Film Corner: Dracula Untold

Dracula Untold

Ok, so here's the deal:

- My work computer is broken.
- Tech support is massaging it with healing oils or something.
- I have to "stand by" to reboot it when they ask but otherwise stay out of their way.

So you're getting an #AnaWatches. This *particular* live-watch is very dear to me because it's of a movie I was very excited to see and then spent the entire film shrieking "I'M SORRY WHAT" at the screen in increasingly louder volumes, and it's dedicated to @liminalfruitbat because you always hurt the ones you love, etc.

What is this movie, tantalizingly teased? DRACULA UNTOLD: "the origin story of the man who became Dracula." I want to stress before we start that I have very low standards for Dracula movies. I like the Keanu Reeves one. I like Dracula 2000, which involves a plane crash and Mardi Gras. I like Van Helsing, because I am hopelessly gay. Et cetera. I am not hard to please.

We start with a narration by Dracula's/Vlad's child-son, who tells us that in 1442 "the Turkish sultan enslaved 1,000 Transylvanian boys to fill the ranks of his army". I'm not a historian but I do want to warn that, uh, everything in this movie will be the fault of "The Turks" for being awful and mean and terrible, while the white Europeans are innocent babies who just want to live in peace. I do not like that at all.

I am not even really comfortable with referring to the Ottoman sultan and his people as "The Turks" the way the movie does (hence the scare quotes) so I'm going to avoid that in this live-tweet but just be warned that this movie employs that language. In real life Vlad *was* a royal hostage (not an unusual occurrence) but here he's "beaten without mercy" and trained to "kill without conscience, to crave the blood of all who defied the Turks."

"Vlad the Impaler, Son of the Dragon" grew from among these boys (we don't learn he was a royal hostage until later; if you didn't already know this, it sounds like a Rags To Riches meritorious origin story where he was just a random hostage who excelled at war). All his impaling is here done at the command and behest of his captors, but it sickens him and he's very sad. His captors give him an attaboy for all his good impaling and send him home to "rule Transylvania in peace".

Vladster kneels by a stream while pretty people watch him. A subject has found the abandoned helm of a Turkish scout. The helm is scarred by claw marks. "Where there's one there's more. And whatever they scout, they conquer," Vlad warns. Vladimeister believes the stream carried the clawed helmet down from "Broken Tooth Mountain" and goes up with two Red Shirts to check it out. They find a cave which is carpeted with the remains of Turkish soldiers. A vampire and Game of Thrones actor politely asks them to leave by way of eating the two Red Shirts. Vlad is saved at the cave entrance by the sun reflecting off his sword.

He rides back to "Castle Dracula" where a monk tells him that he and all his brother monks just shared a vision/dream of the cave-creature "laying siege to this holy place". This will not happen in this movie, so idk if that was a discarded plot idea. The monk lays out a book that has detailed drawings of vampires, uses the word 'vampire' ("from the Greek word pi, to drink"), and says the vampire was created via a deal with a demon that trapped him in the cave. Vladibro says the people of Transylvania have enough to fear from the threat of Turkish invasion without needing to know about THIS, and the monk promises not to tell anyone. You'd think you could at least put up a "Keep Out" sign by the cave.

Vladster goes home to his gorgeous wife and adorable child-son, and we get a picture of familial bliss so it can all be fucked up later. We get to see the scars all over Vlad's back that his evilbad Turkish captors inflicted on him. At a happy royal dinner event the next day, a smirking assholish Turkish emissary shows up. He wants silver in tribute and an explanation for the missing "battalion of scouts" (a battalion is 300 to 1000 soldiers and they wouldn't all be scouts, wtf). As an assholey Columbo-esque "oh, just one more thing" addition, the ambassador announces that Mehmed II has decided to reinstate the "give us 1,000 boys as captives we will train to fight in our army" kidnapping tribute.

"When a soldier is plucked as a child and raised to know no other life, they kill without question and die without complaint," purrs the emissary as his men teasingly touch boys' heads around the table. Just in case you were wondering how racist this movie is: LOTS. Vladis now has to deal with whether or not to submit to this outrageous demand of child-sacrifices. His son asks if HE'LL be sent away and Vlad tells him never and that's unthinkable, et cetera, foreshadowing. Vlad's wife is made of pouty lips and Bad Ideas so she tells him to go speak to Mehmed "like a brother" and ask him to rescind the order. Vlad rides to the Turkish camp nearby and the soldiers jeer and insult him, because they're all Evul.

