In the 15th Century, Vlad Dracula (Luke Evans) is Prince of Wallachia and Transylvania. He spent his childhood in the palace of the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire and trained in the Sultan’s elite Janissary Corps, where he made a name for himself as Vlad the Impaler, Son of the Dragon, because he impaled thousands on spears. But later, he became sickened by his own acts. Now, he rules his land in peace.

He and his troops find a helmet in a stream and fear that an Ottoman Turk scouting party is watching. They follow the stream to a cave in Broken Tooth Mountain, which is carpeted in crushed bone. They are attacked by a fast and powerful creature (Charles Dance). Vlad’s retinue is slain and Vlad barely escapes. A monk tells him that the creature is a vampire, who had lived in ancient Rome under the name of Caligula and sought great power but was trapped by a demon in the cave.

Vlad is celebrating Easter with his wife Mirena (Sarah Gordon) and his son Ingeras (Art Parkinson), when the Ottoman troops arrive at the castle. Vlad offers the usual tribute in silver, but the Emissary wants a thousand boys to be trained as Janissaries. Vlad refuses. Mirela thinks he can ask Sultan Mehmet II (Dominic Cooper) for mercy. Vlad offers himself in place of the boys but Mehmet refuses and demands Vlad’s own son be included.

Vlad returns to Broken Tooth Mountain to seek help from the ancient vampire, who warns of unforeseen consequences and offers him blood, which will give Vlad the powers of a vampire. If he can refrain from drinking blood again for three days, he will return to human form. Otherwise, he will be a vampire forever and the Ancient One will be freed. He accepts and can transform into a cloud of bats. When the Ottoman army attacks, he kills them all. Then he sends most of his castle’s inhabitants to Cozia Monastery for safety. Mirela realizes what is happening to him.

The Ottoman army marches on the monastery. A cloud of bats attacks them, but they are only a decoy and a handful of Turks infiltrate the monastery, kill many, and kidnap Ingeras. Mirena is killed trying to defend her son and Vlad cannot save her. She begs him to drink her blood before the sun rises so he can save Ingeras. He does that and becomes a vampire forever. The Ancient One in the cave is released, black clouds gather and Vlad turns the survivors and mortally wounded into a vampire army.

Mehmed prepares to invade Europe, but his forces are massacred by the vampire army. Vlad goes after Mehmet, but he has lined the floor of his tent with silver coins and fights him with a silver sword. He prepares to stake Vlad in the heart, but Vlad escapes as a cloud of bats. Calling himself Dracula, Son of the Devil, he kills Mehmet and drinks his blood. He sends his son away from the vampire army and dispels the storm clouds to bathe them all in sunlight, including himself. But a man who adores Vlad drags his body out of the sunlight and offers up his blood. Ingeras is crowned Prince of Wallachia and Vlad disappears. In modern London, Vlad Dracula meets a woman named Mina who resembles Mirela.

The film was directed by Gary Shore, his first, written by Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless. Ignoring the storyline of Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula, it is entirely an origin story, not actually untold but told only in flashbacks or prefaces in other Dracula films. It is not a bad historical fantasy drama, powerfully done by good actors, and the grand battle scenes with huge armies attacked by giant clouds of bats are impressive. It received mixed reviews from critics but made a fair profit. It was supposed to be part of the rebooted Universal Monsters series. Lots of sequels were planned, but never happened. Dracula’s son’s name Ingeras means Little Angel in Romanian. All the characters are supposed to be Turks, but none of the actors spoke Turkish and their accents were all over the map. It is said that Vlad kills 5419 people in the film, but I don’t know how they could tell. The real Vlad Tepes was Prince of Wallachia three times.

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