Dampyr (2022) poster

Dampyr (2022)


Italy. 2022.


Director – Riccardo Chemello, Screenplay – Mauro Boselli, Giovanni Masi, Alberto Ostini & Mauro Uzzeo, Adapted by Michele Masiero, Giovanni Mattioli & Antonio Navarra, Story – Mauro Boselli & Maurizio Colombo, Based on the Comic-Book Dampyr Created by Mauro Boselli & Maurizio Colombo, Producers – Tarak Ben Ammar, Davide Bonelli, Roberto Proia, Vincenzo Sarno & Andrea Sgaravatti, Photography – Vittorio Omodei Zorini, Music – Lorenzo Tomio, Visual Effects – Alps VFX (Supervisors – Alessio Bertotti & Filippo Robino), Animation – Primal Shape (Supervisor – Andrea Giro), Special Effects Supervisor – Franco Galiano, Creature Designer/Prosthetics Supervisor – Leonardo Cruciano, Production Design – Luigi Marchione. Production Company – Eagle Pictures/Sergio Bonelli Editore/Brandon Box.


Wade Briggs (Harlan Draka), Stuart Matin (Emil Kurjak), Frida Gustavsson (Tesla Dubcek), Sebastien Croft (Yuri), David Morrissey (Gorka), Radu Andrei Micu (Lazar), Ionut Grama (Stefan), Alice Cora Mihalache (Aysha), Aura Calarascu (Aysha Old)


Harlan Draka is a dampyr who is born half-human and half-vampire. Draka and his manager Yuri travel from town to town with a scam where he fools superstitious villagers by claiming to exorcise vampires. Meanwhile, a group of freedom fighters in a war-torn zone in Eastern Europe come under attack by actual vampires. The rebels come and drag Harlan away at gunpoint and throw him out onto the streets of the town at night. As the vampires surround him, Harlan is startled to discover that his blood has the ability to kill them. The vampires flee, although leave the vampire girl Tesla Dubcek behind to watch Harlan on the orders of the vampire lord Gorka. The rebels also abandon the town, leaving the rebel leader Emil Kurjak behind. Harlan demands to know what is happening from Tesla and learns about the special powers that a dampyr has. When the rest of the rebels are slaughtered and Yuri abducted, Harlan decides that he, joined by Emil and Tesla, must set out to kill Gorka, the self-styled master of the night, and eliminate the vampire threat.

Dampyr is an Italian comic-book created by Mauro Boselli and Maurizio Colombo that originally began publishing in 2000 and is still going today. English-language translations of some stories do exist, although it is not widely known outside of Europe. Dampyr is put out by Sergio Bonelli Editore, a comic-book house that has been publishing since 1940, with they being responsible for many other titles including most famously Dylan Dog. Bonelli Editore also produce the film where Dampyr was intended to kick off a shared universe between their properties as something akin to the MCU. The film was a directorial debut for Riccardo Chemello and is shot in English.

I don’t think Dampyr is a great or even a ground-breaking Vampire Film, but it has some interesting ideas going on inside it. One of these is the conception of the hero (Wade Briggs) who is a dampyr and travels from town to town with his manager preying on the superstitions of locals with a scam where he claims that he is staking vampires and exorcising graveyards, all before he is suddenly forced to confront this for real. It is an amusing idea seemingly borrowed from the title characters in Terry Gilliam’s The Brothers Grimm (2005).

There is also the interesting idea of setting the action in an East European war zone. The country where things are taking place is not specified but it could easily have been the Bosnian conflict of the 1990s, or just as easily the war in Ukraine that was several months old at the time the film was released. (The trailer does say that it is the Balkans, which is spells ‘Balkins’, in 1992). Such East European countries are also the locus of where vampire mythology as we know it emerged from, which places a fascinating contemporary spin on everything.

Stuart Matin, Harlan Draka (Wade Briggs) and Tesla Dubcek (Frida Gustavsson) in Dampyr (2022)
Vampire hunters – (l to r) rebel leader Emil Kurjak (Stuart Matin), dhampyr Harlan Draka (Wade Briggs) and vampire girl Tesla Dubcek (Frida Gustavsson)

The film borrows the look of much of its vampires from the post-2000s vampire film. In particular, the vampires are accompanied by a great deal of posing a la Underworld (2003) – Frida Gustavsson even goes into action wearing a bra and combat boots; there is much in the way of action movie poses and transformation effects; lots of Gothique backlit mist; characters with mouths of snarling fangs; assorted action movie styled vampire attacks; and a standard dark overlord behind everything.

Dampyr doesn’t reinvent the wheel but it is a solid and reasonably well put together vampire film in the post-Underworld model. The plot works fairly well and sets up an epic conflict. The two heroes are fairly anonymous. Frida Gustavsson is okay, although her character seems lumbered with the name Tesla, which drags you out of the fantasy and makes you think either of Croatian inventors or luxury cars (although to be fair that is an inheritance from the comic-book, not the film’s fault). Similarly, David Morrissey, the film’s best known name, creates unintentional amusement when he tries to do the whole evil brooding dark lord role.

Trailer here

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