Synopsis: Luke Evans (Fast & Furious 6, Immortals) stars in Dracula Untold, the origin story of the man who became Dracula.
Release Date: October 10, 2014 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Horror, Thriller
The rumor going around the horror world is that Universal is planning to incorporate its stable of classic monsters in a way similar to what is being done with the Marvel Universe, with each character getting his or her own movie until they finally culminate in a The Avengers-type of spectacle. If that’s the plan, there’s no better place to start than with the Prince of Darkness himself in Dracula Untold.
Set in the 15th century, Dracula Untold tells the story of Vlad the Impaler (Luke Evans from Fast & Furious 6), a Transylvanian prince who was taken as a slave by the Turks, trained as a soldier, and forced to fight a war. Vlad proves himself as an extraordinary soldier, and the Turks allow him to return to Transylvania to rule his people. Ten years later, the Turks come back and demand one thousand of the Transylvanian sons to once again be given as slaves, including Vlad’s own son. Not wanting to comply, but knowing that his small and untrained army has no chance against the Turks, Vlad journeys to a hidden cave in the mountains where a mythical creature who has the strength and power of hundreds of men is said to reside. Vlad finds the monster (played to vampiric perfection by Charles Dance, better known as Tywin Lannister on “Game of Thrones”) and strikes a deal with him that can save his people…but the agreement may cost him dearly in return.
On paper, it seems like Dracula Untold would be a mess. There’s still a bad taste in Universal Monsters fans’ mouths from I, Frankenstein. Dracula Untold is directed by first time director Gary Shore from a script written by unproven writers Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless (who are also penning the script for the upcoming Gods of Egypt). Early trailers and television spots make the film out to be a heavily effected cash grab. Truth be told, Dracula Untold is a very enjoyable film, provided the audience can get over the fact that it’s not a horror movie. Shore shows remarkable restraint with his direction (something that the direction of I, Frankenstein was sorely lacking), so the film is decidedly not campy or tongue-in-cheek at all. It’s a very well-made action/adventure movie with just a hint of vampirism, and it delivers more thrills than chills.
Out of all of the classic Universal Monsters, Dracula has always been the least sympathetic; he’s portrayed in the movies as evil, and nothing else. As an origin story, Dracula Untold shows audiences another side. Vlad is a compassionate and fair ruler, loved by his subjects, who will do anything to save his people from the threat of the Turks, even at the expense of his own life and well-being. The audience feels for Vlad, because he really has no choice. He is the hero of the film, but, in his own words, “the world does not need a hero, it needs a monster.” Dracula Untold is the birth of the monster.
The most impressive set pieces in Dracula Untold are, by far, the fight scenes. Some battles are merely Vlad single-handedly taking on a platoon of enemy soldiers. Others are full-fledged wars featuring an entire battlefield full of Turks and Transylvanians slashing it out. Both extremes are awesome. The sequences are done with a mixture of choreographed fighting, slick digital effects, and in-camera editing, and the various techniques allow the scenes to put the viewer right in the middle of the action. The closest comparison would be to any of the Neil Marshall directed episodes of “Game of Thrones,” the episodes where there are huge, spectacular battles; it’s got that primal adrenaline rush. The combat scenes in Dracula Untold get the blood pumping, the teeth gnashing, and the crowd cheering.
Dracula Untold is not a horror movie. Because of this, the film is not scary at all. The Dracula that everyone knows and loves from the 1930s Universal film does not exist yet; Vlad is a mere mortal at this point. There’s plenty of action and drama, but no scares. It appears to be a conscious choice on director Gary Shore’s part, as there are scenes that have the potential to be frightening. Even Vlad’s experiences with the Master Vampire in the cave are not scary. The film chooses to deliver thrills rather than scares, and that suits the story just fine. The lack of fright does not detract from the movie at all. It’s a wildly entertaining ride, but Dracula is not scary yet. That should come later.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Gary Shore
- Screenwriter(s): Matt SazamaBurk Sharpless
- Cast: Luke Evans (Vlad)Sarah Gordon (Mirena)Dominic Cooper (Mehmed) Charles Dance (Master Vampire)Art Parkinson (Ingeras)Diarmaid Murtagh (Dimitru)
- Editor(s): Richard Pearson
- Cinematographer: John Schwartzman
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score: Ramin Djawadi
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA