“Dracula Untold” hits theaters this weekend, and if you thought it looked mediocre, the majority of critics who have seen it have confirmed your suspicions.
The reboot of the classic Universal movie monster, this time played by Luke Evans (“The Hobbit”), has accumulated a rotten 28 percent approval rating from critics counted on Rotten Tomatoes. Out of 39 reviews currently available, only 11 were favorable.
Although TheWrap‘s Dan Callahan was impressed by first-time feature director Gary Shore’s ability to deliver “imaginative” and “inventive” storytelling on the screen, he couldn’t endorse the movie for the franchise Universal is hoping it will spawn.
“For about the first hour of its running time, ‘Dracula Untold’ is far too restrained and tasteful, and it certainly suffers from its tediously noble hero; it’s well made but fatally lacking in thrills or excitement,” Callahan wrote in his review. “As the first movie in what Universal hopes might be part of a series, “Dracula Untold” is not likely to get anyone eager to see another installment, but perhaps Shore’s visual imagination might be put to better use on other projects.”
A.V. Club critic A.A. Dowd noticed this Dracula’s uncanny resemblance to another Dark Knight that has scored a number of movie deals, and concluded that this “Untold” origin story exploring Vlad the Impaler’s descent into madness is “neither the Dracula we need nor the one we deserve.”
“Determined to make a tragic antihero out of their eponymous monster, the filmmakers sell Vlad The Impaler’s infamous cruelty as some sort of honorable deterrent, applying the Truman atomic-bomb rationale to a man who slaughtered men, women, and children and stuffed their bodies onto pikes,” Dowd wrote. “Of course, to take Vlad’s barbaric villainy at face value would be to risk turning this material into, yes, an actual horror movie. ‘Dracula Untold’ would rather fit the count into the superhero-movie mold, supplying him with Nolanesque wisdom like, ‘Even after the darkest night, the sun will rise again.'”
Entertainment Weekly critic Kyle Anderson also did not think there was enough horror to be found in the film, nor was it an effective historical epic — another genre the movie is modeled after.
“Is Universal merely grinding out another cheapie franchise, or is there genuinely something left to be tapped in this shriveled vein that audiences could genuinely find new? The answer is no,” Anderson wrote. “‘Untold’ seeks to marry the historical record of the real Vlad’s war against the Ottoman Empire with his fictional transformation into the world’s most famous undead bloodsucker, but it works neither as a sweeping historical epic nor as an action-horror hybrid.”
Seattle Times critic Moira MacDonald found the movie to be bad in the worst way possible: It’s neither good or so bad it’s good.
“‘Dracula Untold,’ directed by Gary Shore (in an unimpressive feature debut), isn’t really a horror film; it’s more of an action movie with a little bloodsucking thrown in on the side. And, unfortunately, it falls into that far-too-large category of studio offerings that aren’t good enough to be noteworthy or terrible enough to be truly entertaining,” MacDonald wrote. “Its CGI effects — mostly murky blue mountains, blurry thousands of troops and Vlad occasionally being transformed into a flock of bats — look fairly low-rent; its cast is handsome but uninspired.”
But some folks out there did appreciate the movie for what it was trying to be. Digital Spy critic Ben Rawson-Jones seems to have thoroughly enjoyed the genre mashup, as well as Evans’ performance.
“This fusion of Bram Stoker‘s vampire with the legend of Vlad the Impaler is surprisingly full of life, boosted by terrific performances and an engaging story that unravels at a perfect pace,” Rawson-Jones wrote. “The market has been saturated with vampires in recent years, but fortunately Dracula Untold — an origins story that will hopefully lead to future outings — doesn’t feel stale… this latest interpretation flies high on the wings of Luke Evans‘s commanding take on the iconic figure.”
“‘Dracula Untold’ is a dumb, lowest-common-denominator kind of movie, but it’s a surprisingly entertaining one. It’s brisk, which counts for a lot in this overbaked genre. The action is directed with verve and imagination,” Ebiri wrote. “I don’t want to oversell this film. But in an era in which we’ve seen a lot of failed attempts to reinvent classic fantasy tales as CGI-action spectacles, it feels remarkably assured.”