[Movie Review] Dracula Reborn In 'Untold' Origin Epic
Dracula Untold is an epic origin story that sets the stage and effectively kicks off Universal Studios’ new cinematic universe, soon to be populated by all your favorite classic monsters in a number of upcoming Marvel-style crossover films, so it should come as no surprise that this latest iteration of the baddest bloodsucker of all is more about a conflicted superhero than than the remorseless supervillain originally introduced in Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Luke Evans, also currently starring in The Hobbit films and soon to take on the late Brandon Lee’s iconic role of The Crow, is dark haired, brooding, and good as Prince Vlad “The Impaler” Tepes, who opts to make a deal with the devil and become a vampire in order to save his wife, young son, and entire country from a much more oversized army of invading Turks.
While his new powers help to stop the invaders, there are of course other more tragic events that lead the respected wartime leader down his ultimate path to eternal darkness.
Credited only as “Master Vampire”, Charles Dance of Game of Thrones is barely recognizable but purely awesome as the ancient devil offering Vlad a game changing deal to die for.
The look of the film is reminiscent of Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 take on Bram Stoker’s Dracula, starring Gary Oldman, with Vlad’s striking red cape cutting a streak of blood across a very gray and foreboding landscape.
I got chills when Vlad takes his all-important first drink of blood, presenting the turning point of no return for a doomed hero, and simultaneously the symbolic beginning of Universal’s new world of rebooted horror.
While it’s certainly not the goriest Dracula ever put on film (many scenes of violence were obviously edited to fit within the movie’s PG13 rating; expect an unrated extended Blu-ray release), it does have a few moments of bloody shock and awe, most notably and effectively during Evans’ CGI-enhanced climactic “vamp out”, and most annoyingly with the overuse of a Dracula’s newfound control over bats. The effect, which you have already seen plenty of in the trailer and TV spots, is actually pretty cool at first, but it is used simply too much and quickly becomes tiresome.
The biggest fault in Untold is that it is so far removed from Stoker’s original vision of a monster that rapes and kills indiscriminately, painting instead a a loving husband and father with a torutured soul over the innocents he killed in war, but then it’s more than in fashion right now to humanize our pop culture villains, as witnessed earlier this year with Disney’s highly enjoyable Maleficent (read our review) and again now with the inevitable “heroization” of Dracula.
As this is clearly the prologue for a much larger story just beginning, I can forgive the digressions from horror into comicbook territory, because the fact is that a new era of our most beloved movie monsters begins here, and I look forward to watching Evans eventually sink his fangs into some real darkness.
Official Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Reviewed by: Matt Artz
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Dracula Untold (rated PG13) is now playing at R/C KDH Movies 10 in Kill Devil Hills.