"Soon the entire world will be Turk," Vlad predicts. Ugh. Mehmed, being a stereotype of lush depravity has a "war map" made of solid gold. Vladibore begs Mehmed not to take the children of his people and offers to go in place of the untrained boys. Mehmed says he'd rather have the boys, and demands that Vlad also send his son. Thanks for the great suggestion to talk to Mehmed, Bad Idea Wife! "What is one son? If you are virile, you will make plenty more," Mehmed says, because the sultan doesn't appreciate children and family the way our European kings do. Christ on a corn dog stick.

A carriage arrives to bring Prince Curls and Queen Bad Ideas to the pickup point. Bad Ideas Wife screams at Vlad because this is ALL!! HIS!! FAULT!! when it's literally not, etc. Stellar writing of woman, as always. The emissaries sent to pick up Prince Curls is lewd and smirking and purposefully cruel. This might be an interesting plot point if Mehmed were *trying* to goad Vlad into rebellion, but no, it's just POC being evil so Vlad can kill them later. Vladster kills the emissaries rather than give up his son. He sends his family back to the castle to hide, and goes up to Broken Tooth Mountain for help because the monster in the cave "kills Turks". My dude.

Inside the vampire cave, a Game of Thrones actor pins Vlad and asks why he's full of hope rather than fear. He tells Vlad to cover up his silver wedding ring because "silver offends me". Vlad asks for the vampire's power. Vlad says he's a "protector of the innocent" and the vampire taunts him for being called The Impaler. Vlad says he hated having to impale all those people, but he *had* to employ psychological warfare to make himself scary. Kill a few to scare the rest away, etc. I want to pause and point out here the racist optics of the white European Vlad being too pure of heart for the Turkish training--the "kill without conscience" and "crave the blood of his enemies" stuff earlier--to impact his sweet peaceful nature.

The vampire reveals the nonsensical conditions of his situation: he's bound to the cave by the demon who made him, but if he can find someone worthy and willing to become a vampire with him, then he'll be set free. He offers Vlad a 3-day trial period with no cancellation fees: Vlad will become a vampire with an "insatiable" thirst for blood, but if he can resist drinking for 3 days he'll go back to being human without his credit card being charged. If Vlad *does* drink human blood, he'll become a vessel of the demon, "a scourge upon this earth, destined to destroy everything you hold dear."

This is an interesting premise that the movie will utterly betray, by the way; Vlad's thirst isn't insatiable and indeed is barely remembered, and when he does become a full vampire, he saves the things he loves rather than destroying them. Chekov's utter mess. "Your lands, your people, even your precious wife and son." Like. Vampire Vlad saves his lands, saves his people, and saves his son. Spoilers, I know, but this bugs me. Game of Thrones warns that if Vlad goes full vampire he'll one day call on Vlad in an immortal game of revenge against the demon who imprisoned him. Vlad tells him to go masturbate himself.

Interesting Idea That I Like #1: Vlad drinks the vampire's blood from a cup (well, from a broken skull because gothy) rather than from the veiny source.

Vlad wakes up downstream which means Game of Thrones threw him out with the garbage after he passed out, and I find that HILARIOUS. We get a nice sequence of his new senses being ultra-sharp. The stars are gorgeous, the universe infinite, and so on. His silver wedding ring burns him now (and has a disorienting vibration sound) so he has to put it in his pocket. Then he hears cannon fire. He runs through the forest and, along the way, discovers he can bat-splode for extra speed boosts. Love it.

Castle Dracula is being bombarded by Turkish troops and cannon. Vlad pops in to kiss his wife and give a Braveheart speech to his frightened court. Then he goes out to defeat the entire army all by himself. Defeating the entire army all by himself turns out to be surprisingly easy. Vlad's own people come out and he tells them they need to go to Helm's Deep, I mean Cozia Monastery, which is "high in the mountains, too remote for cannon fire." He doesn't take any questions re: the nearby dead army.

Mehmed takes 100,000 men to fight Vlad. "When I march into Europe, I will have his head on my spear and his child at my side," in case you were wondering if the Turkish characters are still cartoonishly evil. The 100,000 soldiers catch up to Vlad and his group of people in, like, an actual hour. I remind you that he has these powers for 3 days. That's it.

Vlad feels thirsty at dinner and runs into the tent where Bad Idea Wife is storing her pouty lips. They fuck and she somehow fails to notice that his back is baby-smooth because his hundreds of deep whip scars are gone. The peasant who lives in the woods and found the scout helmet way back in the beginning of the movie tells Vlad he knows what he is and would he like some blood to drink? Because he's got blood! Vlad tells him to go away and make better life choices.

