The F*ckin Black Sheep: Dracula Untold (2014)

THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!

Dracula Untold (2014)
Directed by Gary Shore

"What I dig about the movie is that it goes down on its own path."

I have to admit that I'd never really heard of Luke Evans until the Hobbit movies. Even then, I didn’t know who the hell he was...well, minus him being the guy who took over the franchise's "Viggo Mortensen human role." While he was good, he didn’t have much to do beyond look like a tough guy with a little mustache. When Evans was announced for The Crow reboot (which he’s now quit), I gave the news a shoulder shrug because I didn’t think he could do much. I don’t see much “personality” from him, and the f*cking Crow needs personality.

However, with Dracula Untold, I figured he’d have more of a shot. Why? It’s basically a sword and sandal action movie with some vampire overtones, allowing for strong-jawed dudes who aren’t exactly overflowing with personality to look good. I’m not saying the guy completely lacks charm, but he reminds of a young Sean Bean. Good actor, good presence, not much charisma.

So…what’s all this mean? Well, it means that Evans is a good fit for this type of Dracula. Supposedly the first installment of Universal Pictures’ new Monster Franchise, this isn’t the Gary Oldman approach. This isn’t the Bela Lugosi approach. This is the Game of Thrones effect…with a lot more CGI and a shit ton less character development. Maybe that vibe came from the great Charles Dance appearing as the original vampire. Or that little Rickon Stark is Evans’ child.

Yes on both, but Dracula Untold also borrows from the style and look of Thrones. Not that that’s a bad thing because the film looks fantasically dark, with really effective CGI and some pretty kick ass action sequences (when Vlad first turns into "Bats" and battles the Turks, and it's pretty cool).

What I dig about the movie is that it goes down on its own path. Yes, Oldman’s Vlad was haunted by the loss of his love too, but I like that Evans’ Vlad is a true family man with a warrior’s past. He’s like an old gangster in retirement, where people sorta remember all the shit he once did, but it’s fallen into mostly rumor now. Push him too far, and the old gangster still has fight left in him. That’s Evans’ Vlad. He’s also a man who’ll do anything for his family and kingdom, even if it means risking his eternal soul. That all gives it heart where it could've been only a CGI-whore-fest. 

Now what hurts Dracula Untold probably comes from giving a potential franchise to a first time director. I get it that approach often works, but it also often doesn’t. Some scenes end up looking too damn poster-ready posed. Maybe for a shot or two, but enough is enough after a while. At the same time, the film really lacks a great villain. I think Dominic Cooper is a good, likable actor, but he seems more like a second in command type rather than the lead baddie. Maybe if he was given more to do or even a better reason to invade Vlad's kingdom (he wants a thousand young men for his army), the movie would've felt fuller, more epic like we all know Universal wanted. 

Best Dracula movie ever? Shit no. Better than the reviews said? Yeah. And by way, I can't recall many Dracula flicks that were unwatchable. There's something about the Prince of Darkness that's entertaining, even if the movie really isn't. 






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