Monday, May 29, 2023

Wrath of Dracula – review

Director: Steve Lawson

Release date: 2023 (scheduled)

Contains spoilers

Director Steve Lawson’s last foray into the vampire genre, Bram Stoker’s Van Helsing, was a strange beast. Making good use of low numbers of locations, it concentrated on a segment of Stoker’s novel and did take some liberties, though not as much as he does in this film. It was, perhaps a tad talkie, had a distinct lack of Dracula himself and, when I reviewed it, blog commentator Octobercynic said “The ending also seemed, to me, to leave the door open for a possible sequel.” Though there are intertextual links, this does not appear to be that sequel

Mark Topping as Van Helsing

So, whilst the primary character of Mina (Hannaj Bang Bendz) has a different actress to the cameo appearance of the character in the previous film, there is a picture (only) of Lucy and it is of actress Charlie Bond who played her in the earlier film and Mark Topping reprises his Van Helsing role, though without beard and, to be fair, the clean-shaven version did read towards Peter Cushing. However, the story doesn’t fit with the previous one particularly well, especially as Dracula (Sean Cronin) does not leave Transylvania, and it is much less novel orientated, ploughing its own narrative furrow.

Mina typing journal

It starts with Harker (Dean Marshall) writing to Mina, who he is already married to, alerting her that he is a prisoner in Castle Dracula. He hides the letter in papers due to be posted to England re the real estate purchases, following which he is pulled backwards by one of the brides – Maria (Ayvianna Snow, Vampire Virus), Frida (Marta Svetek) and Ilsa (Jasmine Sumner). Sometime later Mr Hawkins (Carl Wharton, Saint Dracula) brings it to Mina but isn’t very helpful as Jonathan had signed a waver and they don’t have to help him. She undertakes to go to Transylvania herself.

arriving at Castle Dracula

She uses the hand written travel itinerary she had typed for Jonathan and gets to Castle Dracula when she is intercepted by a man – Van Helsing. A couple of points here did jerk me out of the story, unfortunately. She aims a flintlock pistol at him, recognised as antique in the dialogue, but it went unnoticed by the characters that it was uncocked. A minor thing, perhaps, but then saying that she had travelled overnight from London was just plain wrong – to be fair, later Van Helsing suggested her journey did take time and it may have just been a dialogue error that was missed.

training montage

He persuades her to go to a nearby inn rather than try to get in the castle. Once there he gives her a potted history. In this Dracula, as a man, was seduced by a lamia but his strength of will caused him to make her turn him rather than just kill him. He also mentioned tracking Dracula across several countries over three years – his mention of Shanghai brought my mind immediately to Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires. His thought is that she should return to London, something she won’t do, but he suddenly realises that Dracula’s predilection for beautiful women might gain them entrance to the castle. He offers to train her – and the owning of a Chinese book on martial arts makes this feel less silly than it might of.


The film’s direction, then, is one that has a bit more action; indeed, this might be said to be Steve Lawson’s female-centric gothic take of Dracula by way of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, with Mina and the brides taking centre stage. Dracula does make an appearance but it is limited and Van Helsing serves more as support for Mina than anything else. The action isn’t perfect, some moments swaying towards comedic – especially one scene where it appears speeded up slightly, but for the most part it holds the attention. Vampires in this are killed by stake through the heart, decapitation, sunlight or silver bullet – the last again being unfortunate as Van Helsing fashions bullets rather than the spherical shot the flintlock would take. There is a Bagua mirror in Van Helsing’s hunter kit but he only uses it as a mirror and not as a Taoist priest would in a Chinese vampire movie.


Set in the 19th Century, the production makes good use of locations, on a tight budget, to imitate the era and the location – with tight angles allowing location work that imitates the look they needed well. Like the predecessor there is some soundtrack choices that feel intrusive, given their more modern sound. It does get a bit talkie in places, despite the action, but there is a nice staking moment. With the last film I said it would appeal more to novel fans, not so much with this but it will appeal if you liked the last effort but wanted a bit more expansion (action and location). 6 out of 10.

Note the review was from an advance screener. The imdb page is here.

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