Friday, October 30, 2015

Horror Thoughts ‘15—Dracula Untold (2014) ***

PG-13, 94 min.
Director: Gary Shore
Writers: Matt Sazama, Burk Sharpless, Bram Stoker (characters)
Starring: Luke Evans, Sarah Gadon, Dominic Cooper, Art Parkinson, Charles Dance, Diarmaid Murtagh, Paul Kaye, William Houston, Noah Huntley

“I’m so sick of origin stories.” That seems to be becoming a mantra from filmgoers in this age of the comic book movie where origin stories are everything. I’ve never been much of a mind to think that way. A story is a story, origin or otherwise. What people are sick of is the same superhero origin story over and over again. How many times have we seen the origin stories of Batman, Superman and Spider-Man? Now, Dracula… that’s one we haven’t seen before.

Of course, one of my big problems with so many of today’s vampire stories is that the storytellers have forgotten what the vampire mythology is all about. All too often vampires are turned into superheroes, which is just wrong. Unfortunately, this is just that type of vampire movie. It lacks all the classic themes of the vampire mythos. Considering that those tropes seem all but forgotten today, I’m willing to give into the fact that this is going to be a vampire superhero origin story. Once you give yourself up to that fact, it’s not such a bad movie. It ain’t scary, but it’s enjoyable.

As this is basically a mini-review, I don’t really have much interest in going through the film’s plot. If you’re interested in seeing just what drove Vlad the Impaler to become the most feared and cursed vampire in fantasy history, watch it. I don’t think it will disappoint. I would like to express just how disappointed I am with the title. Claiming any sort of origin story is “untold” is basically saying you’re making it up. As it is fiction, I guess that is essentially true, but the key to telling history of any kind—even fake history—requires that the story be told to be passed on through the ages. You can’t go back in time and tell a story that has never been told before. If not, then how would any one know it to tell it. Anyway, that bugs me.

The end of the film, which jumps ahead in this mythology’s history into modern times, also confused me. The presence of two people in this coda is pretty inexplicable. It sets up the notion of Mina Harper possibly being some sort of reincarnation of Dracula’s wife who died many decades earlier—a death depicted in this very untold story. You see what I mean about the whole untold story thing? The second person from the untold story who appears in the present doesn’t make any sense whatsoever, though. I’m sure it is meant to set this film up as the first in a franchise, but I’m not so sure I care to see the explanation.

Wasn’t this untold history intended to fill in Dracula’s past based on the hints that Bram Stoker left in his novel? Yet this coda seems to suggest that nothing in Stoker’s novel ever ended up taking place, since that story took place in Transylvania many decades ago, not in present day New York. Anyway, I did have these problems with this movie, but for the most part, the primary story worked surprisingly well for me. It ain’t really horror though.

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