10 Years Later, ‘Dracula Untold’s’ Netflix Success Proves It Was Judged Too Harshly

A surprising hit from 2014 lit up the Netflix global charts in the past few weeks. According to Tudum, Gary Shore’s Dracula Untold sat at the number three and seven positions of Netflix’s movie charts in its first two weeks on the platform in June 2024. The action-horror flick, which stars Luke Evans as Vlad Dracula, sank its teeth in and outperformed newer films such as The Flash and even Transformers: Rise of the Beasts to become one of the most-watched movies on the streaming service.

It’s a remarkable achievement for a feature that’s a decade old and wasn’t that well received upon release. Naturally, it begs the question: Was Dracula Untold judged too harshly to begin with?

How Dracula Untold performed in 2014

Dracula Untold swooped into theaters on October 10, 2014. On its opening weekend, it didn’t have the strongest competition as its highest-profile opponents were The Judge and Whiplash, which weren’t exactly scrambling for the same audience. However, there was another threat that proved to be Vlad the Impaler’s holy water: David Fincher’s Gone Girl. Having been released a week earlier, the twisty thriller steamrolled the bloodsucker’s movie out of the way to claim the number one box office spot for the weekend, according to Variety. Ultimately, this impacted the overall financial performance of the film, as it finished with $217.1 million worldwide from a $70 million budget, as per Box Office Mojo. Not the worst results by any means, but certainly not the return that Universal Pictures might have imagined from a movie featuring the legendary Count Dracula.

Universal Pictures

The disappointing financials aside, it was only worse on the review front. The critics held out their crosses, begging Dracula Untold to go back into the coffin and stay there, as the film managed to secure a paltry 25% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. USA Today‘s Brian Truitt said the movie “flirts with dullness,” while Grantland‘s Wesley Morris wrote that “[n]o one needed this story.” Needless to say, it was blow after blow from all angles, and everyone involved in the film must have felt like they were burning in pure sunlight like poor Drac.

The reasons for the hostility toward the origin story

Vampires weren’t exactly in vogue in 2014. The Twilight Saga became the punchline of all jokes, and the audience rolled their eyes at anything related to the creatures of the night. Rather than be seen as the fearsome monsters portrayed in Bram Stoker’s Dracula or F. W. Murnau’s Nosferatu, the immortal bloodsuckers were relegated to sparkly whiners who were about as threatening as Garfield the cat after a night of lasagna binging. No one wanted to see a movie about the Count at the time, and it shows in the disheartening box office returns of Dracula Untold.

The other problem was the lack of an appetite for an origin story about the character. Many reviewers pointed out that the mere premise sounded silly and Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 film featured enough details (or at least enough that mattered) about good ol’ Vlad’s backstory. Remember, this was a pre-Joker and Cruella era, and no one understood why a villain should receive their own origin tale. Dracula is a bad guy after all, and he was portrayed in such a manner in Stoker’s classic 1897 novel, so no one should feel too much sympathy for him because he kills people and drinks their blood, right?

Why the movie succeeds in 2024

An adequate amount of time has passed for everyone to forget the era in which every YA novel adopted a vampire as the love interest. In fact, there’s enough daylight between the last of Twilight – pardon the pun – and now. So, everyone should be capable of watching Dracula Untold without the baggage of before and the preconceived notions of what it should be. What they see instead is a more than competent action-horror film bursting with oodles of lore and a compelling if somewhat tragic backstory about a pop-culture icon.

Universal Pictures

The film is about a noble prince with the potential for violence, who chooses to protect his son rather than hand him over to Sultan Mehmed II (Dominic Cooper). Expectedly, this causes a war to break out between Wallachia and the Ottoman Empire, so Vlad makes a Faustian bargain with the Master Vampire in an effort to keep his family and kingdom safe. He makes a desperate decision out of love, and he lives to regret it as he surrenders everything to save everyone else around him. In the end, he pays the price and is doomed to roam the Earth as a monster for all eternity.

Dracula Untold doesn’t change the mythology, but adds another layer to the complexity of Count Dracula. Yes, he’s a killer and monster, but he was also a man who gave up his humanity for love. Isn’t that the ultimate sacrifice one can make? Perhaps it’s time to give the film the credit it deserved back in 2014. After all, it’s no worse than 2017’s The Mummy, which kicked the stuffing out of the Dark Universe before it even started.

About the author

Sergio Pereira

Sergio is an entertainment journalist who has written about movies, television, video games, and comic books for over a decade and a half. Outside of journalism, he is an award-winning copywriter, screenwriter, and novelist. He holds a degree in media studies and psychology.