It is a bad sign that only about 10 minutes of “Dracula Untold” are actually entertaining. For a movie that promises a gritty remake of a landmark horror film, “Dracula Untold” is disheartening — it becomes a cynical ploy to market off of the original’s name rather than a meaningful reimagining. The film tries desperately to pass itself off as the reincarnation of one of the most iconic monster movies in film history, but it is nothing but a tedious backdrop of set pieces and bland acting.

Instead of Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula, the audience is introduced to Vlad the Impaler (Luke Evans), the historical inspiration for Stoker’s creature, who tries to rule his kingdom in peace with his wife Mirena (Sarah Gadon) after living an atrocious life as a brutal killer for the Turkish army. The Turks, led by Mehmed (Dominic Cooper), suddenly demand that Vlad relinquish 1,000 boys from his kingdom to serve in the Turk’s army, including Vlad’s son, Ingeras (Art Parkinson). 

Determined to defeat Mehmed and his vast army, Vlad encounters an ancient vampire (Charles Dance), who gives him incredible powers at the cost of an insatiable thirst for human blood. With his new abilities, Vlad seeks to decimate the impeding forces while trying to control his urge to slaughter everyone he holds dear.

It’s a wonder why director Gary Shore decided to replace the original tale of Dracula with a mixture of history and fantasy. The result sounds intriguing on paper, but Shore fails to properly translate the concept to the screen. A tedious, clichéd screenplay by Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless serves as the final deathblow to the film. The writing attempts to find a balance between serious and campy but fails due horrid pacing.

The acting remains completely uninspired. Only Evans, as the grim and serious Vlad, offers any kind of presence. He at least tries to make the new interpretation work, but is limited to either frowning, growling or giving the occasional smile in a half-baked attempt at comic relief. The main issue with his performance, and a problem with the majority of the acting, is a lack of passion.

The rest of the supporting cast is wooden and entirely forgettable. The only exception is Dance as the ancient vampire. He is humorously over-the-top in his role as a creepy, man-eating fiend.

Special effects and the action itself are the only positive aspects in the film. While shot haphazardly and frantically, the incredible speed and intensity of Dracula decimating scores of soldiers is enjoyable. The films’ only crescendo shows Dracula using his powers to the best of his abilities.  

This is a welcome change, as the audience is treated to only subdued, selective instances where Dracula acts like a vampire instead of just a super-soldier.  Watching him finally summon millions of swarming bats to crush the advancing army almost makes the film worth sitting through.

One concern about the action, however, is how tame the violence appears on the screen. Even though “Dracula Untold” is a PG-13 movie, it’s quite disconcerting that a film about vampires sucking blood directly from people’s necks has no realistic wounds. If the filmmakers had broached the possibility of going all out with the bloodiness people expect from vampire movies, the gritty return of Dracula would have been more justified.

There’s no doubt that this film is a mess. Action sequences that are somewhat daring and special effects that make the creatures under Dracula’s command pop out can’t save “Dracula Untold”’s lack of charisma. An uninspired screenplay supported by hollow acting disrupts any possible charm that could have enamored audiences with the idea that Dracula has made a triumphant return to cinema.

Editor’s Note: With hundreds of Americans setting up camp as early as six days before the third installation of the Twilight saga, it’s inarguable that our culture is spellbound by vampires. The Daily Texan examines the root of this bloodthirsty fixation by reflecting on the best, cheesiest and most influential vampire movies of all time.

Dracula (1931)
Bela Lugosi, the original Count Dracula, established what we perceive to be vampires today. That suave, seductive tone and swagger came from the small Hungarian man in this classic movie.
Sure, we’ve progressed a long way in terms of vampire lore — now their skin sparkles in the daylight and they don’t transform — but if you don’t watch the original, then you’re missing a big part of vampire history. “Dracula,” the authorized adaptation of Bram Stoker’s original novel was loosely based on Vlad III the Impaler, or Dracula. Whether Stoker fully knew of Vlad’s sadism and brutality has been recently questioned, but the character of Dracula has evolved to become ingrained in pop culture.
—Gerald Rich, Daily Texan Staff

Blacula (1972)
Proclaimed to be the “soul-brother” of Dracula, Blacula is a jive-talking vampire looking to find the reincarnation of his lover in ’70s Los Angeles while on the run from his racist blood-sucking counterparts. The movie has some of the cheesiest dialogue ever in a horror flick, like when Blacula orders a drink and coolly says “Make it a Bloody Mary.” The movie is much more comical than scary, a “so-bad-it’s-good” cult-type picture, but that doesn’t hinder it from being wildly entertaining. Forget The Godfather, Blacula is truly the best film of the ’70s.
—Justin Sedgwick, Daily Texan Staff

Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995)
In “Dracula: Dead and Loving It,” Mel Brooks takes on the scary mythology of Dracula and turns it into a slapstick festival of stupid. Brooks’ Count Dracula (Leslie Neilson) is just as gruesome and darkly erotic as those menacing freaks in “True Blood,” but he is also a silly, confused little man with goofy friends such as his bug-eating assistant Renfield (Peter MacNicol). At every turn of the typical Dracula plot line — young, hot, unassuming ladies visit an old house where they find themselves strangely attracted to a pale, older gentleman who turns out to be non other than Dracula — Mel Brooks manages to parody the melodrama and provide something much more fun: low-brow comedy!
—Mary Lingwall, Daily Texan Staff

Grace (2009)
While not technically a “vampire” movie, Paul Solet’s “Grace” transforms the vampire-inspired ideas of living off blood and being “undead” into a modern suspense drama. When Madeline Matheson finally gets pregnant, she is bound and determined to have her baby naturally. Though her mother-in-law tries to force her into a hospital with a patronizing doctor, Madeline refuses and eventually becomes reclusive about her pregnancy. And then, things gets weird. Madeline’s baby is born dead during a water birth, and though the midwife tries to help Madeline cope with the loss, the new mother refuses to get over it and instead starts to nurse her dead baby, who she names Grace. The baby, though bluish with the hue of death, starts sucking at the mother’s teat. Eventually the baby — who apparently has a wretched smell that attracts swarms of flies into the Matheson’s nursery — starts to gnaw on Madeline’s nipples while breast feeding in order to drink blood. I think you can see where this is going. But what you’d be surprised to see is just how far Madeline goes to keep her blood-sucking, dead baby “alive.”
—Mary Lingwall, Daily Texan Staff

Let the Right One In (2008)
“Let The Right One In” is not your typical vampire movie. The Norwegian film uses children as the main characters and portrays their naviete and the terrors they are experiencing. A 12-year-old boy named Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) falls in love with his new neighbor, Eli (Lina Leandersson). Eli, a vampire, cannot hide her true identity, and only the love and innocence between the children is what keeps them safe from themselves and Eli. The camera angles, interesting shots and settings play a major role in the mystery and beauty of the story. The originality of the story grabs the viewer’s attention straight from the opening scene.
—Simonetta Nieto, Daily Texan Staff