Vampire Reviews: Dracula Untold

Vampire Reviews: Dracula Untold

September 8, 2019 78 By William Hollis


Good mornink, and velcome back to Vampire Reviews. I am ze Maven of ze Eventide and last night, I saw Gary Shore’s first feature film, Dracula Untold. Why is it Dracula Untold? Well, because it’s the first time this story about Dracula has been told so they had to make a big deal out of that so that way everyone going to see the movie wouldn’t be like “oh it’s just another Dracula remake” ‘Cause it wasn’t. And, uh, they were going really hard for the “points for originality” card here. The premise is that, you know, Dracula was inspired by Vlad Țepeș, Vlad the Impaler the, uh, crazy warlord with the crazy, messed-up childhood who gave Bram Stoker the idea for some seeds into his Dracula character. And a lot of modern adaptations of Dracula have head-canoned that. They’ve taken it and said okay, this is Dracula’s origin. He was Vlad Țepeș, this is who he is. And they’ll either put just impaling imagery in their Dracula movies or they’ll actually go so far out as to show it as actual backstory. But this movie, starring Luke Evans, tells the story of Vlad’s becoming into a vampire in an original way. And it was not a very good movie, and there are a lot of critics out there who will tell you why it wasn’t a very good movie. So, being that this is a Vampire Review I am going to focus on the vampire aspects, primarily, of the movie. So, the idea is that Vlad, the bloodthirsty, violent, insane, monstrous warlord of lore is actually really a nice guy. And he had a really messed up childhood and he was forced to fight for the Turks as a bloodthirsty warrior but when that was over, he decided to be a nice guy again. And the only reason he impaled people after that was because, he had this theory that, you know, if I go and do this really creepy, scary thing like impale a whole village then everyone will think I’m this crazy monster and they won’t come after me and that way I won’t have to kill any more people and it was a sacrifice for the greater good. And when asked how he felt about doing that, he says “I felt nothing. Which makes me more of a monster than if I had liked it or if I felt guilty.” But he totally feels guilty. He’s such a nice guy, you guys. Oh my God. Vlad. Devoted husband, devoted father. And that was an interesting aspect of the story: usually Dracula’s story is a romantic one. He has love interests and, a lot of times, he has a reincarnated bride in the form of Mina or whoever the equivalent is where she is his lost love from before he was a vampire brought back. But this movie focussed a lot on his relationship with his young son and there was a lot of paternal love and that’s something I haven’t really seen before with Dracula so, points for originality but it was so cheesy. All the “I love you daddy!” “I love you son.” “You make me proud.” “I want to make you proud, daddy!” It was just silly. I mean, not even silly for Dracula or silly for a vampire movie or silly for Medieval Action Movie Number 46 – because we’ve had a lot of those lately – it was just bad dialogue. I mean, the actors did their best. The kid actor, I thought he was pretty good. Luke Evans, he did his best with what he had to work with. but they were trying way too hard to make Dracula, just, the nicest guy. So because nice guy Dracula’s princedom is under the threat of the Turks who want him to turn over 1000 young boys for their army which is what happened to Dracula when he was a kid, so he’s really, kind of, you know, traumatised by this and he really doesn’t want to do it, but he’s conflicted. If I don’t do it, I’ll start a war, if I do do it, I’m… a jerk. And he almost does it, and then he decides not to do it, so he starts this war. And they’re hopelessly outnumbered, and how is he going to solve this war? So, his solution is, well there was that creepy vampire that I ran into up in that mountain and this script went through a lot of rewrites and originally there was a witch up there, and then they changed it to like a demon thing and then in the ultimate movie it’s a vampire that’s up in the mountains. So, he goes to this vampire, who is Charles Dance and he says: “Hey, if you make me a vampire then I can stop the army before they kill my people” “and, you know, I’m willing to become a monster for the sake of my people” “and, you know, I – I will make this sacrifice because I’m such a nice guy.” So the vampire says, “Well, you know what? I’ll do it.” “But you know, I’ll make it even easier for you.” “I will say that if you can go three days – three days” “without drinking blood, then you’ll just magically poof back into a human again.” And Dracula says: “Hey! This is even better than I thought. Okay, let’s do it.” And, the old vampire says: “But!” “If you don’t manage to go three days without drinking blood” “and you do drink blood you’re a vampire forever, your soul is doomed” “and also I get released upon