Sunday 5 October 2014

Review: Dracula Untold

World of Blackout Film Review

Dracula Untold Poster

Dracula Untold
Cert: 15 / 92 mins / Dir. Gary Shore
WoB Rating: 2/7

You have to admire the self-effacing attitude of anyone who makes a sweeping historical horror epic in this day and age, and who gives it a final runtime of 92 minutes. It's like the film-makers have given up trying to salvage anything enjoyable from the footage, and have admitted that apart from anything else, the duration of the audience's discomfort will at least be short...

Set in 1442, Dracula Untold gives a sort of prequel/reboot treatment to the 1992 Francis Ford Coppola film, and rest assured that its biggest debt is to that movie and not to any other source-material. That said, the clunky inclusion of the final 'present-day' scene means that the events in Coppola's film can't have happened. Dracula Untold can't even pay a compliment to the one thing it clearly loves. The film's story follows young Prince Vlad (Luke Evans) as he strikes a Faustian pact with a strange hermit (Charles Dance) to give him the strength and resources he needs to free his people from their oppressors (led by Dominic Cooper). Which seems like an odd casting choice as Luke Evans and Dominic Cooper are basically the same actor, aren't they? Anyway, things go a bit wrong and Vlad spends a lot of time wiping out his enemies by turning into a cloud of bats. Somehow. During the day. Somehow. Apparently vampires don't immolate if it's overcast outside.

At a conceptual level, this isn't necessarily a bad vampire story, it just shouldn't have the Dracula label on it. At the practical level of execution, however, the film is laughable. The script is full of pompous, empty soundbites rather than any actual dialogue, and Bram Stoker spins in his grave with every thuddingly expository word than Evans mumbles into the film with a barely concealed Welsh accent. Even if the screenplay was a worthy addition to the mythos (it isn't), Evans displays neither the range nor presence for his role. Worse still is Cooper whose Turkish accent seems to feature more of Connery than of Constantinople. The only performer to escape with any dignity is Charles Dance who gives good menace in his early scenes, although I think that's more his default setting than any real commitment to the film. There's also a comedic contrast between the shots of his troubled speech with his vampire teeth in, and those where he's speaking off-camera and his voice is suddenly clear and not spraying saliva with every word.

Dracula Untold is shite. It's not quite at the same level of insulting awfulness as I, Frankenstein but it's in the same class, certainly. I suppose we should feel lucky that Universal didn't post-convert it to 3D just to add insult to injury. At least there's no sparkling in this vampire film, although sadly that applies across the screenplay and performances, as well.

There was no need for Dracula Untold to have been produced, and nothing is made better by its existence.

There. I said it.

Is the trailer representative of the film?
Oh, it's fairly close, yes.

Did I laugh, cry, gasp and sigh when I was supposed to?
Not exactly…

Does it achieve what it sets out to do?
In no way, shape or form.
Unless it's set out to annoy the Stoker estate, of course

Pay at the cinema, Rent on DVD or just wait for it to be on the telly?
If you're going to see it, you may as well go to the cinema. The film is so murkily lit that it'll be almost impossible to watch on your TV unless you have blackout curtains drawn and all the lights switched off.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
You know what? I just might. A bit.

Will I watch it again?
Will I bollocks.

Is there a Wilhelm Scream?
Not that I heard, although the eagle/hawk sound-effect is used.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

And my question for YOU is…
How come Paul Kaye is the only one in Dracula's entire camp doing a dodgy Eastern-European accent when no-one else bothers? This doesn't apply to The Baddies™ mind, they're all following Cooper's lead and trying to sound like evil henchmen in a Liam Neeson film

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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