Epicon Reviews~Dracula: Untold

Before I begin, I wish to say one thing. To any fans of Stephanie Meyer's “Twilight” franchise, good on you. Enjoy your entirely ridiculous watering down and over-romanticizing of what makes a Vampire a FREAKING VAMPIRE (and, by extension, a Werewolf into a FRIGGING WEREWOLF!). I just don't see the appeal in this story: you have vampires who SPARKLE (READ PLEASE: S-P-A-R-K-L-E! AS IN TINKERBELL!) in sunlight, and have been around long enough to engage in the modern-day version of “mysterious teen angst”, as well as werewolves who hunt in large packs and look like BOY-BAND WANNA-BES. Someone slug me over the head with a shovel, please!

By the very definition alone, a vampire is this: a creature of the night who feeds on the blood of the innocent, possessing superhuman strength and shape-shifting abilities, and has a fondness for the female sex leading to disguising itself as a human and making an effort to seduce the woman they desire. Vampires, BY DEFINITION, HATE the sight of the cross, are burned by silver, and BURST INTO FLAMES AND DIE IN SUNLIGHT. Now... What did Meyer's “Cullen” do again? Oh yes: He doesn't feed on blood (as far as I know, I've never read the books or watched the movies), only shows his superhuman strength when he FEELS like it, CAN'T SHAPE-SHIFT, and is SO FRIGGIN' ANGSTY THAT EVERY WOMAN IN THE WORLD WANTS HIM, YET HE ONLY PICKS UP TEH TORCH FOR A WHINY, SELF-INDULGENT, SELF-OBSESSED NIMROD WHO CAN'T HELP HERSELF. Not only this, OH YES! HE SPARKLES LIKE A PRISSY PRETTY UNIDORN PIXIE IN SUNLIGHT! THIS IS NOT A VAMPIRE, THIS IS AN ANGST-PIRE, a being created solely for the purpose of fulfilling one sad woman's supernatural fantasies.

Similarly, there are problems arising in her lycans (werewolves, for those not in the know) as well: They are overly pretty, look well-built (Seriously, SPRAY-ON ABS? COME ON!) and hunt in packs that resemble teen boy bands. The definition of a werewolf is thus: a (wo)man cursed by the bite of the original Werewolf, who is forced to change into a ferocious half-man, half-wolf monstrosity on the night of the full moon; these change happen regardless of the curse-bearer's desires, and will override their minds with feral instincts until the human mind within is corroded out and leaves only the wolf behind. They change back at daybreak, can be slain ONLY with a silver bullet, and ALWAYS HUNT ALONE. Why? Because they dislike their curse and want a way out, on top of wishing NOT to hurt anyone. So... what makes these Meyer wolves NOT werewolves? Again, they are able to change at will, REGARDLESS of whether it's night or day or even whether it's a full moon, look like boy band stars, and hunt in packs. Not only that, but when in their were-form, IT'S THE FORM OF A WOLF, WITH NO HALF-HUMAN PROPERTIES WHATSOEVER. NO! THESE ARE NOT WEREWOLVES; THESE THINGS ARE “MAN-DOGS”, another sad creation of the Meyer universe. This woman should have been barred. Bram Stoker must be screaming right now.

But regardless of the fact that Meyer's vampire/werewolf story singlehandedly DESTROYED supernatural beings for me, one recent movie has been released to bring us back to the badass roots of the TRUE vampire. A movie made by Universal Studios, Legendary Pictures and Michael De Luca Productions, the movie not only gives director Gary Shore his debut in film-making, but also recreates the story of Dracula by basing the tale in the Middle Ages by focusing around the character “Vlad the Impaler” as the titular Count Dracula. So, how does the movie fair at bringing honor and dignity back to the glorious name of the dreaded VAMPIRE? *Lightning strikes overhead) That's an ominously welcome good sign! Let's take a nice, long look at “Dracula: Untold”, or as it was originally called, “Dracula: Year Zero”.

