Silvia Moreno-Garcia | Dracula Untold: It Sucks
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Dracula Untold: It Sucks

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Dracula Untold ought to have remained untold. It’s not as god-awful as last year’s I, Frankenstein, though it follows in the same vein of “CGI rocks!” and “let’s turn a classic monster into an idiotic hero.” That it is not as convoluted or simply as dull as that previous film does not save the most recent interpretation of the old count, a prequel if you want, from being crappy in its own way.

I went into this film knowing I was going to watch a Romanian version of 300. Sadly, there is none of the stylized beauty and violence that makes 300 a watchable film despite its problematic Brown People Be Bad. It just doesn’t look as shiny. The action sequences are not memorable, the effects eh, the direction and score bland. The most exciting part of the movie is when Dracula in a last bid to defeat the Turks quickly pieces together a mini-vampire batallion. But that’s a slim moment, too little and way too late.

What do we get, then? Well, a rather wimpy Dracula. Instead of a conflicted and ferocious warlord we have a Dracula that Is Always the Good Guy. When Dracula creates his mini-vampire batallion all the vampires are naturally evil and want to eat people, but Dracula is Naturally Nice, so this is not a problem. Why a random villager would be more likely to become a bloodthirsty asshole than an experienced soldier probably lies in the fact that this is a prince who does princely things. Nobility and all that. It’s genetic!

Dracula also spends a good deal of the movie professing his love to his wife, who looks suspiciously young for him, but whatever. The real issue is they have zero chemistry. It’s forced and makes you wince a bit when you watch it. Not exactly the love that will survive through the ages.

So, this is Leonidas if Leonidas had very little brawn. Sure, there is a neat little sequence when Dracula acquires his super vampire-powers (For Good!) and he figures out he has night vision, super-hearing, super-strength and super-healing, but it’s not enough to justify a movie. Basically, as a super hero origin story Dracula Untold just does not cut it in an era when Marvel can give us plenty of other heroes with more internal life and cooler butt-kicking moments.

And no, this is not a B-movie. And that’s no excuse to suck, anyway.

The silver lining of the movie – aside from Dracula’s cool armour he wears at the end – is the presence of Charles Dance, aka Tywin Lannister, as the vampire who turns Dracula. By the way, though Dance looks pretty damn ugly, Dracula is hawt. Also, since Dracula can block out the sun one wonders why Charles spent decades in a cave. Anyway…Charles Dance has exactly the right temperament to play Dracula as Bram Stoker wrote him. Yes, in the novel he’s not that young or handsome. Charles exudes the kind of regal attitude and determined, slightly sinister attitude Dracula or Vlad should have. You can actually picture Dance deciding he is going to become a vampire and fighting the Turkish army and being an anti-hero. He’s not at all vanilla. But then again he’s not Dracula in the movie. Pity, pity.

The flick is ready to establish a Dracula franchise, probably its worst sin. I’m not on board for a sequel, though I imagine that won’t stop it from sprouting some bankable, low-budget abortions simply because it doesn’t cost that much to make this shit.

Finally, I will mention that this movie suffers from Weird Accent Syndrome. While many of the main players get to sport a British accent (in Olde Times everyone was British!), random peasants and Retro Renfield have pseudo Eastern-European accents. Vekause Istern Uropans Kannot Talk Proper Inglish, Yu Zee. The Turk Prince also has an accent because even though he’s a prince and maybe, just maybe, he speaks several languages and might have grown up speaking to Dracula, he’s a Turk.

I am not going to discuss the many racial problems you may have when you have a movie about Turks Be Evil, We British Sounding Whites Be Good because I kind of accepted I was going into that kind of film, but could we stop having Weird Accent Syndrome? At the very minimum? There’s almost no point in asking movies to please not be racist because I honestly think the people who make this stuff don’t realize what the problem is. I mean, they had a trailer for Seventh Son and of course the only brown person in sight is an evil black guy. There was also some Indian-looking-monster that briefly flickered by. And before you tell me Julianne Moore plays the evil witch in that: yeah, I noticed. We’ve had now several years of Evil Witch movies, including Season of the Witch, and that’s disturbing in a slightly different and misogynistic way. Of course, such movies always make a point of including a hot, young thing that says Not All Witches are Evil, There Be White Witches and proceeds to shack up with the hero. Exception to the rule people!

I could speak more on this stuff but I don’t want to bash my head against a wall.

What Should You Watch Instead

This Dracula spends a lot of time dwelling on the romantic life of Dracula and how much he looooves his family, but for an actually good exploration of love, friendship and family, and the strain being a vampire may cause on those relationships, please see Only Lovers Left Alive. It’s actually romantic without being corny. It’s slow moving, yes. It’s beautiful.

For a supernatural B-movie, like a real B-movie, try Warlock with Julian Sands. No vampires in sight and it is from 1989, so there’s no CGI, but it has the real B-movie fun you might want. And there’s something of a romance in there, too!

There’s also Near Dark, which definitely does not suck, and the wild charms of From Dusk Until Dawn.

If you don’t like any of the alternatives, piss off. You have no taste, anyway.