After the trite, misogynist epic that was the Twilight Saga, it is fair to say the general movie-going public is tired of vampires. HBO’s True Blood, a series I enjoy, became a convoluted mess of supernatural tropes, but is less painful to watch than Stephenie Meyer’s testament to female slavery. It seemed the four years of Bella and Edward ruined vampires, until the first trailer for Dracula Untold.
It was interesting to see a film that combines the history and myth of Vlad Tepes with Bram Stoker’s fiction. His extreme acts of horror warrant a movie unto themselves, but it is hard to imagine a film about a man, impaling hundreds people to save himself, making it’s budget within the first week. Untold, however, found a way to make a murderer sympathetic.
The film begins with an origin sequence over the narration of Vlad’s son Ingeras, played by Art Parkinson. He talks about the Turkish Empire enslaving male children of Transylvania to be soldiers. The greatest of them was his father whom became known as the Impaler for his ruthlessness.
In the present Vlad, played by Luke Evans, is king of Transylvania, and a family man struggling to move on from his past. All seems well until a Turkish envoy demands the first-born male children for Sultan Mehmed, played by Dominic Cooper. The request brings back memories that become exacerbated when Mehmed asks for Ingeras as a hostage.
Knowing how outmatched he is Vlad refuses and seeks out a dark legend. Said legend is the Master Vampire, played by Charles Dance, a small, but fitting role for a man of his charisma. After they meet, Vlad drinks the Master’s blood and gains the power to save his family and fight the Turks.
What makes the film work is its B-Movie feel. The actors know the premise is ridiculous, but they go along with it because Untold wants to push the vampire mythos; it’s having fun and wants explore what is possible. Despite the absurdity, the characters act like any person would in their situation.
The only problems with Untold are that it doesn’t go far enough. A good amount of Verhoeven-style gore and dismemberment would have helped with bat-assisted impalements and eviscerations. Mehmed needed more characterization and some historical context for those not familiar with the period.
Performances were good with Evans doing a great job of portraying a battered old warrior trying to forget. The supporting roles of Parkinson and Sarah Gadon as Vlad’s wife were acceptable given their parts. The best performance by far was Dance. The man was made to play a vampire and with the aid of make-up and voice mixing, he is easily the best part of the film.
Though not wholly unique, Dracula Untold was a fun watch, the kind of movie you can keep your brain on, and enjoy for its 92 minute runtime.