By Gary Murray

Starring Luke Evans, Dominic Cooper and Sarah Gadon

Written by Matt Sazama & Burk Sharpless

Very loosely based on the book by Bram Stoker

Directed by Gary Shore

Running time 89 min

MPAA Rating PG-13

Selig Film Rating Matinee


Way back in the 1930s Universal was the monster king of the cinematic world.  Frankenstein, The Wolf Man and The Invisible Man and all the sequels came from the studio.  Universal rode the monster bandwagon until the wheels fell off and then they turned all the Universal monsters into comic foils for Abbott & Costello.

One of the first and one of the finest was Bela Lugosi in Dracula.  The character was a vampire, a personification of evil who preyed on innocent virgins.  The original stage play was successfully turned into cinematic masterwork and turned the actor into an international star.

The original Bram Stoker story takes place in the very late 1800s but little is told of how Dracula became the being living in coffins and shunning sunlight.  With the flick Dracula Untold, the film makers tell the tale of his origins and turn the man into a tragic figure and not an evil spirit.

The story is set in 1442 and is of Vlad the Impaler (Luke Evans).  He is a prince and a dangerous warrior, known for impaling enemy troops on pikes.  As a boy, he was forcefully taken by the Turks and taught the skills of battle and combat.  He is cunning and ruthless, but believes in diplomacy over brute force. 

The Turks led by Mehmed (Dominic Cooper) want world domination and Prince Vlad wants peace for his small kingdom of Transylvania.  He will do anything to protect his people, his wife (Sarah Gadon) and young sons.  

Two events drive the plot.  First, Vlad and his men find a crushed Turk helmet in a stream near their lands.  Vlad knows it is from an advanced Turk scout group and that something destroyed the man that was not human.  They follow the trail up Broken Tooth Mountain and find a beast in the cave.  It is rumored it is a vampire, an undead spirit of evil.  Two of Vlad’s men are killed by a something.

The second event is a ransom of silver is given to the Turk king to pay for the safety of Transylvania.  The Turk King also demands that Vlad give him 1,000 young men to train for his army.  This includes his oldest son.  Since Transylvania has no standing troops to protect his lands, Vlad feels that he has no option but to capitulate.  

On the day of the exchange, Vlad looks into the eyes of his son and wife.  Vlad decides he cannot let his son be a part of such a ruthless army and he attacks the Turk guards, killing every one of them.  This will bring about war, a war the Transylvanians cannot win without a miracle.

So, Vlad heads back to the cave and confronts the blood-sucker, trying to get his supremacy.  The aged old vampire (Charles Dance) gives Vlad some of his blood which will give him all the powers of a vampire for three days.  If he does not quench his thirst for human blood in three days, the curse will lift and he will become a mortal man again.  If he does take blood, Vlad will become a vampire for eternity and the old vampire will finally be freed from the cave. 

The rest of the film is Vlad discovering how his new vampire powers can protect his subjects. It is by happenstance that Vlad learns to transform into a bunch of bats.  With his newfound supremacy, he can summon all the children of the night.  

Vlad uses his newly acquired super speed and massive strength to subdue an entire regiment of Turks.  It becomes a blood bath of violence with soldiers strewn from stem to stern. It is one of the biggest action sequences of the piece and an exciting scene.  

The film is a special effects smorgasbord and the element that truly rules over the screenplay.  Bats flying and swarming, giant regiments of troops attacking and shadowy beasts roaming the night are blended into an origins story that should thrill the CGI junkies but not so much for the average film fan. 

Director Gary Shore uses every computer invention to craft a film that could not have been attempted even a decade ago.  He just didn’t make a horror film with Dracula.

This may be listed as a Universal feature but it feels more along the lines of a Hammer Production.  There are scenes upon scenes of stylized blood-letting with crazed camera angles that drive the slight plot. The film is much more about the effects than simple storytelling.  It is a modern thrill ride than classic Gothic horror.   It is super fun to watch but it is not a horror film and the horror fans will be the most disappointed.

It is rumored that this is the first film in an eventual franchise experience like Marvel has done in the last few years.  Dracula Untold is an interesting start-up to this idea and the film is definitely set-up for a sequel. 

Or a giant series of sequels like Frankenstein Untold or Dracula versus Frankenstein Untold or The Untold Story of Destroy all Monsters (with the Wolf Man, the Invisible Man, Mr. Hyde, Predator, Freddy K., Jason and Aliens!)

Now, that’s a movie I want to see! 

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