Movie Review: “Dracula Untold” – A Story Worth Telling

Written by Caitlin Cooper October 25, 2014

Dracula Untold

Monster films are making a come-back. First, there was the re-telling of “Frankenstein” in the disappointing “I, Frankenstein“. There’s already been one vampire film this year: the film adaptation of “Vampire Academy”, though it made light of its genre. Is the vampire film a little tired? Many movies have aimed to take the subject on seriously and failed. Is there any fresh take on the well-known character, Dracula? Enter “Dracula Untold”. It made over $23 million its opening weekend alone compared to the $19 million that “I, Frankenstein” just managed to gross during its weeks in theaters. And “Dracula Untold” was competing for attention with “Gone Girl”. I think we’ve finally found a new, good vampire film.

“Dracula Untold” tells the story of Vlad (Luke Evans), a warrior turned family man. He was a child soldier, and all he wants now is to be a good husband, father, and prince. But the Turkish Sultan (Dominic Cooper) is intent on ruling more and more parts of the world. To do that, he needs a steady supply of soldiers. Like his father, he demands boys be handed over to him. Vlad doesn’t want that for his son or his people. So, he makes a decision that will save everyone, but risk his soul. He asks to be given the powers of a vampire. It will wear off in three days if he can resist blood. What follows are battles against a cruel army, and a battle within himself against his increasing darkness and desire to drink blood.

“I just want peace. That’s all.”

“Dracula Untold” is an origin story of one of the most well-known mythological creatures. Here, we don’t see Dracula as the vampire who preys on women and kills for the joy of it. In “Dracula Untold” we see a man who was forced to be a warrior, and has finally escaped that life so he can find happiness, peace, and love with his family. The character is an anti-hero in some ways because his morals are ambiguous. He’s killed a lot of people without regret. Vlad is very vulnerable, though, because he cares a lot for his wife Mirena (Sarah Gadon), his son Ingeras (Art Parkinson), and his people. He’s willing to sacrifice his human life and become something altogether different so he can save them. His character is what makes “Dracula Untold” so compelling. We get to see Dracula before he becomes Dracula, and the moment in which he embraces darkness. His motivations make him a character much more interesting and, thus, someone to root for instead of rally against.

Dracula Untold

Mirena serves as Vlad’s moral compass, as does his son. The two accept what he has become, but they remind him of who he is. These characters are so compelling thanks to the stellar cast. Evans (“The Hobbit” The Desolation of Smaug”) simply thrives in his role as Vlad. He plays the determined prince, the strong warrior, and the loving husband and father with equal ease and effectiveness. The few comedic lines he has are delivered quite well. Gadon portrays the emotional and smart Mirena so well. Parkinson (“Game of Thrones”) is the one delivering the haunting voice-over in the trailer. His acting is subtle and full of emotion. Charles Dance (“Game of Thrones”) plays the Master Vampire who turns Vlad from human to undead. Dance seems to be adept at playing creepy, villainous characters.

“With power like yours I could save my people.”

You might be concerned the film has a lame representation of vampires. It doesn’t. The vampires in “Dracula Untold” are frightening, powerful, and have gruesome weaknesses. When Vlad’s fangs come out, his face transforms into something sinister. The mythology of the film is unique, yet familiar; it isn’t afraid to dive into the more gruesome aspects of vampirism. Aside from that, the abilities these vampires have are pretty cool. Vlad can control bats, turn into bats, is incredibly strong, heals very fast, and has impeccable sight and hearing. The way these abilities are depicted will make any fan of vampire films proud. When Vlad explores his new-found powers and uses these abilities in battle, it’s amazing to watch (and there’s a surprising touch of comedy as he learns what he can do).

Dracula Untold

I’d be remiss for not mentioning director Gary Shore’s creative camera angles and movements. They’re sweeping or jarring, and the camera moves almost as if it were another character. They certainly add an artistic touch to every scene, even during action sequences. Also, “Dracula Untold” is a film which plays with colours as a theme. Most of the visuals are dark or muted colours, and such is definitely the case when Vlad is embracing his darkness. On the other hand, some colours are vibrant – especially the rich reds – and the whites are so bright. The colours speak to the theme of light versus dark, and the particular focus on red mirrors blood (blood spilled, and blood Vlad craves). Vlad always wears dark colours while Mirena always wears bright colours or stark white and red clothing. Indeed, this contrast implies that Mirena is the purely good character while Vlad is more dark.

“Even after the darkest night the sun will rise again.”

Overall, “Dracula Untold” is one of the best recent vampire films. It gives a fresh take on a well-known character that takes us back to where Vlad began on his dark path. The characters are compelling, the story is worthwhile, the action scenes are awesome, and the focus on colour and unique camera angles add to the story. If you feel a bit tired of vampire films, “Dracula Untold” will remind you why the genre became so popular.

My Rating: 9.5/10

Dracula Untold

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About Caitlin Cooper

Caitlin Cooper

Caitlin is an avid watcher of movies and television shows so she decided to use her passion to write about them. She has a B.A. in English Language and Literature with a Minor in Creative Writing.

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