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10/27/14

DRACULA UNTOLD - REVIEW


Upon hearing that we'd be getting a new Dracula movie this Halloween and that it would star the usually reliable Luke Evans in the title role, I was definitely looking forward to it. It had been a while since the last Dracula movie and an epic period piece sounded like a good idea.

Then the trailer happened.

Then the movie happened.

And then I started missing Dracula 2000.

As it turns out, this Dracula story was "untold" for a reason: it's mostly rubbish.

The film is kind of a prequel to Bram Stoker's Dracula in that you see a fuller version of how Vlad The Impaler became a vampire but, of course, minus the style and poetic approach of Francis Ford Coppola's film (or Bram Stoker's novel for that matter). What we're left with is a by-numbers epic movie with some unlikely vampire theme thrown in. Dracula Untold, much like Man Of Steel, is a reboot for the sake of being a reboot: it serves a functional purpose, nothing more. Essentially, all the film does is add a couple of things to what we already knew about Dracula's past in order to make the movie not 20 minutes long.

Dracula, we learn, became a vampire in order to defeat the Turkish armies determined to humiliate and take over Transylvania. He joined the undead by meeting with some old, cursed vampire dude who happened to live in a cave in the nearby mountains. Cave Guy (played by Charles Dance), as I've decided to call him seeing as he's barely a legitimate character in this, could have been an opportunity to merge Max Schreck's Nosferatu into the story somehow thereby creating an interesting homage to the movie that started it all but all this Cave Guy does is introduce a new plot hole. The idea was always that Dracula sold his soul to the Devil but now it's this guy who appears to have done that so Dracula's just an unlucky desperate dude with an awesome power that happens to have unfortunate side effects. As for Cave Guy, the movie remains unsure about what to do with him once he turns our main character.

Unfortunately, Evans is given a bland script to work with and he ends up being completely forgettable in the film so the tragic aspect of his character doesn't come through and neither does his intensity. You don't buy for one second that this guy is Vlad The Impaler and in a film where that's kind of the key thing, it's a fatal issue. Some new stuff is attempted in regards to what Dracula can do as a vampire but, alas, all it is is he can turn into swarms of bats or use swarms of bats to fight enemies. Expect many swarms of bats is what I'm saying. There's a cool, if very badly shot, scene in which Dracula basically fights off an army by himself and an entertaining end battle with other vampires but, other than that, this is about as tame as it gets in terms of breathing new life into a franchise. The lack of blood and gore is also pretty shocking, by the way.

All in all, Dracula Untold is, sadly, the wasted opportunity the dire trailer promised: it's shallow, brainless, not necessary and unimaginative. The film's ending is particularly laughable and it really should not be this confident about getting a sequel because this is a rather weak effort, even by Dracula movie standards.

Here's hoping "Frankenstein Untold" remains just that.

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