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Dracula Untold – The Origins of Count Dracula

Dracula untold posterI’m a sucker for a vampire movie, especially one having to do with our not-so-friendly Count Dracula. When I was a kid, I saw all of the Dracula movies with Bela Lugosi, Jack Palance, Christopher Lee and others. I subscribed to the monthly comic book “The Tomb of Dracula” and later on, the short-lived Dracula Magazine entitled “Dracula Lives”.

But there was always something missing – and that was the origin story of our Count. Nobody ever delved into his past, what he was like before he became a vampire. Not until now, that is. Needless to say, I was excited when I heard that the new film directed by Gary Shore, Dracula Untold was just that – the story of how and why Vlad Tepes became a vampire.

Truth be told, I was a tad hesitant because some of the reviews I’d read were on the lukewarm side. I personally loved the film and felt that the writers came up with a very good Dracula origin story.

The Story

In the 15th century, Vlad Tepes, played by Luke Evans, and Vlad’s young family live in Transylvania, where he rules as a Prince. We learn that as a child, he was given to the Turkish Sultan and was tortured, trained and then forced to kill in the sultan’s army, during which he became known as Vlad the Impaler. Given his freedom, he has been allowed many years of peace between the two kingdoms.

Then one day, things turn to hell. Messengers from the new Sultan, played by Dominic Cooper, turn up and demand a thousand boys – including Vlad’s own son – for the Turkish army. Vlad refuses, knowing that this decision will ultimately lead to war between the two kingdoms – with the enormous Turkish army and Vlad’s non-existent army.

Out of desperation, the kind-hearted prince Vlad makes a decision with a dark and ancient supernatural force in order to protect his kingdom…and we all know how that turns out.

The Acting

I couldn’t think anyone more suited for this role than Luke Evans. Dracula Untold is not a happy film and Evans’s dark and brooding yet sophisticated portrayal of Dracula was more than impressive. The prince’s struggle to protect his kingdom and his family – and his willingness to tamper with a terrible, dark power in order to do so was brilliantly portrayed, as was his transformation from hero to anti-hero.

During the movie I sympathized with the prince’s plight – and cringed as the situation worsened for him. Evans’s performance was not only believable, it was smooth and brilliant, and I felt that he was the perfect embodiment of the character of Vlad Tepes. He also did an excellent job at balancing his human and monster characteristics.

The chemistry between Vlad and his wife, played by Sarah Gadon, was outstanding as well and added a touch of sweet romance to this otherwise dark, angsty tale.

What We Didn’t Get

Many people who were disappointed in this film expected a classic vampire story, complete with the maniacal count drinking blood and attacking young maidens.

This was not the purpose of the film. This is not a vampire film. This is not even a horror film. Rather, it portrays the agonizing decision that Vlad had to make in order to protect his kingdom – and the price he had to pay for such a decision. It was about one man’s transformation from being good…. to being…not quite so good.

While the battle scenes were brutal, they were not gory. There was very little bloodletting and needless gruesome violence. That’s not what this film was about. Rather, it’s an origin story of the infamous Count Dracula, how he lost everything to save his kingdom and the ultimate sacrifice he had to make to save his family.

The Visuals

The story was dark as were the visuals (alas, no sparkly vampires here!). The effects were quite good however (loved the bats!), with the battle scenes appearing realistic without unnecessary gore. Rather, the director took an artistic approach to this film leading to some quite stunning visuals.

I felt this reboot of the Dracula story was beautifully executed with the visuals successfully drawing in the audience into the story. The film’s pace was perfect, with a nice mix of action scenes and slower, contemplative scenes.

The Verdict

Loved it! This stylish, well-plotted, innovative film was a delight to watch and provided a fresh perspective on Vlad the Impaler aka Count Dracula. This original story reinvents the evil Count Dracula as a tragic hero who loved and lost, a tale of hope versus despair. All in all, I felt it was an excellent story and left me wanting more.

The ending of the movie left an opening for a sequel so perhaps we will get more. If so, I’ll be first in line.

Recommended!