CINEMA RELEASE: DRACULA: UNTOLD
Release date: 2nd October 2014
Director: Gary Shore
Cast: Luke Evans, Dominic Cooper, Charles Dance, Sarah Gadon
Classification: M (Horror Themes and Violence)
Review by Peter Gray
Though it is taking a much different route than what we have become accustomed to, ‘Dracula: Untold’ is still as viable a backstory as any other as the world-famous bloodsucker is presented as a noble prince before rising as an undead antihero. The insatiable thirst for blood and camp theatrics we’re used to seeing from Bram Stoker’s legendary count are in short supply as we’re delivered an origin story which portrays Vlad the Impaler as the eventual titular figure.
Decades after being enslaved as a child and becoming the most feared of warriors, Vlad (Luke Evans) is now a loving family man and stern, but peaceful, ruler to his homeland Wallachia. Serenity in his village doesn’t last long though as history is set to repeat itself when former brother-in-arms Mehmed (Dominic Cooper, the closest this movie comes to aforementioned camp theatrics), a power-hungry sultan, demands that a thousand Wallachian boys be drafted into his army in a bid to maintain peace. This would all be well and good if Vlad’s young son Ingeras (Art Parkinson) wasn’t part of the call.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, as they say, and the most frantic act Vlad can think of is to make a deal with the devil; not literally of course but Charles Dance’s vampiric creature is close enough. Lurking for centuries in the shadows of the mountains, this master vampire enhances Vlad with supernatural abilities, ones more than ample enough to single-handedly take down an army, but it comes with a price as his new-found powers increases Vlad’s appetite for blood, and should he give into temptation within three days, Vlad’s cursed with immortality and master dearest is set free with his life-force in tow.
Easily likened to ‘Snow White and the Huntsman’, ‘Dracula: Untold’ focuses more of its energy on its effects and battle scenes than its characters with very few players leaving a lasting mark outside of Evans, an intoxicatingly handsome actor who injects enough charisma and masculinity into a role that ultimately has very little to do outside of battle sequences. The earlier scenes of the film fall a little flat but thankfully director Gary Shore (making his feature debut) finds his footing and eventually delivers the thunder we’ve been waiting for with the climactic battle scene of a bat-assisted Vlad taking on an entire army a particular delight.
The blood and gore quota is surprisingly tame, which may upset Dracula purists who are after something with more bite (pun intended), but as far as tales go for a character we’ve seen reborn countless times over, ‘Dracula: Untold’ is an unexpected treat, and one that will hopefully continue the legend if the film’s coda is anything to go by.
My rating: 3.5/5