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Portrait of the vampire as a young impaler: “Dracula Untold”

October 19, 2014

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Dracula Untold. Wow. Just wow. I didn’t think they gave movies this mind-breakingly stupid a theatrical release. I mean, this should be embarrassedly shuffled into Redbox and VOD, while the creative team behind it change their names and go into porn to save their careers. I really didn’t think I was going to see a major studio release that made me long for the clarity and storytelling sophistication of I, Frankenstein, but there that movie is. It’s just bad. So, so bad.

Dracula Untold basically repurposes the (adopted) background of Count Dracula—here, as in other works, made out to be Vlad Tepes a.k.a. Vlad the Impaler—in order to make a soggy Lord of the Rings knock-off. In this version of the story, Vlad(Luke Evans)  is a reformed child soldier who put all that nasty impaling business behind him and now rules Transylvania with his doting wife and moppet son.

The kinder, gentler side of Vlad the Impaler.

The kinder, gentler side of Vlad the Impaler.

Okay, the movie has barely started and already we’re being asked to retcon one of the most brutal rulers in European history into a kindly husband/father. You know, as if the very gory and public executions of countless innocent people as a terror tactic is something you can put into perspective. This is a little like making a movie in which Josef Stalin is a superhero and only plays the part of murderous dictator to maintain his secret identity.

Well, one day the Turks march into town and demand 1000 children to swell their ranks of child soldiers so they can march on Europe. Vlad isn’t really thrilled with this idea—especially since they demand his son as well—and is all like, “Suck my left nut on a windy day, dude.” But the Turks make it clear if he doesn’t hand over the kids, they raze his lands and enslave all the kids. Turks are dicks in this movie. And kind of in real life too (like how they bombed the Kurds last week? Not cool, guys).

Those damn British Turks...

Those damn British Turks…

To battle the Turks, Vlad goes to an old vampire living in a scary cave and asks him to vampirize him. The vampire (a very good Charles Dance) agrees, but tell Vlad that he will have to resist his overpowering urge to drink human blood for three days, otherwise he’ll forever be vampire. Vlad is all over this deal.

So then for the rest of the movie, Vlad basically just pwns the Turks, fighting them with his super speed, strength, and ability to transform into a flock of CGI bats. After a while, though the Transylvanians start to get suspicious of Vlad and try and burn at the stake, since he is, after all, a vampire. Vlad shakes it off, and continues wiping out the Turks—unfortunately, it takes longer than three days. Uh-oh!

"This is my war face!"

“This is my war face!”

God this movie is awful. I don’t even know where to begin? Is it the fact we’re supposed to root for Vlad the Fucking Impaler? (and we’re supposed to be totally cool with it when he says, “For every village I Impaled, it saved ten.” Oh, well, hey, in that case…) Or that the movie doesn’t even bother to hide the fact that a 1000-man army doesn’t need to overcome Vlad. They can just send a couple hundred guys to distract him, while the rest march on the nearest village.

But we also have:

* You know a massive swarm of bats really isn’t that effective a weapon against a marauding army. What are they going to do? Get tangled in people’s hair? Bite them and give them rabies?

Also, at some point in this movie, Dracula becomes Storm from The X-Men.

Also, at some point in this movie, Dracula becomes Storm from The X-Men.

*And while we’re on the subject, Vlad supposedly has control over thee creatures of the night. Hey, know what else are creatures of the night? Wolves. Don’t you think that might be a more effective army to marshal?

* The movie seems to have a vaguely pervy feel when the Sultan of Turkey keeps demanding his boys. “Where are my boys? You promised me boys. I still don’t have my boys!”  and Vlad once says, “Take me! I’m worth any number of boys!” This movie is like a huge NAMBLA cocktease.

This has got to be the most sexless vampire story since the 1800s...

This has got to be the most sexless vampire story since the 1800s…

* Additionally, it’s hard not to read into the line, “Go for the rear!” Did this movie begin life as gay porn?

* The sun seems to rise and set totally arbitrarily, depending upon what the scene needs Vlad to do.

* Likewise, why does the Turkish army constantly attack at night?

* In one of the film’s great WTF? moments, the sultan blindfolds his army before marching them into battle, so that they don’t become terrorized by vampire-Vlad. It’s such an incredibly stupid scene I was waiting for the characters on screen to break the fourth wall and just be like, “Oh, come on!”

They march pretty well for being blindfolded.

They march pretty well for being blindfolded.

* One character plummets to their death, and the actor just stands in front of the green screen looking vaguely-bored.

* The film ends with Vlad hanging out in modern-day Europe making on some chick who looks like his former wife. Because Dracula is actually a good dude. Just like Vlad the Impaler was.

Yeah, so that’s Dracula Untold. Oh, and no, it’s not scary at all. The prospect of a sequel is, though.

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