By the way, for anyone who HAS NOT seen the movie, forgive me. I'm about to go Full-Spolier Mode on you all. ^^; My apologies.

The film opens with a narration and stunning slow-motion visuals which depict the Ottoman Empire, which held a grip on the small nations of Wallachia & Transylvania. When the Sultan decided to take over the world, he forced the two smaller countries to bring forth an offering of 1000 young boys under the age of 10, who would be raised as Ottoman Janissaries, a corp of soldiers who would serve as the Sultan's in-house bodyguards. Of these boys, one Vlad III Tepes, the prince of both nations, is taken as a royal hostage, and becomes the Sultan's most fearsome warrior, earning him the moniker of “The Impaler”. However, after coming of age, he begins to find himself unsettled and sickened by his acts of cruelty. He eventually gives up the title and returns home to become King.

Years later, on an excursion with some of his soldiers, Vlad (now played by Luke Evans) and his men find themselves in a canyon, where an Ottoman scout's helmet, bearing three deep claw marks on the right side, has washed up from upstream. Vlad fears that the Sultan is sending scouts to prepare for an invasion, and sends his best man home to warn the army. The remaining three soldiers remain with him as they ascend to Broke Tooth Mountain's summit, in which is a small cave. As the soldiers enter, they find the cave floor packed end to end with the bones and corpses of dead soldiers, all in varying states of decay. Suddenly, without warning, the King finds his soldiers flying away into the darkness, and is soon left alone in the dark with a monster, who sends him to the ground after Vlad manages to cut him with his sword. The blood on Vlad's sword melts away, and the creature doesn't follow (can we guess why?). Vlad escapes with his life, and returns home to hunt answers from a local monk who reveals the truth. The creature in the cave is a vampire, the husk of a man who summoned a demon from Hell to form a pact with it in exchange for dark powers. The man got what he wanted, but the demon tricked him and cursed him to living within the cave for eternity... unless he is released by someone who has seen him, escaped, and returns again; at THAT point, the person is welcome to share in the vampire's power, and the vampire will be free to leave the cave.

The next day, Vlad celebrates Easter with his loving wife Mirena and their son Ingeras, as well as their subjects. The celebration is ruined, however, when a small forces of Ottoman soldiers bursts in uninvited (This isn't “Wedding Crashers”, asshole! Ask someone if you can come in!). In an effort to appease them, Vlad gives them a customary gift of silver coins, but the emissary notes that a group of Ottoman scouts had gone missing around the castle area; Vlad denies having anything to do with the missing scouts, and the emissary announces that the Sultan now demands 1000 boys for the Janissary corp. Vlad refuses, but his army is too small to fight the Sultan's army and win. He approaches his old friend Mehmed II, who has become the Sultan, to appeal to him by offering himself in place of the 1000 boys; Mehmed refuses and adds Vlad's son as a royal hostage.

On the day of the exchange, Vlad has an argument Mirena about sending their son; he tells her to trust him and goes alone, discarding his weapons in the process. His son runs to his side and tells him he's ready to leave, but Vlad sends him back. Why? Because he's about to go Edward Kenway on some Ottoman asses! As the boy runs up to his father, the Emissary voices displeasure that Vlad didn't put up more resistance. As the boy runs back to his mother, Vlad steals the Emissary's sword and uses it to slay the man and his guards.

Knowing of only one way to gain the power he needs, Vlad ascends Broke Tooth Mountain a second time to confront the vampire, who surprises him with speed. When he is asked why he has returned, Vlad states that he needs the vampire's power to save what he loves. The vampire informs him of consequences: if he drinks the vampire's blood, he will be given a fraction of the vampire's powers, along with his weaknesses. After the changes take place, Vlad will have three days: If, during these three days, he drink human blood, he will become a full-blooded vampire with unlimited power, while simultaneously freeing his dark benefactor from his curse; however, who he managed to last three days without drinking once, the vampiric powers will subside, returning Vlad to his human self with no repercussions or hidden surprises. Vlad agrees nonetheless and drinks, but soon passes out.

