As his kingdom is being threatened by the Turks, young prince Vlad Tepes must become a monster feared by his own people in order to obtain the power needed to protect his own family, and the families of his kingdom.
Any time a Dracula film is made, it has a stigma put upon it. There have been many, probably scores, of films about Dracula, but only a small handful that have gone on to be classics. Those include Murnau’s “Nosferatu”, Universal’s original “Dracula”, Hammer’s “Dracula” and Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 incarnation. Others either get a second tier (such as Dan Curtis’ version) or have failed miserably (Dario Argento’s mess).
This version, released from Universal, has that added burden because the company has a long history with Dracula, going back 80 years. How they handle the character is very important. Although some seem skeptical about Universal’s plan to create a “Monster Universe”, if this film is any indication, it might not be half bad. And as charming as the 1940s crossover films were (particularly “House of Frankenstein”), we must admit they are cheesy and there is room for improvement.
We are given the historical Vlad Tepes in this version, not the “Count Dracula” of Bram Stoker. Of course, some elements of Stoker are clearly here; the real Vlad had no vampire blood coursing through his veins. But this seems to take the middle ground, with Dracula being more timeless and superhuman, less evil or dirty. In some respect, he can even be seen as a hero.
Is the history here accurate (ignoring the vampire part)? Probably not. But it works, and sets up a rich character with a deep history, some emotions and a reason to exist. This is a well-written character, not the one-dimension bloodsucker in previous outings.
Horror fans may be disappointed that this is more action than horror, but anyone who says this is a bad film is trying to find something to dislike. Compared to the sloppy “I, Frankenstein” (not a Universal film), this one has real potential for sequels and more.
7 out of 10 stars