RJ Bayley Reviews: Dracula Untold

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‘This will be an affront to vampirism and horror in general’ I thought when entering the screening of Gary Shore’s directorial debut Dracula Untold. Still, worth watching to see how the ultimate horror icon will be reinterpreted for a blockbuster dark fantasy, expecting something mildly more palatable than the sparkle fairies of the Twilight saga. I also braced myself for a decidedly superheroic take on the count, allowing him to more easily fit into the Universal Monsters series the studio are hoping to kickstart with this film.

What happened in that cinema however was entirely unexpected. Right off the bat (no pun intended) we’re given proper, classical vampires: fangs, immense strength, the ability to turn into bats, vulnerability to silver, aversion to sunlight and crosses – apart from disliking garlic all the elements are present. In a time when filmmakers seem so hung up on reinventing the vampire for apparently more modern and cynical sensibilities, it’s great to see the genuine article on screen. Writers Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless show there’s plenty of life in classic vampires yet.

The story also doesn’t disappoint, letting the darkness take it to unexpected places. It must’ve been tempting to make Dracula a more out and out heroic character for the purposes of this film and the wider Universal Monsters Universe, but Sazama and Sharpless wisely keep the Dracula a more morally ambiguous character. The film doesn’t shy away from ‘the Impaler’ side of Vlad and Dracula is played as a merciless and brutal man. Nonetheless the writers succeed in putting him in such a hard place that his employ of dark forces is understandable. Luke Evans is also perfectly cast as Dracula, his face fitting the part perfectly and making for a compelling watch.

Above DC’s, this is the emerging cinematic universe to watch.

★★★★

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