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ANCIENT STORY COMES ALIVE IN ADEQUATE 'DRACULA' UPDATE

Category: Dracula 2000 Reviews
Article Date: December 23, 2000 | Publication: Dayton Daily News | Author: Laura Dempsey; Dayton Daily News
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Dark prince prowls New Orleans

So who is this Dracula, really? Depends on who's asking.

According to Dracula 2000 screenwriter Joel Soisson, he's not a myth, a legend or the ravings of an Irish novelist. He's got a real history, this poor undead seducer of women, drinker of blood, stalker of the night. And there's a good, solid reason he's so averse to all things religious.

Dracula 2000 riddles us this: The one, true original vampire has never been killed: no stake, sun, silver or head-chopping got rid of this demon, and Abraham Van Helsing (Christopher Plummer) tried 'em all. Finally, Van Helsing gave up, choosing instead to imprison the Count in a well-protected coffin inside a well-guarded vault.

Which, obviously, raises some questions among the staff.

Believing they're after gold or something similarly tangible, a pack of thieves raids the vault. The coffin doesn't scare them, nor do the grisly deaths of a couple of buddies. Even so, what they get is more than they bargained for and nothing they can trade on the black market.

What they get is eternal life on the prowl, courtesy of the first, the best, the sexiest undead. Dracula is loose, and it's off to New Orleans.

Back in the Big Easy lives a woman named Mary (Justine Waddell), who works at a Virgin record store (hint hint) and who's suffered from horrible, blood-sucking nightmares all her life. Her buddy the priest can't tell her what's wrong even though he was friends with her mother, from whom she believes her dark troubles stem.

Soon enough, all the ends start looping together, drawing in old Abraham (who's much, much older than he looks), Mary, her mother and Dracula. And about 80 minutes in, we get a glimpse of Dracula's true, tortured soul, while Mary figures out the only way to shut him up. She's helped in her mission by the stalwart Simon (Jonny Lee Miller), strong-jawed and good-hearted, whose loyalty to Mary's father keeps him at her back.

The gore is plentiful, but once the stomach settles, Dracula 2000 is a fair updating of the ancient legend. The story's main revelation - Dracula's true identity - even makes a little sense, but very little. It's a worthy screenwriting stretch, and in best continuing-saga tradition, the door is left open for as many more Draculas as there is financial backing.

The cast of up-and-comers is first-rate, starting at the top with the dark prince himself. Gerard Butler ( Mrs. Brown ) represents Scotland at its brooding best, a real seductive presence behind those elongated incisors. As Simon, Miller ( Trainspotting, Mansfield Park ) is less riveting, but well matched by his Mansfield Park co-star Waddell. They're a good-looking bunch, but Dracula deserves it.

BOX: B-

Copyright 2000 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

 


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