Vlad, Prince of Transylvania, was sent to fight in the Turkish army as a boy, along with many others his age, by his father to appease the Sultan. In time, Vlad became a fierce warrior who impaled Turkey’s enemies he won over during battle. Thus, he was dubbed the Impaler. For his service, when it became time, Vlad became the monarch of Transylvania under the rule of the Sultan. The practice of sending Transylvanian boys to serve in the Turkish forces had then ended. Or so Vlad had believed. The new Sultan, Mehmed (Dominic Cooper, Captain America: The First Avenger), the son of the previous man to hold that title, changed that deal. This time, he doesn’t just want one thousand boys, he wants Vlad’s son, Ingeras (Art Parkinson, Game of Thrones) as well. After violently refusing this order, Vlad must come up with a way to defend Transylvania from Mehmed’s armies.
He decides to go to extremes by going to a cave that holds the Master Vampire (Charles Dance, Alien³). There he finds the creature accommodating to his wants. It agrees to help Vlad since there’s a good chance what it grants him could set the vampire free from his prison. By drinking the vampire’s blood Vlad will, for three days, have the monster’s powers, from great strength all the way to its power of transformation. But, during this time, if Vlad drinks blood–which he will have an insatiable thirst for–he will be doomed to become a vampire himself. It will then set the Master Vampire free and Vlad would become its slave if need be. The plan becomes rather effective. But at what costs?
I sat in the movie theater giddy pretty early on during most of this movie. Even though it has contemporary trappings this film still has a very overwhelming classical feel to it. Strip away all the modern frills and scale it down to size it would play much like a Hammer Studios production. Not like that studio’s Dracula films though. Their version was a monster right away. This film, as we all know, is an origin story. A man who was a monster on the battlefield who wants to change into the family man he now sees himself as. And the being forced to become an even worse sort of monster to save his family. It’s a great old-fashioned melodramatic horror story.
Luke Evans (from The Hobbit films) plays this conflicted character very well. I know he can play a monster well having seen him in Ryûhei Kitamura’s No One Lives. So, if the character develops like he should in this series I know he’s up for that challenge. The other four leads—Dance, Cooper, Parkinson, and Sarah Gadon (Cosmopolis), who plays Vlad wife, are all good in their respective parts. Sadly, the supporting cast isn’t really given much character. They come out as most background scenery. I’m not blaming the actors. This just seems to be a problem from the writing, most of which is just fine.
The art direction is wonderful. It’s well photographed. Some of the CGI isn’t great. But for the most part the effects are pretty good. The score could’ve been better. At least, it never got annoying.
There ended up being one problem that struck down the rating I’m giving this film from 4.5 stars to 3.5. I didn’t like the last little bit that sees Vlad in modern times. It was rather jarring and I’m disappointed that the next film won’t be period piece.
But, overall, I think if Universal keeps things this well done, I’m going to like their return to their classic monsters.
Movie Rating: 3.5 out of 5