So there’s a new vampire movie out and I finally saw it so I decided to do a review. Usually I’m not a big fan of modern vampire flicks but hey, it was available to watch, why not, right? Besides, it looked promising, the first entry into what has been described as a Universal Monsters Cinematic Universe and I love the classic Universal Monsters movies. What could be better?
Sit back, strap in and let’s take a look at Dracula Untold, the story of Vlad Tepes and how he got his fangs.
Vlad Tepes, better known as Vlad the Impaler for his habit of hanging enemies on long spikes, has returned victorious to Transylvania where he rules peacefully over the people, alongside his wife Mirena and his son Ingeras. So long as he pays tribute to the mighty Turkish Sultan Mehmed, they leave him alone. Vlad and Mehmed grew up together and became friends when Mehmed’s father demanded tribute from Vlad’s father in the form of boys taken and raised up to be warriors for the Turkish army. That practice has long since been abandoned, but now, Mehmed wants to reinstate it and take Ingeras as his own servant and another 1000 boys as well. Unable to fight off the vast Turkish army, Vlad seeks help from a monster in a cave that has taken out a whole battalion of Turkish scouts and makes a deal with the ancient vampire he finds there, he will inherit the vampire’s strength and invulnerability for three days, but will revert to his human form if he can avoid feeding on human blood during that time. If he wavers though and feeds, then the vampire will be released to wreak his havoc on the human world. The vampire power gives Vlad the power of 100 men, the ability to see in the dark and hear the faintest sounds, plus turn himself into a cloud of bats to move rapidly. Can Vlad beat the whole of the Turkish army in just three days and save the country he love, or will he have to give up his humanity forever?
While this movie started out quite good, it wasn’t long until I knew something was seriously wrong. Maybe it was first time movie director Gary Shore. Maybe it was a lack of editorial oversight, but this film fell straight into the “stupid people doing stupid things because it moves the plot along” grinder. That happens when it’s clear that either nobody has read the script looking for problems, or they are very clear that there are issues and choose to ignore them because it’s easier than making people think logically. This movie has that problem in spades.
Perhaps the biggest indicator of this problem was at the end when Vlad was fighting off all of the Turks and his beloved wife falls from the platform to her death and they’re having a tearful goodbye and she says she’s dying and his powers are almost gone so he’d better bite her so that he’ll retain his vampire powers forever. Of course, all he had to do is have her drink some of his blood, she’d be turned into a vampire for 3 days, be completely healed of her injuries, she could keep up the fight against the Turks while he reverted to human and so long as she didn’t drink any blood, she’d revert as well. It isn’t like this didn’t pass his mind because not five minutes later, he gave his blood to all of the survivors in the camp, turning them into vampires. It’s unfortunate that he didn’t warn all of them that they weren’t allowed to drink. Maybe his own fall into permanent vampirism made him forget that part, but he essentially took every survivor of the Turkish onslaught and condemned them to an eternity as soulless monsters. Good job Vlad!
The battle against he head Turk was pretty absurd too. The Sultan had realized that Vlad was a vampire and therefore spread silver coins all over the floor. That’s all well and good but vampires are only affected by silver if it directly touches their skin. They spent the first half of the movie establishing this. Vlad had shoes on. For some reason, they were acting like just being in the vicinity of silver was enough, which makes no sense, even in a cheesy vampire flick.
And when his subjects found out that Vlad was a vampire, they very clearly made the point that crucifixes didn’t affect him, yet at the very end, when the cleric showed up to protect Vlad’s son from the vampires, his crucifix held all of the vampires at bay. And besides, those same vampires told Vlad that all the humans except his son were dead, yet 30 seconds later, the cleric, clearly still alive, wanders in. What the hell? Were they not looking very hard?
While it’s clear they were looking for a very non-bloody aesthetic, they went too far. Right after Vlad chowed down on Mirena and Mehmed, they fall back and there isn’t a mark on them, not a bit of blood and certainly no indication that Vlad had bitten their throats. Likewise there’s a scene at the end, I don’t remember the details, but someone in blue gets stabbed, yet a moment later, there’s no blood and no hole in their clothing. I guess those prop retractable swords really work!
And at the end, Vlad is saved and survives to the modern day where he encounters his wife reincarnated as Mina (Harker, don’t you know) and the old vampiric monster from the cave looks on, saying “the game is on”. It’s just a blatant setup for the series of sequels to come. It’s just that it looked exactly like Highlander. There can be only one! It was painful to behold.
The thing is, this could have been a good movie. The characters were fine, the acting was fine, the effects were decent, it’s just the plot holes were so absurd. If I can give you a solution to your problem in 4 seconds, something the director evidently either didn’t see or didn’t care about, then there is a problem. This isn’t where a new franchise should start. It gives me no confidence in what’s to come, even if I love the idea of what they’re trying to do, I’m not holding out much hope based on what they actually accomplished.