Studio: Phase 4 Films
Director: Patrick McManus
Writer: Patrick McManus
Producer: Ray Haboush
Stars: Corey Landis, Victoria Summer, Stuart Rigby, Ian Pfister, Keith Reay, Krash Miller
Bram Stoker’s tale of Dracula is retold with a contemporary Los Angeles setting.
“Dracula Reborn” is another cinematic retelling of Bram Stoker’s venerable novel. Writer/director Patrick McManus’ treatment of the material transplants key brushstrokes of the 1897 literary classic into modern-day Los Angeles with the infamous vampire posing as businessman Vladimir Sarkany. Unfortunately, McManus brings along the outdated pacing and dry drama for a version of the too familiar tale that has a 21st century setting, but 19th century storytelling.
Several of the tweaks that “Dracula Reborn” makes to the original story are limited to changing genders of ancillary characters and adjusting their names in turn. Jonathan Harker’s boss Peter Hawkins is now an attractive female named Petra Hawkings. Dr. John Seward becomes Dr. Joan Seward. Mina is renamed Lina. Minor pawn moves like these are not enough of a derivation to earn a nod for cleverness, and they are not enough of an update to make a difference in the final product.
Stoker’s book may be the nucleus of all vampire fiction, but its effectiveness is entrenched in the era in which it was written. Which is why if the story is going to be updated yet again for a new audience, something has to change besides places and names. In particular, the rhythm needs refreshing, and the atmosphere should make full use of the Hollywood relocation.
But “Dracula Reborn” hooks itself too firmly around the real estate deal between Dracula and Jonathan Harker. In fact, the screenplay centers more on the relationship between Jonathan and Lina than it does on the count’s association with either. As a result, story momentum is bogged down by movie-of-the-week melodrama while the Harkers strain their marriage with talk of starting a family. When the focus does shift to Dracula, the film features insomnia-curing scenes of Harker preparing paperwork, Dracula reviewing paperwork, Dracula signing paperwork, and myriad other tertiary activities related to closing a business transaction.
Petra wanders around a parking garage. Harker examines a vacant warehouse at length before selling it to Dracula. He and Dracula then wander its empty halls together. Later, Harker and Van Helsing explore the building again while searching for the count. A modernized “Dracula” needs to trim such empty drudge and replace it with an ambience reflecting contemporary sensibilities for plot advancement.
Dracula himself echoes the plodding nature of the film. Stuart Rigby attempts to play Dracula with the type of hypnotic aristocracy and stoic confidence that the character exudes in so many onscreen portrayals. But everything about the film develops at the rate sand turns into diamonds, putting Dracula’s existence in a state of perpetual slow motion. His mannerisms are so deliberate that Dracula unintentionally resembles a stone statue. The audience is left annoyed at having to wait so long for him to do something as mundane as to respond during a conversation.
As a dreaded menace, Dracula also comes off as blasé. Early scenes have him getting off on appearing out of nowhere to startle people from behind or to cast shadows over their shoulders. A brief flash of inspiration comes when Vlad squares off against a trio of L.A. gangbangers, but it is a short-lived moment. Dracula then resumes his odd habit of slaying real estate agents. Harker is the third such broker targeted in a short period. Dracula is going to have a hard time keeping a low profile once the agency realizes everyone assigned to this client ends up as a corpse or as a creature of the night.
“Dracula Reborn” was never going to knock off socks as a must-see version of the story, although it does possess decent digital FX work and an okay look for this level of production. Aside from giving the locale a facelift, the film is a misfire in terms of revitalizing, much less improving, a 100-year-old tale for modern interests. And in the bursting-at-the-seams sub-genre of “Dracula” adaptations, okay and mediocre may as well be adjectives synonymous with unmemorable and pointless.
Review Score: 40