Movie review: Dracula Untold a story best left ... um ... untold | Arts
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Friday, October 10, 2014

Movie review: Dracula Untold a story best left ... um ... untold

Posted by on Fri, Oct 10, 2014 at 1:06 PM

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Dracula Untold
★★
Now playing

The filmmakers behind Dracula Untold, the latest in a seemingly endless series of vampire retreads, could have gone a thousand different directions in exploring the legend of ol’ Vlad the Impaler. Stay mostly true to the real story, and add a few flourishes of monstrosity at the end, so the horror hounds go home happy? Take the safe route, with all-out gore and fangs and a Count Chocula accent? With all of the options available, choosing either an ill-suited Christ allegory or a nod to current issues in the Middle East never would have crossed my mind.

Dracula Untold rewrites history as we are introduced to Vlad (Fast & Furious 6’s Luke Evans), a prince who murdered thousands of civilians during wartime, but in a strictly “destroy the village to save the village” manner. Finally back home with his family, it isn’t long before his childhood frenemy (Dominic Cooper from The Devil's Double) is demanding 1,000 Transylvanian children be sent for forced military training. Taking the request a tad personally, Vlad kills a group of soldiers that have been sent to take his young son captive, and begins formulating a plan to defeat a military force a thousand times larger than his own.

That plan largely involves seeking assistance from the neighborhood monster. A fabled creature (Game of Thrones’ Charles Dance) has lived in a cave on top of a mountain for years, with local lore believing it to be a former ruler that sold his soul to the Devil during an ill-conceived bartering session. Now Vlad makes this same deal, with the conditions being that if he can withstand three days of hunger without feasting upon human blood he will remain human; if he gives in, he will take the monster’s place.

News began to leak shortly before the release of Untold that Universal was viewing the film as their opportunity to get into the “universe sharing” business, much like Marvel’s Avengers franchise. With a vast array of monster films in its, the studio is looking into a massive reboot of Frankenstein, the Wolf Man, all of the classics film fans have loved for generations, for the expressed reason of throwing them together in a “team” film at some point.

Unfortunately, the studio’s grand desires didn’t extend to crafting a reasonably well-made first chapter in the future epic. Director Gary Shore is a relative unknown, with only a short film as his previous experience, so asking him to helm such an important film was foolish. Some directing choices are too on-the-nose while others are just horrible. The villainous Turks are Middle Eastern versions of Snidely Whiplash, stroking their carefully groomed goatees while they attack Catholic monasteries. Dracula drinks the monster’s blood so that he may give his only life to save ours. It’s all hackish material that takes itself too seriously.

In the history of film, vampire movies have endured as a way to bring the masses to the theater. After Dracula Untold, perhaps it’s time to put a stake in those tales for a while.

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