I don’t know about you, but I’m automatically inclined to give any movie with lines of dialogue like “My fellow Transylvanians…” or “It’s true! He’s a monster!” the benefit of the doubt.
That’s why I can’t completely dismiss Dracula Untold, a moody, melodramatic revamp (ha!) of the monstrous horror story, even if it’s a fairly run-of-the-mill tale of a man who becomes a bloodsucking beast for all the right reasons.
Back in the 15th century, Transylvanian prince Vlad (Luke Evans from the Hobbit movies) has put his violent past as battlefield brute Vlad the Impaler behind him, wishing only to bring peace to his people.
The villainous Turks, however, are in the business of conquering the world, and they want child soldiers to fortify their ranks, so they’re out to take a thousand young Transylvanians, including Vlad’s young son.
Our hero isn’t standing for that, but he’s going to need supernatural assistance if he wants to vanquish the hordes led by Mehmet (Dominic Cooper, whose copious amounts of fake tan and eyeliner deserve their own screen credit).
So he ventures into a dark cave inhabited by a vampiric creature (Charles Dance, presumably because Bill Nighy was unavailable for once) and strikes a terrible bargain, sacrificing a piece of his soul in return for the power to singlehandedly fight an army.
There’s a catch, of course: if Vlad can go three days without tasting human blood, he’ll revert to his human self.
Easier said than done, though, because with a vampire’s power comes a vampire’s insatiable thirst…
More a Lord of the Rings knock-off than a spooky horror movie in terms of its tone and style, Dracula Untold works as a perfectly serviceable origin story for a brooding anti-hero (bat-man begins, maybe?) whose bad deeds are balanced by a good heart.
It’s a bit florid at times, but that’s perhaps to be expected given the genre, and the lead actors respond to it with an appropriately hammy sincerity.
Leading the charge is Evans, who has all the necessary attributes for such a role: a gym-built physique, a nice line in pained facial expressions and a raspy, gravelly voice that sounds like he could use a Butter Menthol or two.