the world.” Because currently this crazy old vampire is trapped in this mountain but if Dracula drinks blood before three days then he will be unleashed. And he’s got a lot of shit to do. He’s got vengeance, he’s got evil, and he’s just going to be this force upon the world that Dracula will be responsible for unleashing. And Dracula says, “Well, I don’t want that,” “but I do want to win this war, so I’ve got three days to win this war.” “No problem, I can do it.” ‘Cause he’s already a bad-ass of course, ’cause you know, Medieval Action Movie Number 46. I didn’t mind all that. I thought that was an interesting vampire story. And if you think of this movie as a Dracula story you might say What? This isn’t Dracula. This is – He’s not Dracula-ish at all. But you know what, think of it as just a vampire story. Already we’ve got a pretty good set-up, an okay premise. It’s a little weird, but, you know, there’s been a lot worse. So here’s where it gets bad. So Dracula goes back to his castle which is already under attack. I get the impression that the Turks were just, like, a five minutes walk away from where Dracula lived because they show up really fast. More than once. So Dracula gets back there and uses his new powers to defeat a whole army by himself. You know, a small army. A thousand men. And then he says, okay, they’re gonna send more so I’ve got three days. So, what we’re going to do… kingdom… is we’re going to take a hike for three days through the woods, to this other place, this monastery place where you’ll be kinda safer, and also we’ll lure the Turks away from the rest of our little principality here. So they do that. And of course the Turks come after them and they catch up to them and then there’s a battle of the… five armies or whatever… This is so it’s basically a Lord of the Rings rip-off, honestly. So they get there and they fight and at the last minute, Dracula is like: Holy crap, the sun’s rising and it’s my last day and I’m about to lose my powers. How am I ever going to win this battle tonight? This morning. Why didn’t he go towards the Turks? Why did he spend his three days running away from the Turks? Okay, maybe Dracula’s a little dumb. Maybe he’s not the best war-planner – which doesn’t really work with his track record because he had done so well before – but okay, maybe he’s had a lapse in judgement. I’ll accept that. He didn’t think of it. Hindsight’s twenty-twenty. Sure he’s kicking himself now. But here are my other issues with the vampire parts of this. He is promised strength, speed, heightened senses, he can see for miles he can commune with animals and use the animal’s senses to, you know, see what the animals are seeing but his weakness is sunlight, of course, and this insatiable thirst for blood that’s supposed to drive him insane and just make it impossible to be around people and it’s going to be so hard to not drink blood for three days, you guys and he’s just gonna thirst and thirst and thirst and there’s no way he can resist this unless he’s just the nicest guy in the world – which he is. But when he gets back to his camp, to his people he’s fine. Until all of a sudden he remembers – oh right! I’m supposed to be thirsting for blood. And then he’s with his wife and then he gets kind of aroused by her neck veins and he’s like “No, no, I can’t!” So he gets away from her. And it’s a struggle, it’s hard, he wants to bite his wife. But then, next scene, he’s fine. He’s surrounded by his bros, he’s with his kid, he and his kid hug and he doesn’t have any problem hugging his kid. If you’re going to do the “It’s so hard to resist your blood” “that I’m just wanting to bite every single thing that walks within ten feet of me” which a lot of vampire lores do then you have to do it in every single scene. Not just when it’s convenient to remind the audience that this is a thing. There were maybe half a dozen instances where we saw him go all crazy with the need for blood but then all these other scenes where he’s just hanging out and it’s not a problem. And that right there is probably the main reason why this movie does not work as a vampire film. The other thing is – the sun. So the sun makes him start kind of melting and his skin flakes off and he gets a lot of CGI stuff going on But then he immediately heals. He gets “sunned on” a lot and he’s always okay. And the other – his other weakness is silver. And they do a really good job with this I’m not going to spoil any more than I already have for you with the silver But a lot of vampire lores use silver I hear a lot of people say “silver bullets, that’s for werewolves” No, silver was a vampire thing before it was a werewolf thing. Also, vampires and werewolves were originally the same thing. We’ve discussed this. So what about his vampire strengths? Well, the thing the movie obviously wants you to think is the coolest one is that he can swarm into bats. And he just swirls up into this cluster of bats – cauldron of bats, actually, is