Dracula Untold: Should it Have Stayed Untold?


Release Date: October 10, 2014

Runtime:  1 hrs. 32  min.

Distributor: Universal Pictures

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Production Budget: $100 mil (estimate)

Opening Weekend Gross$24 mil (estimate)


When a small village is threatened by a much more powerful regime, it’s leader Vlad must step up and make the hard decisions required for the village’s survival. With not only the lives of his people on the line, but the lives of his wife and son as well, the torn leader must choose the path to light at the end of the darkness and risk being consumed in the deep black darkness itself. With only three days of conquer his foes, and with each passing moment falling like thin drops of blood, Vlad must use the powers of the night to his advantage. For if he fails, he’ll spend eternity fighting not the opposition, but his own demons, alone.

Do you know who I am?- Vlad/Dracula


I’ve honestly never been big on Dracula. I like vampires just fine, with Tom Holland’s amazing 1985 tale Fright Night being my all-time favorite, but I’ve never been huge on the Dracula character. So when the Dracula Untold trailers started to hit, I became less impressed as it did little to sell me on the feature. I decided to try it anyway to give you deadites a firsthand look at the blood sucking saga. What I found in that dark, desolate theater surprised me more than a decent clown at child’s birthday party. So let’s head down to Transylvania as I review the tale of the little vampire that could in Gary Shore’s Dracula Untold.


Gary Shore directs Dracula Untold with both flair for craft and text book studio craftsmanship. Shore, who’s only other credit to date is a short titled The Draft (2009), has added a little self stamp to the showings of a typical first time director dealing in the confines of the studio system. Though the film does feel a little dominated by Legendary, the studio who produced the picture, there are moments of genuine forethought and voice. This was surprising as I wasn’t expecting much from the film in terms of direction honestly.

Director Shore paces the movie well throughout the seemingly tight 92 minute running time; no scene feels bloated, no minuet feels wasted. Whereas some directors might choose to stuff their movie with unnecessary character moments, ones that aren’t intertwined with scenes that move the plot forward, Shore mainly sticks to the simple story he’s telling. Even if more material were shot, if an overstuffed script required, a good director knows not to distract ones audience with unnecessary story points. It’s for mainly this reason why the feature comes off as more focused after watching Dracula Untold; focus is the hallmark of any great storyteller.

The film opens with a nice shot weaving in and out of a freeze frame, accompanied by exposition delivered by a narrator. I was especially impresses with directorial choice because the shot utilizes CG to the effect it should be used. It’s used to help the story in a way that would have been difficult to do with an actual cameras. I respect any director that will utilize a tool as not a quick fix but as a way to be a stronger storyteller.

Shore composition is slightly strong as well. While the movie isn’t stunningly directed by any stretch of the imagination the, director Shore certainly knows the language of the camera and how to get the device to speak to the audience.There are a few low angle shots, exactly when they need to be used. There is also a nicely placed character realization zoom, which I loved, as well as many other shots that helped the camera convey the mindset of the character instead of just the performances relaying the pertinent information. Anyway you bite it,  Dracula Untold is better directed than it had had any right to be.

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The acting in Dracula Untold is pretty decent as well; especially in lead Luke Evens. Evens, who doesn’t have many credits to his name but can boast working with great directors such as Peter Jackson on The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies (2014) and Ridley Scott on Robin Hood (2010), steals the show and displays why he’s going to be a force to be reckoned with in future cinema. The role of Vlad takes a lot of soul searching and inner turmoil. This requires an actor that knows that facial acting is extremely important; Evens does this in spades.

In one particular scene where Evens shines comes when he’s about to give a loved one to the Turks. The way Evens plays the tension and how he shows the audience the process of the character’s thought process was extremely fun to watch and very well communicated. With Evens easily handling lead duties, the supporting case does step up and help breath life in to the tale aswell

Sarah Gadon handles the duties of Vlad’s wife Mirena. Gadon makes Mirena vintage but modern, which is a great thing. Though she doesn’t have a lot to do other than being the wife of Vlad, because this movie is nothing if not Luke Evens’ movie and Vlad’s journey, Gadon gets us on her side quickly; the audience wants to protect her almost as much as Vlad does. It’s no surprise that Gadon has the ability to do this as she’s worked with the great David Cronenberg on two occasions; he only works with the best.

The rest of the supporting cast include, but not limited to, Charles Dance as Master Vampire and Dominic Cooper as Turkish leader Mehmed. Dance is great in the picture and is arguably the best actor. While Evens is amazing, Dance showcases great work in very little screen time. Audience will recognize his as the main baddie from the underrated Last Action Hero (1993) and can be seen currently as Tywin Lannister in the HBO mega hit Game of Thrones.
Dominic Cooper, on the other hand, is admittedly not very good in the film and often can slightly take the audience out of the picture. He just comes off as not fully believing in the world of Dracula Untold and the character of Mehmed. It’s not that he’s aggressively bad but if the actor doesn’t fully believe, then the audience doesn’t that much more. One thing is true for this creature of the night feature; I’ve seen way worse acting from a cast then what is given in Dracula Untold.


The script for Dracula Untold is surprisingly a lot deeper and resonates more than I would have imagined. Written by Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless, the script surprised me in many ways. The character of Dracula is drawn, and the way the narrative utilizes him, is in such a way that almost anybody could relate to him. It’s mainly because Dracula isn’t the villain and the story isn’t very much a horror story at all; something that shockingly benefited the experience ultimately.

Unlike most horror films, whose main course for the evening is usually fear, Dracula Untold is more of a story about love. Instead of trying to get fear out of the audience, the writers instead want our empathy. The film is about a father protecting his family, and using extreme means to do so; we all have family, we all have loved ones..

This speaks directly to the theme of the movie. Yes, Dracula Untold has a theme. Let that sink its teeth in for a bit. That theme is love at all costs, even when those costs are plentiful. Vald must make the quick choice to utilize something he doesn’t fully understand so his family can survive, a choice that could potentially be beautifully ironic if his plan backfires. It’s something that many stories have been built on; and many more will be.

When the Turks are positioning Vlad’s Kingdom, also known as Dracula, the leader of the vulnerable village must choose to either take a chance on a mysterious power or see his everything he knows perish. I always love the narrative possibilities in this; characters, and all people for that matter, are nothing if not juried by the decisions made by them.

That isn’t to say that the script is perfect. While the dialog is decent and effective accordingly, the logic of the sorry begins to fall apart in the third act. Bad third acts are increasingly becoming a trend of fall 2014. The rules of the curse, you know the one that makes Vlad a vampire, begin to get too convoluted. I honestly blame this on the studio. There is more horror pushed at this point, which overloads the once simple narrative. It reeks of studio input but I understand the logic; the studio is selling a “horror” picture in October. Touché Legendary, touché indeed.

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Dracula Untold could have been a huge pile of dried blood, but it wasn’t. While the film might upset people looking for more traditional horror in their October cinematic experience, those just looking for a good story will be please. The film isn’t perfect, as apparent by the crumbling third act, but it has enough going on to recommend it to the few and the brave enough to try with decent performances and a surprisingly focused narrative. Dracula Untold won’t change the wheel but it won’t have you needing a new tire in Transylvania either. Now leave your house on Elm Street and venture into the night deadites, there are films to sink your teeth into.

Grade : C