Dracula Untold: Dull, Disappointing Wannabe Epic Horror

dracula_untold_1Bram Stoker’s famous novel, “Dracula,” has inspired numerous screen versions, good and bad, resulting in a rich vampire mythology and folk tales about its various characters, including the Romanian Prince Vlad the Impaler.

With “Dracula Untold,” Universal is hoping to grind out another franchise, but there is nothing new or interesting in this third-rate flick.  Almost everything in this picture is wrong, beginning with its title, which is both misleading and deceptive.

dracula_untold_8“Dracula Untold” aims to wed the historical record of the real Vlad’s war against the Ottoman Empire with his transformation into the world’s most famous undead bloodsucker. End result is a hugely disappointing picture, which fails as an historical epic and as a horror thriller.

The villain of Universal’s successful franchise, “Fast & Furious 6,” Luke Evans, plays Vlad with teeth-clenched intensity but a soft heart—he’s a loving and devoted husband-father to his wife (Sarah Gadon) and children.  Hence, Vlad finds himself torn between the family that keeps him human and the monster he is fated to become.

dracula_untold_2Vlad’s fearlessness is manifest when he’s battling his childhood friend turned power-hungry war monger, Sultan Mehmed II (Dominic Cooper, wasted). When Mehmet demands that Vlad turn over his kingdom’s children for military service, Vlad decides that the only way to combat his enemy is to strike a bargain with the unholy beast that lives on Broken Tooth Mountain.

Luke Evans play Vlad as a man who’s able to heal his wounds and transform into a swarm of bats, though realizing that but he will always need blood and struggle to get it.

dracula_untold_3After a sluggish opening, which is narrated, the tale plods along, occasionally by some striking visual touches and blood-soaked action set pieces that are sharply uneven.  But the film almost grinds to a halt whenever Vlad talks about marital and parental duties; there are long, dull speeches about family and honor. Even the semi-effective finale is undercut by a franchise-teasing coda.

The extensive vampire lore of the past century makes the particular machinations of this picture both overly familiar and drab.  Thus, “Dracula Untold” is yet another effects-ridden wannabe epic in the vein of “Clash of the Titans” or “Immortals,” both of which featured Evans.  This Dracula is in desperate need for fresh blood transfusion.

“Dracula Untold” obviously relies on its concept, not cast, which lacks major actor or certifiable stars.  The $70 million film bows in 2,885 North American theaters, a large percentage of which will be premium large format and Imax.

dracula_untold_5As noted, the studio hopes that the film will be part of Universal’s broader effort to dust off its monster movie brands and reposition them for modern audiences.

The film should slightly benefit from its PG-13 rating, which will make it the default option for teenagers unable to score tickets to R-rated films like “The Judge,” “Annabelle” and “Gone Girl.”