what they’re called – and he can take this bat form and go really fast, fly, and also smash things. And apparently these bats don’t take damage ’cause he just slams into things and their little puny bat bodies don’t have any harm. And he can also control bats. At one point he controls all the bats in Transylvania. They just all come out of nowhere, I mean we’re talking millions of bats here and he uses them to fight. And – they’re fine. They don’t get harm to their little batty bodies. One thing that was kind of amusing was they refer to the bats as vampire bats, as blood-drinking bats. Um, yeah, blood-drinking bats live in South America. Yeah, there’s bats in Transylvania but they – they eat bugs. Just bugs. So now let’s talk about the ending of the movie which is where it falls apart the most. And here’s where the real spoilers start so if you actually want to go see this movie, be warned. It’s his last night as a vampire, the sun’s about to come up, he’s about to lose his powers and then his wife gets slain. And she says “Drink my blood before I die and then you’ll keep your powers and you can save our son.” And Dracula really doesn’t want to do this, but he knows she’s right, so he does and then he goes “Nooooo!!!” Okay, he doesn’t say “no” but it’s a scream to the sky, it’s effectively the same thing. So they’ve already kidnapped his son at this point and his people have all had their asses kicked but they’re not dead, so he goes in and rounds up everyone who’s still alive turns them all into vampires, and says “Alright, guys, let’s go kick some Turkish butt.” Which, you know – okay, I’m not going to talk about historical inaccuracies here. This is a vampire review, we’re talking about vampires. So he takes these vampires with him and he tracks down the Turks and he leaves them to deal with the army and he goes inside and fights the Big Boss for his son. But when he – obviously – wins, he comes out and all of his vampires have killed the entire Turkish army. I keep wanting to say Ottoman, but no, in the movie, they’re Turkish. And he’s like: “Wow! Really? You took care of them all? Okay!” “That’s great. Yeah, job well done. I saved my son. Okay! We win!” But then these vampires are all like: “Snarl. Bloodlust, bloodlust, bloodlust.” Which is totally different from how Dracula was. He kept his personality. When he did have his bloodlust it was more like: “No, I mustn’t.” [gasp] But these guys are snarling, demonic clichés. Totally different. I don’t know if there’s an in-universe explanation for why they’re different from him. Maybe it’s because they’re next-generational vampire ’cause he made them but he was made by the master vampire, or – But then they say: “Yes, we killed all the Turks.” “And now we’re gonna go kill everyone else because we’re gonna take over the world!” “And now we’re the new top of the food chain, and we’re in charge now, and now there’s a new world order of vampires.” And oh my God. This cliché again? Where did this come from? Why are these guys wanting to do it? And not just, like, one dissenting guy. All of the other vampires are like this. And Dracula is not and he’s in the middle, trying to protect his son. They’re saying: “First step we kill your son, and then we go off and wreak havoc on the world!” And Dracula’s like: “No, you guys, why did you do that?” And then, you know, a priest shows up and saves his son. And then what Dracula does is – because it’s already been daylight but he made the clouds cover the sun – which I don’t know why he didn’t do that earlier in the movie during other days. Maybe he didn’t have that power yet. So he makes the clouds uncover the sun, and he burns up all the other vampires to keep them from their reign of terror. And then he burns up too, but not as bad as they do? So he’s able to be revived later, because of course he is, ’cause he’s Dracula and he’s got a whole legacy to live. But why the mass of vampires have this totally cliché we’re gonna take over the world we’re evil now, we’ve lost our souls, Buffy-style and Dracula himself, is still himself. ‘Cause he’s such a nice guy. This kind of lazy writing just ruined the movie for me. I mean, I know it wasn’t that great of a movie to start with, but most vampire movies aren’t that great, let’s face it, and I’ll take what I can get. But that ending. Oh my God. Why couldn’t they have just had them be like “Okay, we’re done, what do we do now, king – prince?” And have him be like “You die!” because he’s trying to save their souls, or give him some nice guy reason to do it without having to make them so cliché-edly stereotypically moustache-twirlingly evil. “Now we kill your little boy!” [sigh] There were ways to get around it without it being that silly. Meanwhile, I’m wondering Hey! What happened to super scary Charles Dance vampire up in the mountain and this shitload of evil he was going to unleash upon the world as soon as Dracula drank some blood? Where’s he? Well, guess