Unlike most of the usual Dracula movies, this offering focuses on the events which led to his conversion to vampire. The usual version of history is to pain the original Vlad Tapes is to paint him as a sadistic murderer who spent much of his time hoisting is enemies and serfs on to pikes in order to teach any survivors a lesson.
Luke Evans (Immortals, 2014) plays the eponymous role. We see him as a family man, trying the best for his people and his family. We quickly learn that Vlad’s adulthood has been shaped by the pains of his childhood. Like many Christian children in the lands of the Turkish Empire. He had been one of a 1000 child levee taken by the Turks as part of the devsirme system to be raised as a convert to Islam and a member of the Janissaries, the Empire’s elite guard. After a number of years he managed to return to his father (it is not clear whether he escaped or was allowed to return home). It is thought from the film that given his royal birth, his time of service was for a fixed period rather than for the other boys who were for life.
The film quickly opens with Turks in his principality (which is in the area controlled by the Turks) being killed mysteriously. He tracks the source of the killing to a “monster” living in a cave at the top of a particular mountain. When they first go there, they find aging skeletons of previous visitors not dead. Indeed his two companions are killed and he only survives because he manages to get to sunlight.
What quickly follows in the Turks arriving to find what happened to their lost battalion. He is the first major flaw in the system. How come there were so many Turks in his region and he never knew this. The second issue is how come there was a cave and mountain where people are being killed for generations and he never knew about. In the midst of this The Turks turn up with new cash payment demands, the gold is not the issue, the levee for more young is the issue. Indeed the Turks use the “blond” Janissaries to deliver the message and take delivery of the money/children. Vlad refuses, especially as his own son is to be one of those taken. (Vlad’s father, still alive has no issue with giving his grandson and feels it is safest for the country).
Vlad eventually refuses to send his son, goes to the Turks and offers himself only to be refused. The Turks eventually march on Vlad’s Castle, he is forced to move his people to a nearby monastery for protection. They are vastly outnumbered and have no hope of survival. Faced with this scenario Vlad has no choice but to revisit the cave and make a deal with the monster in question. The old vampire gives Vlad his blood on the understanding that the effects last for three days but if he drinks blood in this time his conversion will be permanent.
He never the less allows himself the temporary conversion and sets about to rescue his people. Needless to say he gets back just in time to save his people but only after his wife is defenestrated as per the legends. In his grief he destroys the Turkish army and the legend is born. Overall if the movie tried to style itself after Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 Dracula then he missed the mark, indeed it feels more like Stephen Sommers’ 2004 Van Helsing. This is Gary Shore’s first directorial offering and although adequately put together it does show that it is a first effort.
Overall I found the plot laboured, the script basic and really it felt like an a story tagged up to capture the Dracula legend. For those of you fans of Horror or the Dracula legend, don’t bother with this, it will not add to the mythology. If you want a hour or two of entertainment, then this might suffice. It will not go down in history. Dominic Cooper play a passable Mehmed, but he just had to play a warlord. Charles Dance plays the “Master Vampire”, he is his usual self there. I would have liked some extra back story around this point. Another failing in the film is at the start the vampire could not manage any sun as he came out of his cave, but at the end of the movie we see Vlad in London (as he bumps in to the modern Mirena As he does this we see the Master in the background, neatly dressed and looking a lot more human than he did previously – what happened to cure his aversion for sun –light?
Overall a poor affair getting at most 2/5, and that’s at a push.