BY REBECCA MARIE SASNETT
Vlad III the Impaler, prince of Transylvania, is pinned to the wall of a cave, shrouded in darkness and crushed bone, by a monster with the power of a hundred, not to mention a thirst for blood. Vlad (a.k.a. Dracula) informs the monster, “Sometimes the world doesn’t need another hero; sometimes what it needs is a monster.” The master vampire spills his blood in a broken skull and tells Vlad to drink.
Dracula is born.
Director Gary Shore sets out in his film “Dracula Untold,” released in October by Universal Studios, to tell the story of how a humanized Dracula, the world’s most famous, best-known and most fearsome vampire, came to be. Which is weird since, legend has it, vampires have no souls. How can one be human without a soul?
According to Shore and the screenwriters, Dracula, a.k.a. Vlad the Impaler, a.k.a Vlad III (“Fast and the Furious 6” actor Luke Evans) was a well-mannered, moral human before being changed into a vampire. In 1442, a young Vlad III was one of 1,000 boys who were shipped off by his father to fight in the Turkish army, drawn by a sultan’s demand. Vlad, one of the Turkish prizefighters, was nicknamed the Impaler.
He received this nickname by impaling dead bodies with a stick and leaving the sticks in the ground, exposed to the elements. After about 10 years of peace, becoming the prince of Transylvania and having a family, Vlad is faced with the same situation as his father. The sultan, Mehmed (Abraham Lincoln Vampire Slayer actor Dominic Cooper), demands 1,000 boys to fight in his army. Vlad refuses; a war begins. However, Vlad does not have the manpower to fight the Turkish Empire and needs the strength of a hundred men. So he makes a deal with the master vampire (Charles Dance of “Game of Thrones”). This, he will soon find out, is a mistake.
“With power comes a price,” says the master vampire as Vlad decided to drink vampire blood. Vlad has three days to use his newfound power and if he refuses the desire to drink, he will go back to a moral human.
But…if he follows the lure of the sound of blood pumping through human veins, he will forever remain a vampire. You can only guess what happens next.
Shore implies that the birth of Dracula is almost parallel to that of 15th-century prince of Wallachia (Romania) one Vlad III, a.k.a Dracula, “one of history’s most coldblooded leaders,” according to History.com, and that would be quite a distinction if true. He was known for the murder of his own people and for being a hero — a questionable hero, if you ask me. It has been suggested that Bram Stoker might have used Vlad III, a.k.a Dracula, to inspire his 1897 Gothic horror novel “Dracula,” which of course started this undying Dracula craze.
There is, of course, a difference between the Vlad of history and the Vlad of this movie. Vlad in “Dracula Untold” is the prince of Transylvania, not Wallachia, and inb the movie version he did not kill his own people. In fact, Vlad in “Dracula Untold” condemns his own future for the sake of his family and his people.
One thing the two Vlad’s have in common is their preferred style of killing. They both like to impale people on sticks and leave them to become earth’s natural elements. Vlad, the prince of Wallachia, was said to have dipped his bread in his victims’ blood and to enjoyed a dinner in his forest of corpses. However Vlad the prince of Transylvania is a humble man who fights for his family and people.
Of course there is the persistent fictional Dracula, which is relatively consistent with the rest of the Dracula movies and Stokers idea of a vampire. In Stoker’s Dracula, Dracula is a somewhat middle-aged man who is tall and good-looking. Luke Evans, fits that to a T. Dracula, as portrayed in other movies such as “Blade Trinity” (2004) and “Van Helsing” (2004), is a strong man who is not ugly in human form. Shore used the same idea with Evans.
Dracula in the movie also has the typical characteristics of a vampire. He spurns the sun, can control bats, has enhanced senses; silver is a problem, and a stake through the heart kills him dead.
The usual vampire stuff.
One positive of the movie is the special effects. The enhanced vision that Vlad gets after becoming Dracula is fantastic. As viewer and non–vampires, we get to see what a vampire sees — which is a unique ride. At the end, in the massive battle, the swarm of bats is fantastic as well. Bats are terrifying on their own but as a cinematic swarm, it’s like a black cloud full of rage and glistening fangs.
“Dracula Untold” is, truth be told, was not a horrible movie — but it isn’t one to be remembered. The trailer and story idea will lead you to think that there will be a lot of blood, battle scenes and twists and turns. I means it’s about the king of all vampires. The movie is placed in the horror, war, action, drama and fantasy genres but in actuality, this movie is a melodrama about Dracula’s desire to save his kid, Ingeras (Game of Thrones actor Art Parkinson) and his people. That’s it.
There was one question that should have been answered but was instead left open. What happened in Dracula’s previous life that prompted him to become a bloodthirsty vampire? Vampires are meant to be feared. They walk the earth only at night. They can smell a human (blood!) from miles away. They have no consciences. Shore makes Dracula more of a victim — which in my opinion takes away Dracula’s credibility. As the movie Vlad says in “Dracula Untold,” … “men do not fear swords, they fear monsters.”
Yet fear is not how one might feel from this movie. Children scare me more.
The movie closes in the present day with Dracula walking among the human population and meeting a girl who looks like his past wide, Mirena (“The Amazing Spider Man 2” actress Sarah Gadon). Dracula repeats a line that Mirena and he exchanged at their wedding. “Death cannot separate us, for one life is born from the next.”
Then the master vampire tails behind them as they walk away and says, “Let the games begin.”
You could sink your teeth into this, but it leaves a bitter taste.
“Dracula Untold” is currently in theaters.