For those who missed the recent Kiwi Vampire/Flatmate spoof What We Do In The Shadows, along with a stack of laughs, the film also offered up a solid education on “Bloodsucking for Dummies”.
This week Dracula Untold, a Monster Origin tale from Universal Pictures, offers a similar refresher course in bloodlust folklore, and not surprisingly a lot less laughs. We first meet our hero – Prince Vlad (The Impaler) and get a bit of backstory about his upbringing and relatively recent return to his beloved Kingdom of Transylvania.
Soon we are introduced to one old man with an unquenchable thirst for fresh human blood – Master Vampire – played by Game of Thrones’ Charles Dance. Set in the 15th century as the Ottoman Empire is growing, and Transylvania finds itself reluctant to be absorbed by the expanding Turks, this feisty old bloke is stuck in a cave high up on Broken Tooth Mountain where he menaces passers by, (at night mind you as he’s not partial to UV), or if they are silly enough to seek shelter in his cave. And by “menace” I actually mean suck all the life from their veins, leaving his victims to become part of his rather large collection of shattered skeletons strewn across his vast lair.
A potential new recruit, our hero Vlad – Luke Evans (The Hobbit), has returned to his homeland after growing up as a slave soldier in the Turkish Army, and is need of special powers to help fend off imminent, unwanted Turkish advances.
The Master and The Prince cross paths, and our hero is offered a choice of permanently becoming a vampire, or if he can resist the lust for blood for 72 hours, he’ll basically become a “Part-Time Sucker” and will temporarily become the recipient of some useful attributes including superhuman strength and speed (amongst a dazzling myriad of other “super powers”).
There’s only one reason this film has been made. Universal Studios is the only major motion picture company that does not own the rights to a Superhero character, well, apart from THIS guy.
Sure they have Jason Bourne – but Jeremy Renner didn’t really harvest the goods sown by Matt Damon’s three outings in that last Bourne movie, so they need to explore other avenues for a franchise.
What Universal DO have is the rights to most of the cool movie monsters – the “Universal Monsters” (Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, The Wolf Man, The Mummy and The Creature from the Black Lagoon)
They’ve given us a pack of Dracula films already – two simply called Dracula (1931 and 1979), Dracula’s Daughter (1936), Son of Dracula, (1943), House of Dracula (1945) and Horror of Dracula (1958), and even Brides of Dracula (1960), but this one seeks to set up the legend for a modern day renaissance…. Vampi-Re-naissance anyone?
Dracula Untold comes off as a hybrid of two great TV shows – Game of Thrones (also partly filmed in Ireland) and True Blood. Add some Thor and Superman (the cape, muscle and good looks), a dash of Batman (bats -natch), and you have what Universal are surely banking on as the first in a long line of Dracula Franchise films.
This film is spooky, it’s cool, the characters feel real, the action is gripping, the SFX quality. And even the dialogue is highly quotable –
Vlad -“Sometimes the world no longer needs a hero. It needs a monster.”
Master – “And you think you know what it means to be a monster. You have no idea. But I will show you.”
There’s a heck of a lot to like.
Drac’s Back Baby.
3 & 1/2 Stars.