Mehmed reaches the field of yesterday night's battle and observes that the 10,000 soldiers have all been impaled. Bad Idea Wife *finally* notices that her husband is acting a little strangely. He comes clean about the vampire deal and she promises to cover for him. Day 2 passes.

The Turkish advance team launches a night attack on Vlad's people, who are still walking to the monastery as slowly as humanly possible. Their leader is this blond Viking-esque guy who I thought *might* be Radu (Vlad's real-life brother) but apparently not. (He's called "Bright Eyes" in the cast list and captions.)


Vile slander, my friend. Libel, even. I believe in the accuracy of DRACULA UNTOLD and so should you all. Bright Eyes menaces Queen Pouty Lips and Vlad bat-splodes all over him until he falls off a cliff for a No Body, No Death trope. We'll see him again later.

@liminalfruitbat. I... I just... THIS IS NOT HOW MEHMED'S INVASION WENT

Uh, I think DRACULA UNTOLD knows how Mehmed's invasion went. Are you saying this fine movie has an inaccuracy?? Vladis gets to the monastery and tells the monks to stop praying and start firing up the blacksmithery because swords are a thing you can churn out with a solid couple of hours.

Mehmed is warned that something weird is going on with Vlad and there are rumors of "dark magic". Mehmed intones that "men cannot fear what they cannot see." He is going to blindfold his entire army. YES. WHY NOT. DO IT. "When my generals blindfolded you," Mehmed bravehearts at his troops, "you did not believe that you could march without seeing. But you could!" HAHA YES. I want all movies to deal with massive plot holes by just *asserting* that it's TOTALLY FINE.

At the monastery, the head monk notices that Vlad isn't walking into direct sunlight and IMMEDIATELY intuits that this means Vlad is a vampire now. Monk shows up with a sword of "pure silver" (NO) and offers to murder Vlad. When Vlad tells him thanks but no, Monk flings open a window so Vlad can sustain a sunburn. Two or three entire people see and the ENTIRE POPULATION instantly riots.

Queen Pouty Lips once again demonstrates her AMAZING good ideas by yelling at the people that Vlad deserves "a chance to EXPLAIN" why he's a blood-drinking monster now. Great job, honey. Why don't you go sit down for a bit. Soldiers set the blacksmithery on fire--because THAT's not an important building right now--and Vlad emerges once the smoke clouds out the sunlight.

It's really quite hard to believe that these people who have never even HEARD of a vampire before--that was ESTABLISHED early on--were this ready to "kill the rabbit!" opera at the only guy keeping them safe from the invading army. Like, this isn't "oh no, he's the one who's been preying on our children all these years", they have N E V E R heard of a vampire before because the vampire was confined to a cave on a mountain no one ever visits. I'd buy this a little better if his courtiers had been shown trying to oust him or something, but he's been a loving and affable ruler intent on protecting his people; this mob scene wasn't *earned*, dammit.

"YOU ARE ALIVE BECAUSE OF ME!" Vlad yells. Queen Pouty Lips gives him a little cooldown pout and he cools down. The blacksmithery burns down in the background. Vladster goes and prays in the monastery chapel. Prince Innocent brings him bread because he thinks his dad is sick. THIS is where you would demonstrate "insatiable thirst", but it doesn't come up. Vlad tells his boy he's a good doggie. Vlad and Queen Pouty Lips note that the army won't be here before the three-day trial period ends and he loses his powers. They swap poetry for a bit.

Bats come home to roost and Vlad remembers that all bats are now his doggies. He sends a flock of them to attack the blindfolded soldiers. The army ragdolls and bodies go flying through the air. Bats, man. They'll fuck you up. I guess. He actually raises his hand into a fist and the bats mimic the motions to form a massive air-fist. He slams his fist into the ground. Bats slam into the soldiers.

Vlad bat-splodes down from the monastery tower to the ground, seeking Mehmed's gold armor. But it's not Mehmed in the armor. Where is he? Well! He ninja'd into the monastery. Somehow. Back door? Servant's entrance? Sewer tunnel? ("I'm sorry, Mermista will WHAT?") The ninja squad (which I'm informed doesn't have Mehmed, but I have face blindness) kidnap Vlad's son and push Queen Pouty Lips off the tower.

Vladster then bat-splodes up to his wife but for some reason prioritizes "killing her killer" over "grabbing her hand before she falls". Nice to see Bad Ideas run in the family. Pouty Lips falls and even though Vlad was significantly faster than gravity BEFORE, now all he can do is fall with her, helpless to grab her. Prince Curls is on the ground with Mehmed, having been apparently TELEPORTED there by the ninja squad in the last minute.

