It is such a pleasure to see Luke Evans in a decent movie, unlike the ghastly Hobbit films which did their best to completely destroy a beloved children’s book. Dracula Untold, as the title implies, aims to put a different spin on the classic story of the genesis of Dracula and does so with stunning detail and a compelling narrative. Vlad is a complicated man, forced from his Transylvanian home as a child and trained to be a killer by the Turks. As an adult, he is sickened by what he has become and returns home to try and lead a normal life. His kingdom prospers and he loves his beautiful wife and son. But their idyllic existence is shattered when the Turks show up, rudely rejecting the usual tribute of silver and instead demanding 1,000 boys to be raised as Vlad himself was, to be merciless killers. Horrified by the prospect, Vlad instead seeks out a nameless horror haunting a mountain and strikes the fateful bargain.
Let me be clear – this is not a horror movie per se, but one of action, drama, romance and fantasy. It’s the story of a man who loves his family and country so much that he’s willing to do almost anything to protect them. There are some creepy crawlies and such, plus a few gross-out moments, but they are kept to a minimum so as not to detract from the themes of nobility, loyalty, love and justice. “My father was a great man, a hero, so they say. But sometimes the world doesn’t need another hero, sometimes what it needs is a monster.” These words are spoken by Vlad’s son, Ingeras, who provides crucial bits of narration. It’s a deeply personal tale and you can’t help but root for Vlad as he fights to defend his family, his people and what he believes is right by any means necessary. It doesn’t hurt that Luke Evans is inordinately hot and his enemies are ruthless and insufferable. It’s downright fun to watch him wreak vengeance on the Turks, exploring the extent of his new powers as he also valiantly fights against the urge to drink human blood, which would seal his fate for all eternity.
The soundtrack, composed by Ramin Djawadi is fantastic, perfectly capturing the mood of the film and heightening the story in subtle and stunning ways. The sets are incredible, the locations sublime and the cinematography, wardrobe department and armorers should win an Oscar for their superb efforts. John Schwartzman, the director of photography, is known for his work in such films as National Treasure: Book of Secrets, The Bucket List, Pearl Harbor, Seabiscuit, and Armageddon, and Dracula Untold more than earns its place among such august company. When I sat down to watch this, I was expecting just another vampire movie, but this is something else altogether. There are quite a few nods to Bram Stoker’s Dracula, even including a proto-Renfield, which added a nice sense of continuity with Dracula canon. I enjoyed it tremendously and was thrilled to see the ending opening the door to possibly let the adventure continue in another film. “Let the games begin.” – BETHANY
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Vlad’s wife, Mirena, beautifully played in heartbreaking detail by Sarah Gadon.
The villain of the piece, Sultan Mehmed (Dominic Cooper), onetime friend of Vlad.
Tywin Lannister, uh, I mean Charles Dance as the Master Vampire. “What kind of man crawls into his own grave in search of hope?”
“Run to your mother.” Vlad and his son Ingeras (Art Parkinson).
One of the brutal erstwhile Transylvanian boys raised by the Sultan to be sadistic cold-blooded warriors. (Thor Kristjansson) Nice hairdo, dude. So, er, unusual.
Photos courtesy of Universal Pictures, Legendary Pictures, Michael De Luca Productions, Dentsu and Fuji Television Network