Dampyr is a brave attempt, but it could have been more

Dampyr is a brave attempt, but it could have been more

Dampyr is a brave attempt

Dampyr was long awaited before finally arriving in our rooms and at Lucca Comics & Games 2022. Finally also Sergio Bonelli Editore now has its first cinecomic.

This is the opening towards a path that should mark the beginning of a cinema cycle made in Italy that will hopefully win on the international market as well.

Entire generations of Italians have grown up with the colorful characters created by the Milanese comic book publishing house since the 1940s, and to list them all, there is a risk of nightfall. Each of them is a piece of history of our fiction, of our popular culture, and certainly this film arrives with great expectations and expectations, for those who hope that the seventh Italian art can renew its identity and have a greater connection with the public.

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A film that aspires to iconicity

Let's start by saying that obviously more than someone will be asked why it was decided to start from Dampyr, created in 2000 by Mauro Boselli and Maurizio Colombo.

The first certainty that comes from watching the film directed by Riccardo Chemello and scripted by Giovanni Masi, Alberto Ostini and Mauro Uzzeo, starting from the first two episodes of the series ("The Son of the Devil" and "The Breed of the Night") is that the final result is a melting pot of strengths and weaknesses, and it is difficult to understand if and how much a point can really be of reference.

Reviewing it means first of all appreciating the courage inherent in the creation of this horror fantasy set in the bloody Yugoslavia of the early 90s, amidst rubble and desperation.

Dampyr, 6 comics to find out Gallery 6 Images by Andrea Curiat

Look at the gallery

A squad of soldiers led by the brave and grumpy Kurjak (Stuart Martin), arrives in a village literally sown with corpses that seem to have been attacked by wild beasts.

When night falls, the troop takes little to understand that they are not the usual opponents to besiege them, but creatures of the night, vampires to be precise. Bullets and grenades are useless against them. But who knows that Harlan (Wade Briggs), a petty crook who gabba the superstitious locals pretending to be a vampire slayer together with his partner Yuri (Sebastian Croft), can't help them survive. Cynical, disillusioned, he seems to be a lost nobody among many, yet it is said that he is the son of a human woman and a vampire, and not just any one, but of the powerful Draka (Luke Roberts).

Harlan would therefore be a Dampyr, a hybrid that rarely survives, because it can prove to be a deadly enemy for the Masters of the Night, including the sadistic and very dangerous Gorka (David Morrissey, the late Governor of The Walking Dead ), which sows terror in those lands.

Among blood, fangs, fighting and occult powers, lost in the hell of the Balkans, Harlan and the others can only count on themselves, while the uncertain vampire Tesla (Frida Gustavsson, in the cast of Vikings Valhalla) she tries to figure out which side to take, if she wants to continue to be a servant of Gorka or to trust those two strange and unlikely heroes.

A cinecomic with an all too vintage flavor

Dampyr undoubtedly carried a high risk factor, due to the fact that the comic series has always been, as in the middle of Bonelli tradition, a work with a vintage flavor, or at least proudly connected to the past. Bringing it to the screen meant in theory to deal with a narrative universe that was a mix between genre films, Slavic mythology and the wildest action-horror of the 80s, with a hint of that Dark Fantasy atmosphere of sagas like Underworld or Blade. Reading the list it is already clear that we are therefore talking about the past, and in fact from the beginning both from an aesthetic point of view and in terms of rhythm, Chemello's film proudly claims an identity connected to B-movies with a vintage flavor.

The most memorable modern vampires of the cinema Gallery 9 Images by Lorenza Negri

Look at the gallery The film seems to have been created on purpose to tickle the nostalgia effect of the over 30 audience, which corresponds perfectly to the description of the average Bonellian player.

The budget put in place was 15 million dollars, which may seem small for a cinecomic or an entertainment film of this type, but if we look for example at a small gem as was Code 8 three years ago, the final result was largely positive.

Dampyr, on the other hand, from the very beginning suffers from the classic defect that recently born cinecomics have: an excessive fidelity to the original paper. And it should be noted that here we speak not only and not so much of a narrative fidelity (which in the end is a defect only when badly used) but above all of an aesthetic fidelity.

All this makes the whole a unpleasantly close to a fan-made or in any case to a production of not great scope. To give you an idea, the first thing that comes to mind when looking at Tesla or the other bloodsuckers, is the Wolverine from the first X-Men movies, when Hugh Jackman had to go through hours of make-up to have hair exactly like it. those of the cartoon character. Only later did it become clear that ultimately making it more plausible was the only key to making it work. Here, instead, between themed evening looks, vampires with the perfect hairstyle and unlikely streaks, the suspension of disbelief generated by the film becomes more and more tiring, the whole artificial and predictable.

A good cast for a film not ambitious enough

These are the flaws, now moving on to the merits we must surely recognize that the casting is absolutely perfect, both in the main roles and in the surrounding ones.

Wade Briggs will not be the Ralph Fiennes from Stranger Days to which Boselli and Colombo were inspired, but he does his best, he has the right face, the right expressiveness and a beautiful stage presence. They are also convinced by Stuart Martin and the cold Frida Gustavsson, who believe in it and give it their all, and overall the chemistry between the three turned out to be of a good level. It goes less well with David Morrisey and Luke Roberts. Both are penalized by a frankly avoidable make-up and costumes, which make them (it must be said) at times more similar to cosplayers than to characters consistent with a rocking and dynamic gothic horror.

The best horror films of social criticism in the history of cinema Gallery 9 Images by Lorenza Negri

Look at the gallery Dampyr on more than one occasion makes a verse to Bram Stoker's Dracula but without having any minimally the evocative power, it seems more connected to live action videogames that embrace the concept of guilty pleasure. The script has some small flaws, but while not a miracle of creativity it is ultimately quite solid, logical, coherent and takes full advantage of every possible grip of the original paper, something that surely fans of the series will greatly appreciate.
The final judgment on Dampyr is that of a sufficiency above all of encouragement for what could be the first brick of a cinematographic construction, which we hope will really bring new life to an Italian cinema that has been around for years now.

Having said that, in theory Dampyr appears to be one of the less daring choices to start with when creating a cinecomic universe.

Were it not altor to offer something other than a carbon copy of products seen and reviewed, Bonelli might have had to start with a fresher and less self-congratulatory project.

The truth is that today in our cinema even in operations of this type a poor connection with the audience persists, just think of Diabolik by Manetti Bros., basically a narcissistic operation and for a select few. Today, perhaps, television series is the most suitable way, the most drinkable and which leaves more creative freedom and possibilities. All while continuing to regret the live action never made on Corto Maltese, the legendary first fruits of our comic acclaimed all over the world. If you have to dare you might as well do it all the way right?

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