The cinema screens have not been short on origin stories over the last few years. You might have been forgiven for assuming that the horror genre’s most famous monsters would be safe from this phenomenon but this year’s early horror action film Dracula: Untold is set to prove you wrong or at the very least try!
Dracula: Untold doesn’t pretend to be remotely historically accurate so all complaints about styling, accents, location and haircuts can be saved for another day. We follow the story of Vlad the Impaler’s epic turn around from good guy prince to ultimate vampire. Vlad is well played by the brooding Luke Evans who, when faced with the question of the safety of his family and friends, is forced to start the war he had tried so hard to resist with Dominic Cooper’s Sultan Mehmed. Ultimately outnumbered, Vlad decides to follow his instincts on some old monk’s tales and agrees to a deal with the monstrous elder vampire Charles Dance in which he will be given all the power of the vampire for three days, if he gives in to his blood thirst he will be vampire for all eternity, freeing the elder from his cursed cave.
I’m sure you can guess how well that goes.
Whilst we might be unsure of whether or not an origin story for our favourite vampire is really necessary, the film is visually artistic and despite some strange logistic errors in time and space there is exactly the amount of action you might expect and more than a couple of the prerequisite impalings. In terms of horror, and the use of such an iconic figure though, the film falls entirely flat. The film provides a back-story and is intended to humanise one of our favourite horror creatures but as a whole, though enjoyable this chunk of the film feels unnecessary as a whole.
The central issue here is that Dracula: Untold seems to have forgotten that it should be at heart a vampire narrative. The film flounders between the horror, action and historic genres without any real focus. Whilst it scrambles occasionally to focus and Charles Dance does an excellent job of creeping out a whole cinema as the elder vampire, the film is ultimately lacking the central thirst of any good vampire narrative and devolves into an overly convoluted love story.
The final third of the film picks up the pace slightly and it ends on a high note, but 92 minutes seems an awfully long way to go to imply that a second film would be truly great. Perhaps it would have been wise to just start there. Dracula: Untold, whilst visually pretty and action-packed lacks the conflict and chemistry we desire and offers a sadly watered-down version of a creature we have come to know and love. It is an interesting concept that is probably not entirely what Stoker had in mind.
A vamp romp not worth sinking your plastic fangs into. 4/10
[Words, Ciara Lianne O’Brien]
Editor-in-Chief, part-time super villain and hoarder of cats. If you can’t find me writing, I’m probably in the kitchen!