A Dracula movie for those who prefer a darkly romantic take on the character -- like Francis Ford Coppola's 1992 epic Bram Stoker's Dracula or the 2013 TV series Dracula starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers -- 2014's Dracula Untold is a period adventure with a fantastical, gothic-horror twist. Taking a cue from the aforementioned adaptations of the classic tale, Dracula Untold attempts to present the origin story of the powerful vampire, explaining why the Romanian prince once known as Vlad Dracul made a deal with dark forces that would transform him into the creature of the night that's now part of popular mythology: namely, that he did it all for his country and, of course, for love.
The story begins in the 15th century, as Prince Vlad (Luke Evans) rules his Eastern European country with a fair and steady hand. Although he's been known to decimate villages in the name of protecting his people, he's done so without bloodlust, making tough, kingly decisions like sacrificing ten people to save 100. Those decisions get a lot tougher, however, when a neighboring sultan demands that Vlad hand over 1000 Romanian boys to be trained as Turkish soldiers -- if he refuses, the sultan will launch a full, bloody invasion. Vlad just can't bring himself to do it, especially since it would mean losing his own son, so he seeks out supernatural assistance. Agreeing to a contract with a decrepit, ancient vampire, he is granted all of the monster's powers (intense speed, increased strength, and the ever-useful ability to turn into a flock of bats) and weaknesses (sunlight, pure silver, and wooden stakes), as well as the promise that he will turn back into his mortal, non-evil self if he can resist feeding on human blood for a period of three days. Vlad figures he just needs to defeat the Turks in that time, which he can surely accomplish via supernatural brute force and scaring the piss out of them with his powers, right?
Dracula Untold is fine Halloween entertainment, especially for those looking for something spooky but not necessarily terrifying. Compared to the average slasher movie, it keeps the gore level pretty low. And in a world of absurdly long action/adventure films, Dracula Untold's tight 92-minute run time makes it a solid popcorn flick. It has a certain B-movie flavor, despite being pretty tasteful overall -- at least for a vampire film.