[dropcap letter="A"]s our demons and monsters of legend become glittering clockwork parodies, action figures, or animated munchkins, it is director Gary Shore who now takes up the task of bringing the story of Dracula, the granddaddy of all vamps, to a new generation of horror enthusiasts.
“Dracula,” the novel by Bram Stoker, has its roots in the story of the Wallachian Prince Vlad III, aka Kaziglu Bey or the Impaler Prince. Shore’s tale presupposes that Vlad did become a vampire, but chooses to focus on the historic facts (or as close to) that led the good Prince Vladdy to bargain with dark forces and finally succumb to the wiles of vampirism.
Revisionist history? Alterations for dramatic purposes? Some of it, yeah. While the grandiosity and pomp of the movie in many places falls apart with hammy lines/acting and contrived scenes of unusual WTF-ness, avid horror buffs will appreciate the effort and mission of the cast and crew, they have passion and certainly gave it their all despite falling short of ticking off all the necessary marks. Sometimes it’s the offbeat timing, sometimes there are cinematic tones that are just too off color.
The action scenes and demonstration of Vlad’s powers (despite having had zero training from the Master Vampire) are exquisitely furious, and a highlight of the acting is the chemistry between lead guy Luke Evans and Canadian beauty Sarah Gadon, who plays Mirena/Mina, Vlad’s loving wife.
If for nothing else the eye candy of the battle scenes and the “I am a vampire!” scenes will carry the day, enough for you to want to don a cape, the cool red Transylvanian armor shaped like a dragon’s skin, and pretend to burst into a flight of bats to terrify your enemies and leave their women in lamentation.
Here are 8 tips for better ways to impale your enemy on the spear of your Wallachian wrath.


 





 
Dominic Cooper (“Captain America: The First Avenger,” “My Week With Marilyn”) plays the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II of Turkey, the ruler of much of Eastern Europe and the Silk Road routes. During the middle ages the Sultan sought to acquire and train boys in order to turn them into perfect soldiers who would hold no moral or ethical obligations. These soldiers became part of the elite, masked force known as The Jannisaries.
Vlad was once part of the Jannisaries, taken from his family as a boy and trained in warfare and combat. He eventually became known as “Tsepes” or "The Impaler" for his great skill in decimating the opposition and, more importantly, for his use of wooden stakes to raise the bodies of the defeated and display them on the roads of the territories the Ottoman Turks conquered. The bodies would often remain on the spear rods as vultures and blackbirds nibbled the rotting flesh, putting much fear into the hearts of any armies passing by said routes. His best count was in the high 900s before he turned all fangy. You have to hand it to the Prince, he had the psychological warfare thing down pat before the CIA’s Kubark Manual was even a glimmer in the first spook’s eye.
Do you have any idea how much single-minded strength it takes to impale or, order the impalement, of hundreds of soldiers?
Eventually, Vlad was able to escape from his duty as a soldier, and was made the token prince of Transylvania, a tribute territory (read: no rights) to the Turkish Empire.


 





 
Meet Mrs. Drac, Canadian beauty Sarah Gadon (“A Dangerous Method,” “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”).
When director Gary Shore began the process of casting Mirena, he had in his mind a woman who was the antithesis of her husband: one who was of purity and light.
“Mirena is the innocence in all of this,” Shore explained. “When you see Vlad’s journey to the dark side, you have to have a counterpoint and Mirena is that. She stays pure all the way to the end—pure virtues, pure values.  She doesn’t become morally corrupt.”
Sarah Gadon agrees: “Mirena is the moral compass of the film.  She’s the one who is unwavering in her belief and unwavering in her ideas.  Every time her principles are tested, she rises to the occasion and fights for them. Even though this film has a good deal of history, their romance feels very contemporary.  Here’s a warrior, a prince, a fighter and a leader going out and risking his life for his people and his family, and that makes sense to a contemporary family. Think of Army wives and soldiers going off to war.  That made us feel as if the story was real and weighted in reality.”


