Monday, October 20, 2014     Volume: 15, Issue: 32

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Santa Maria Sun / Film

This weeks review

'Dracula Untold' sucks the lifeblood out of vampire movies




Where is it playing?: Fremont, Park, Stadium 10

What's it rated?: PG-13

What's it worth?: $4.00 (Jessica)

What's it worth?: $3.00 (Adriana)

User Rating: 0.00 (0 Votes)

In this origin story set in 1462 in Transylvania, Vlad III (Luke Evans), Prince of Wallachia, has ruled for 10 years of peace with his wife Mirena (Sarah Gadon), but then Sultan Mehmed II (Dominic Cooper) arrives, demanding 1,000 of Wallachia’s boys—including Vlad’s son, Ingeras (Art Parkinson)—to become child soldiers in his army. Vlad must decide to resist and face doom or capitulate to the Turks. Vlad’s father faced the same predicament, sending his son to fight, but now Vlad III decides to seek the help of a supernatural force to transform him into a monster with the power to save his kingdom. (92 min.)

Editor's note: New Times Arts Editor Jessica Peña and intern Adriana Catanzarite filled in for regular reviewer Glen Starkey this week.


Jessica: Finally! This is the vampire movie I’ve been waiting for! A comprehensive study of the 15th century Romanian leader Vlad the Impaler, filled with nuance and accurate historical detail about how he became the inspiration for the character Dracula. Oh wait. That must’ve been a dream I concocted after a particularly lengthy Wikipedia search. This is Dracula Untold—a vampire movie cloaked in the dumb special effects, clunky logic, and superb Garnier Fructis commercial-level hair sheen of your typical superhero origins movie. Basically, we begin in the 1440s, where we’re told that the evil, evil Turks take young Transylvanian boys and turn them into super killing machines. One of those boys is Vlad (Luke Evans), who earned his famed epithet “the Impaler” by, well—you get it—impaling thousands and thousands of people on stakes. Flash forward a few years, and this heinous murderer is a doting father, husband, and monarch of the now-peaceful tribute nation of Transylvania. Heartwarming. But wait. All is not well! Those evil, evil Turks return, demanding more boys for more killer soldiers, including Vlad’s precious, curly coiffed son! What’s Vlad gonna do? Negotiate with the evil Turks? Raise an army to fight them? No way, José. He’s gonna turn himself into a vampire.

Adriana: There’s no way you can argue with that logic. It’s way too sane and reasonable. After causing a war by killing the crap out of the horrible, awful, heavily accented Turkish soldiers who have come to take away his puffy-haired son, Ingeras, Vlad goes to the aptly named Broken Tooth Mountain. There, conveniently imprisoned, is a vampire (Charles Dance), who honestly looks more like Voldemort if he had a nose. The Transylvanian prince then proceeds to beg for help in defeating the aforementioned Turks. Did I mention that the Turks are really, really evil? Because they are. They’re the absolute worst. Anyway, Vlad makes a deal with the vampire Voldemort that gives him some phenomenal cosmic power. If Vlad can resist the urge to gorge himself on sweet, sweet blood for three whole days, he’ll return to his brooding human state. In the meantime, however, Vlad’s got some serious magical powers. For one, he can literally turn himself into a swarm of bats. He can also control the bats with his voodoo magic, and for some strange, never fully explained reason, homeboy can also control the weather. To echo Vlad’s sentiment when he discovers his powers, “That’s useful.” 

Jessica: So useful. In fact, that’s what I came away with from Dracula Untold. “Man, I wish I could heave a pile of bats at the Turks, or better yet, whoever made this movie because I’ll never get those 90 minutes back.” Honestly, I actually wish there were more bat tornado hijinks because the rest of the movie is pretty boring and one-note. In fact, the whole thing could be condensed to just 30 seconds of bat clouds, evil Turks, man muscles, and Luke Evans looking kind of constipated while trying to emote distress. It’s just so predictable and disappointing. The hallmark of Dracula is not hard-bodied muscle power; it’s his elegant and seductive charm. Aside from diluting the character into a no-personality dolt, the movie also has nothing whatsoever to do with the established lore surrounding either Vlad the Impaler or Dracula. So much is left unexplained. I looked the movie up on IMDB, and apparently Charles Dance’s character is supposed to be Caligula. Thanks a lot, Dracula Untold! There’s another thing you left untold! Not that I was expecting someone to put thought into a vampire movie, but this barely constitutes a vampire movie. It’s 300 with more bats, fewer leather loincloths, and just about as much guyliner. Man, I can’t wait for the inevitable sequel of ol’ pile o’ bats.

Adriana: Honestly, I think the people doing the movie put more thought into the costumes—padded, red leather dragon armor anyone?—than into the actual plot and storyline. The plot varies from boring and predictable to completely inane. I mean, toward the end, Vlad decides that it would be a fantastic idea to create an army of vampires to defeat the Turks, and then is surprised when they turn all evil and want to kill everything and everyone with a pulse. Really? How about exercising a little forethought, Prince Vlad? Also, I still don’t understand why the Turkish sultan—played by the Slavic-sounding Dominic Cooper—decided that it would be smart to start an all-out war because of his crazy unhealthy obsession with Ingeras. Has he even seen that kid? It doesn’t seem like he’s worth it. Also, way to throw foreign policy and diplomacy right out the window. This movie is just one hot mess. There are hardly any supporting characters, unless you count Vlad’s posse of soldiers, who are all indistinguishable from one another and—spoiler alert—end up dying 15 minutes in. The ending feels weird and out of place with the rest of the movie, leaving you with way more questions than answers. I guess that’s because they’re hoping for a sequel, but in my opinion, this story should have just stayed untold.


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