Big Drac hack at­tack

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS - DON­ALD CLARKE

DRAC­ULA UN­TOLD Di­rected by Gary Shore. Star­ring Luke Evans, Sarah Gadon, Do­minic Cooper, Charles Dance, Charlie Cox, Wil­liam Hous­ton. 15A cert, gen re­lease, 92 min

One has to be a lit­tle sus­pi­cious when a gen­er­ously bud­geted pic­ture is trimmed down to a breath­less 92 min­utes. Not that one would nec­es­sar­ily wish Drac­ula Un­told to be any longer.

It can, surely, never have been the film-mak­ers’ in­ten­tion to de­liver this tol­er­a­ble sword’n’ sav­agery ad­ven­ture in pocket form. Whole char­ac­ters have gone miss­ing. Sub­plots have with­ered into gar­bled asides. The fi­nal coda point­ing to­wards a se­quel would seem more con­vinc­ing if the pre­ced­ing hour and a half didn’t con­vey such a startling lack of faith.

Con­spic­u­ously in debt to the open­ing sec­tions of Fran­cis Ford Cop­pola’s Drac­ula, Gary Shore’s film seeks to in­ves­ti­gate the man Drac­ula was be­fore he be­came im­mor­tal and blood hun­gry. In that re­gard, the pic­ture bears com­par­i­son with Bat­man Be­gins or Man of Steel. The dif­fer­ence is that, un­like Bruce Wane or Kal-El in those epics, Vlad the Im­paler (Luke Evans) never re­ally gets to be­come the character we cher­ish.

Fol­low­ing a few hideous out­rages by the in­vad­ing Turks, Vlad heads to a cave where he meets a malev­o­lent en­tity in the be­guil­ing form of Charles Dance. (The character was once meant to be a ver­sion of Caligula, but that strand has been lost in the prun­ing.) A deal is struck: Vlad will gain enor­mous pow­ers for three days, but, to avoid be­ing cursed to eter­nal life, he must re­sist the con­comi­tant de­sire to drink blood dur­ing that pe­riod.

Welsh­man Luke Evans has the sort of creased fea­tures and boom­ing tim­bres that work well for an an­cient Carpathian war­rior. Shoot­ing largely in North­ern Ire­land, Gary Shore, a Dubliner, com­bines lo­cal scenery with com­put­er­gen­er­ated en­hance­ments to cre­ate a con­vinc­ing faux-Gothic uni­verse.

For all that, Drac­ula Un­told feels like a rushed, half-hearted at­tempt to do some­thing that wasn’t re­ally worth do­ing in the first place. It doesn’t try to be a Drac­ula film. It’s not a proper his­tor­i­cal epic.

Mind you, it may work for Game of Thrones ad­dicts as a sort of cin­e­matic methadone un­til the proper heroin re­turns next year. Can we even call that faint praise?

He’s a very vlad boy: Luke Evans in Drac­ula Un­told

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