'Dracula 2000' is a serviceable rip-off

Category: Dracula 2000 Reviews | Posted by: admin
Article Date: December 24, 2000 | Publication: Sarasota Herald-Tribune | Author: Bill Kelley
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Watching "Dracula 2000," the new vampire movie "presented" by horror maestro Wes Craven (but actually directed by Patrick Lussier, Craven's former film editor), I was reminded how the vampire thriller is a unique mini-genre, as different from other horror pictures as is a western or war movie.

"Dracula 2000," which revives Transylvania's centuries-old bloodsucker and plunks him down in New Orleans during Mardi Gras, is a serviceable, moderately entertaining exploitation movie, I guess, but its creators are so determined to cram every bit of undead trivia into it that the dizzying parade of props, gimmicks and stock plot devices barely leaves room for a genuine storyline.

What we do get is blatantly derivative of earlier films (mainly the Hammer Studios "Dracula" series from the '50s, '60s and '70s), perhaps intentionally so.

Count Dracula's remains, for example, are accidentally stolen, along with a stash of other loot, in the robbery of an antique shop by a bunch of street punks (led by Omar Epps). It's a near-exact reversal of a similar scene in Hammer's "Taste the Blood of Dracula" ('69). And it's not alone in the new film's inventory of purloined material.

The more contemporary touches are also uninspired. Craven's influence (and the fact that screenwriter Joel Soisson's script was "polished" - without credit - by the writers of "Scream 3" and "Urban Legends: Final Cut") assures that "Dracula 2000" rejects a fluid narrative in favor of the jump-cut, episodic structure preferred by teen-agers with short attention spans.

These qualifications aside, "Dracula 2000" hits the target (if not the bullseye) often enough to be worth recommending to genre buffs. And its lame attempts at campy, bad-taste humor never involve Count Dracula (nicely played by British actor Gerard Butler, jockeying between sullen dignity and aggressive athleticism), who is treated with deference throughout.

The premise, in which a presumed descendant of Prof. Van Helsing, Dracula's old nemesis (a scenery-chewing Christopher Plummer), takes on the vampire and his 21st century acolytes, exists mainly to place the film's gory set-pieces in as many spooky, photogenic locations (and there are some beauties - the production design is superb) as the movie's running time allows.

"Dracula 2000" isn't intended to pay tribute to novelist Bram Stoker (although, ironically, it often adheres to the format of the original book), or his creation, one of the most-filmed literary characters in screen history. It is intended to gauge a modern audience's potential interest in a "new" Dracula, and if there is any, to launch a franchise for Miramax's genre-flick subsidiary, Dimension Films.

Given those less-than-lofty goals, the end product could have been far worse.

REVIEW

Wes Craven's Dracula 2000 B

Gerard Butler, Christopher Plummer, Omar Epps. Written by Joel Soisson. Directed by Patrick Lussier. Rated: R.


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