing, but is forced when the vampires kidnap and turn her sister. Van Helsing has a secret love for a vampire (which no doubt would send his great grandfather rolling in his grave), and longs to be turned so that he can spend eternity with her. Another plot is developed when the vampires turn pureblood Christina Lockheart (Roby), and her boyfriend joins the hunters to save her or stake her.
Although these may seem like several plots running at once, Scott handles them well, and the movie (which is divided into chapters like a book) never really feels weighted down by the story. Everything comes together nicely in the film’s ending where secrets are revealed. The ending also leaves you waiting for the sequel.
The film has a huge cast of actors, but the main three (Giles, Swenson and Downey) really hold the film together, and keep you interested in what is happening next. There are also good performances from Denton (who plays the vampire Rafe) Griff Furst (who delivers a lot of comedy as the vampire Konstantinos) and even Scott (who appears a few times in the film as “The Old One”).
Similar to his performance in Exorcism: The Possession of Gail Bowers, Downey’s King is a blend of Dirty Harry, a gunslinger, and your classic vampire slayer. He shoots out one-liners almost as fast as he stakes vampires, and really makes the movie fun to watch. You have to laugh when Bathorley has him on his knees as she promises to become the new ruler of the vampires, and he deadpan replies “Hold on a second there, sister.”
Swenson’s Johannsen (which has shades of Angelina Jolie's Lara Croft and Kate Beckinsale's Selene) proves she can hold her own against any vampire, and also delivers much of the film’s emotional story. She has been living the life of a slayer for a long time, and we are able to see the toil this life has had on the character. Swenson shows us this through her excessive drinking and lack of any real relationship. She wants nothing to do with the other slayers, but is forced back into the life when her sister is taken. Once she returns, she doesn’t look back, and seems even more determined to kill as many vampires as she can. Swenson does a good job in the role, and it is clear that there will be room for the character to further develop in future films (a sequel is already being discussed).
Giles takes on the role of Van Helsing for a second time, but this character differs from what fans last saw in Asylum’s Way of the Vampire. While he is not the leader of the hunters, his character is the moral compass for the group. At the same time, Giles plays the character as very flawed. He too seems tired of the war, and simply wants to see it come to an end. His complicated love for a vampire is a nice spin on the traditional idea of the character, and Giles (always a great addition to any Asylum film) does a great job in the role. The actor clearly has a handle on how to play a guy named Van Helsing.
The film’s music, which was composed by Swenson, also helps the movie move along, and adds atmosphere to certain scenes. Like the movie, the music is kind of a blend of different genre elements – including gothic, comic book sounding, and alternative rock.
Although I enjoyed the film, there are some problems that hurt it from time to time. Some of the acting (mostly by side characters) is a bit stiff, and sometimes downright bad. These characters never have much to say so they don’t kill the movie, but it is enough to make you groan when they speak on screen. Again, this is just a few of the side characters with only a handful of lines.
The special effects and make-up at times lacks, and can even come across as comical. I have seen other reviews for the film and this has also been pointed out by other critics. Some of the characters have bad latex created faces, but again they are side characters and not in the film enough to truly hurt it. It is also interesting to note that Scott toned down the amount of blood spilled on the screen and overall gore – something that might disappoint some of his diehard horror fans.
The DVD comes with some decent special features including cast and crew commentary; a standard behind the scenes featurette that looks at what went into making the movie; a great blooper reel that shows just how much fun the cast had on the film; and a good music video by The Divine Madness – who provide some of the movie’s music. I must stress that these special features need to be watched after the movie. Some of the film’s secrets are discussed during the behind the scenes feature, and it will give away one of the movie’s big twist at the end.
Although Bram Stoker’s Dracula’s Curse does have some faults, it more than makes up for them thanks to a solid cast, lots of action, and an entertaining plot. The movie is easily one of the best Asylum has release to date, and is probably one of Scott’s best (although Frankenstein Reborn remains my favorite). It has a little bit of everything mixed in to bring a movie that has a bit of a “popcorn” feel to it, but manages to keep you entertained.