Horror Movie Review: Dracula Untold (2014)


“Sometimes the world doesn’t need another hero, sometimes it needs a monster.”

In an opening montage the son of Vlad the Impaler recounts the history surrounding the legendary character known as Dracula, and how the stories tell of a monster. Seeking to dispel the legend, Vlad the Impaler’s son recounts the events around which the one known as Dracula came to be.

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In the middle ages the Sultan of Turkey sought to acquire and train boys in order to turn them into perfect soldiers who would hold no moral or ethical obligations. One such boy was Vlad, who became known as “the impaler” after his use of wooden stakes to display those whom he killed as a form of psychological warfare. Ultimately, Vlad was able to escape from his duty as a soldier, and was made the prince of Transylvania, a tribute territory to the Turkish Empire. While on a scouting mission in the woods Vlad and his team discover a Turkish helmet, and deduce that a scouting party of Turks have entered Transylvania territory. In their search for the party, Vlad and his men enter a cave in the mountains and encounter an ancient sorcerer and master vampire, who subsequently drives them out of his lair.

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The following day, as Vlad and his subjects celebrate Easter, the Turkish party arrives unexpected. Anticipating that they have come for the tribute, Vlad offers the party silver coins, but the envoy demands that 1,000 boys be given over for service in the Turkish army. Vlad turns down the request, but lacks an effective armed force to compel the Turks to leave Transylvania in peace. After a failed attempt at diplomacy with the Turkish Sultan, Vlad skirmishes with a Turkish party that arrived to take his son for service in Turkish army. Realizing that he will need more power in order to defend his territory and his people, Vlad seeks out the vampire’s cave and explains that he has need of the vampire’s power. After listening to his story and cautioning him about the risks, the vampire offers Vlad some of his blood, which infuses Vlad with the powers of the night. The vampire explains that this power will last for three days, during which time Vlad will be tempted to drink human blood, but if he can withstand the urge for all three days he will be restored to his human form.

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Upon his return from the cave Vlad observes a Turkish siege of Castle Dracula, and single-handedly takes on the besieging force, killing them all. Determined to protect his people at all costs, Vlad instructs the party to fall back to a mountain monastery whose geography will hinder any Turkish attempt to take the facility. During the second night, the Transylvanian party is ambushed by Turkish forces, and Vlad and his men engage them. Although victorious in the engagement Vlad’s powers begin to attract attention from his closest advisers. The next day at the monastery, as Vlad attempts to rally his people ahead of the battle, his use of the demonic powers is exposed and the citizens at the monastery subsequently turn on Vlad. Angered over this perceived betrayal, Vlad chastises his people before taking his leave.

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That night, a massive Turkish force marches on the monastery. Vlad employs bats to defend the territory, however the incoming Turkish army turns out to be a decoy force deployed to allow a handful of Turks to infiltrate the monastery and kill the citizens within. Mirena’s attempt to defend her son from the Turks fails, and she ultimately falls to her death. Angered over the loss of his wife, Vlad embraces the darkness within himself and honors Mirena’s last request to drink her blood, then returns to the monastery. Finding a handful of survivors Vlad offers each the chance for vengeance, and gives them his blood to drink.

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At the primary Turkish Army camp the Sultan and his men are preparing for a massive invasion of Europe when Vlad and his small band of vampires arrive. A battle erupts between the two forces, however Vlad’s vampires are vastly superior to the Turkish soldiers, and the battle degenerates into a massacre. While the vampires take their vengeance on the Turkish forces Vlad seeks out the Sultan, who has taken his son captive. Aware of the vampire’s weakness to silver, the Sultan has lined the floors of his tent with silver coins, and engages in a battle with Vlad using a silver sword.

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Will Vlad defeat the Sultan? And what of the master vampire?

I think I’m being generous with my rating because of some of the effects and how good the movie looks, but if you really break down the story then it’s hardly Dracula “Untold”. Before I start laying out why this movie wasn’t so great I want to point out that while I’m happy new, traditional-style vampire movies are being made, I wish they were more original – I mean, come on, Dracula? He’s been done to death. So, as I was saying, the film isn’t an untold story of Dracula’s life, in fact everything they address is already common knowledge. For example, everyone knows the character of Dracula is supposedly inspired by Vlad The Impaler and that Mina is his partner etc. So it begs the question, why is it even called “Dracula Untold”? I didn’t learn anything new about him coming away from this film.

The film is roughly an hour and a half, which isn’t nearly enough time to tell an in-depth origin story, which I think is a mistake. By making it so short, you know you’re guaranteed to see a rushed storyline with no real payoff. It’s why I know that this movie will eventually fade into something no one really remembers.
The bulk of the movie is a lot of fast-paced action, which is what I really disliked. I thought, considering Dominic Cooper was in the film they might remember another vampire film he was in (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) and see how well their slowed down effects worked on vampire combat. What’s the point in editing in all that fighting when you can’t see what the hell is going on?!

Plus, for a vampire film there was an incredible lack of blood. Even when the master vampire pours his blood for Vlad to drink it, it just looks like black liquid. And, there’s a scene where (not gonna mention who because it’s a spoiler) someone gets their throat ripped out then when they’re tossed to the ground, there’s literally no blood on their neck or anywhere.

Finally, I don’t know who cast Dominic Cooper as the Sultan but he just looked incredibly silly. I don’t know what’s up with movie directors casting white actors as middle-eastern characters (such as, Christian Bale in the upcoming Exodus: Gods and Kings) but it doesn’t look right. Dominic Cooper just looked really gold…

 

Dracula Untold
  • 6/10
    The Final Score - 6/10
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