When he awakens, he's in the river at the mountain's base, and he discovers he has been granted enhanced senses and superhuman strength, as well as superhuman speed and the ability to split into a swarm of swift-flying bats. He also discovers that silver burns him, and is forced to remove his wedding ring and place it on a string around his neck. Using his bat swarm ability, Vlad returns to his kingdom in time for Mehmed's troops to show up. After a rousing speech, Vlad makes his way outside, where he proceeds to lay waste to Mehmed's forces ALL BY HIMSELF. When Mehmed finds the scene the next day, he comes upon a single scout bearing a message from Vlad. The scout is severely injured, but still managed to relay the message.

“Do you like the view?” the scout asks, hacking up blood, as Mehmed's eyes scour the carnage of the battlefield; the ground, for miles, is littered with blood, and in the ground are spears, one for each soldier Vlad killed... and bearing each soldier he killed. Displeased (despite the fact that his OWN STUPIDITY CAUSED THIS!), Mehmed announces war. Meanwhile, Vlad moves everyone from his kingdom to the remote Cozia Monastery, which is located at the top of a high mountain. Along the way, Mirena discovers his secret, but accepts it as Vlad promises he'll be human again as soon as his three days is done. After taking a walk in the woods, Vlad comes across a man from Romania, a gypsy named Shkelgim, recognizes Vlad as a vampire, and offers his blood to make Vlad full-blooded, while also offering himself as Vlad's slave; Vlad refuses when his senses pick up on something terrible. As he rushes off, he finds that his people are being attacked by Ottoman soldiers. He fights off most of them, and narrowly saves his wife and child from falling off a cliff. However, a spy he scares off the cliff survives and informs Mehmed of Vlad's abilities. Mehmed begins planning his next assault.

Upon arriving at the monastery, Vlad gets his subjects settled in, but is slowly revealed to be a vampire and trapped in a blacksmith's hut (Cue Markiplier's “WHERE'S THE BLACKSMITH?!”) by the monks, who proceed to set the building on fire. However, when the clouds of smoke begin to block out the sun, it allows Vlad to recover and stomp out of the building, angrily shouting that his powers were obtained to keep them safe. His son finds out, but... strangely doesn't seem to mind that his father is a nigh-immortal, supernatural beast of the night. Guess the kid read “Dracula” and figured he was going to get to go to Camp Cool Dad, or something. Back to the story....

That night, Mehmed launches a strike on the monastery, operating under the belief that his men won't fear what they can't see (he literally blindfolds EVERY DAMN SOLDIER HE COMMMANDS and has them march in formation while following his voice. WHAT. THE. ACTUAL. FLIP.), and soon the monastery is under attack. However, Vlad is nearly at the end of his third day, and the sun has nearly risen. In the darkness of the bell tower, he calls upon the power of his bats to block out the skies. Using a portion of them, he knocks groups of soldiers aside with ease... THEN BUILDS A GIANT FIST OF THEM AND SLAMS THEM INTO THE EARTH TO KILL MORE (Note: No CGI bats were harmed in the making of this film... likely no ACTUAL bats were harmed either. We aren't sure, exactly...)

Deciding to join the fight himself, Vlad enters the fray as a swarm, knocking aside and slaughtering soldiers left and right to get to Mehmed... only to find the bastard has duped him. The army was a diversion for other soldiers to enter the monastery and kill the subjects. Mirena takes Ingeras to the bell tower, but they are soon cornered by an Ottoman soldier. The man bats Ingeras away and pushes Mirena to the edge of the tower. Vlad hears her screams from the battlefield, realizing too late that the attack was a diversion, and takes off into the swarm. As he arrives, he manages to scare the attacker off the ledge and save Ingeras, but unfortunately, the attacker grabs Mirena's leg and pulls her off. (Many likely expect a typical “London/France” joke, but I'm more mature than that. Please, a woman is DYING here; I'm not going to be ridiculously childish. Besides, it's not like the attacker went out without getting a glimpse of something most teenage boys fight for years to get a look at for real. She ought have just kicked him in the eyes...) Vlad dives off too save Mirena while another soldier grabs Ingeras and takes him away; despite he best efforts, Vlad is unable to save his wife before her death. However, the writers decided she WAS going to b lucky enough to survive with JUST enough time for a couple more important scenes.

