DARREN J. POWELL aka Demondaz reviews Dracula Untold (2014)
Dracula Untold was the big vampire film release of 2014 and sent a little ripple of excitement through Vampire fans. The preview clips and teaser pictures looked very promising and I think the choice of lead actor, Luke Evans, a good one. A mature male actor with edgy and characterful features and a sterling performance on-screen, it has to be said. I did also particularly like his portrayal of Bard the Bowman in the Desolation of Smaug. But obviously this film was going to look good, all modern films with huge Hollywood budgets do, it’s the content behind the barrages of eye-candy that makes for a good film.
Herein we are promised a film that would serve as a prequel to the events of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, both book and film, and will answer many questions about Count Dracula and how he became a Vampire and for the most part it delivers. Of course this continues with Bram Stoker’s original concept, that the fictional Dracula and the real-life Vlad Tepes are one and the same, and we are shown a little of the historic back-story here. He was a hostage to the Ottomans and spent most of his young life living among them. He even appears to have some cool affection for some of the Turkish characters, at least to start with, and speaks of his longing to sample their coffee again.
However the Dracula of Untold is no great Fearsome Warlord, he doesn’t even have a decent army, just a stout band of disposable men-at-arms and typically feisty women. So when the truce with the Ottoman Turkish starts getting shaky and their demands more provocative Prince Vlad finds himself fast loosing hope in keeping his lands, his people and his own family against such a mighty foe. In desperation he seeks out the source of the Vampire Legend within the film, a fearsome creature of Transylvanian folklore, who lives in the caves in the Carpathian mountains. Unlike so many others who have sought out this beast and lost their life doing so Dracula impresses the old Vampire enough for it to make a devilish deal with him. That he may drink his vampire blood, and gain all respective powers for 3 days only, then go back to being a mortal man so long as he has resisted the powerful temptation to drink human blood.
Becoming a Vampire, even for such a short period, is both delightful and dangerous. The delight is finding new powers, the great strength and particularly well done in this film is the ability to transform into a swarm of bats when Vlad has the need to travel fast or over great distance. This swarm could also be unleashed as an attack form to impressively confound and overwhelm the enemy. The dangers come from Prince Vlad’s own people, they know too well the old vampire legends and that fearsome old beast that lives in the caves, they even try to kill him themselves!
The end battle is desperate and almost everyone dies and there a no surprises here against the established real history and fictional beliefs. There is one particularly brilliant thing that happens here though. Again driven by desperation Prince Vlad transforms the last of his people into Vampires in order to see off the Turkish threat once and for all. Yet they become greedy and bloodthirsty, monstrous vampires, and the last action that Prince Vlad performs with his new powers is to remove the obscuring mists that he first summoned there to protect them all. His last act is to destroy all that he has become and all that he has created by letting it burn away in the sunlight.
The undead Prince Vlad lives of course, dragged into the safety of shade by a faithful servant, otherwise he couldn’t then go on the activities set out the the book that inspired more works in literature and modern media than any other book. We are however treated to one last delightful scene that goes against the story set out in the book. A modern-day scene and set in London with Prince Vlad walking by the iconic Lloyd’s building. We also see the old beast from the caves (Charles Dance, no less, if we didn’t guess when he was looking all monstrous), regenerated and in classy modern clothing, and he speaks with Prince Vlad like old friends. He then notices a beautiful woman whose features he knows all too well as, she can only be, the reincarnation of his love – the wife that he tragically lost hundreds of years ago. What could possibly go wrong now!
Untold is not really a Gothic-Horror film, not as we might recognise it in various vintage films, it is more a fantasy film with Gothic elements – more Swords and Sorcery but without the Sandals. I do think Untold is a good film both visually and with the story we are presented with, well worth looking up, it was good enough to enter my personal top ten Vampire films but whether it will remain so indefinitely is another matter.
DARREN J. POWELL a.k.a Demondaz is a London & Essex based Male Model gracing the covers of a few Vampire Genre novels and occasionally suffers the indignity of having to go inside publications! Also featured in various Gothic, Vampire & Steampunk related artbooks and calendars. Also a sometime event promoter, Dj and performer and of recent decided to launch London Vampire Magazine. Check out London Vampire Magazine Facebook here.