Thursday, August 10, 2023

Dampyr – review

Director: Riccardo Chemello

Release date: 2022

Contains spoilers  

A comic book film, this is based on the long running Italian Dampyr series and, for the most part, it looks pretty darn slick (there is an exception to this, which I’ll come to). However, for those not immersed in the comics already, I suspect the story will feel just a tad underplayed.

It starts in an undefined point of time in the past and three crone like midwives attend a woman (Madalina Bellariu Ion) in labour. One looks through the window (for a second a flash reveals her as younger) and says *he* is coming. The *he* is a rider coming through the forest, Draka (Luke Roberts, Dracula: The Dark Prince & Guillermo del Toro's Cabinet of Curiosities – the Autopsy). The crone casts a spell of protection in blue, the vampire lord (for that is what he is) sends power outwards in red. The mother is bleeding heavily and dies in childbirth and the vampire wants his son. The witches (for that is what they are) weather his mystic storm and tell him they will raise the baby until he is old enough to choose.

Kurjak arrives

Of course, he is a dampyr, the son of a vampire father and human mother but before we meet his adult self, we are in the Balkans in the 1990s, as war tears the region apart. We meet a Commander, Kurjak (Stuart Martin) as Walk on the Wild Side plays. He leads an advance vehicle into a town but the town is deserted except for bodies. As they examine them, they seem odd, bereft of blood. One of my issues was here. The faces of the dead seem to have been post-production touched up, perhaps to give them an uncanny feel, but it doesn’t look great to me. Similarly with the vampires when they get ‘vamp face’ – that looks a bit rubbish too. These visual effects are the exception to the general slickness, that I mentioned.


The church seems to have a pile of bodies within and Kurjak orders them buried. Before that a surviving old man appears and raves about getting the dampyr but a soldier shoots him. That night a couple of guards hear a woman, Tesla (Frida Gustavsson), asking for help as she comes down the street. As one approaches her, her claws come out and she attacks him. Gun fire brings the other soldiers out (a full convoy met the advance vehicle) and several die at the hands of a group of vampires. In the morning Lazar (Radu Andrei Micu, Bloodrayne) tells Kurjak he knows who the dampyr is and gets sent to get him.

Lazar and Harlan

In the meantime, we have already met Harlan Draka (Wade Briggs) and his manager Yuri (Sebastian Croft, Penny Dreadful) who drive from village to village "saving" them from vampires. Sometimes it is clinging to a graveyard gate and reciting nonsense that they sell as words of power and others he actually has to stake a corpse. Harlan does not believe in vampires and the inference is he was called a dampyr by the kids in his village (where Lazla grew up also). As he was meant to have been raised by the witches this seems slightly off.

Tesla biting

Anyway, he is found and taken at gunpoint to the town where he is left outside at night and approached by Tesla but she smells something wrong with his blood. Another vampire slashes his chest and the vampire's hand starts to melt (Harlan’s blood is like acid to vampires). Killing a vampire causes the master vampire, Gorka (David Morrissey), to telepathically recall the vampires – except for Tesla who he orders to stay and watch the dampyr. The soldiers, in the morning, desert and subsequently are captured by Gorka, along with Yuri. Harlan, Kurjak and Tesla go after Gorka (though Tesla is the master vampire’s creature).

sunlight exposure

So the master vampires are called Lords of the Night – they can walk in sunlight, procreate (and create dampyrs), create other vampires and have loads of groovy magical powers. The ordinary vampires are slaves to them, and subject to being possessed by their Master’s will, and burn in sunlight. The dampyr’s blood is like acid (as mentioned) and bleeding on bullets make them vampire killing implements (don’t over think how that works when using a fully automatic rifle spitting out bullets and he’s only bled on a handful). The dampyr has the ability to fast heal, they age slowly and he seems to have an untapped reserve of powers that will emerge in the future.


The background around Harlan feels empty as there seems to be more set up for a series than answered in this (especially around Draka). I was disappointed with David Morrissey’s Gorka – normally a fine actor the evil vampire didn’t project much in the way of menace. Most of the characters were woefully 2-dimensional. However, I did like the film as a comic book action film. The larger, more mystic effects worked well, it was just that post-production touching up – especially of faces – that let that side of the house down. All in all, this was not too bad as a take your brain out comic book film and the setting worked in its favour – though it probably works better if you know the original comics. 6 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

On Demand @ Amazon US

On Demand @ Amazon UK

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