Disclaimer: This is a review, and as such will contain opinions, spoilers and (often) general shit talking. (If you talk about what you don’t like about a work, you learn a lot. When you think through a work with the stakes presented to you by the creator, by the context of the work, you learn a lot. I review things, not because I love to dislike things, but because dislike contains rich and vital information for the process of experiencing something, but I cannot access it without interrogating it.) So, if you don’t want to have this thing spoiled for you, or don’t know how to behave when a person on the internet, that you don’t know, has opinions that don’t line up with yours, this review is not for you. It’s also not for the author/creator of the work. Please and thank you.

Based on the trailer, I was so excited to watch it. But the interesting thing about Dracula Untold is that the trailer tells a different story than the movie does.

The relationship between the trailer and the movie itself is something that I’ve always found fascinating.

And in this case the jump from the trailer to the movie is startling.

As a self-professed Bram Stoker purist, Dracula Untold was 90 minutes of my life that I’ll never get back.

Had this been a PG18 movie that leaned heavily into Gothic horror, it could have been amazing.

But instead it’s a brisk story that awkwardly paints Vlad the Impaler as an anti-hero, who had to impale his enemies (“imaple one village to save ten more”) because he was raised as a child soldier enslaved to the Turks.

Having promised his wife that their son would not suffer the same fate as he did, Vlad is about to turn his son over to the Turkish sultan when he orders mass conscription. Instead, Vlad makes a bargain with a monster in a cave to become a vampire for three days – a condition which will be made permanent if he drinks human blood.

But staying abreast of those three days is difficult because the sun seems to rise and set when it’s dramatically convenient, just as Vlad can’t stand sunlight one moment, but the next he’s effortlessly skirting around sunny patches in the middle of the day – but then he can control the clouds to shut out the sun’s light when he needs it…

His wife seemed strangely calm as she plummeted to her death, not even trying to reach up for her husband who was desperately racing to catch her before she died.

Don’t even get me started on the narrative convenient design of the tower top in the mountains…

Are you really telling me that whoever decided to build this lookout point never once had to argue with a contractor about the risk of people falling to their deaths without some kind of railing?

Yes, I know this is fantasy, but this tower broke me.

At least in Game of Thrones the scary tower cell had a point and purpose in the internal logic of the story.

This is a classic tale that has been drowned in computer-generated muck.

From the weird skin flaking in the sunlight to the Batmanesque bat swarms – and what was with the army marching with blindfolds on? That just seems like a good way to waste an army. They had drummers, for crying out loud! No wonder the sultan wanted 1,000 more conscripts.

Throughout the movie I kept thinking that a good story with low production quality is still enjoyable – Pulp Fiction, Lost In Translation, Juno, American Psycho, Star Wars and The Terminator to name just a few examples of low-budget films that went on to be box office legends – but a bad story just gets worse when you heap on more stuff to hide the fact that it has no substance to it.

Before, when I’d only seen the trailer, the title Dracula Untold felt ominous.

After having seen the movie, it just seems like something that seems like it was created by committee because the story is so shallow and unimpactful that they couldn’t find a good word to describe it.

In this light, “untold” seems about as right as anything else.

The writing is bad and the plot points flimsy and they cancel each other out to some extent, the dialogue gets straight to the point and has zero subtext, rendering the characters flat and uninteresting.

And then there was the Master Vampire, played by Charles Dance.

I had high hopes for the unliving (yes, I made a Panic! At The Disco joke) but it honestly just feels like Tywin Lannister came back from the dead and is looking to “pay a debt” if you get what I mean…

Dracula Untold feels like it’s just a set-up for other things to come later á la [insert name] cinematic universe, and I can’t help but think that if it would have been treated as one shot at telling a good story, it would have been a better movie, because as it is, even Luke Evans can’t save it.

I can’t even put this in my trash pocket, it’s that bad.

If this movie acts as an introduction to fantasy horror to some young aspiring story-enthusiast, just learning to get into the action/horror elements, wonderful.

I’m even going to say that younger audiences that have been raised on the never-ending mush that is superhero movies and their cinematic universes, this is a nice change of pace.

But that still doesn’t make it good.

Dracula Untold struggles to maintain a consistent tone throughout the film.

The movie seems torn between being a dark, gothic horror tale and an action-oriented fantasy epic, which leads to it being inconsistent and disjointed.

Supporting characters in the film were underdeveloped and underutilised.

The relationships and dynamics between the characters were often superficial, leaving the me disconnected from their motivations and struggles.

Despite being a vampire film, it didn’t deliver enough scares or genuine thrills.

The horror elements were tame, and the action sequences were generic and lacking excitement.

Yet there are a few redeeming elements.

The film’s visual effects are impressive and visually stunning. The transformation sequences, in particular, have a lot of attention to detail, creating a visually captivating depiction of Dracula’s powers.

Luke Evans has charismatic presence and brings depth and intensity to the role, elevating the material he was given.

The Dracula armour was cool and I liked his vampire eyes effect.

I liked that the name Dracula was used as a narrative element, however, Vlad’s defence of it was half-hearted at best – had he defended it more, it would have been a better impact when he finally leaned into the moniker given to him by others.

The one enduring thought I had throughout the movie was that I’d love to see Dracula as a woman, and I kept wondering how it would have changed the narrative had Dracula’s wife been the one to take action against a stubborn husband intent on proving his loyalty to the sultan? Now that would have been an interesting movie.

I don’t know if the monsters cinematic universe is coming or if it’ll ever really catch on, or if this will be canon or if Dracula will even be featured in it, but I do think that this was an interesting, though lukewarm, attempt at re-framing the legend and giving us an alternate, more human perspective.

The exploration of Vlad the Impaler’s transformation into Dracula is an interesting concept and adds a different layer to the Dracula mythos.

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