The opening Vlad the Impaler sequence from Coppola's adaptation of Bram Stoker's masterwork was by far and away the most interesting thing about that 1992 (more romance than) horror so there shouldn't be too many grumbles with the idea of this take. The first of a three-picture deal for Irish ad director Gary Shore, this origins story (blood-suckers aside is somewhat historically accurate) is engaging nonsense and skips along at a brisk pace until everything falls asunder in the final ten.
t's the fifteenth century and Vlad Tepes (Evans) is the prince of Transylvania; a former boy slave sold into the Ottoman army, Vlad's military prowess earned his captors' respect who then placed him on his homeland throne. When he angers his overlord (Cooper), who threatens invasion, Vlad turns to a vampire (Dance) for help and a deal is struck: Vlad will become a vampiric one-man army and save his kingdom but if he can't stave off the insatiable thirst for blood for three days he must swap places with Dance and become a vampire forever...


r so one thinks. The ins and outs of the oddly one-sided deal (surely Dance could demand better terms with the desperate prince?) aren't consistent and by the close there's a feeling that scenes were cut to justify the reversal. That takes work to figure out but most of the hard graft goes into turning Tepes into a good guy. He's a kind husband (to Sarah Gadon), a tender father (to Art Parkinson), a fair ruler, and he only impaled the entire population of one village because he wouldn't have to do it to another nine. What? Wait a minute. Can you repeat that? "Sometimes the world no longer needs a hero," he ventures, "sometimes it needs a monster." Eh, that's what every deranged despot thinks, Vlad.
aking Coppola's introductory sequence as inspiration, Shore also keeps the 'love never dies' theme – Vlad does what he does because he loves family - and there is some allusion is made between thirst for blood and the bloodlust of a warmonger but that's never developed (cuts again?). Shore sticks to the tale's tragic origins and lends Transylvania the expected creepiness but he can be overly flashy, with one battle undertaken in the reflection of a blade. Luke Evans has the face for the part, Cooper does not, and Dance enjoys himself with his Twyin Lannister-as-vampire take. And Paul Kaye's monk has the requisite wild-eyed madness.
ot bad.