Dracula Untold, the feature debut of director Gary Shore, promises a retelling of Dracula, one that moves away from Bram Stoker’s classic novel towards the legend’s origins of ‘Vlad the Impaler’, Prince of Wallachia.
With this exciting and interesting premise, it is a shame the film failed to deliver.
The plot is essentially a series of battles: great if you like that kind of thing, not so good if you were expecting fully developed characters with plausible motives.
Dracula himself (Luke Evans) is portrayed as a benign hunk. Whilst understanding this retelling aims to show that Vlad wasn’t wholly evil, we don’t get balance but a mushy, overwrought portrayal of a Twilight style Vlad (any grisly bits about his sadistic impaling of thousands of people hastily skipped over).
The other characters also lacked dimension, being either the ‘good’ Wallachians or the ‘evil’ Turks, few of whom actually look Turkish. Oh, and they even stretched to having a single woman character (Sarah Gadon), Vlad’s buxom wife who obviously had to be blonde and wear extremely low cut dresses.
We also experience a mash up of universal English movie accents and those who speak English with a Hammer House of Horror Transylvanian lilt which is really quite ludicrous.
For a film which could have exploited the beauty of the Romanian countryside the scenery is rather a let-down, seeming to be mainly computer generated.
Furthermore, despite essentially being about vampires, the lack of horror should be noted: whilst we have grotesque scenes of blood drinking, skin burning and a long nailed ancient vampire in a cave (Charles Dance), the absence of the eeriness one would expect to pervade the atmosphere was disappointing.
These elements left me feeling like I had just watched a Disney action film aimed at children, despite it being a certificate 15. However, one cannot deny the effectiveness of the special effects – think enormous clouds of bats, immense lightning storms and some original battle scene shots.
For a premise whose success depended on having some element of accuracy and believability in retelling the real historical legend around the vampire myth, it failed to fulfil, leaving one feeling kind of drained.