 





 
One thing’s for sure in the year 1462: Vlad lived in a time of constant war. Transylvania was at the frontier of two great empires: the Ottoman Turks and the Austrian Hapsburgs. When the movie starts, Transylvania has enjoyed a prolonged period of peace under the just and fair rule of the battle-weary Prince of Wallachia, and his beloved and brave wife.
Together, they have brokered peace for their country and ensured its people are well-protected, especially from the powerful Ottoman Empire—an ever-expanding scourge that has its sights on global domination. This after all the things that Vlad had suffered as a child, being taken away and trained in the Ottoman army, and then as a prince being imprisoned, first by the Turks and later by the Hungarians.
The historic Vlad Tepes’s father was actually murdered, while his older brother, Mircea, was blinded with red-hot iron stakes and buried alive.
In our movie’s timeline, Transylvania lives under the heel as a tribute state to Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II, who then demands 1,000 of Wallachia’s boys—including Vlad’s own son, Ingeras (Art Parkinson of “Game of Thrones”)—be torn from their parents’ homes and forced to become child soldiers in his army. Looks like the Sultan isn’t intimidated at all by Vlad’s ability to leave a forest of stakes in his army’s wake.
Vlad only has a short time to decide: should he do the same as his father before him and give up his son to the Sultan? Or should he seek the help of a monster, as rumors abound in the distant Broken Tooth Mountain, to defeat the Turks but ultimately doom his soul to a life of servitude? Choices, choices.


 





 
Vlad III and Mehmed II are not the only historical figures linked to Dracula’s origin. Written into the story as the true origin of the vampire curse is the Master Vampire—an unexpected character to find in the 15th century.
Eternally trapped on Broken Tooth Mountain, the Master Vampire is annexed from the world.
Shore muses on casting Charles Dance (Tywin Lannister in “Game of Thrones”) in the Master Vamp role: “The Master Vampire is the game maker in all of this. While Vlad courts danger when he seeks out the Master, he has no idea what he’s gotten himself into. When we cast the role, we knew no one could better bring this character to life than Charles Dance.”
“The Master has spent centuries isolated in this cavern, being sustained only by the blood of those unfortunate enough to pass nearby. When Vlad and his men investigate the disappearance of Turkish soldiers early on in the film, Vlad barely makes it out of the mountain alive. Once the prince is forced to a last resort, he must seek out the Master’s help and temporarily gain the only power that could stop the sultan’s advancing forces,” explained Dance, then laughed: “Luke’s impossibly handsome, obviously talented and generous to a fault. He put up with me in my deeply unpleasant makeup and rotten fangs crawling all over him and licking his neck!”


 





 
Nothing like a kick-ass cover of the Tears for Fears classic to inform the scene of an infernal decision of gambling your soul in exchange for the power to defend your home from an invading Ottoman horde.


 





 
See, there’s no such thing as revisionist history for the undead. Vlad, after he decides to forsake letting his son be a hostage to the Sultan, finds himself with a less than stellar state of arms and soldiers. So he journeys to Broken Tooth Mountain where he encounters a foul demon known as The Master Vampire, and enters into a Faustian bargain: Vlad will get the strength of 100 men, the speed of a falling star and enough power to crush his enemies, BUT he will be inflicted with an insatiable thirst to drink human blood.
The bigger catch is that, if by the end of three days Vlad manages to resist drinking any plasma, he will return to his former self sans fangs and perhaps in that time manage to save his people from annihilation. If he fails and opens up a throat, he will be forced to dwell in the darkness for the rest of his days, feeding only on the blood of humans to replace demon in the cave as the new Master Vamp.
That’s love of family and country for you. True leadership, where art thou?


 




 
Here are a few more facts on the historic Kagizlu Bey:

  • Because Vlad’s father belonged to the Order of the Dragon—a secretive organization of Christian knights—that fought the Muslim Ottoman Empire, Vlad II took to the name Dracul, which is roughly translated from Romanian into “dragon/devil.”

  • After his father’s death, Vlad III ruled Wallachia, south of Transylvania, from 1448 until his own death in 1476. Following in his father’s footsteps, Vlad III was also inducted into the Order of the Dragon. It was then that he instructed his men to call him “Dracula,” which means “son of the dragon/devil” in Romanian.

