Recently Universal announced that their library of classic monster movies would be getting a refresh, mixed emotions flooded horror fandom.
“Dracula Untold,” starring Luke Evans as the main monster, shares the same gambit of mixed measure. While entertaining and a fun fx filled fantasy, the movie lacks the spirit and class of its revered ancestor. As an update AND a new backstory to the venerable vampire legend, Vlad “the impaler” Teppes’ image is retooled into the prince who would do anything to save his people and his family. This attempt to give Dracula a more ‘human’ face feels shallow and rushed. Luke Evans makes a valiant effort to fill the iconic title role but misses the mark of the expected enigma that is Dracula/Vlad the Impaler (falling far short of the bar set by Lagosi and Oldman).
On the other hand, Charles Dance, in the role of ‘monster in the mountain’ – responsible for making Dracula into the vampire of legend – shines as the Master monster and manipulator. It’s almost as if Dracula was split into two creatures, giving Dance the darker side. Worth waiting for, events in the film’s final foreshadowing scene hint that this is a deliberate split and give the “Game of Thrones” actor the final and best line of the movie (a scene that is ripe for a sequel or two).
Two Teppe-ing – Vlad Teppes must have trained with Im-Ho-Tep at the CGI school off monster powers. Action and battle scenes seem to mirror “The Mummy” reboot of 1999, right down to similar faces in the sky. While impressive on the big screen, the film falls short on story telling as it continues the disappointing march of FX heavy/story light movie making. Not to say that the eye candy is not visually entertaining, but character depth and plot detail seem to pay the price for such slick screen sensation. Thus, the real terror in this undead update is the continuing trend to rely more on over the top CGI effects as a replacement solid storytelling. Makes a true classic horror fan want their Mummy back.
Another apparent trend is the appearance of the Universal Parks and Resorts logo closing out the film’s credits. As with “The Purge: Anarchy,” it seems as though the studio’s filmmaking efforts are dabbling in double duties. Billed as tie-in with the move, “Dracula-Untold: Reign of Blood” sinks its teeth into Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando and Universal Studios Hollywood this year.
The haunted house experience is officially described by Universal: “Your demise could come from bloodthirsty vampires or the attacking Turks as you attempt to survive the terrifying journey that turned the one-time hero into Dracula.” But the Orlando maze barely resembles the movie. Even after viewing the film, it was difficult to follow the house as part of the film’s story, save for a few familiar costumes and one burning scene. Equally unclear is where Universal was going with the overall experience – as evidenced by a very prominent Spanish flag (which has NOTHING to do with the movie about or the portrayed Turkish/Hungarian battle).
But Universal Hollywood’s haunted house of the same name is a completely different maze that definitely has a better grip on elements of the same story. Using dialogue from the film and effectively repeating characters to the point of recognition, the Hollywood version does make some sense and produces quite a few fun scares. Watch a walkthrough in the video below.
Video: FULL Dracula Untold haunted house POV walkthrough at Halloween Horror Nights 2014
“Dracula Untold” is in theaters now.