This had loads of potential but alas it is disappointingly humdrum. Mooted as possibly rebooting Universal’s old Monsters franchise (a series of films featuring the likes of Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy and their pals, which ran from the silent era in the 1920’s through to 1960), it still might, but it’s not exactly Batman Begins (05). This takes the original etymology of Bram Stoker’s titular character from his infamous 1897 novel ‘Dracula’ and runs with it – Stoker named his character after the equally infamous Vlad the Impaler, a moniker he acquired after death, who was born Vlad III Prince of Wallachia or Vlad Draculea, meaning son of Dracul – a title given to his father when he joined the Order of the Dragon (a military order founded in the early fifteenth century to defend Christianity and which formed a crucial presence in Eastern Europe to countermand the invasions of the Ottoman Turks, although really I founded this order to use humans as my pawns) as in Romanian Dracul used to mean dragon (now it usually refers to the Devil). Here, Count Dracula (Luke Evans) actually is Vlad the Impaler and we are transported to fifteenth century Transylvania where his small kingdom operatives as a vassal state for the unruly Ottomans, and the uneasy peace between them is bought at an increasingly heavy price.
Quite a promising way to retell the story, but I did wonder to myself ‘how are they going to make this interesting and not just a rehash of the myth?’ – the reply to that is they put Charles Dance into a cave as a mysterious old and deadly vampire, and when Vlad gets desperate to help his family and his people he turns to this creature for power and agrees to a sinister pact: ungodly vampiric abilities to smite his foes with and he can return to normal as well, if he can resist drinking human blood for a few days that is. Then of course he quickly wants to eat everyone around him, and Sarah Gadon playing his buxomly corseted wife doesn’t help matters as she looks good enough for normal men to want to feast on never mind her preternaturally starving husband. Again, this was a nice direction to take, the overriding problem is the execution continues to deflate as the film goes on until it culminates in a tedious and, at moments, plain silly ending against the less than fearsome evil Ottoman ruler (Dominic Cooper), which ultimately ruins the intermittent moments of promise from before. Indeed, Gadon’s bosoms are undoubtedly the most memorable thing about the film, together with the farcical nature of what eventually happens to them.