Vlad holds his dead wife's body but of course the massive fall didn't kill her so dead she can't Last Word at him. The monastery is overrun by soldiers (how? why?) and everyone is slaughtered without mercy. Queen Bad Ideas tells Vlad to drink her blood and become a damned perma-vampire so that he can save their son. BEST IDEA SHE'S HAD YET. Vampire watches from his cave and seems sad he was cast in this movie. He was in Game of Thrones, ffs. He's going to call his agent.

Vladmeister drains the queen, the skies darken, and vampire steps out of his cave. (We'll see him again at the very end of the film.) Vlad goes to survey the damage at the monastery. Interesting Idea I Like #2: Vlad immediately decides that if he's going to be a vampire, he's not doing this alone. He finds a few mortally wounded survivors (including some women!) and asks them if they'd like revenge. It's nice to see a morally good vampire who is enthusiastic about siring rather than "wank wank no one should be cursed to share this existence with me" Well, I guess there's Carlisle in Twilight, but I don't like him and I'm allowed to be arbitrary and petty.

The vampire women are hot and I hate that we don't get more time with them. I don't think they even have any lines! Ugh, I'm such a bisexual mess. Vlad buries his wife while he waits for the new vampire babies to wake up. The Turkish army moves out, but their oldest and wisest is alarmed that a lightning storm is preventing the rising of the sun. I don't know why he finds that alarming. Weather happens. But of course WE KNOW that the darkness means VAMPIRE TIME. Mehmed, who is back in full gold armor for no reason that I can see, intones that "the Prince is coming."

Vampires descend on the army and begin killing and feeding. Vlad just kills because Vlarry Dru, I mean Garry Stu, I mean VLAD doesn't feel thirst even now as a full vampire. Vlad kills Viking Bright Eyes specially himself (or, rather, wounds him so a previous victim can have the honor) and he really ought to have been Radu. Why wasn't he Radu?? It FEELS like he was Radu in an earlier draft.

Though it has never before been mentioned that Mehmed has an interest in the occult or in obscure European monsters, Mehmed inexplicably knows exactly what Vlad is and what his weaknesses are. He has deliberately covered the floor of his tent in silver coins because he knows they will hurt and distract Vlad, and waits there for him with a silver sword. (Why not make the armor silver instead of gold?) Prince Curls is nearby in a vague hostagey sort of way but not within killing distance, so not a very good hostage after all.

Vlad and Mehmed duel and I reflect on what a pointless waste it was for them to be setup as "like brothers" but then to never develop that emotional connection. This battle should be meaningful to us! It's not. Silver turns out to be not too much of a weakness, really, as Vlad is able to eat Mehmed when he attempts to stake him. (A timely bat-splosion helps.)

You'd think that would constitute an ending, but now for NO REASON WHATSOEVER the other vampires want to kill Prince Curls because they're vampire supremacists (why??) and they want to wipe out all of humanity. Just because. I *hate* this. Vlad is still the person he was in life, but all these people are corrupted monsters for no adequately explored reason. I assume the difference is supposed to be that Vlad became a vampire for "pure" reasons and they didn't, but counterpoint: fuck that.

Vlad impales his best friend and courtier who turned out to also be made of Bad Ideas for trying to kill Vlad's son after all Vlad has done to protect his son. The other vampires, jealous of this Bad Idea, move in menacingly. Now the monk is here in the middle of the Turkish war camp for NO REASON, and Vlad tells Prince Curls to go with him and be safe. Then the sun comes up and all the vampires die in agony. None think to pop into one of the nearby tents, an established area of protection.

Is THAT the ending? LOL, no. Creepy Peasant somehow saved Vlad's body (even though the other vampires disintegrated entirely--and what a criminal waste that was) and feeds him blood to revive him. Prince Curls voice-overs that Prince Vlad was a hero who prevented "The Turks" from conquering all of Europe, but that tragically "there are no pictures or statues of him". I'll tell Wikipedia to take down the header image they have up.

In modern day somewhere, Vlad walks with modern clothes. He sees a pretty woman with pouty lips who looks like Queen Bad Ideas. He quotes poetry at her. "That's my favorite poem," she breathes, charmed. Game of Thrones watches from a table nearby. He stalks after them, chuckling "let the games begin". The implication is that he's been waiting for Vlad to care about someone so that he can kidnap them and force Vlad to help him in his eternal game. Which means that Queen Bad Ideas is going to be damseled in at least TWO lives, not just one. THE END.

That was one of the worst movies I've ever seen, you're all welcome!


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