With her final breaths, she begs Vlad to drink her blood and gain the power to save their son. As she is about to slip away, Vlad grudgingly does just that, releasing the cave-bound vampire from his prison and killing Mirena in the process. This process also... seems to cause big, black lightning clouds to coat the skies and cast darkness everywhere... odd. Anyways, back in the monastery, Vlad find several surviving subjects and some of his own soldiers who are on the brink of death. He does the first thing he can think of: make a small army of loyal vampire slaves. With them in tow, the make for Mehmed's camp.

Mehmed is barely even bothered by the clouds that dye the skies pitch black, and leaves his men to fend off what comes. Obviously, they can't, and we even get to see a case of an obviously psychotic young female vampire taking... an almost startling amount of near-sexual pleasure in killing some of these soldiers... This means little to our hero, however, as he braves the faces of evil in his way and knocks aside all attempts from the opposition to take him down. With no further threats inbound, Vlad storms Mehmed's tent, only to find the man wearing silver armor and standing on a floor covered in silver coins. In his hand is a silver sword, and to the ceiling are tied small bags of even MORE silver coins. Wow... this guy REALLY loves his silver... I mean, I know he's using it to exploit Vlad's weakness to silver, but did he REALLY have to melt down his royal platters and cutlery to make those coins? I think throwing a silver fork or knife at Vlad would have done the job just as well...

Undaunted by this, Vlad storms in, but quickly finds himself at a serious disadvantage. Mehmed finally gets Vlad on his back and prepares to end it with a stake to the heart, but one final cry for help from Ingeras gets Vlad's gears going. Turning into a swarm of bats, Vlad swipes the stake from Mehmed and stabs him in the heart with it before taking the name “Dracula, Son of the Devil” for himself and killing Mehmed for good by draining his blood; as he does so, the armor he'd used as an Ottoman Janissary (which he had sworn to never use again, but figured now was as good a time as any to break THAT oath) turns from a blackish-bronze to a deadly blood-red.

His purpose now done, Vlad leads his son out of the tent, only to find his vampire subjects turning on the boy, claiming they should feed from him as he is still human and can harm them. Luckily for Vlad, one of the monks survived, and wards Vlad's followers off with a cross around his neck. Vlad forced his son to go with the monk, who takes him to safety while Vlad finishes what he started by parting the clouds. With the sun's rays now full and strong, the vampires in the camp are set aflame and burn to withered skeletons, while Vlad's body withers down to an almost mummified state.

Back in the kingdom, Ingeras is crowned king of a small nation, and we get a small narrative from Vlad as the gypsy man returns, drags him into the darkness, and revives him with his blood. Centuries go by, and we now find Vlad giving us the epilogue in New York. He walks around a street market, only to come across a woman named Mina, who... strangely very much resembles Mirena, and begins romancing her. The original vampire, not far away, watches and plots what tortures he'll subject Vlad to, and we flash to black as he says, “Let the games begin”.

Where do I start with this movie? Other than being the utter EPITOME OF ACTION MOVIE AWESOMENESS, this film is the return to badassery that the Vampires DESPERATELY needed to become cool again. Honestly, I'm glad I saw this film, and I know I'll be watching it again and again, many times into the foreseeable future.

Overall, this movie receives a 10/10 rating, and receives my “OH MY GOD! YES!” Stamp of Perfection. THIS is what a vampire movie is SUPPOSED to be like! Like the Draculas of old... not like those pansy-ass wimpy sparkle-freaks. And of course, those who know the Critic will recognize my closing bit. ^^ This is Epicon, Signing off. SPARKLE SPARKLE SPARKLE!

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