‘Not another vampire movie…’ is likely to be the first reaction upon hearing of Gary Shore’s directorial debut Dracula Untold. While on the surface such apprehensions seem just, what lies within is by no means the generic fodder we’ve been treated to of late, but instead a reasonably unique, origins story, as we go back to the very beginning, and learn of how Dracula came to be.
Luke Evans plays the eponymous lead, beginning proceedings as Vlad the Impaler, a revered – and feared – warrior, desperately hoping to provide his kingdom with a peaceful existence, alongside his wife (Sarah Gadon) and son (Art Parkinson). His idealistic ambitions are soon quashed when the old foes the Turks, led by the impassioned Mehmed (Dominic Cooper) offer an ultimatum: for Vlad to hand over thousands of his people, or face a war. Knowing the odds are stacked heavily against him, he sets off in search of a miracle, which is where he meets an elusive, treacherous vampire (Charles Dance) in a far away cave…
Thanks to a fine turn by Evans, Dracula Untold remains a compelling watch, particularly where the more intimate scenes are concerned. Often with films of this ilk, directors revel in the big set pieces but struggle with the family dynamic, and human interactions. In this instance, it’s the other way round, as while the scenes back at the castle between Vlad and his wife are remarkably well-judged, it’s the moments of conflict which prove to be this picture’s very undoing. Growing increasingly tedious and somewhat monotonous, the fact we’re witnessing a supernatural force take on human beings proves to be detrimental to this title. In some ways it works well, highlighting the sheer difference between the two, thus heightening the severity of the situation at hand. However as it’s our protagonist with the powers, it detracts from the notion of the underdog, which serves films like this so sufficiently. Instead it becomes too easy a task for Vlad, and takes away any sense of suspense or doubt we should feel. There’s a reason why in superhero movies the villains are also gifted with powers too: to make for a fair, even contest.
Nonetheless, there remains plenty to be admired about this movie, and with it being Shore’s first endeavour into the world of cinema, he has has displayed an aptitude for accomplished filmmaking, which suggests that a prosperous career could well beckon. Let’s just hope he steers clear of vampires for his next project – once will do just fine.