Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Dracula Untold (2014) - Fantasy Horror Film Review

Vampire films are often hit and miss, especially ones which revolve around the Prince of Darkness himself. Dracula Untold looked like it could be interesting though in that it was to be the origin story for Dracula, chronicling how Vlad Tepes became a vampire.

As a child Vlad (Luke Evans) was given over to the Turks by his father along with 1000 other children to become a soldier in order to protect his fathers kingdom from being destroyed. He survived the brutal training methods the Turks used and rose to become a figure feared on the battlefield. As a man he returns back to his kingdom to become King. For ten years he rules his land in peace,  but one day the Turks arrive and like in the past demand 1000 children be given over to them, including Vlad's son. Deciding he can't comply with the demand and knowing this will lead to war against an unbeatable army Vlad in desperation visits a dark creature that lives in the mountain. The monster grants Vlad the power to destroy his enemies by turning him into a vampire. He has the power of the vampire for three days after which he will regain his humanity, but should he drink blood during this time he will stay a creature of the night for eternity...

Wow, huge writers block coming on, not a good start. There are some great special effects in Dracula Untold yet at the same time the actual sets, and set pieces sometimes seem to suggest a lack of funds to really bring the true vision to the film. The focus of the film is on Vlad and if he can resist the darkness and save his people. The thirst for blood is ever present but seems to come and go depending on if the scene calls for it. While his decision to become a monster to save his people was well handled it was obvious to me that actually the plot was all caused by his wife Mirena, if you look out for it all the key points of the film are due to her.

As a vampire Vlad has super strength, can control bats, and can turn into a swarm of bats, whilst the usual foils of sunlight, silver, stakes through the heart and crucifixes all apply at one point or another. The effects for sunlight and silver damage are not bad but this is a mostly bloodless affair with blood only showing up occasionally if it is to do with the story. There are quite a few battle sequences but as a rule these have great build ups then all too brief payoffs, though Evans certainly looks like a powerful force. One great sequence in which Vlad is stood on top of a tower controlling a deadly swarm of bats was pretty darn awesome but then later you have a pretty lame one on one fight between him and the leader of the Turks that was predictable, unoriginal and kind of boring truth be told.

A lot of the plot seemed to be stolen from the videogame Castlevania: Lords of Shadow series which I found bizarre, overall it is nothing special. We already know before hand Vlad will become Dracula so while it is interesting to see him wrestle with his urges it's more a case of watching to see what makes him loose his humanity rather than wondering if he can win out. The acting is acceptable, the main characters hold it together whilst the legions of unimportant extras have quite a stereotypical fantasy look to them all and just all kind of merge into one. There are some moderate plot holes stumbled into, including a giant one near the films later half. There is an open ending suggesting the possibility of a sequel and it would be interesting to see where that went (again if you have played Lords of Shadow then it wont be too surprising an end).

With a decent musical score, some pretty great action sequences and a solid performance from Evans (though the amount of times he falls onto his knees and screams is kinda humorous) it is the other side of the coin that brings Dracula Untold down to merely being an ok film. I did enjoy it but just slightly cribs too much from films that have come before to stand firmly out on it's own.


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