CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS
Yet another Dracula film. And yet another one that's actually got very little to do with Bram Stoker, instead randomly shuffling a handful of his established character names into an all-new story. That's not a bad strategy, really: the Dracula tale is a particularly well-worn warhorse that's been done to death over the decades by everyone from Hammer to Universal, from the BBC to the Carry Ons, from Mel Brooks to Jess Franco, so there isn't very much meat left on the original bones for anyone else to have a crack.
The generically-titled Dracula: The Dark Prince (not to be confused with Hammer's Dracula: Prince Of Darkness, obviously, or even Dark Prince: The Legend Of Dracula, in which Roger Daltrey plays the King of Hungary) kicks off in 1453 with the Count (Luke Edwards) turning, Anakin-like, to the dark side when his beloved is slain by his most trusted guards while he's away fighting. Years later, a couple of women are captured in the Transylvanian forest by a passing troupe of bandits - but they're carrying the legendary Lightbringer, a vampire-killing superweapon that can only be wielded by those of the Cain bloodline, to the equally legendary vampire killer Van Helsing (Academy Award-winner Jon Voight). Dracula's minions spirit one of the girls away because she might be the reincarnation of his long-lost love: can her ragtag crew of friends sneak into his invisible fortress and rescue her?
Vampires stopped being genuinely scary long before the Twilight saga turned them into twinkly romantics flitting around the autumnal woodlands in broad daylight rather than the hellish blood-drinking demons they should rightly be - there should be a downside to immortality and looking really cool. Pearry Reginald Tao really isn't the man to redress the balance, though to be fair this is leagues better than his terrible Necromentia and The Evil Inside. It's not murkily under-photographed like Tao's films usually are, it generally moves quickly enough to stop being dull, and the story isn't overcomplicated into his typical head-trip nonsense.
This is Bram Stoker's story in the way that the film of Moonraker is Ian Fleming's story: they've kept three character names and a bit of backstory, and thrown pretty much everything else away. Renfield, for example, is no longer a bug-eating lunatic but the Count's urbane Chancellor and Mr Fixit. There's also a touch more nudity than you expect these days, with Drac's harem of vampire brides: I don't particularly object to it, but it does feel like something that films just don't do any more. And the Bloodline Of Cain plot device markes no sense - isn't that Adam and Eve's bloodline, and therefore everyone's? In the end Dracula: The Dark Prince is a decent enough evening's rental, perhaps not for Stoker purists but passes 95 minutes relatively painlessly. Sadly, these days that's practically a commendation rather than the bare minimum you should expect.