Feb 7, 2014
Will the new Dracula suck?
It’s not news that lately there’s been an increase in reimaginings of classic horror movies. Aside from the rather cynical motives behind the making of these movies, there really isn’t anything wrong with taking an old story and putting a new spin on it. Unless you spin it so hard that it gets dizzy and vomits all over itself, which appears to be the formula for modern horror reboots.
Recently, a trailer was released for a brand new Dracula movie titled Dracula Untold. Everyone’s favorite blood-sucking undead count is back, but this time it looks like he’s getting a Maleficent-like backstory where he starts out as a hero but ends up turning to the dark side. Well, that’s not so bad. The trailer looks nice, and it’s vampires! As long as it’s not Twilight, it’s hard to mess up vampires, right? Well… don’t count on that.
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Horror revamps have been unscrupulously churned out en masse of late, and their track record isn’t so great. Take, for instance, Dracula’s buddy Frankenstein(’s monster): In this year’s travesty I, Frankenstein, the monster is supplanted into a story that really has no connection to Frankenstein, his monster, or anything, really. In fact, why Frankenstein? It could easily have been anybody as the hero of this movie. Why not just slap Snake Plissken in there and call it a day? It would have made about as much sense. Even if it’s supposed to be a continuation, or fall under the guise of “artistic liberties”, it doesn’t excuse it from being a terrible mess of a movie and a terrible adaptation.
And then there’s 2010’s The Wolfman, which fails for almost the exact opposite reason: director Joe Johnston neglects to bring anything new or fresh or interesting to the 1941 original, other than an abundance of CGI and gore. Benicio del Toro is literally an American werewolf in London, but the John Landis film (along with other ‘80s films like Wolfen and The Howling) already did a pretty good job of reimagining werewolf mythology and bringing it into the modern horror era. The 2010 version just feels like it came out a few decades too late.
Another factor to consider is that Universal recently announced plans for its own “cinematic universe” to eventually team up all of their classic monsters. These days, all the studios are falling over themselves to do crossover movies, even though no one other than Marvel has really made a team-up movie work as of yet. So you’re probably thinking Dracula Untold will be the first entry in that universe, right? You’d be wrong. The continuity will begin with the 2016 Mummy reboot, and this new Dracula movie will be totally unrelated. Before it’s even released, it seems they’re already telling us it’s unworthy of having a place in the bigger picture.
This could mean nothing at all, or it could be a huge red flag. Another possible red flag is that the movie comes to us from some fresh faces: this is director Gary Shore’s first feature film, and the writing team of Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless have no other credits to their names. It’s a big deal to take an iconic character and give him a prequel of sorts, and even bigger still to make it a good one, and it remains to be seen if a group of newcomers are up to the task. This could also be a positive; Perhaps what the wonderful world of horror remakes needs is some new blood, so to speak. With that in mind, however, it’s important to remember that just because it’s an adaptation that goes in its own direction, it’s not exempt from being compared to the classic, more straight-from-the-book movies that came before it.
Ultimately, I can’t say for certain whether anything mentioned will have a bearing on the quality of the movie or not, but there does seem to be a disturbing pattern with these reimaginings. Older horror movies were about the slow burn, while the new ones are about gore and flashiness and over-edited CGI action. It feels a bit incompatible. It seems they’re starting more from the perspective of, “we have to make Dracula/Wolfman/Mummy/Frankenstein hip for the new generation!” instead of trying to figure out why these characters caught on in the first place.
Regardless, as long as Dracula Untold isn’t hyped as the second coming of Dracula films or something, it has a good chance of turning out well. Judging by the trailer alone, the worst case scenario is it becomes just another generic fantasy action popcorn flick—and contrary to how harsh that sounds, that’s not at all a bad thing. We need those kinds of movies, too. So will the new Dracula suck? Maybe not, so long as it doesn’t get too outrageous. Hopefully, it won’t be a story that was better left untold.