Prince Vlad—or as he's known in some quarters, Vlad the Impaler—isn't really as fearsome as his reputation might suggest. Yes, he knows how to fight, and many ways to kill. These skills were thrust upon him as a boy when the Turks stole him and thousands of other children away to fill the ranks of their armies. But the truth is, he's back home now. And he's a man of peace.
That "Impaler" moniker? Well, that's also a remnant of his youth. As part of the Sultan's war machine, he did whatever it took to drive enemies away in fear. And if propping a few hundred dead men up on poles could save thousands of others from dying, then that was a necessary, if gruesome, choice worth making.
Unfortunately there are now other "necessary" choices to be made.
The Sultan, you see, is back for more boys. He wants a thousand Transylvanian children, along with Vlad's own son, to flesh out his forces once again. And since Transylvania has no army, the Turks expect no resistance.
But being a man of peace does not mean being a man with no backbone. Vlad loves his wife, Mirena, and his son, Ingeras. He loves his kingdom and his people. He loves freedom. And he hates the Turks.
He also knows a secret.
In the mountain caves not far away, there dwells a certain … creature. This loathsome abomination does not venture out into the sunlight, and any who draw near to it quickly die. This incredibly powerful vampiric thing is said to have once been a man. And it may just be the answer to the Sultan's threat.
Vlad simply needs to approach this beast and plead his case. There is power to be had there. And necessary choices to be made.
Vlad does approach the vampire, and he relinquishes his humanity in exchange for the powers he seeks. That, then, becomes the movie's central question: How much would you give up for those you love? Vlad ultimately sacrifices everything. He even moves to completely eradicate himself and other vampires after the war is over (though in that effort, he fails).
And before reaching out to the vampire in the first place, Vlad goes directly to the Sultan to plead for his son and his people—ready to join the Turkish forces himself in exchange for the boys' lives. Vlad's son also steps forward to give himself up if that's what will save the others. Vlad will not hear of it: "It's not a child's place to save his country," he insists. Mirena is equally as sacrificial and loving. Even at the moment of her death, she is willing to give of herself to save Ingeras.
Mirena pleads with her husband to turn away from the evil power he's pursuing. She speaks of a life after death that will be more just. As part of his bargain with the master vampire, Vlad is told he can become human once more if he keeps himself from feeding on human blood within three days of his initial transformation. He swears that he will endure the torture such self-control will bring, and he prays for strength. "Then God will forgive you," Mirena assures him.
Mirena points out that Easter is "the day of our risen Lord." A large statue of Christ on the cross hangs in a monastery. A monk reads from an ancient tome that tells the story of the vampire. The vampires' powers include great strength and the ability to transform into a cloud of bats, also to heal instantly. Later, the monk holds up a cross to fend off a group of those gnashing creatures.
A number of people go to their knees praying for salvation from the Turks. Vlad tells them, "Prayers will not defend these walls."
Mirena wears dresses that accentuate her cleavage. And she's clad in a wispy bare-shoulder nightgown as she and a shirtless Vlad embrace and kiss.
This is essentially a movie about one man facing off against a huge army. So we see a number of swirling crowd scenes in which men are being quickly slashed at or thrown tumbling around like kindling. Vlad transforms into a small swarm of bats that flies at soldiers, sending them crying to the ground, covering their necks. In a few instances Vlad also calls in an enormous swarm of literally millions of bats that acts as the physical representation of his hand and arm—sweeping crowds of men to-and-fro and slamming into the earth with the explosive force of a truckload of TNT.
There are also a number of up-close-and-personal bloodyings. Men are stabbed with knives and swords, and impaled with stakes. Before becoming supercharged, Vlad takes on a group of a dozen men, slashing and stabbing them with his sword. His foes in this case all end up dead, some impaled with their own weapons. Turkish soldiers brutally murder guards and civilians alike. One soldier viciously punches Mirena, causing her to double over and slip off the edge of a cliff.
The master vampire rips open his own forearm and drains some of his blood into a skull; Vlad drinks it. After the master vampire slices Vlad's neck with a fingernail, the monster extends a long slug-like tongue to lick at the man's throat. Vlad later feeds on a human victim and then shares his blood with other wounded people, instantly healing them and creating a vampire army. They rip into the Turks with fangs bared. A man cuts his arm and trickles his blood into a vampire's mouth.
We see vampires' flesh sear off, exposing bone and gristle beneath when they're hit with fire or sunlight. Direct sunlight fries one group of vamps to cinders. A vampire is impaled on a large pole and hoisted up, his flesh disintegrating away to leave nothing but bone. Twice we see a multitude of corpses impaled and suspended on posts. Vlad removes his shirt, showing us a torso covered in scars.
Crude or Profane Language
One or two uses of "h---."
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Hollywood is known for its constant retelling, recasting and rebooting of well-known tales and characters. And if filmmakers these days can take a fun, festive fellow like, say, St. Nick and turn him into a randy, raunchy Bad Santa, well, then why not remake the devouring demon Dracula into a romantic hero?
That's the concept behind this action-horror hybrid. The movie's vampire protagonist isn't a glowing-skinned school crush, but he's no fetid-breath crypt-dweller either. He's a good Transylvanian prince who has war thrust upon him. He has no choice—if he hopes to save his people and his loved ones—but to turn to the blood-dripping shadows for the power to fight back.
Absolutely no choice. Right?
Of course, no matter how hard you work to transform Vlad the Impaler from sharp-toothed pestilence into a strong-jawed savior, he is … still … a … vampire. And this is still a vampire pic. Throats are torn open, blood is let and consumed, bodies are battered and impaled, and swords hack and hew as the superpowered prince slashes his way through thousands of fierce foes.
In the end, the rancid hand of evil prevails. And the movie tells us that that's a good thing. While this back-to-the-drawing-board tale may not be (quite) as gruesome as others of its undead cinematic kith, it surely makes darkness and deadliness look good. Cool. Maybe even a little sparkly.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Luke Evans as Vlad; Sarah Gadon as Mirena; Dominic Cooper as Mehmed; Charles Dance as Master Vampire; Art Parkinson as Ingeras
Gary Shore ( )
October 10, 2014
February 3, 2015