† H a p p y H a l l o w e e n †
Thankfully, the recent trend of turning classic horror stories into braindead tween fantasies is seemingly something that’s starting to wither away at last, but this doesn’t mean that, say, vampires are in any way safe from still getting royally screwed over by the forces of Hollywood. For instance, Hollywood could suddenly decide to give the grand master of fictional vampires, Dracula, an action-oriented origin story. It’s about as pretty a sight as when it happened to Wolverine back in 2009.
What I’m referring to is Dracula Untold, a Fantasy movie that dives into the supposed backstory of a legendary horror character without a full understanding of what made said character so appealing to begin with. As I’ve understood, it’s also intended to kickstart a resurrection of the Universal Monsters franchise, with new movies featuring Frankenstein, The Mummy, and the rest already in development. Oh, and a Nick Fury spin-off obviously.
Vlad the impaler, the historical figure on whom the original Dracula of Bram Stoker‘s book is partially based, is played here by Luke Evans. He leads a life of war as the land of Transylvania, of which he is the prince, is frequently under attack from the Turkish empire, which is apparently ruled by Dominic Cooper. Finding that the efforts of his armies aren’t going to be enough, Vlad turns to the forces of darkness for assistance. He visits a haunted cave which he and his men stumbled upon whilst searching for a Turkish scout party, and just as he hoped, he is given immense powers from the mysterious cave-dweller that turn him into a vampire. The cave-dweller, we learn, is none other than the Roman emperor Caligula, now transformed into an immortal vampire sorcerer because sure, why not? The great Charles Dance, evidently desperate to find work after Game of Thrones, plays Caligula.
His powers come at a price, however. Should he let these dark forces consume him entirely, he might just become a danger to his own people, not to mention his wife Mirena (Sarah Gadon). Thanks to the film being clearly advertised as an origin story for Dracula, we all know that Vlad eventually embraces his vampire self and becomes Dracula in the end. Can’t say I’m spoiling much of anything, can you?
Dracula Untold is, as it seems, not too well-received or succesful a picture. Something tells me we won’t be seeing much of the proposed Universal Monsters film universe that these people aspire to create. I don’t even know if they’re doing it because they’re actually nostalgic about the era of such classic crossovers as Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man and House of Dracula, or if this franchise, much like Zack Snyder‘s hasty efforts to create a Cinematic Universe for poor old DC Comics, is only an attempt to cash in on what Marvel’s been doing for the past 6 years.
As for the film on its own, it’s a hard one to take seriously on top of not feeling like a movie about the Dracula most of us are used to. Luke Evans plays the role well, but there’s something missing. He won’t be remembered as fondly as the iterations we were given by Bela Lugosi or Christopher Lee or, heck, even Gary Oldman, silly butt-shaped haircut or not. The Dracula in this film feels more like a Game of Thrones character and, come to think of it, that’s what the story of the film made me think of too; a lesser Game of Thrones episode with all the really good and brutal stuff cut out for the sake of PG-13.
Genuinely worthy of admiration are the set designs, and the cinematography in certain places. Same with some of the visual effects, but then, somewhat sadly, bombastic visual effects are so commonplace in modern-day Hollywood that you barely think about them anymore. Not that visual effects necessarily redeem an otherwise not very good film, but it’s still a shame.
I won’t say that this film is as offensively idiotic as Twilight or as big a middle finger to Dracula as Blade: Trinity because honestly, it’s not quite that bad a movie. Instead it’s yet another generic and pointless action movie variation of a classic tale, similar in vein to Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters and, perhaps even more fittingly, Van Helsing. It’s an utterly bland cliché fest that will most surely be forgotten, and we can all agree that Dracula deserves a great deal better than that.
But you don’t need to take my word for it. Enjoy this trailer and decide for yourself whether it makes you want to see this film or go rewatch the first season of Game of Thrones.