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Byron Shire
February 5, 2023

Dracula Untold

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At a princely wedding banquet in medieval Transylvania, a gang of odious Ottoman delegates arrives unannounced to decree that they will conscript 1,000 young men from the vicinity to take part in the assault on Vienna.

The dilettante in me recalled that it was through this historic siege that the humble croissant was introduced into Europe. That’s the sort of movie this is – it’s very easy to be waylaid by other thoughts. Essentially a cartoon with real people in Madame Tussaud costumes doing an approximation of acting (Sarah Gadon as Mirena, the ivory-complexioned beauty in the long white gown, is embarrassingly awful), it tells the story of how Vlad the Impaler (Luke Evans) was transformed, against his will, into that horny old blood-sucker, Count Dracula.

Apart from Mirena’s secret covenant with the witches, presumably a fall-back enabling Vlad’s fate to be blamed on women, Gary Shore’s mindless entertainment ticks all the boxes in recycling the tropes of the genre – the terror of sunlight, retractable fangs and wooden stakes, the cross to ward off evil, and a duel fought on a floor of silver coins. I would not have appreciated this last innovation had I not learnt from NZ’s uproarious Things We Do In The Shadows that vampires cannot abide silver and that they sizzle up when touched by the metal (cinema is a great educator, is it not?). In fact, the dialogue throughout is spoken in a melodramatic Black Forest Cake accent that suggests all of the participants had been to the same speech coach as Taiga Waititi and his satin-draped Kiwi mates.

The swarms of bats are terrific and the concluding scene with Dracula cruising a modern-day metropolis as Charles Dance drums his Nosferatu-like fingernails on a glass-top cafe table augurs well for fans of the undead. As juvenile tosh, it is what it is – no more, no less – and I left without giving it a second thought, preoccupied instead by the idea of getting some croissants in for tomorrow’s breakfast.

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