Monday, June 30, 2014

Dracula 2000

Dracula Revealed
by Rusty White

Director: Patrick Lussier
Starring: Christopher Plummer, Jonney Lee Miller, Justine Waddell, Gerard Butler, Omar Epps, Jennifer Esposito, Jeri Ryan, Danny Masterson
Length: 2 hours 7 minutes
Rated: R
Rating: 3 STARS

I had misgivings going into "Dracula 2000." I love a good vampire movie, and find myself upset by a lot of the drivel that is released. I'm happy to report that "Dracula 2000" is a good vampire movie. It's not a great vampire movie, ala "Near Dark," "Count Yorga, Vampire" or the first three Christopher Lee/Hammer Dracula films, but "Dracula 2000" is a well written, character driven gothic horror film. "Dracula 2000" neatly incorporates elements of the more traditional Hammer style gothic vampire movies and more modern interpretations such as "Near Dark" and "Blade." Thankfully missing is the confusing, quick cut cinematography which marred Coppola's interesting "Bram Stoker's Dracula." Like Coppola's film, "Dracula 2000" has some well thought out and executed ideas concerning Dracula's origin and his relationship with Professor Van Helsing.

After a brief introduction showing Dracula's arrive in London in 1895, the scene shifts to present day London. Abraham Van Helsing (Christopher Plummer), grand son of the legendary vampire slayer, runs an international antiques brokerage out of a restored Carfax Abbey. He is aided by a young protege, Simon (Jonny Lee Miller) and the sexy ice queen Solina (Jennifer Esposito). As the day ends, with Solina rebuffing Simon's romantic overtures, Simon leaves the high-tech, high-security building. Moments later, the Abby is raided by a group of thieves led by Marcus (Omar Epps.) It seems that Marcus and Solina are lovers intent on relieving Van Helsing of the valuables hidden behind his million dollar security system. Unknown to this band of freebooters, the only valuable stored in this vault is a mysterious unopenable coffin. The bandits decide to take the coffin with them and the next thing you know they are winging their way across the Atlantic in a private jet.

The scene shifts to New Orleans. Mardi Gras is in full swing. The pixyish Mary (Justine Waddell) is having visions of a dark man who is coming for her. Her bimbo roommate Lucy (Colleen Fitzpatrick) tells her she needs a man in her bed to make her forget the man in her head. Lucy's uninhibited attitude (and the characters name) lets the viewer know that she will soon be joining the ranks of the undead. It seems that our heroine, Mary has more than a Psychic bond with the Count (Gerard Butler). Dracula arrives in the Louisiana swamps via a plane crash. He's come to claim what is his. He is followed closely by Van Helsing and Simon. What follows, I'll leave to you to discover.

The movie's biggest flaw it is the choice of actor to play the title character. Gerard Butler is a tall and dark, but lacks the charisma and sexual animalism needed to carry the movie. Fortunately, the other characters provide more than enough screen presence to overcome the miscasting. Christopher Plummer plays Van Helsing with the right air of dignity. He is a worthy successor to Peter Cushing. There are several supporting performances which are real treats. Omar Epps does a nice turn as a master criminal turned vampire. He seems to be enjoying himself without resorting to ham. Tough as he is Epps learns that one should not "ever, ever f**k with an antiques dealer!" Jennifer Esposito is just plain hot as the carnal vampire, Selena. Her scene in the police station is a gem of vampiric seduction. She could bite me anytime, anywhere. As could Jeri Ryan, as a New Orleans news woman who becomes Dracula's first taste of Cajun food. Danny Masterson, (Hyde, from my favorite "That 70s Show") has a nice comic turn as one of the thieves turned vampire. I'd like to see more of him on the big screen.

Jonny Lee Miller and Justine Waddell as Simon and Mary mess well as the hero and heroine throw together by fate to end this ultimate evil. Neither had been exposed to the dark underside of the living dead. To say more about them would give away one of the two very interesting and original ideas and plot devices used in this movie. I'd rather not ruin for those who have not seen it yet.

My rule of thumb to not run "spoiler" reviews also prevents me from discussing the biggest surprise of the film. I really was blown away by the revelation of just who Dracula really was. I have so many things that I would like to discuss concerning this, so if you see the film, please e-mail me and let me know what you thought.

Obviously, I am a big fan of vampire movies, and as such, I will probably rate this film higher than some others. Screenwriter Joel Soisson and Director Patrick Lussier have extensive experience in the horror movie genre. These two have put together an intelligent, erotic and at times frightening film. The movie is thankfully free from excessive gore. There is blood to spare, but it seems to be just the right amount. "Dracula 2000" could have been a little sexier though. Jennifer Esposito outshines the rest of the vampire ladies.

"Dracula 2000" is perfect holiday entertainment.

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