(Jonathan Ryan posting for new Rogue writer, Jen Schlameuss-Perry.)
I finally got to see Dracula Untold the other night. I’ve been wanting to see it since I saw the first trailer months before it was in the theaters. I thought it was pretty good—it included the proper history of Vlad and included some very interesting moral questions.
I’ve always been sympathetic to Dracula. Don’t get me wrong—vampires are the worst (besides European dragons—I don’t get all this Hollywood propaganda to make dragons attractive to kids. Train dragons? To do what? Steal your gold, burn you to death, eat you and then sit on your treasure with lust in his heart for eons?). But, the story of Vlad, imprisoned as a young boy and hardened into a vicious warrior is sad. It doesn’t require a lot of imagination to understand why he became so nuts later on; with all the impaling people and then inviting his buddies to dinner only to lock them in the room and murder them, and other crazy antics that eventually earn him the legend of being a blood-drinker.
This movie offered what I thought to be a neat link between the history and the legend. He gets home to Transylvania after fighting with the Turks and makes a life for himself. He’s got a lovely wife and son that he obviously loves very much and a kingdom that he feels honorably protective of. He’s faced with what seems to him an impossible conundrum—he has to make a tribute of 1000 boys (including his son) to the Turks—delivering them to the same fate that he was given up to. He doesn’t want to do that. Apparently, he promised his wife before they got married that this would never happen, and he promised his son. Plus, he knows what horrors would await these children that he is sworn to protect. He wants another way.
Unfortunately, though he does have a certain faith in God, he decides to go the demon route. He knows the story of the demon that makes people Vampires, and thinks this is a good solution to his problem. This is where the best part of the movie happens. Vlad goes into the Vampire’s cave, seeking to partake in his power. The Vampire asks him a very interesting question, “What kind of a man crawls into his own grave in search of hope?” Hey! I know someone who did that! But, when the guy I’m thinking of did it (Jesus), He was defeating all the evil in the world—not cooperating with it (which may be part of why it worked…just saying’). Vlad goes in placing his trust and his hope in something that is irrevocably evil. The demon warns him that he won’t succeed in his endeavor, but Vlad, having too much faith in himself, believes that he can resist the evil and that it can co-exist with the good in him. He doesn’t seem to know the almost mathematical principle that good and evil can’t occupy the same space. And he thinks that the good end he seeks will justify the evil means he will use (spoiler—it doesn’t).
They also have an exchange about the meaning of his name. The demon says Dracula means “son of the devil” but Vlad thinks it means “son of the dragon” (same difference to me) which he understands to be indicative of his role as protector of his people. Maybe this just proves my point that dragons are evil. Either way, this “dragon” will become the demon that destroys his people, and ultimately that is the meaning his name will take on and remain throughout history.
And there’s another catch. Besides the whole vampire nastiness and the fact that he’s not going to accomplish his goal, sometime in the future, Vlad is going to be required to help this demon fight “the one who made [him] that way,” who must be Michael the Archangel, or God or something—it has to be the enemy of a demon, anyway.
Once he drinks the Vampire’s blood, freeing that dude from the demon and taking it into himself, a change starts occurring in him. He still desires to do good—his intentions are still honorable, but his will has been given over to something not of God which takes him on a gradual path away from God and anything good. The frightened people that he means to protect are thrown off their knees as he yells at them that, “Prayers will not defend these walls!” No—he won’t allow prayer to defend those walls—he has taken the entire burden of defending those walls on himself. And he’s not equipped to handle it—especially since he has given up the best ally he could have (God), and has taken on one who doesn’t have his interests at heart (the demon).
He necessarily isolates himself from people who could have helped him. He can’t be in the light with everyone else because it burns him. He can’t be near his wife because her blood is too tempting. He can’t be with his people because they are (rightly) terrified of the fact that he’s a vampire. And then, there’s that awkward moment when, as he has already lost almost everything he holds dear (his wife falls off a cliff, his people are, in large number, slaughtered), he isolates himself from his son by drinking his enemy’s blood right in front of him. And then he has to give his son to the monks because, oh yeah, he turned the remainder of his people into vampires to help destroy the Turks. The vampires all get burned up by the sun; leaving only Vlad behind.
Now, to be fair, he intended to be burned up, too but a Renfield prototype (or maybe we’ll find out in a future movie that this is Renfield) comes and gives him some blood to drink, which keeps him alive (as alive as a vampire can be). The movie ends with Dracula in modern times meeting up with a lady who looks just like his old wife, or maybe is her reincarnated—I couldn’t tell. But, it certainly left it open to a Bram Stokeresque sequal. I kinda hope Dracula is going to be called upon to fulfill his promise in the cave, but the good that was present in the beginning will prevail and he’ll get his soul back. That would be nice. Because ultimately he is a nice guy—a nice guy who did the wrong thing for the right reason.
Jen Schlameuss-Perry is a massive fan of sci-fi, cartoons and superheroes and loves to write about them in light of her Catholic tradition. She currently works for a Catholic Church and practices martial arts, cares for her family and pets and writes in her spare time. Check out some of Jen’s other stuff on her Facebook page or her website.