what? You don’t see him until 2014 in the jump to modern times at the end of the movie to show that Dracula’s still alive. And what you see, is He is stalking Dracula and Dracula doesn’t realise it and then Dracula meets the reincarnation of his dead wife – like he always does, you know, that’s fine, I’ll take it. And then Charles Dance is like “It beginsssss.” I thought it began in the 1400s! Were you waiting almost 600 years for “It beginsssss.” What were you doing all that time? I thought you had, like, a laundry list of revenge to seek out, and – You know, in one previous version of the script he was supposed to be Caligula who had become a vampire so who knows what he would have gotten into, who Caligula’s enemies were that were still alive that he would have – [sigh] You don’t set up this scary ticking clock of you’ve got three days otherwise not only are you going to be a vampire forever but serious shit is gonna go down, son and then not do it. There were so many balls dropped in this movie. Another one was so, the um, the Turkish army gets word that Dracula has become a monster. And their leader is like “Well, they can’t fear what they can’t see.” So they have this big old set-up where they’re going to blindfold the entire army and he gives ’em a pep-talk for how they can march blindfolded and get there fine, blindfolded. And then they won’t see Dracula, and therefore they won’t be scared and they’ll be able to fight – they won’t get spooked. But nothing ever comes of it. They get there, blindfolded. Dracula shows up, kicks their asses. I don’t even know why they left that scene in the movie. whether there was something else that was cut and they should have cut that too or maybe they had spent so much money on the CGI for that scene that they didn’t want to waste it. Such trouble. So, as you may have heard, Universal is rebooting their monster series. Yay! And they are starting with The Mummy, and that comes out in 2016. And you know, back in the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, it was The Mummy, The Frankenstein, Dracula, of course, was the first Phantom of the Opera if you count silent movies and the Invisible Man, the Creature from the Black Lagoon everything you can think of, they were like the X-Men style team of monsters. And they’re doing a kind of an Avengers thing with them. So they’re starting with The Mummy. And this movie, Dracula Untold, had already been in production when that decision was come to, so they said “Hey! We’re already doing a Dracula movie.” Which is – it’s done by Universal. “Let’s incorporate that into it.” So I think that the whole ending bit – “It beginsss.” is going to tie into this new monsters, Avengers, reboot that’s starting with The Mummy in 2016. But from what I’ve read it’s going to depend on how well Dracula does and considering that it has a 25% Tomato meter already and there were six people in my theatre showing last night, opening night I don’t think it’s going to do very well. I don’t think there’s going to be a sequel. And I don’t think that these characters – well, the character is Dracula, but – as portrayed by the actors that we have here in the way that they’ve been set up are going to be incorporated into the Universal Monsters franchise that’s coming out. They’re probably going to do a new Dracula that focuses on the actual Dracula story Kind of like Dracula 2000 was, where it’s modernised – because that’s the reboot, it’s all modern times. Because most of the original stories take place in Victorian times or, you know, 1920’s but, um, the reboot will be modern versions of them all. So they tried and that weird ending was probably tacked on during reshoots. I know they did some reshoots, I don’t know which scenes were included. I’m guessing it was that one. And I’m guessing the part where they changed who the vampire in the mountain was and his motivation was part of that, to give them a Big Bad to fight in their Avengers-style Monsters Mash. Well, I’m excited for the Monsters reboot And considering that the failure of this movie means that there will be another Dracula in this reboot… Sure! Bring it! Until then! Oh, but if you like Medieval action movies ala Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Snow White and the Huntsman, etcetera then you might like this movie. I was told that it got really slow and dragged and was boring, but I didn’t think that. I thought it was fine. It was tightly edited. There were a lot of cheesy moments but a lot of movies have cheesy moments. And the CGI was cool. I liked the bats. Really liked the bats. It’s not the first time we’ve seen someone turn into bats like that before but they definitely did it with the most up-to-date technology. See it for the bats. I am ze Maven of ze Eventide and one day I will learn how to turn into bats! But until then, please give me a movie with consistent vampire rules! Strengths, weaknesses… Just stick to your own set of rules! That’s all I ask!