Movie Review: ‘Dracula Untold’

Dracula Untold Movie Review
Luke Evans in ‘Dracula Untold’ (Photo © Universal Pictures)

Zombies are the new vampires, but FX’s launching of The Strain this summer proved the bloodsuckers aren’t ready to completely fade from the small screen and that a new show featuring the fanged ones isn’t doomed to fail because audiences have moved on. With Dracula Untold, Universal’s hoping the most famous of all vampires will be a draw in theaters, even if the story being told is an origin tale set in 1462 and minus any real vampire action.

Dracula Untold focuses on how Vlad the Impaler (aka Dracula which means “Son of the Dragon”) went from murdering innocents to thirsting for human blood in order to save his people. It attempts to make Vlad a sympathetic figure who only impaled thousands of men, women, and children on stakes as a means of stopping further bloodshed. He loves his gorgeous wife (Sarah Gadon) and their young son, dedicates his life to keeping his people safe, and is even willing to turn into a monster to stop the Turks from destroying his country. He’s not a bad guy, just a misunderstood one in this new take on Vlad’s morphing into Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

The Story:

After decades of war against the Turkish army, Vlad’s Transylvania is finally at peace. He’s ready to put away his shield and armor for good and spend quality time with his family. Alas, the peace is short-lived as Sultan Mehmed II (Dominic Cooper) demands Vlad turn over 1,000 boys to be trained by the Turks as child soldiers. Vlad’s torn between turning over the boys in order to keep the peace or making a stand against Mehmed’s demands. Among the children Mehmed demands is Vlad’s own son and if he doesn’t turn over his child, his country will be drawn into a war they can’t possibly win.

Fortunately for his country, earlier Vlad had stumbled upon a deadly creature living in a cave and for some reason he believes he can convince this powerful beast to give him strength enough to defeat Mehmed’s army. Vlad strikes a bargain with the master vampire (Game of Thrones‘ Charles Dance), earning the strength of hundreds of men, the power to heal himself, and the ability to travel as a bat (and control the winged creatures). The catch? He’ll feel an urgent, insatiable need to drink human blood. But if he can turn back the Turks and refrain from drinking blood for three days, he’ll be able to return to his human non-blood craving self. However, if he drinks the blood, he will become a creature of the night forced to feed on humans forever.

The Bottom Line:

Dracula Untold is actually a father/son tale with the father sacrificing his soul to become a vampire in order to save his child. It’s a simple story at heart and could be quite compelling if told well. Unfortunately, Dracula Untold feels like a whitewashed version of Dracula, minus any real bloodshed (despite the numerous battles) and menace. Vlad’s just a misunderstood nice guy who happened to find the idea of allowing his enemies – and even his subjects – to die slow, agonizing deaths impaled on stakes a just price to be paid in order to avoid the need to kill thousands more. He even throws his country into war to save his son, collateral damage be damned. And if he is forced into drinking blood and living a life hidden from direct sunlight, that’s just an unfortunate part of the bargain.

Dracula Untold marks the feature film directorial debut of Gary Shore who does a decent good of creating the foreboding atmosphere and in staging the many fight scenes. Although it appears Shore’s been studying 300 and wanted to try and replicate and then outdo some of its visual effects, overall the action scenes are well staged and better than might be expected after watching the pre-release trailers. And while there wasn’t much of a campaign by vampire fans to see an origin story on the big screen, Dracula Untold‘s not as much of a disaster as you might expect it to be – again – simply from watching clips or reading the synopsis. Luke Evans handles both the dramatic scenes and the action scenes well, and he appeals to both sexes. So while Dracula Untold won’t go down in history as one of the better vampire movies ever made, it’s not a horrible way to spend two hours if you’re really into the genre.


Dracula Untold is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of warfare, vampire attacks, disturbing images, and some sensuality.

-By Rebecca Murray

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