  • Reportedly killed in 1476 fighting the Turks, Vlad III’s head was cut off and displayed in Constantinople for the entire city to see and fear. Or did he really?

  • In 1931 archaeologists searching Snagov found a casket partially covered in a purple shroud embroidered with gold. The skeleton inside was covered with pieces of faded silk brocade, similar to a shirt depicted in an old painting of Dracula. All the contents were taken to the History Museum in Bucharest but have since disappeared without a trace, leaving the mysteries of the real Prince Dracula unanswered. So, where is the Count’s dessicated body




 





 
Think on the nature of the blood sucker for a while: While the man history calls Dracula, for all intents and purposes, was actually a real historical figure vampires are found in almost every culture and language on Earth—from the Babylonians’ Lilitu, a succubus who thrived on babies, to the iron-toothed Asasabonsam of the Ashanti peoples of Ghana, to our very own blood and viscera eaters, the Aswang —the legend of blood-sucking creatures of the night may be traced back thousands of years.  But it was not until the 10th century, in Slavic Europe, that the word “vampire” first appeared in modern language.
Most of them were ferocious beasts who hunted in the night and hungered constantly for fresh plasma, did not glimmer, and did not go to high school to mack on febrile young waifs.
During one battle, Dracula retreated into nearby mountains, impaling people as he went. The Turkish advance was halted because the Wultan could not bear the stench from the decaying corpses. Another time, Dracula was reported to have eaten a meal on a table set up outside amidst hundreds of impaled victims. On occasion he was also reported to have eaten bread dipped in blood.
Vlad III was no doubt many things: ruthless dictator, unrivaled warrior, father, husband and rumored vampire. There are not many characters in film and literary history that present such a complex set of emotions and challenging transitions as Dracula.
 
“Dracula Untold” is now screening in Metro Manila theaters.
All photos courtesy of United International Pictures.


 



[dropcap letter="A"]s our demons and monsters of legend become glittering clockwork parodies, action figures, or animated munchkins, it is director Gary Shore who now takes up the task of bringing the story of Dracula, the granddaddy of all vamps, to a new generation of horror enthusiasts.
“Dracula,” the novel by Bram Stoker, has its roots in the story of the Wallachian Prince Vlad III, aka Kaziglu Bey or the Impaler Prince. Shore’s tale presupposes that Vlad did become a vampire, but chooses to focus on the historic facts (or as close to) that led the good Prince Vladdy to bargain with dark forces and finally succumb to the wiles of vampirism.
Revisionist history? Alterations for dramatic purposes? Some of it, yeah. While the grandiosity and pomp of the movie in many places falls apart with hammy lines/acting and contrived scenes of unusual WTF-ness, avid horror buffs will appreciate the effort and mission of the cast and crew, they have passion and certainly gave it their all despite falling short of ticking off all the necessary marks. Sometimes it’s the offbeat timing, sometimes there are cinematic tones that are just too off color.
The action scenes and demonstration of Vlad’s powers (despite having had zero training from the Master Vampire) are exquisitely furious, and a highlight of the acting is the chemistry between lead guy Luke Evans and Canadian beauty Sarah Gadon, who plays Mirena/Mina, Vlad’s loving wife.
If for nothing else the eye candy of the battle scenes and the “I am a vampire!” scenes will carry the day, enough for you to want to don a cape, the cool red Transylvanian armor shaped like a dragon’s skin, and pretend to burst into a flight of bats to terrify your enemies and leave their women in lamentation.
Here are 8 tips for better ways to impale your enemy on the spear of your Wallachian wrath.


