Dracula Untold ★★½

"Dracula Untold" could have been a turkey. Fortunately, it isn’t. Granted, the movie contains a few silly moments and a ridiculous death scene of one of the supporting characters, but it is sufficiently entertaining so as to keep the viewer engaged for its 92 well-paced minutes.

The film exhibits an admirable focus and straightforwardness. Instead of aspiring to be a big movie, "Dracula Untold" settles for being lean. And it works, even though it comes at the cost of sacrificing context.

Debuting feature-film director Gary Shore and screenwriters Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless provide a moderately interesting take on the myth of Dracula. I expected that the movie would contain more horror elements than it actually does. In fact, "Dracula Untold" features only a few scenes that qualify as scary (more on that below). But I kind of like that the filmmakers do something different with the legendary character.

The movie presents Vlad (Luke Evans), the protagonist, in a fairly sympathetic light, so that the viewer feels comfortable rooting for him despite his cruel acts in the past; acts that earned him his nickname, “Vlad the Impaler”. However, the character still comes across as somewhat underdeveloped, although his motivation is clear.

So what about the aforementioned horror scenes, then? They are set in a dark, ominous cave on Broken Tooth Mountain and feature “Master Vampire” (Charles Dance). The threatening atmosphere is palpable. These scenes are appropriately creepy and are the highlights of the film.

Evans does a perfectly okay turn as Vlad, bringing energy to the action scenes and portraying his character’s internal conflict quite well. Playing Mirena, Sarah Gadon is relegated to a passive role that doesn’t allow her to do much actual acting. My initial impression of Dominic Cooper as Mehmed was that he was miscast, but his performance grew on me, and by the time his final scene had come and gone, I thought he was a good fit for the part. Dance goes all out, almost to the point of overacting, in the role of the first vampire, and his scene-stealing, delightfully diabolical performance is one to remember.

While a sequel to "Dracula Untold" doesn’t feel necessary, strictly speaking, the ending certainly leaves the door open to that possibility. Whether or not the presumed sequel will be a direct continuation of the story remains to be seen. Nonetheless, I am cautiously positive to a second chapter about this new interpretation of Dracula.