Today contained a movie afternoon with my sister Linda and my mom. We were excited to view the newly released Dracula Untold for my first. I’m not a big horror movie fan although I enjoy a good ghost story without the gore and I enjoy the classics, having grown up watching the old Frankenstein, Dracula, and Mummy films. And my mom can’t tolerate typical vampire movies. Linda, on the other hand, loves a good scare. So this was quite a little group that settled into the darkened theater.
Dracula Untold stars Luke Evans, Sarah Gadon, Dominic Cooper, Charles Dance and Art Parkinson. It was directed by Gary Shore. This action/drama/fantasy is rated PG-13, for violence, vampire images and mild sensuality and has a run time of 1 hour and 32 minutes.
This is the story of Vlad the Impaler (Luke Evans) and how he became Dracula. Taken from his father’s kingdom as a young boy and forced to train and fight for the Turkish kingdom, Vlad learns to disengage from his emotions and to fight at a psychological level as well as a physical level. He discovers that sometimes it’s not a hero that is needed, to win a war, but a monster. He earns that title through his gruesome habit of impaling his war victims on long wooden stakes, and leaving the bodies thus on the battlefield. Such an act definitely makes an impact and sends a message. Vlad the Impaler secures his freedom and goes home as a prince to rule his small kingdom after his father’s death.
Vlad may have a horrific reputation in war but at home, he is a devoted and fiercely protective husband, father and ruler. He makes a promise to his beautiful wife, Mirena (Sarah Gadon) and his son (Art Parkinson) that the boy shall never be forced to fight for the Turk ruler Mehmed (Dominic Cooper). That promise is challenged when Mehmed unexpectedly demands that 1000 boys from Vlad’s kingdom, including the prince’s own son, be turned over immediately to be trained as soldiers.
Vlad refuses the command, knowing that in protecting his son and his kingdom he must fight with all that he can muster. He visits a cave where a Master Vampire (Charles Dance) is imprisoned, seeking supernatural help. By drinking the ancient vampire’s blood, Vlad will have the strength of 100 men and other dark abilities, for three days. If he can deny the insatiable blood lust that will be upon him during those days, he will return to normal when the sun rises on the fourth day. If he succumbs to that need for human blood, he will become the Master Vampire and that tortured soul will go free. For the sake of his son, his wife and his kingdom, Vlad accepts the offer and drinks the blood.
Transformed immediately, Vlad makes use of his new abilities, which include healing from wounds and being able to shift his body into a swirling mass of black bats. He defeats the Turkish invasion battering in his castle door and moves his people to the safety of a monastery. There they are besieged by Mehmed and his army of thousands. While he is fighting them to gain their freedom, Vlad’s wife falls to her death, protecting their son. Vlad has risked his life to save his family and his people. Mirena now offers her life to enable Vlad to continue in the vampire state so he can rescue his son from Mehmed. Vlad consumes his dying wife’s blood, and rises in anguish, no longer Vlad but Dracula. In a rage now, he converts surviving members of his kingdom into vampires as well and they defeat the Turkish army. Mehmed is destroyed and Vlad’s son freed and sent to the monastery for safety. Dracula allows the sunlight to stream over his newly created band of vampires and they are dissolved in the bright streaming rays. Dracula falls as well. However, he is revived by a mysterious follower who feeds the former prince his own blood.
In the closing scene, set in a modern day London, Dracula sees a woman who is the image of his long lost wife. He recites a beloved poem to her and introduces himself as Vlad. As they stroll away, the old Master Vampire, now dressed sharply in a suit, rises from a nearby table to follow the couple. He murmurs, “Let the games begin”.
I LIKED this film. Mixing historical facts about the real Vlad the impaler and the mythology of the Dracula stories, this movie captured the best of fact and fiction and created a compelling, fun to watch film. The costumes and cinematography were gorgeous. Luke Evans and Sarah Gadon were gorgeous. I was drawn to this movie originally because of Luke Evans, who plays Bard in The Hobbit films. I enjoyed a story that was crafted around love and loyalty and the desire to go to any length to protect family and people, rather than mindless brutality and violence. The movie was tastefully done, no pun intended, without excessive blood and gore or scenes that would have made me wince, and yet there was plenty of action. Luke Evans portrays well a man who has lived through the atrocities of war and will risk all to protect his young son from that horror. The stark angst often seen in his dark eyes made my heart ache. And I have to confess, it created anticipation for seeing Evans again soon, battling darkness, in The Hobbit, The Battle of Five Armies.
And it appears I will be seeing more of Luke Evans in the darker role of Dracula. The final scene nicely sets up a sequel. I am pleased about that!