Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Weeks Too Late: Bram Stoker's Dracula

Bram Stoker's Dracula. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola & Written by James V. Hart.

Preconceptions: I seriously considered hiding under my desk and giving this one a miss, or possibly pulling a Doomwench and getting someone else to review it for me. I did call in for back up, and some of the jokes in this may be blatantly ripped off of AAlgar (it's way more fun to do the "whoa, Dracula" Keanu impressions when there is someone else around). While I'm fully willing to acknowledge that Dracula is culturally imp....zzzzzz...wah? huh? Time for school already? Yeah that's pretty well how I felt about the book and doubly how I felt about this movie. Here is where I would normally apologize for my lack of taste and sophistication, but not this time! I don't like Stoker and while he might have come up with a good idea, that doesn't make him an interesting writer. So I'm stomping my little foot and being unrepentant. What's more Bram Stoker's Dracula came out in the prime of my goth-ing years, I should have been enthralled. Not so much. I was hopping it would be better than I remember it being. I mean, I hadn''t seen it in years, and it's possible that I'd think better of it. I mean, Coppola knows what's what and Oldman is one of the greats of our lifetime.

General Review: Uuugh. Uuuuuuuuugh. Does grunting and hiding count as a review? Because that is all I want to do when I think about it. I can think of few movies that I had as much trouble getting through in one sitting. I spent the entire movie bargaining with myself. When I finally reached the end, I owed me at least three ice cream cones and a pony. Seriously, this might as well have been called Bram Stoker's Waiting for Gary Oldman To Come Back On Screen. Every moment not spent with him (alright and occasionally with Anthony Hopkins and Tom Waits who were pretty funny) was almost unendurable. While Dracula has many, many problems (each of which I intend to slice from the living body of the flick and present to you in all their glistening, spurt-y glory) the cast was by far the worst. Winona Ryder and Keanu Reeves were...were....everything that is terrible and uncharismatic in actors. It was as if Katie Holmes in Dark Knight, Natalie Portman in Thor and Hallie Berry in everything traveled back in time and created children containing all their defects. Oh and throw Cuba Gooding Jr. in there too for good measure (and I guess for sperm). I typically have a soft spot for Ryder and even Reeves has his place, but these two do not belong in an English period piece. And they certainly shouldn't be playing opposite each other. I've seen tile grout with more chemistry and believable, sustained accents. And for all the passion between them, it might as well have been Tile Grout Theater. Reeves' lackluster performances in...well...his entire filmography (except Bill and Ted) made him the first actor me and my friends dubbed a "coatrack" actor, that is that all the other actors just have to make due with him as a prop rather than an equal. They were both wooden, unlikable and totally unbelievable as anything besides furniture.

Even Gary Oldman (who's praises I sing, sing, sing) was brought down by working across from Ryder. While the sequences between them were certainly easier to swallow, they hardly set the screen on fire. Oldman was fantastic, one of the only things that kept me from wandering off and pretending I'd never agreed to watch this. He was excellent as old man Dracula, young prince Dracula and monster-y Dracula. And selling "I don't drink...wine" and "the children of the night, what beautiful music they make" how impressive is that? Nobody should be able to breathe life into those old saws. Hopkins as crazy ol' crackpot Van Helsing was also fun, even if he can't do a German accent any more than Reeves can do an English one.

Having recently re-watched the original
Nosferatu I get what Coppola was trying to do. Yes, he was paying homage to the silent horror flicks, but what he ended up with was something expensive that looked cheap. In trying to mimic, oh I'm sorry homage, the style of those movies, we were constrained by tight shots of tiny looking sets. What could have been a glorious balls to the wall period piece ended up being cramped and ugly. The races across the Carpathian Mountains look like they were done in sound stages the size of my bathroom. And I'm relatively certain London could basically fit down one street. Despite aping the style choices from silent flicks, Coppola didn't manage to copy any of the charm (though he did manage to create a vampire orgy scene that effected the formative years of many, many people).

The writing was shrug worthy, nothing exciting but not much to get m
iffed at either. It followed most of the story beats from the book, adding the rather stupid conceit that Mina was Dracula's girlfriend reborn (rather than just looking like her). I always prefer my Helsings as eccentric loonies, so I enjoyed that take on him.

The effects were also a fairly mixed bag, Oldman, like Schreck before him, looked awesome in his Dracula make up. For some reason, they couldn't find Reeves a realistic looking gray wig and he spent half the movie looking like he'd wandered through a fake snow factory. The bat-creature was impressive and the wolf man, like all wolf men, was terrible (one day Hollywood will figure out how to do it, in this I believe).

It is deeply ingrained in me to dig vampires. I spent a whooole lot of my girlhood and even more of my womanhood happily sighing over some terrible vamp-y tripe. But even for me, Bram Stoker's Dracula is just too much. There are so many missteps, even ignoring the main one of paying any attention to Stoker. If you're feeling like a little undead trash, do yourself a favour and find something else. Shadow of the Vampire is genuinely good;
Interview With the Vampire is more than tolerable; True Blood (Sookie, uh-huh, yeah) is deliciously trashy and there is always the over the top Blade. Stick this one through a high powered shredder and lets all pretend it didn't happen.


  1. i honestly cannot stand this movie. it is so boring. almost as bad as the fucking book. special effects are lame too.

  2. It was seriously almost unendurable. Maybe not QUITE as bad as the Offspring, but pretty close. I guess the special effects were mostly trying to ape Nosferatu, but yeah, mostly they just looked lame.