Movie Review: “Dracula Untold”

dracSo it wasn’t the rains that kept the Turks from getting their cannons to Vienna, seizing the city and ending Western Civilization in the late 15th/early 16th centuries.
It was Prince Vlad, hero of the Transylvanians, a misunderstood warrior with fangs and a taste for Turkish Type O.
That’s the premise of “Dracula Untold,” a vampire tale that attempts an origin story for “Vlad the Impaler” that takes him back to his days in service to the Turkish sultan. That’s when the hostage warrior learned to stick his enemies on a spike.
“Untold” picks up the story after the prince (Luke Evans) has returned home to rule Transylvania, paying tribute to the Turks to keep the peace. All he wants is to sleep with his comely wife (Sarah Gadon) and raise his wimpy kid. Then the sultan (Dominic Cooper) ups the tribute. Not just silver coins, but boy hostages to turn into Turkish troops. And not just boys, but Vlad’s own son (Art Parkinson).
“What ees one son,” the Turk purrs. “Eef you are VIRile, you will make plenty more.”
That sends Vlad into the bat cave on Broken Tooth Mountain. That’s where he makes his deal with the Devil, or Satan’s nearest proxy. And that’s when “Dracula Untold,” which opens badly and ends worse, gets better.
Charles Dance is the Nosferatu-garbed monster in the cave, a balding, toothy villain in the great tradition of British vampires — Christopher Lee, Gary Oldman, Michael Sheen and Kate Beckinsale among them. The moment he shows up, all shadowy menace and prophecy, “Dracula” gets interesting.
“Why spill blood, if not for the pleasure of it?” He promises Vlad “dominion over the night and stars.” What lad could resist that?
The vampire can give Vlad the strength to stick Turks on skewers. But if Vlad tastes blood himself, he’ll be lost forever. There’s a three day return limit on this vampire conversion kid.
“Dracula Untold” is a straight two-genre genre picture (vampires, sword and sorcery), well-mounted, with whirlwinds of bats and gloomy, moon-clouded nights. Some battle sequences are viewed on the reflection of a shiny sword blade. Nice touch, (director) Gary Shore. The action scenes are otherwise a blur of singing swords and blood spray. Evans, a bit bland, at least wears the cape well.
“Untold” might have been better left untold, but all things considered, not a bad genre film.
What makes it at all watchable is the self-aware humor, the moment a converted Vlad punches a rock, sees it crumble and mutters, “THAT’S useful.”
An unnamed Renfield is introduced — “Yes, master.”
And Western Civilization is saved, the Enlightenment ensured and the way paved for Bram Stoker to make this notorious prince, whose dungeon was just discovered last month, immortal — thanks to some fictional dental touches.

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of warfare, vampire attacks, disturbing images, and some sensuality

Cast: Luke Evans, Dominic Cooper, Sarah Gadon. Charles Dance
Credits: Directed by Gary Shore, screenplay by Matt Sazama, Burk Sharpless. A Universal release.
Running time: 1:32

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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