Dracula Untold (2014, Gary Shore)

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These reviews reveal plot twists.

Setting: Transylvania, 1462.

Faithful to the novel? No. It’s a prequel/origin story, based on the notion that Dracula actually *is* the historical figure Vlad the Impaler, rather than – as Bram Stoker intended – just inspired by him. And it’s a hugely fictionalised take on Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia (c1431-1477). The real one was a mass-murdering psychopath. As played by Luke Evans, he’s a family man who’s willing to become a vampire so he can defend his people from some nasty Turks.

Best performance: No one’s any good, frankly. Zach McGowan from Black Sails crops up in a nonsensical cameo that seems much more important than it probably is. Given that the film is meant as the opening gambit in a ‘Universal Monsters Cinematic Universe’ series, perhaps it’s setting up something for a future film.

Best bit: Vlad’s final mano-a-mano fight with Dominic Cooper’s bad guy, Turkish sultan Mehmed II. It’s a well-choreographed scene. Silver coins, which are toxic to the vamp Vlad, scatter all around them as they brawl.

Review: This film is reaching for the historical sweep and grandeur of, say, Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven or Robin Hood. But those films have a much deeper sense of story and character. Dracula Untold has plenty of style – a bullet-time prologue, moodily shot fight scenes, authentic-looking locals – but every character is underwritten and bland or a hammy stereotype. Pretentious, clunky dialogue doesn’t help. Neither does a whopping great big plot hole: newly vamped Vlad wipes out a thousand-strong army in no time… but then says he and his people must go and hide rather than take on the Turks. Sex is also pointedly absent from the plot, never a good sign in a vampire story. The Master Vampire pours his blood into a broken skull fragment for Vlad to drink from, which avoids any of that troublesome subtext. It’s a load of ropy old nonsense, with a silly sequel-baiting coda.

Four Broke Tooth Mountains out of 10

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