Friday, September 21, 2012

What the World Needs Now is Not Another 'Dracula' Remake: "Dracula's Curse" (2002)

Shot in Budapest and edited down from a television mini-series, this umpteenth retelling of Bram Stoker's legend has some things going for it, and even more strikes against it.

Jonathan (Hardy Kruger, Jr.) and Mina (Stefania Rocca) are a young hotshot couple in Hungary, hanging out with friends Lucy (the steamy Muriel Baumeister) and her ex-boyfriends- vapid Quincy (Alessio Boni) and Ninny McSissypants Arthur (Conrad Hornby).

Jonathan is approached by one Vlad Tepes (Patrick Bergin) who wants the young man to travel to Romania to liquidate an uncle's crumbling estate. Jonathan goes, is kept prisoner in the deteriorating manor by the uncle (also Bergin), but manages to get back to his friends in time to fend off some very strange vampiric attacks.

Set in the present, the world of "Dracula's Curse" (know simply as "Dracula" elsewhere) is problematic. Aside from Van Helsing becoming "Valenti" (Giancarlo Giannini, delivering too much intensity to a shallow role), all of the elements of the novel are here; yet cast members (especially the monumentally whiny Arthur) poo-poo the possibility of Dracula's presence. It is as if none of the characters ever heard of the novel or adaptations, aside from the name "Dracula," even though their lives are paralleling the book's plot.

While this version did come from a longer work, the editing is pretty good save a couple of dangling subplots (Roenfeld; the three women who tempt Jonathan). However, the film opens with a rubber vampire bat attacking a horse and the cheap special effects never get any better. This was shot in Europe, and the dialogue is a stew of dubbing and hard-to-understand accents (I couldn't make out Valenti's name until the closing credits crawl). This tries to be epic, but the suspense is absent, the gore is weak, and the R-rated sexuality is PG13-chaste.

Baumeister and Rocca are easy on the eyes, but the rest of the cast barely register. Bergin's performance is lacking, he must have been told that standing at the top of staircases with his arms and cape open would be really really scary. The music is ignorable, and the sequel set-up is predictable and off. The Budapest locations are stunning and should have been put to better use, since the night scenes are sometimes lit more brightly than scenes in direct sunlight.

"Dracula's Curse" held some promise, but fell victim to its own television origins and slight budget. (* *) out of five stars.