Thursday, 2 October 2014

Dracula Untold: Movie Review

Dracula Untold: Movie Review

Cast: Luke Evans, Sarah Gadon, Dominic Cooper, Charles Dance
Director: Gary Shore

Another October, another re-imagining of the origins of the Dracula story in time for Hallowe'en.

It's 1442 Transylvania and Hobbit star Luke Evans is hunky-but-troubled Prince Vlad, who's forced into taking terrible measures to protect his people from the oncoming might of the Turkish army, led by warlord Mehmud (Dominic Cooper, all guy-liner and one note).

After discovering an immortal devil atop a mountain cave, Vlad the impaler makes a pact with the creature to save his family from death and slavery and his kingdom from slaughter. But that deal with Charles Dance's Faust-like demon means that Vlad has 3 days to resist the urge to drink human blood or forever be changed into a creature of the night.

Dracula Untold is more a medieval fantasy fight film than a full on blood-sucking Dracula flick.

Moping and brooding, the troubled Luke Evans as Vlad the Impaler does the best he can with a fairly anaemic script that's more about family, fathers and sons, reincarnation and destined tragedy than seeking out scantily clad ladies and biting them.

It's surprisingly bloodless too, with most of the proceedings being taken up by some very impressive FX shots from heat seeking infra red vision for the Dracula creatures watching from the dark, peeling off of skin when struck by sunlight, some smart CGI bat work as they swirl like an out of control twister to an opening 3D freeze frame shot which shows off the stylistic vision of first time director Gary Shore. As well as the FX frenzy (and the usual Dracula horror cliches - millions of bats flying out of mountains), the main thrust of this revision is an attempt to give Dracula more of a tortured almost emo-like conflict and make his ascent to what he is a more internal moral struggle as he battles with the monsters within, trying not to become the monster himself.

Which is perhaps a good thing, because a lack of any real solid antagonist during the muddy proceedings to face off with is somewhat crippling. Cooper's Mehmud is bereft of screen time, character development and consequently is as little a threat as you'd ever encounter, with his sole machinations being to get 1,000 boys conscripted into his army. Likewise, his wife (played by Enemy star Sarah Gadon) has little to do and is subsequently wasted.

That said, there are some pleasing touches and references to the Dracula mythology; a believer in Dracula who wants to be his servant raises a few nostalgic smiles (including the iconic "Yes Master" deference line) but the desire to fill the movie with darkly lit battle scenes where the Turkish hordes are covered with bats makes for somewhat eye-crippling viewing.

Along with a frankly ludicrously tacked on final sequence, and so much wood at times that it's almost fatal for a man troubled by stakes, this Dracula is somewhat of a muddled outing with some bad dialogue riddled through the script. It lacks the bite of the start of a franchise, but should be applauded for trying to humanise the monstrous myth as this movie tries to Bat-ter your heart as well as the senses.



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  2. Whenever you make a deal with the Devil (or a vampire in a cave) things end badly.

    My biggest complaint about Dracula Untold is that they turned a vampire into a Marvel comic superhero. He could easily be a member of the X-Men. I also thought the reincarnation plot thread was totally out of place, given that Vlad lived in a Christian society. The epilogue was unnecessary. I would rather see a sequel in the historical past than present day, but I don't think we will get either.

    I wrote a short essay on the film called "The Doctrine of Jihad." I studied the real history of the film. If you would like to read it, I am open to any helpful feedback:

  3. A good review! I agree with you that this is more of a fantasy action film than a horror movie.