Director – Gary Shore
Cast – Luke Evans, Dominic Cooper, Sarah Gadon, Art Parkinson, Charles Dance, Diarmaid Murtagh, Paul Kaye, William Houston, Noah Huntley, Ronan Vibert, Zach McGowan, Ferdinand Kingsley, Joseph Long
Release Year – 2015
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I am not completely sold on the idea, but I am intrigued by retellings of popular tales. For example: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Dracula Untold is not as extreme as a notable gentleman doing ungentlemanly things to vampires, but it does reimagine the history behind Vlad the Impaler – hence “Untold”. From first-time director Gary Shore and two first-time writers, I was expecting worse. This is not a home run, as it is a one-dimensional story with little conflict, but it had enough visual appeal to keep my attention.
With the mighty Turks threatening his army-less kingdom, prince Vlad Tepes must become the very monster his own people fear in order to save them.
I like that this story tells the tale of Vlad leading up to the events that take place in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. We watch as Vlad tries to lead a peaceful in his kingdom, fleeing from the past that gave him the nickname “The Impaler”. This peace is broken when the Turks, lead by his “brother” Mehmad, demand 1,000 boys to used as soldiers. Vlad promised his people peace, but peace cannot happen. If he delivers the boys then they are subject to the Ottoman rule, and if he refuses then they will be slaughtered by Mehmad’s army that is over 100,000 strong. He does what we all want him to do – he chooses to fight. The vampire element kicks in here, and he makes the decision to allow himself to be bitten by an elder vampire looking to escape the curse he has bared for centuries. The rest of the film is action-packed nonsense of Vlad single-handedly fighting the thousands of Turkish soldiers sent to slay his people. I found these scenes to be pretty extreme and unlike any other sequences I have seen in the vampire sub-genre. We see him command large swarms of bats to fight alongside him, and I cannot explain the magnitude without you seeing it for yourself.
In the first act, when we first witness the vampire that eventually bites Vlad, I was impressed with the execution of the horror. The atmosphere is solid – dark and gloomy – and excellent use is made of the shadows and locations. There is a decent amount of gore in this piece, with dismemberments and impalements serving as the most extreme of the kills. Most impressive is Luke Evans’ performance as Vlad. I have been a fan of his since he starred in the incredible No One Lives, and he continued to impress with Dracula Untold. It was cool to see Dominic Cooper as Mehmed, although you can hear right though his Turkish accent. I don’t see why they casted him of all people, but he did well.
Overall, Dracula Untold is a decent flick, but not one I would outrightly recommend. If you are curious to see a prequel to the Dracula lore than you may enjoy this. Don’t expect greatness, just expect the usual visual cheese as seen in films like I, Frankenstein.