Newest ‘Dracula’ could’ve remained untold

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Wednesday, October 8, 2014 1:23pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

The title is “Dracula Untold.” Which means that despite all the movies and TV shows and comic books over the years, there’s still something left to be said about Bram Stoker’s great fictional vampire.

Well, now it’s been told. And it’s pretty boring.

This movie skips past Stoker’s time period and concerns itself with the historical character cited as an inspiration for the blood-sucker: Vlad the Impaler. His rad nickname is just about the only thing that isn’t in dispute about the Impaler, but he was a 15th-century Eastern European ruler who battled the Ottoman Empire and managed to stick a number of his enemies onto large sharpened poles.

He’s played by Luke Evans, a member of the “Hobbit” and “Fast &Furious” crews. Here the manly ruler still impales people, but he’s also a family guy, devoted to wife (Sarah Gadon, lately seen in “Enemy”) and son. When Ottoman leader Mehmed (Dominic Cooper) demands the son in payment, Vlad looks for a solution.

It comes in the form of a pale old demon in a cave (Charles Dance). This fellow can pass on unthinkable power, but also the curse of vampirism.

Their conversation is a high point — there’s usually a scene in horror movies when the crucial folklore gets passed along, and this one works nicely. “Untold” does have its literate moments, but they tend to be overwhelmed by the bombast.

Director Gary Shore — his first feature — leans heavily on the battles, and an unfortunate decision to let Vlad’s shape-shifting take the form of turning his body into hundreds of swirling bats.

Yes, we’ve come a long way from Bela Lugosi transforming himself into a single rubber rodent dangling on a string. Once “Dracula Untold” jumps off this cliff, it becomes a series of computer-generated crescendos, each a little less compelling than the last.

At only 92 minutes, the film makes you wonder whether it’s been trimmed from something meatier. Certainly we don’t get to know Vlad’s allies and enemies well enough to care too much when they meet their demise — as most of them do.

There is an epilogue here, apparently intended to set up a future installment of Dracula’s adventures. Universal Pictures is hatching a plan to create a multi-film “shared universe” corralling their classic 1930s monsters, in the manner of Marvel’s “Avengers” movies.

Actually, Universal already did that back in the 1940s with “House of Frankenstein” and “House of Dracula.” But all right, let’s see what happens with the old crew — as long as I don’t have to watch “Van Helsing” again.

“Dracula Untold” (2 stars)

An origin story for the famous vampire, in which 15th-century ruler Vlad the Impaler (Luke Evans) accepts his vampirism in exchange for saving his people. A pretty boring outing, full of computer-generated battles and a portrait of Vlad the family guy.

Rating: PG-13, for violence, subject matter

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