One of my favorite things about all things vampire is that each book, movie, or television show has the opportunity to adhere to a traditional legend or create their own. Even today's more traditional vampire stories diverge from the vision made popular by Bram Stoker in some way. Stoker wasn't the first to write about vampires, but he was the beginning of Dracula. The name is derived from the House of Drăculești. People have presumed Dracula is based on Vlad III (the Impaler) of the House of Drăculești because of his gruesome history, but the name "Vlad" was never mentioned in Bram Stoker's Dracula. Vlad the Impaler is a rich source for a story, and that is where Dracula Untold begins.
While checking out his region with his men, Vlad stumbles upon a cave. A creature lashes out and kills all of the men except Vlad, who barely manages to fight his way into the sunlight. Later, the Ottoman empire commands him to give up one thousand children plus his own son in tribute. Vlad the Impaler elects to uphold a promise to his wife and spare his son despite the lack of an army. Out of desperation, he returns to the cave and strikes a bargain.
A man struck a deal with a demon in order to gain power and strength. The demon fooled the man. Although he developed great power, he could not leave the cave until someone willingly returned and bargained with him. Until then, he was destined to be trapped, feeding on the hapless humans who wandered into his domain. He was no longer human, now a creature of the night. If a man drinks the creature's blood, he will gain strength, powers, and immortality. He will be able to see and hear through the creatures of the night. He is able to shapeshift and regenerate from grave injuries. In exchange for these powers, the man who drinks the blood loses the ability to walk in daylight and is susceptible to silver. A terrible thirst will take over and if he succumbs, he will be a creature of the night forever. If he does not cave into his desire, he will revert back to a human on the third day. The coolest part? When the turned wants to go fast, they become bazillions of little bats.
I enjoyed the movie, particularly the special effects. The historical deviations made me twitch a little, but I found the take on the vampire interesting and the story was solid. I like how the lore was a throw back to Stoker's Dracula. I think it deserved more than the 23% rating on Rotten Tomatoes (considering I'd happily sit through it again, I'd put it at 60-70%). Go into it expecting little in the way of plot and a lot in the way of action and special effects and you'll be entertained. I'm looking forward to the sequel.
For more on Vlad the Impaler, I recommend the documentary Vlad the Impaler: In Search of the Real Dracula.