Popular culture has not been kind to bloodsuckers. No, I don’t mean agents. I mean vampires. For more than a century Dracula and his undead brothers and sisters were viewed with equal parts fear and loathing. Only seen under the cloak of night they were the greatest villains of Horrorwood. But lately liberties have been taken with Bram Stoker’s myth. Now they dazzle in the daylight and drink synthetic blood. There’s even a new movie, “Dracula Untold,” that casts fangface as a romantic action hero.
It’s enough to make a vampire purist go batty.
In the new film Transylvanian Prince Vlad Tepes (Luke Evans), a man so fond of stakes and staking he earned the nickname Vlad the Impaler. has turned a new leaf. He’s now a family man who dropped “The Impaler” part off his resume and lives a quiet life with his wife Mirena (Sarah Gadon) and son (Art Parkinson).
Eastern Europe is under siege, however, and Vlad is forced to do almost anything to save his family and his kingdom from the invading Turkish mobs. Anything and everything, and since this is the 15th century in a Peter Jackson-esque world where supernatural creatures (Charles Dance) live in caves, he makes a Faustian deal with an ancient master vampire in exchange for the awesome power to command bats and vanquish his enemies. “Men do not fear swords,” Vlad says, “they fear monsters.”
The old jagged-tooth ghoul gives him “dominion over the night and all its creatures” along with self-healing—“That’s useful,” Vlad says.—and other vampiric attributes that will help him annihilate the interlopers. Best of all after three days he’ll turn back into a human… that is if he can resist the overwhelming urge to drink human blood.
“Dracula Untold” is a stylish reimagining of… something. It’s not the Dracula myth, despite what the title says. Let’s just call it “Vampire Untold” or “Dracula Nah-uh” and dismiss the idea that its in anyway Bela Lugosi approved.
“Dracula Untold” is bigger and louder than any Dracula movie to come before it—Vlad doesn’t just turn into a bat, he turns into a colony of bats—and contains an arch melodramatic feel that wouldn’t be out of place in a Hammer horror, but it’s not particularly scary. The real horror here is the muddy visuals in the action scenes that often make it difficult to see who is impaling who. Dracula may live in a world of darkness but apparently so does director Gary Shore. It’s too bad because there are some nice visual flourishes. For instance a fight scene shot through the reflection of a sword’s blade is inventive and eye catching.
“Dracula Untold” doesn’t totally suck despite playing like the set-up to the inevitable modern day sequel they pitch in the film’s coda. Luke Evan (he of “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” and “Fast & Furious 6”) gives Dracula something new—vulnerability—and Sarah Gadon makes Bella’s love for Edward look like the high school crush it really was. Vampire fans might not find it bloodsuckery enough, but fans of the high style action of “300” may enjoy.