The allure of the prequel, from the studio’s standpoint, makes a whole lot of sense. After all, something can always occur before something else and you can pretty much make up your own rules. Dracula Untold, the latest in the Dracula saga that has served Universal well for decades, is a reheated mishmash of ideas that is decent when neck-deep in violence and cringe-worthy when fumbling its way through endless exposition. It’s essentially a superhero movie with vague connections to Dracula lore.
Once known as Vlad the Impaler, Vlad (Evans) is now living a peaceful life as ruler of the small kingdom of Transylvania. He has a loving wife (Gadon) and child (Parkinson) and the respect of his subjects. That’s all about to change, as the rival Turks roll in and demand the first-born boy of every family to join their army. Thoroughly outnumbered and with his own vendetta against the Turks, Vlad seeks the help of the Master Vampire (Dance). Upon drinking the Master Vampire’s blood, Vlad gains incredible powers. The catch: if he can resist the taste of human blood for three days, he’ll return to normal. If not, he’ll be a vampire for all of eternity. And his kingdom’s existence hangs in the balance.
Bouncing around among elements of horror, fantasy, and war, director Gary Shore only seems confident in Dracula Untold when it’s in the heat of battle. The scenes, while often cut to ribbons to preserve the PG-13 rating, do feature some fun visual effects and a meaner streak than you might expect. It’s in the scenes where people have to talk to each other that Dracula Untold diverges into pure cheese, with plenty of unintentional laughs coming from a recurring character that thinks Vlad is his master. Luke Evans does a serviceable job of carrying the lead role; barking orders and yelling at the sky with authority. But one can’t help but think that a movie about the film’s most interesting character, Dance’s Master Vampire, would have been a better idea if Universal must keep this franchise going.
Studio: Universal Pictures
Length: 92 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of warfare, vampire attacks, disturbing images, and some sensuality.
Theatrical Release: October 10, 2014
Directed by: Gary Shore
Written by: Matt Sazama & Burk Sharpless. Characters by Bram Stoker.
Cast: Luke Evans, Sarah Gadon, Dominic Cooper, Art Parkinson, Charles Dance