Film review: DRACULA UNTOLD, from Built For Speed

Dracula Untold is not about the suave count chomping on necks in present day America or Britain as old time Hammer Horror fans might hope.  Instead it takes the original story of Vlad the Impaler – a 15th century Transylvanian Prince whose reputation for cruelty toward his enemies partially inspired the vampire legend – and turns it into a moderately entertaining medieval action fantasy. Essentially a variation on the Faustian tale the film sees prince Vlad (Luke Evans) make a deal with a sinister cave-dwelling vampire (Charles Dance) to acquire vampire powers so that he might defeat the invading Ottoman army who want to steal the Transylvanian children and enslave them as child soldiers.

Despite several slow patches this is a reasonably exciting sword and sorcery romp. This film may, however, have been more accurately titled Dracula Unseen as some sequences are so poorly lit and so full of nauseating wobble-cam, it’s nearly impossible to tell whose slicing who.  Consequently, many of the massed battle scenes are often drained of the thrills they might have had.  Admittedly, Vlad having turned vampire doesn’t enjoy the sunlight so a few scenes in the darkness were to be expected.

When the lights are turned on the film reveals an impressively ornate production design with sumptuously appointed interiors and ominous craggy castles.  The elaborate costumes and suits of armour are also impressive.

While it doesn’t quite venture into the ridiculous Twilight-style world of vampire pretty boys, Dracula Untold turns Vlad into a handsome, noble father who dotes on his young son Ingeras (Art Parkinson) before killing thousands of people.  Welsh actor Luke Evans, who has appeared as Bard in the The Hobbit films, has the physicality for the role and also gives Vlad a modicum of emotional depth but is still a generic British-accented, sword-swinging action/fantasy hero. As his nemesis, Ottoman Sultan Mehmed, Dominic Cooper is amusingly vile if strangely contemporary looking.  Few other cast members have much chance to develop their characters although Charles Dance is eloquently sinister as the pallid and embittered Master Vampire.

The film’s tag line is “the world needs a monster” or in this case a monstrously powerful war-lord which suggests an unsettling political agenda although this film doesn’t delve into ideology to any great extent.

This is a flawed and at times disappointingly familiar film but it’s a mostly well-made and occasionally exciting sword slasher that slightly exceeds admittedly low expectations.

Nick’s rating: **1/2.

Genre: Action/ Fantasy.

Classification: M.

Director(s): Gary Shore.

Release date: 2nd October 2014

Running time:  92 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast. 

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