Horror fans, particularly those who enjoy creature features, may have a reason to rejoice. After over a decade overly romanticizing vampires, werewolves, and even zombies, it appears that the pendulum is now swinging back to where most of us remember. Millions of us that grew up watching the classic Universal Studios monster movies such as Dracula, Frankenstein and the Wolfman just couldn’t stomach these creatures that nightmares were made up being the subjects of teenage girl’s romantic fantasies. Now that the Twilight Saga has run its course and HBO’s True Blood has concluded there are a few remnants hanging on, but it does seem as though filmmakers and show runners are turning their attention to monsters being actually monstrous. This is not to in any way imply that this new wave of creature features can even aspire to the sheer perfection of the storytelling inherent in the classic films of serve as a touchstone for the genre, but it is a step in the right direction. One example on the consideration here is ‘Dracula Untold’. It bears stating at the start, that this is definitely not one of the best horror films ever made. But, it is a horror film for the creatures a deadly, decidedly unattractive and bent on creating as much havoc, death and destruction as possible. This just say that the vampire occupying center stage in this story doesn’t glitter in the sun and because teenage girls pensive angst filled eyes.
The intention of this film is to create a back story for the titular character in Bram" Stoker’s 1897 literary masterpiece, ‘Dracula’. The characters created by Mr. Stoker have been woven into the screenplay by Matt Sazama, albeit set prior to the timeline of the novel. It should be noted that this is his very first credit as a screenwriter. A similar fresh approach is to be found in the director, Gary Shore, who is making his feature-length film debut following one short film. After a couple of viewings of the movie, I arrived at the conclusion that the technical shortcomings of the film are not due to a lack of talent at all. The nascent abilities of these men are clearly present but as with anyone entering artistic expression as a vocation, it is only natural to expect a learning curve of some degree. The directorial style of Mr. Shore does present itself as a bit heavy-handed. Undoubtedly a major contributor to this is that the theatrical release of the film was in Real 3-D. It should be noted that as of this date in 3-D release was not made by the studio. Mr. Shore apparently placed too much emphasis on incorporating the illusion of depth into the visual statement of the film that was either necessary or prudent to do. This may have contributed to the decision of the studio not to include a 3-D copy in the home release. Too much is credit, I applaud any newcomer to this craft for pushing himself beyond his current comfort zone. There were only a handful of major directors who can properly use 3-D not as a gimmick, but is integral to the process of telling a story. Mr. Shore has great potential in getting their but of the unreasonable to expect that in his freshman opus.
During the period of time, commonly referred to as the Middle Ages, the land was controlled by powerful warlords whose realms were limited only to their ability to seize and control. One such warlord, Vlad (Luke Evans) gain control of the area known as Transylvania, which he seized in such a brutal fashion that he was widely known as ‘The Impaler’ due to his predilection of placing his vanquished foes on display skewered on spikes. The main motif used in telling this prequel is to give this monster eventually known as Dracula and origin story worthy of any superhero, or perhaps super villain. Apparently, Universal Studios is taking a page out of the exceptionally popular and lucrative business plan of Marvel Studios. They are creating the ‘Universal Cinematic Universe’ which will require rebooting and subsequently modernizing their core stable of creatures.
As the film goes into the early childhood, Vlad the audience is given the opportunity to see how conditions beyond his control led him to the heinous murderer that he was destined to become. He was captured and enslaved by the Turkish Empire, and selected to serve as a soldier in the sultans delete guard. It was there that he earned his nom de guerre, suitable for man who could slaughter thousands. Eventually, however, Vlad is sickened by his own behavior. As he looks upon the death and destruction in his wake, he becomes revolted by his very being. During the incursion into enemy countryside they discover a helmet of an enemy combatant. Following the stream up into the high mountains, they find the landscape pavers across bones of thousands in a quickly attacked by some unfathomable creature. Glad manages to escape the cavernous layout of the creature and discovers that it refuses to follow him into the sunlight. After his path crosses with a local monk, Vlad discovers that the creature was once a man who made a demonic pact sacrificing his humanity for immense supernatural power. Later, during a festival, Vlad, his wife and child are together in the castle of the Sultan, when they are attacked in force by the enemy. When Vlad’s traditional monetary tribute is declined any payment of 1000 young boys for sacrifices demanded that the man’s which results in upping the anti-to include his own son. This brings them back to the mountains where he offers himself to the same demonic pact. He soon finds that he has supernatural abilities including heightened senses, preternatural strength and agility in an overwhelming thirst for blood. The caveat is that if you can resist drinking blood for three days ago returned to his human form, otherwise he will be a vampire all eternity.
Considering Universal Studios has apparently decided upon taking them monster movies in a new direction, greatly influenced by the wildly successful comic book movies, some of the details of this film may be important to as a portent of what is in store for the monsters we love being scared by his kids. In the traditional canon, Vlad was fundamentally a sociopath was enjoyment was derived by inflicting the most vicious pain and humiliation upon his foes as possible. It was never any extraneous factors presented to either explain or soften his inhumanity. Here, Vlad was most certainly a cruel and vicious man turned out Ray by the savage upbringing throughout his childhood. By being chosen to serve in an elite guard, Vlad was placed in a situation where savagery was not on the expected it was necessary for survival and advancement. The greatest excuse me, Vlad’s behavior was being forced to sacrifice 1000 young boys from his own troops, but that his own son and heir was to be included. The way the story unfolded, Vlad had no other way to avenge the deaths and with his land of the scourge than to offer himself of this Faustian contract condemning himself in order to gain the power necessary. Although, this approach does dilute the character to some degree, at least as far as his inherent evil is concerned, it is a step in the correct direction than showing a vampires a love struck, glistening teenager frolicking in the treetops with his lady love. The film is permeated with the highly amp up degree of violence. The battles are epic, particularly the ones after Vlad becomes a vampire. Not having had the opportunity to see this in 3-D enabled the other, I experimented with the next best thing available to me. During one of the feelings of the film, I activated the 3-D upverting function of my television set. Results with this are generally uneven, but I have found the effect is optimized been using a Blu-ray disc on the film originally made with 3-D in mind. Again, this is no replacement for an actual ‘Real 3-D’ disk, but it does give some idea of what the theatrical version look like.
I can appreciate what Universal Studios is attempting plan for this reboot. I do this juncture it is far too early to see how it will pan out, once the other old-school monsters are included in the fold. At this point, it seems that the central theme will be, "villains are heroes that took a wrong turn." By making Vlad into a family man who sacrificed his own humanity to avenge the death of children, and the inclusion of a love story between him and his wife, serve to dilute the force of evil. He was traditionally depicted as. There is a basis for this back in the 30s and 40s. Larry Talbot was a good man who succumbed to his animal nature became a walk during the full moon. Frankenstein’s creature had a naďveté about him, not inherently evil, but unable to process the norms of society. Dracula has always been the monster portrayed as closest to the embodiment of evil. In this incarnation, it just felt that too much at that was made to soften the focus on the inherent characteristics of the main character. As it stands, it makes a reasonably good popcorn flick would just keep your expectations in check. Not only does the story meander off topic, but it was rated PG-13, so don’t expect the level of violence and gore found in a R-rated horror movie.