Beginning life as Vlad the Impaler (Luke Evans), the esteemed warrior vies for a peaceful existence alongside his wife (Sarah Gadon) and young son (Art Parkinson), though finds little solitude before the longstanding rivalry with the Turks comes to a head when leader Mehmed (Dominic Cooper) demands over a thousand young boys for his army. Desperate to save his kingdom – and most importantly, his family – Vlad will do whatever it takes to come out on top, and so sets off to the meet an elusive, treacherous vampire (Charles Dance) to plead for his powers.
While there is a positive that comes with this immense battle taking place between supernatural forces and human beings, highlighting the sense of ineptitude in the latter and enforcing the significant advantage of our protagonist, it makes for a dull, predictable production. The Turks offer no threat at all. Yes vampires don’t like silver, and daylight can be something of an issue, but any time they appear to be in any minute sense of peril, they can just turn into bats and fly away. It doesn’t allow any sense of intensity, as you never doubt who will come out on top. This begins as a story of the underdog, but the tables are turned in too dramatic fashion. It’s why superheroes always lock horns with other supernatural beasts – it’s got to be fair game.
In spite of the grandiose surroundings, however, Shore never once loses sight of the more intimate, human emotions – with the majority of the more impactful scenes taking place back at the caste between Vlad and his family. Shore plays heavily on the idea of reality, allowing the viewer to connect to the protagonist on a human level, by pushing the notion of addiction. The way Vlad craves blood is well-judged, as we see him battle his conscious; a far more intriguing and entertaining battle than those in the war zone, which are unvaried and monotonous.
It also helps that Evans and Gadon steal the show, while both have such a perfect image for their respective parts, seeming so at home in this costume drama environment, playing up to the sensibilities of the genre with a knowing affection. Sadly the same can’t be said of the supporting cast, who are criminally underused, particularly the case for Dance, who, if you’re going to hire to be in your movie, give him something to truly get his teeth into.