Dir: Gary Shore
Starring: Luke Evans, Sarah Gadon, Dominic Cooper, and Charles Dance
Opens October 10, 2014
by Monte Yazzie - The Coda Films
Bram Stoker’s iconic monster finds an origin story in “Dracula Untold”, though the vision of darkness is substituted with a less immortal creature for a more morally human leader forced into a desperate decision to save his family and homeland. Director Gary Shore incorporates most of the typical subgenre tropes and attempts to lavish up the story with breakneck CGI that mostly feels like a distraction.
Vlad (Luke Evans), retired from Impaling, lives a peaceful life with his wife Mirena (Sarah Gadon) and son (Art Parkinson). Peace doesn’t last long as the head of the Ottoman Empire, Sultan Mehmed (Dominic Cooper), demands one thousand Transylvanian boys for his forces including Vlad’s only child. Faced with this decision Vlad chooses defiance, though he is severely undermanned for the impending war. Knowing defeat is imminent Vlad follows folklore into a cave where he meets an ancient supernatural force (Charles Dance). Vlad is granted the power to defeat his enemies but in order to regain his mortal life he must resist the temptation to feed on blood or risk being a creature of the night for eternity.
Much of the vampire mythos remains intact here; blood serves as life while sunlight and silver are still objects of weakness. Vlad is portrayed counter to the brutal tales that typify his legend, here Vlad is an honorable family man and diligent ruler. However, his past exploits of ruthless warfare are still presented, given explanation by an upbringing in captivity and a motivation to strike fear into his enemies. The progression of Vlad's character happens rather quickly and somewhat sloppily, it soon becomes a waiting game for the impending encounter with the dark force. This meeting is the shining moment in the film particularly because of the use of veteran actor Charles Dance as The Master Vampire. Dance controls the scene with a menacing allure, playfully taping his long fingernails across the drawn sword of Vlad before easily disarming him. It’s easily the scariest, a loosely used term here, in the film.
The progression of Vlad’s abilities are exaggerated by an abundance of computer graphics, thousands of bats uniformly assisting in battle sequences as Vlad orchestrates with a composer-like performance. While in other scenes hand to hand combat shifts with a mix of hyper movements that are reminiscent of the producing company’s other property “300”. It never works as nicely as it should, mostly because it’s not implemented with any subtlety to enhance the scene instead feeling more distracting and overdone.
Luke Evans does a suitable job as Vlad, his fear for his family and regrets of his past come through nicely in a few scenes. With “Dracula Untold” you are getting everything the trailer conveys, simply an effects driven horror film that offers the viewer a safe Halloween option at the movie theater. Unfortunately for genre fans looking for the frightening Dracula from Stoker’s tale, this origin is fairly tame.
Monte’s Rating / 2.00 out of 5.00