 





 
Dominic Cooper (“Captain America: The First Avenger,” “My Week With Marilyn”) plays the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II of Turkey, the ruler of much of Eastern Europe and the Silk Road routes. During the middle ages the Sultan sought to acquire and train boys in order to turn them into perfect soldiers who would hold no moral or ethical obligations. These soldiers became part of the elite, masked force known as The Jannisaries.
Vlad was once part of the Jannisaries, taken from his family as a boy and trained in warfare and combat. He eventually became known as “Tsepes” or "The Impaler" for his great skill in decimating the opposition and, more importantly, for his use of wooden stakes to raise the bodies of the defeated and display them on the roads of the territories the Ottoman Turks conquered. The bodies would often remain on the spear rods as vultures and blackbirds nibbled the rotting flesh, putting much fear into the hearts of any armies passing by said routes. His best count was in the high 900s before he turned all fangy. You have to hand it to the Prince, he had the psychological warfare thing down pat before the CIA’s Kubark Manual was even a glimmer in the first spook’s eye.
Do you have any idea how much single-minded strength it takes to impale or, order the impalement, of hundreds of soldiers?
Eventually, Vlad was able to escape from his duty as a soldier, and was made the token prince of Transylvania, a tribute territory (read: no rights) to the Turkish Empire.


 





 
Meet Mrs. Drac, Canadian beauty Sarah Gadon (“A Dangerous Method,” “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”).
When director Gary Shore began the process of casting Mirena, he had in his mind a woman who was the antithesis of her husband: one who was of purity and light.
“Mirena is the innocence in all of this,” Shore explained. “When you see Vlad’s journey to the dark side, you have to have a counterpoint and Mirena is that. She stays pure all the way to the end—pure virtues, pure values.  She doesn’t become morally corrupt.”
Sarah Gadon agrees: “Mirena is the moral compass of the film.  She’s the one who is unwavering in her belief and unwavering in her ideas.  Every time her principles are tested, she rises to the occasion and fights for them. Even though this film has a good deal of history, their romance feels very contemporary.  Here’s a warrior, a prince, a fighter and a leader going out and risking his life for his people and his family, and that makes sense to a contemporary family. Think of Army wives and soldiers going off to war.  That made us feel as if the story was real and weighted in reality.”


 





 
One thing’s for sure in the year 1462: Vlad lived in a time of constant war. Transylvania was at the frontier of two great empires: the Ottoman Turks and the Austrian Hapsburgs. When the movie starts, Transylvania has enjoyed a prolonged period of peace under the just and fair rule of the battle-weary Prince of Wallachia, and his beloved and brave wife.
Together, they have brokered peace for their country and ensured its people are well-protected, especially from the powerful Ottoman Empire—an ever-expanding scourge that has its sights on global domination. This after all the things that Vlad had suffered as a child, being taken away and trained in the Ottoman army, and then as a prince being imprisoned, first by the Turks and later by the Hungarians.
The historic Vlad Tepes’s father was actually murdered, while his older brother, Mircea, was blinded with red-hot iron stakes and buried alive.
In our movie’s timeline, Transylvania lives under the heel as a tribute state to Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II, who then demands 1,000 of Wallachia’s boys—including Vlad’s own son, Ingeras (Art Parkinson of “Game of Thrones”)—be torn from their parents’ homes and forced to become child soldiers in his army. Looks like the Sultan isn’t intimidated at all by Vlad’s ability to leave a forest of stakes in his army’s wake.
Vlad only has a short time to decide: should he do the same as his father before him and give up his son to the Sultan? Or should he seek the help of a monster, as rumors abound in the distant Broken Tooth Mountain, to defeat the Turks but ultimately doom his soul to a life of servitude? Choices, choices.


 





 
Vlad III and Mehmed II are not the only historical figures linked to Dracula’s origin. Written into the story as the true origin of the vampire curse is the Master Vampire—an unexpected character to find in the 15th century.
Eternally trapped on Broken Tooth Mountain, the Master Vampire is annexed from the world.
Shore muses on casting Charles Dance (Tywin Lannister in “Game of Thrones”) in the Master Vamp role: “The Master Vampire is the game maker in all of this. While Vlad courts danger when he seeks out the Master, he has no idea what he’s gotten himself into. When we cast the role, we knew no one could better bring this character to life than Charles Dance.”
“The Master has spent centuries isolated in this cavern, being sustained only by the blood of those unfortunate enough to pass nearby. When Vlad and his men investigate the disappearance of Turkish soldiers early on in the film, Vlad barely makes it out of the mountain alive. Once the prince is forced to a last resort, he must seek out the Master’s help and temporarily gain the only power that could stop the sultan’s advancing forces,” explained Dance, then laughed: “Luke’s impossibly handsome, obviously talented and generous to a fault. He put up with me in my deeply unpleasant makeup and rotten fangs crawling all over him and licking his neck!”


