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Article by Teddy Durgin

Dracula Untold... Durgin unsold

In books, on TV and in the movies, vampires have five major weaknesses, right? One, holy water. A single drop of blessed H2O on a bloodsucker's skin causes immediate blistering. Two, a cross wielded by anyone who is a true believer in Jesus. So, if you've taken the Christ outta Christmas, get ready for your vampire hickey. Three, garlic. Yeah, it gives me big-time indigestion, too. Four, sunlight. And, five, a good ol' wooden stake to the heart. Unfortunately, by my count, the new "Dracula Untold" has just as many fatal flaws. And that's too bad, because I think there was some potential here. The first flaw is that the film is so deadly serious. Dracula is one of the greatest villains of all time. But he's always had a certain amount of style and panache to him. I either prefer my Draculas in the classic sense, dressed like the head waiter at the swankiest restaurant in town or as Gary Oldman looking like he just stepped off the cover of a '70s rock album. Luke Evans' Dracula - er, Vlad the Impaler - could be plopped down into any "Lord of the Rings," "Gladiator," "Game of Thrones" clone or ripoff, and he'd fit right in. And never once does he make his "w's" into "v's" as in "I vant to suck your blood!" Call me old school, but I missed that. Two, the film totally de-fangs the title character by making him - yikes - a family man! Yeah, Drac has a wife and a kid in this flick. No more feasting on young, nubile virgins for this dude. He's got a marriage to hold together and a son to raise. And when the invading Turkish army under the command of the ruthless Mehmed (Dominic Cooper) arrives to run roughshod over his Transylvanian homeland, it becomes all about Prince Vlad protecting his family. It's like a 1990s-era Harrison Ford flick, but with bats and neck biting. Three, absolutely NONE of the supporting characters has any resonance whatsoever in this film. Not a single one of 'em. They might as well be referred to as the Old Advisor, the Handsome Soldier, the Guy with the Goatee, the Other Guy with the Goatee, the Woman With the Long Hair and so forth. They're rarely even referred to by name, even though each has an important scene or moment here or there... but only at the service of furthering the Vlad-and-his-family-in-peril dynamic. The fourth fatal flaw is the screenplay. The dialogue is very stilted here, and the film's third act is quite rushed. At just over 90 minutes, it feels like some significant portions of this script were lost to get to as much action as possible. And that's a shame. Finally, there is indeed the action. The first time you see Vlad turn into a flock of bats and attack an entire Turkish army, it's pretty darn thrilling. Even with the PG-13 rating, there is still a visceral thrill in watching one man take on one thousand... and win! But director Gary Shore doesn't have any other visual tricks up his sleeve for the rest of the film. So, it becomes repetitive fast. And since Vlad has vampire powers and everyone else doesn't, there's really not much tension. The film is not a total loss, though. Luke Evans remains on the cusp of stardom. I think with the right part, he could really emerge as a major leading man. Charles Dance, meanwhile, is terrific as the Master Vampire that Vlad goes to in order to be turned into a vampire and have the speed, strength and power to defeat Mehmed and his vastly superior enemy. And I will also say that the film ends well with a late epilogue that is quite lovely in its simplicity. Unfortunately, it was a bit too little, too late for me. I prefer my "Dracula" flicks with a certain amount of style and blood lust. "Dracula Untold" just doesn't have enough bite for my tastes.

"Dracula Untold" is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of warfare, vampire attacks, disturbing images and some sensuality.


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