Combustible Celluloid
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With: Luke Evans, Sarah Gadon, Dominic Cooper, Art Parkinson, Charles Dance, Diarmaid Murtagh, Paul Kaye, William Houston, Noah Huntley, Ronan Vibert, Zach McGowan, Ferdinand Kingsley, Joseph Long, Thor Kristjansson, Jakub Gierszal
Written by: Matt Sazama, Burk Sharpless, based on characters created by Bram Stoker
Directed by: Gary Shore
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of warfare, vampire attacks, disturbing images, and some sensuality
Running Time: 92
Date: 10/10/2014

Dracula Untold (2014)

2 Stars (out of 4)

First Bite

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Dracula Untold is an official reboot of the Universal Monster series, which began, roughly, back in 1931 with Dracula and Frankenstein. But like so many other recent fantasy/horror/action movies, Dracula Untold is ugly, dreary, and dumb, focusing on stiff dialogue, endless shaky, gray battle scenes, and jumpy vampire attacks. It may be the dullest Dracula movie yet made. Essentially a bad superhero movie, it's more closely inspired by cheap-looking, disposable films like Legion, Priest, and Conan the Barbarian than by any classic monster movies.

Dracula Untold begins in flashback. A child is taken by a sultan to be raised as a soldier; he grows into the fearsome, monstrous Vlad the Impaler. Years later, Vlad (Luke Evans), lives peacefully with his wife (Sarah Gadon) and young son. The current sultan (Dominic Cooper) has kept the peace, but suddenly decides to start collecting boys for soldiers again. Desperate for power to stop this madness, Vlad makes a deal with a deadly creature in a cave (Charles Dance) for vampiric power; if he does not succumb to his thirst for blood for three days, he will revert to human again. If he does, he will remain a vampire forever, and also free the trapped creature from its prison. Can Vlad protect his family before his time runs out?

Luke Evans (Clash of the Titans, Immortals) is probably the best thing in the movie, at home in this numbingly serious subgenre, but he's a far cry from great Draculas like Bela Lugosi or Christopher Lee. Forgoing atmosphere, chills, and the character's hypnotic, sensual allure, the filmmakers don't even seem to be aware of who the Dracula character was or what he was all about. And if this origin story was intended to shed more light on his legend, it was an effort best left untold.

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