 





 
Nothing like a kick-ass cover of the Tears for Fears classic to inform the scene of an infernal decision of gambling your soul in exchange for the power to defend your home from an invading Ottoman horde.


 





 
See, there’s no such thing as revisionist history for the undead. Vlad, after he decides to forsake letting his son be a hostage to the Sultan, finds himself with a less than stellar state of arms and soldiers. So he journeys to Broken Tooth Mountain where he encounters a foul demon known as The Master Vampire, and enters into a Faustian bargain: Vlad will get the strength of 100 men, the speed of a falling star and enough power to crush his enemies, BUT he will be inflicted with an insatiable thirst to drink human blood.
The bigger catch is that, if by the end of three days Vlad manages to resist drinking any plasma, he will return to his former self sans fangs and perhaps in that time manage to save his people from annihilation. If he fails and opens up a throat, he will be forced to dwell in the darkness for the rest of his days, feeding only on the blood of humans to replace demon in the cave as the new Master Vamp.
That’s love of family and country for you. True leadership, where art thou?


 




 
Here are a few more facts on the historic Kagizlu Bey:

  • Because Vlad’s father belonged to the Order of the Dragon—a secretive organization of Christian knights—that fought the Muslim Ottoman Empire, Vlad II took to the name Dracul, which is roughly translated from Romanian into “dragon/devil.”

  • After his father’s death, Vlad III ruled Wallachia, south of Transylvania, from 1448 until his own death in 1476. Following in his father’s footsteps, Vlad III was also inducted into the Order of the Dragon. It was then that he instructed his men to call him “Dracula,” which means “son of the dragon/devil” in Romanian.

  • Reportedly killed in 1476 fighting the Turks, Vlad III’s head was cut off and displayed in Constantinople for the entire city to see and fear. Or did he really?

  • In 1931 archaeologists searching Snagov found a casket partially covered in a purple shroud embroidered with gold. The skeleton inside was covered with pieces of faded silk brocade, similar to a shirt depicted in an old painting of Dracula. All the contents were taken to the History Museum in Bucharest but have since disappeared without a trace, leaving the mysteries of the real Prince Dracula unanswered. So, where is the Count’s dessicated body




 





 
Think on the nature of the blood sucker for a while: While the man history calls Dracula, for all intents and purposes, was actually a real historical figure vampires are found in almost every culture and language on Earth—from the Babylonians’ Lilitu, a succubus who thrived on babies, to the iron-toothed Asasabonsam of the Ashanti peoples of Ghana, to our very own blood and viscera eaters, the Aswang —the legend of blood-sucking creatures of the night may be traced back thousands of years.  But it was not until the 10th century, in Slavic Europe, that the word “vampire” first appeared in modern language.
Most of them were ferocious beasts who hunted in the night and hungered constantly for fresh plasma, did not glimmer, and did not go to high school to mack on febrile young waifs.
During one battle, Dracula retreated into nearby mountains, impaling people as he went. The Turkish advance was halted because the Wultan could not bear the stench from the decaying corpses. Another time, Dracula was reported to have eaten a meal on a table set up outside amidst hundreds of impaled victims. On occasion he was also reported to have eaten bread dipped in blood.
Vlad III was no doubt many things: ruthless dictator, unrivaled warrior, father, husband and rumored vampire. There are not many characters in film and literary history that present such a complex set of emotions and challenging transitions as Dracula.
 
“Dracula Untold” is now screening in Metro Manila theaters.
All photos courtesy of United International Pictures.


 

Karl R. De Mesa

Karl R. De Mesa is the author of the books of horror fiction "Damaged People" and "News of the Shaman." He's also a journalist and editor. His latest book is "Report from the Abyss," a collection of non-fiction. He plays guitar for the drone metal band Gonzo Army.

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