The Asylum says that Dracula: The Original Living Vampire is “The classic tale as you’ve never seen”, apparently it would have cost too much to add “it”, let alone “before”, to the artwork. Regardless of that, it is certainly a different take on the story. Whether different equals better, in this case, is another matter.
Amelia Van Helsing (Christine Prouty) and Captain Renfield (Stuart Packer, It Came from Below, Vehemence) are on the hunt for a serial killer who kills women with what medical examiner Dr. Jack Seward (Michael Ironside, Terminator Salvation, Bloodthirsty) says almost resemble bite marks.
Needless to say, this is about as faithful to Stoker’s novel as Bram Stoker’s Van Helsing. I’m not even sure when Dracula: The Original Living Vampire is supposed to be taking place. The sets look turn of the century, filled with candles, magnifying glasses, etc and the dialogue sounds “old-fashioned”. But you wouldn’t have a female detective like Van Helsing then, let alone one openly living in a lesbian relationship with Mina Murray (India Lillie Davies).
For her part, Mina’s company has assigned her to help a foreign dignitary, Count Dracula (Jake Herbert) with some issues related to his arrival in the UK and finding suitable accommodations for a man of his status. We can see the complications piling up already.
Director (Maximilian Elfeldt, War of the Worlds: Annihilation, Avengers Grimm: Time Wars) and writer Michael Varrati (Aquarium of the Dead, Christmas with a Crown) seem totally unsure of what they’re trying to do. Dracula: The Original Living Vampire opens with a rather unerotic sex scene between Dracula and a woman whose hair colour is at odds with the faux Victorian setting. When Van Helsing finds her body and examines the blood splatter she opines “He was on top of her when he killed her. She saw it coming.”
The script can’t decide if it’s a comedy full of groan-inducing one-liners or a serious vampire film. Van Helsing is constantly arguing with chemist/occult researcher Jonathan Harker (Ryan Woodcock, who should be doing porn with a name like that), that there are no such things as vampires. Dracula: The Original Living Vampire never goes fully into Love at First Bite or Dracula: Dead and Loving It territory but it can’t seem to avoid tossing out jokes, many as anachronistic as the film’s mix of settings.
It doesn’t help that Jake Herbert is one of the most incredibly bland Draculas I’ve ever seen. He looks like a singer for an 80s hair metal band auditioning for The Lost Boys. He’s not scary, he’s not threatening and he has no charisma. Like several others in the cast, this is his only credit and he really could have used a few more acting classes before making his debut.
Michael Ironside has a handful of short scenes, probably all shot on the same day and just seems to be going through the motions as Seward. The material certainly didn’t give him much to work with, but having seen his performances in Scanners, Turbo Kid, and so many other films, it’s sad seeing him phoning it in like this.
Ultimately Dracula: The Original Living Vampire is a talky misfire that’s not funny enough to work as a comedy but never frightening enough to work as a genre film. And despite its odd mix of past and present-day elements it never manages to achieve the quirky, timeless, atmosphere it seemed to be aiming for.
The Asylum released Dracula: The Original Living Vampire in a handful of theatres on January 28th as well as on VOD and Digital platforms. You can check their website for more information.