“Sometimes the world doesn’t need a hero, it needs a monster.” Dracula Untold is the new spin on the classic tale in which we get to know the infamous Vlad the Impaler (played by Luke Evans), the 15th century ruler of Wallachia who inspired Bram Stoker’s vampiric 1897 gothic novel Dracula.
The story revolves around Vlad’s internal struggle between his desire for peace versus the necessity for evil in order to defend his people, and most importantly his wife (Sarah Gadon) and son (Art Parkinson), from their enemies: the Turks.
In recent years we have seen numerous films and TV programmes revolving around vampires, and now Gary Shore has made his own contribution with this directorial debut. The story begins with the voice of Dracula’s son recounting Vlad’s past in which he had been raised amongst the Turks and trained to be a brutal warrior, which explains how he became Vlad the Impaler.
However, now his greatest desire is to rule in peace and protect his people and his family. Sadly, the peace is soon shattered when the devious Turkish sultan (Dominic Cooper) orders 1,000 children to fight in his army, including Vlad’s beloved son. Vlad comes to the conclusion that the only way to save Transylvania and his family is to go to a cave in which lies a great evil and ask to become a monstrous vampire, you know, like you do.
Unfortunately, while you can appreciate what Shore has tried to do in humanising Dracula and making him something of a hero, the film tends to fall flat. A promising opening involving Vlad’s dark past, a freaky cave in which lies a monster who devours all that enter, and the looming threat of the Turks all made it seem as if the film was heading towards something good, but this didn’t materialise.
Part of the problem is that it’s hard to understand where exactly the film lies; it’s neither scary enough to be a horror, nor enough action occurs for it to be classed as such. Moreover, the film just was not believable. People don’t tend to transform from brutal killer, impaling people left, right and centre, to being a compassionate family man and leader yearning for peace overnight. Whilst you may be able to overlook this, it’s harder to overlook the fact that as soon as Transylvania is threatened, Vlad is immediately willing to join the darkest force on the earth.
When the master vampire (Charles Dance) warns him of the monster he will become and the unquenchable thirst for human blood, Vlad was so unfazed he may as well have asked ‘Where do I sign up?’, which doesn’t exactly fit in with the character Shore had been trying to previously portray prior to that point.
The master vampire tells Vlad that if he resists human blood for three days he will return to his normal state, although this will be near enough impossible due to the power of the thirst. However, when Vlad does transform into a vampire, it doesn’t even seem to affect him much, making the vampiric qualities in a film titled Dracula Untold a little lacklustre and unsold.
Instead, there is almost a superhero-type moment in which he realises his new powers, which include great strength, speed, control over bats and for some reason, control over the weather in the final battle. Throughout the three days. the struggle against the thirst just isn’t at all believable, and he only seems really tempted in one encounter with his wife.
Having said all this, Dracula Untold is not all bad. There are some captivating, visual moments in the movie, and the premise of the film is interesting. However, it didn’t always manage to keep my full attention and at 92 minutes, I was more than ready for it to end. When it does end, there is also a feeling of confusion as there were few too many things that just didn’t appear to make sense.
It’s hard to understand where exactly the film lies
Perhaps Dracula just works better as an inhumane monster, or perhaps the struggle just needed to be stronger. The film is an okay watch, but definitely doesn’t stand up as a contender against the various vampire adaptations over the years, particularly Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 Dracula.