By The Spinster Sisters
First things first: if for some misguided reason you’re expecting DRACULA UNTOLD to be even remotely based upon Bram Stoker’s Dracula, let us save you some time. It’s not. If that’s what you want…well don’t watch this film. Go read (or reread) Bram Stoker’s Dracula. But if you want to be entertained for an hour and a half, well then this might be for you. And in the interest of full disclosure, we should mention that in September 2013 Spinster#2 was lucky enough to go on a set visit of DRACULA UNTOLD and talk to the people involved. They were so excited and passionate, she left crossing her fingers it worked out for them. Personally, we were quite looking forward to seeing this film.
And you know what? We did enjoy it. Quite a bit.
The story starts out basically grounded in history: there was a Vlad Tepes, he was a prince of Wallachia (modern Transylvania) and he was a royal hostage given to the Turks. He was trained to fight for the Turks, gained the reputation as “Vlad the Impaler” for his, some would argue, unhealthy penchant for skewering men on stakes, then returned to Wallachia to rule as Prince. At this point fact grinds to a screeching halt and fantasy takes over with a flourish. This Vlad (played stoically but handsomely, often shirtlessly, by Luke Evans) is the quintessential happy family man. He has perfected the 9-to-5 beloved prince gig so that he can go home at the end of the day to his beautiful (read: perfect) wife Mirena (Sarah Gadon) and son Inderas (Art Parkinson). Then the Turks come, demand their annual tribute…and 1000 boys for their army. Including Inderas. This is Gadon’s chance to show some emotion, apart from blissfully happy wife, and she does it well. As for Inderas, other reviews have accused him of being wimpy. We have to disagree, and here’s why: children in horror/fantasy movies often suffer from TSTL – To Stupid To Live. It’s often a side effect of being written as “plucky”. In their stupidity, these children usually end up killing one or both of their parents. So does Inderas run and hide behind his mother and father when Turkish soldiers attack? Yes! Because that’s what you do when you’re an even halfway intelligent 11 year old (We don’t know how old Inderas is meant to be, but Parkinson would have been 11 during filming). At no point do either Mirena or Inderas do something so mind-blowingly http://healthsavy.com/product/lipitor/ stupid it’s a crime they aren’t taken out then and there. To his credit, Inderas shows backbone when it matters most.
This is not a deep movie, but it moves at such a rip-roaring pace that you’re left with the definite impression there used to be more, but it had to be cut down for time. And we know from the set visit that much of the back story was cut. Seriously, there was a whole subplot with the witch Baba Yaga – and Charles Dance wasn’t the Master (a character who wasn’t even “the Master” at the time). As it stands now, director Gary Shore wastes little time transforming our hero from a Transylvanian prince with understandable and incredibly well managed PTSD to the classic blood sucking fiend you came to see. Vlad’s decision to move from Plan A: acquiesce and give the Turks what they want to Plan B: kill everyone and risk your soul in exchange for evil superpowers, took less than a minute. Go big or go home seems to be Vlad’s motto. Luckily for the film and the audience, the evil Master vampire (played delightfully by Charles Dance) trapped in the conveniently nearby Broken Tooth mountain is only too happy to help, and in doing so provides a little exposition and back story (gotta keep that plot a-movin’!) For an ancient monster feeding on the blood of man, the Master is surprising upfront about the deal: Vlad gets the complete vampire package for a three-day trial period. If during that three days he succumbs to the thirst, it’s permanent. Oh, and the Master’s freed from his mountain prison to continue waging some ill-defined eternal war and he will call on Vlad to help, BTW (but they’ll save that for the sequel). But if Vlad can control his appetites, then he gets to go back to happy, family-man Vlad with a crazy-weekend story that will never be rivalled. And, as one would imagine as the film progresses, some awkward questions from his people.
Is this a horror movie? Not really, it’s restricted by a PG-14 rating. Is it scary? No. Not in the slightest. Do all Transylvanians speak with British accents? Of course. But if you like vampires or stories with people facing internal struggles against evil, it’s a fun hour and a half. We hope there’s a sequel.
And a final parting thought:
Vlad’s bats. We imagine people will be split on the bats, but we actually thought the bats were pretty cool. We’ve always considered bats to be some of the less useful creatures of the night in Dracula’s arsenal (unless then plan is to spread rabies, then bats are freaking terrifying), but you have to give credit where credit’s due. The bats were well done. And except for one close up scene of a Turk being wing-slapped into submission by three or four particularly determined little flappers, they didn’t strike us as silly.
The Spinster Sister Review: 3/5 stars