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Retro Review: Dracula 2000

The text below the break is part of a theatrical review originally published on May 19th, 2001.

Here are some updated thoughts:  (sigh) Anyone who knows me knows I don’t like vampires.  Wait, that’s not true.  I’m okay when vampire are acting like vampires:  the undead epitome of evil that feast on humans like humans feast on cattle . . . no seduction, no relationship, just the thirst of the forsaken, the wanton slaughter, and humanity’s fight against the creatures of the night.  Ever since Interview With the Vampire the genre has been metrosexualized, turning vampires (for the most part) into Saturday night douchebags looking for hookups.  What happened to the good old days?!  Bring back kickass vampires!

Dracula 2000 is just another example of another bad addition to a genre in need of a reset.  But it won’t be reset to the days of the dark Carpathian mountains, the halls of Scholomance (no, not the World of Warcraft dungeon) where Dracula learned from the Devil himself . . . not until women (the current demographic for vampire nonsense) get over their weird fantasies about being seduced and dominated (e.g. 50 Shades of Grey) by hundreds year old walking corpses that want to bite them!  That’s some twisted necrophiliac fantasy shit going on that I will never understand!  Ewwww . . . make it stop!

I got carried away with the parenthesis (of course!) in this review to let my sarcasm shine through (why not?!).[divider style=”dashed” top=”20″ bottom=”20″]

I usually don’t mind when classics are modernized.  I enjoy the retelling of a classic tale once in a while, but Dracula is a story that has been filmed too many times.  So many times, in fact, that it has lost its edge.  We know this story by heart.  We know the characters.  We know the plot twists.  Even the dialogue has a strange familiarity.  And that’s why you can’t help but feel cheated while watching Dracula 2000.  The film has a few good things working for it, but it doesn’t know how to exploit these for its own gain.

This retelling is pretty unoriginal.  An old man named Van Helsing (Christopher Plummer) is an antique collector who specializes in old torture items and deadly weapons.  He owns a safe which seems to house expensive treasures.  A group of thieves (counting Jennifer Esposito and Omar Epps) decide to rob this supposed cache.  But they stumble upon an old metal coffin which is surrounded with booby traps.  After a series of deadly accidents, they steal the coffin and secure it on a plane to New Orleans (always vampires an New Orleans, another tired trope!).

The coffin is opened on the plane, but they find a lot more than just jewels.  There is a body in the coffin (why wouldn’t there be?) . . . a body covered with leaches.  Who could this be (you get one guess)?  Blood flows on the body and Dracula (who is played by newcomer Gerard Butler) is awakened from his long sleep.

Van Helsing knows that Dracula will go after his daughter, Mary (Justine Waddell).  Why?  Because Van Helsing has been keeping himself alive by accepting some of Dracula’s blood through leaches, which means that Mary is a descendant of Dracula because she has some of his blood.  Van Helsing leaves with his protege Simon (British actor Johnny Lee Miller from . . . Hackers!) for New Orleans (of course!).

But Van Helsing tells us that there is no way known to man to kill Dracula.  The traditional vampire kryptonite, crosses, stakes, garlic, will not work on him . . . of course!  He is too powerful to be stopped by such mundane things. While Dracula goes after Mary, Simon & Van Helsing try to protect the young woman from her true father.

[box type=”error” align=”” class=”” width=””]Dracula 2000 PosterWhen a team of techno-savvy thieves break into a high security vault, they don’t discover priceless works of art . . . they find a crypt unopened for 100 years!  Suddenly, the ancient terror of Dracula is unleashed, and his first destination is America (of course!) and the exotic city of New Orleans (of course! — a place where he feels at home.  Not far behind, however, is a vampire hunter from London determined to save a young woman with who Dracula shares a dark legacy!

Dracula 2000
Director:  Patrick Lussier
Starring:  Gerard Butler, Sean Patrick Thomas, Christopher Plummer, Jeri Ryan
Genre:  Horror
Media:  Film, 99 minutes
Rating: R
Budget: $54 million
Box Office: $47 million, worldwide
Year: December 22, 2000

2 out of 5 stars[/box]

The plot in itself isn’t too bad (yes it is).  The New Orleans scenes take place during Mardi Gras (of course!), but the basics of the plot actually resembles the original Bram Stoker story (barely).  There are several good scary moments, as the one where the coffin is first opened.  This scene actually made me jump (lightly).  But the truly scary moments are few and far between.  The rest of the modernized sections are just plain bad.  There is one scene where all the occupants of the plane wake up from death.  They’re now all vampires (why not!) and Simon and Van Helsing will try and kill them all before they can make it out of the morgue.  The vampires talk like something out of a bad comic book (of course!); they’re dropping bad one-liners and idiotic slang.  I’m pretty sure that they had them talk like this to create some sort of comic relief (why not?  This is a horror movie after all!), but the vampires are never scary enough to generate chills.

The best moments come when Dracula is on screen.  Butler is adequately cast as the oldest vampire.  There’s a scene where Mary is chased by Dracula through her dreams.  He appears everywhere as she goes down a long hallway.  The tension in that scene is well set.  But then, near the end,  Dracula loses all credibility as we learn how he became one of the forsaken.  The screenwriters tried to give the story a new twist by giving Dracula a different origin, but that origin is just unacceptable.  The heart of the original story was based in a story of Shakespearean love and loss.  Dracula made a pact with the devil when his fiancé killed herself when she believed her fiancé was dead.  But here, they give Dracula a new and insipid origin story that made me dislike the film altogether.

Visually, the film looks good.  The cinematography is superb.  It looks a lot better than most slasher flicks.  Patrick Lussier, the person who directed Halloween H20, is very solid behind the camera.  He knows what he wants to show and how he wants to show it.  But Lussier is also given a story credit and an editing credit (he is a veteran editor of horror films, as he worked on modern spook fests like Mimic and Scream 2).  So in a way, he ruined his own film (of course!).  He invented an unacceptable story line and the film’s choppy, horrible editing (in one shot a guy will be lying on the floor, in the next he is standing and fighting a vampire, which happens numerous times) is very distracting.

The climax is horrible and most of the performances are bad, but the film has strong actors in Butler, Miller, Plummer and Waddell.  The next time Lussier decides to do a film, I wish he would decide whether he wants to be an editor or a director.  He shouldn’t take on both tasks.  This film had potential, but it falls flat because of Lussier.  The only thing I can say is, better luck next time.

There are a few very scary moments in Dracula 2000.  Overall, the film is a flaccid adaptation of the classic Dracula story.  I started disliking the movie halfway through, when it seemed Lussier decided to tone down the dark mood of the beginning and make a lighter movie.  Poor choice.  The film isn’t a total loss, and you could do much worse than seeing this film during your holiday break.  But for a great Dracula movie, rent Francis Ford Coppola’s version, the only truly faithful adaptation.

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Note:   I’m revisiting and re-posting many older articles (almost 200) I’ve written (or contributed to) over the years, either for my own purposes or as contributions to other sites now long digitally decayed and dormant.  These reviews/articles will appear in their nearly raw, unaltered form, with a few updated thoughts at the beginning of each.

Words © 2015-2022, Neal Ulen. All rights reserved.
Images/videos cited © to their respective owner(s).

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