Talking about the greatest portrayal of Dracula is a controversial topic for horror fans.
Personally, I have yet to see anything as truly terrifying as Max Schreck’s Count Graf Orlok (the film couldn’t use the name Dracula because of a copyright) in F.W. Murnau’s 1922 silent masterpiece ‘Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens’.
For every fan of ‘Nosferatu’, you’ll find someone who thinks Gary Oldman’s performances in ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula’ (1992) is the best and so on and so forth.
Welsh actor, Luke Evans, is the latest to dawn the fangs belonging to the world’s favourite vampire.
Although Evans’ portrayal of the blood-sucking creature of the night does not come close to the levels of dread and despair experienced in movies like Werner Herzog’s ‘Nosferatu the Vampyre’ (1979) it is not without merit.
Dublin born director, Gary Shore, opts to base the origins of Dracula on the story of Romanian Prince, Vlad Tepes (aka Vlad The Impaler).
It’s widely believed that Irish novelist, Bram Stoker, used the story of Vlad Tepes to develop his character, Count Dracula, in his 1897 novel ‘Dracula’.
Stripping a popular fictitious character down to the bare bones is something that has proved extremely popular for years.
Christopher Nolan had a major success with it when he embraced the concept in ‘Batman Begins’ and more recently, Zack Snyder did it, albeit with less aplomb, when re-launching the Superman franchise in 2013.
Shore’s film opens with Vlad (Evans) and several of his men standing by a river in Transylvania.
The men have discovered evidence that an invasion led by King Mehmed (Dominic Cooper) is imminent.
Vlad follows the evidence to a mountain top where something supernatural and evil lives.
Once he returns to his castle he learns from Brother Lucian that a once ordinary man was tricked into drinking the blood of a vampire and has been forced to live an eternity in a cave on the mountain top Vlad visited.
When King Mehmed demands Vlad hand over 1000 boys (including his own son Ingeras) to his Turkish army, Vlad refuses and must endure the wrath of the Turkish tyrant.
Vlad and his army are no match for King Mehmed’s horde and the only way he can save his family is by visiting the creature which inhabits the cave on the mountain top.
Written by Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless, ‘Dracula Untold’ is simplistic, but that’s a good thing.
The story flows extremely well and despite several inconsistencies, I thought it worked very well.
As you would expect, there’s a dependence on Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) but not once did I feel Shore relied on it too much.
Interestingly, ‘Dracula Untold’ was filmed in the North of Ireland and some of the scenes were shot as close by as the Roe Valley Country Park.
The scenery in the film is wonderful but holding everything together is a strong performance from Luke Evans.
Evans is excellent as Vlad and while some horror fans might not the like his very human Dracula, I found it very entertaining.
One of the most distracting elements of the movie was Dominic Cooper’s hair and accent.
Cooper is supposed to be 15th century Turkish warlord, King Mehmed, but his hair looks like something you would have scene in ‘Byker Grove’ in the early 1990s and his accent sounds like a Russian slugging vodka from a large bottle.
The film does feel a little contrived at times but it’s easy to forgive because the story flows so well and Evans’ performance is extremely enjoyable.
‘Dracula Untold’ is currently showing at the Brunswick Moviebowl; for full cinema listings visit www.brusnwickmoviebowl.com or telephone 02871 371 999,
VERDICT: 3/5 - Despite the fact it is no where near as sinister as many of the Dracula inspired films that have gone before, ‘Dracula Untold’ is an enjoyable origins piece. Luke Evans is terrific as Vlad/Dracula and the story is simplistic enough that it flows well. The action is extremely entertaining and with director Gary Shore opting to make the movie on location in the North of Ireland, Transylvania has never looked so good. It’s contrived at times and Dominic Cooper is disappointing as tyrannical Turk, King Mehmed.