by Robert Bach
British version of the old standby provides some good jolts and offers a new solution to the puzzle of Count Dracula.
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“The most seductive evil of all time has now been unleashed in ours.” Thus reads the tag-line for Dracula 2000, which screamed into theaters on Friday, December 22, 2000. The film opens with a brief segment set in England during the 1800s but quickly advances to the year 2000, still in the traditional Dracula setting of England. We begin to meet familiar Bram Stoker characters such as Van Helsing (Christopher Plummer), now an antique collector/store owner; Mina (Justine Waddell), who is actually Van Helsing’s daughter and named Mary in this version; Lucy (Colleen Fitzpatrick), Mary’s housemate and best friend. The Jonathan Harker of this film is Simon (Jonny Lee Miller), who is like a son to Van Helsing and his favorite employee. And of course, Dracula himself (Gerard Butler). The usual defenses are still valid - silver bullet to the heart, off with the head, sunlight and anything Christian.
That’s it as far as following Bram Stoker’s Dracula storyline - from here director Patrick Lussier guides us into uncharted territory. In the year 2000, it turns out that Van Helsing is actually using the antique store as a cover for a terrible secret that only he knows about…but that is about to change. Deep within the high security vaults of his store is a seemingly unopenable coffin that is uncovered by one one of his employees and her band of thieves hoping for some jewels and priceless artifacts. They steal the coffin and the story begins. We learn that Van Helsing is actually over 100 years old and has made his life’s quest to destroy Dracula (the contents of the stolen coffin) because it seems that Dracula was the first vampire to come into existence and the usual defenses, mentioned above, will not kill Dracula but only slow him down a bit. Van Helsing has devoted his life to discovering the origin of Dracula and a way to destroy him.
The coffin is transported to New Orleans and, as it turns out, the home of Mary, Van Helsing’s daughter whom he has not been in contact with for many, many years. He remained distant in order to protect her from the truth that he has been using Dracula’s blood (via leaches kept in the coffin) to stay alive (and look like he’s still in his 50s). Mary is unaware that she has had the essence of Dracula’s blood flowing through her veins since conception. This twist gives her the ability to interact with Dracula through dreams, as if she were right there with him. These dreams of Mary’s provide some of the best sequences in the film as we are in two places at the same time…Mary is always home and simultaneously wherever Dracula is, and the effects in creating these scenes are amazing.
Director Lussier and writer Joel Soisson offer up a cast of virtual unknowns. Aside from Christopher Plummer, who plays Van Helsing, the cast is young with very little feature film experience under their belt. There are some recognizable faces: Jeri Ryan (Star Trek: Voyager), Danny Masterson (That Seventies Show), and Colleen Fitzpatrick (aka Vitamin C). Although Wes Craven (Scream) is not the writer or the director, his touch is all over this movie. And for good reason, as Lussier worked with Craven on all three Scream movies, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare and Craven’s Tv series Nightmare Cafe - we might have another Kevin Williamson on our hands because this movie is awesome.
Eventually, Van Helsing travels to New Orleans as soon as he discovers that Dracula is missing. Young Simon trails him and together they seek out Dracula, Mary, and the truth of Dracula’s origins and who he really is and why. This element was the best part of the film because Lussier answers the questions of the creature’s origin - something which Bram Stoker never did. Van Helsing and his daughter both pay dearly for these answers. And I won’t reveal what they are because of the unexpected twist that had my jaw dropping to the ground…you should be allowed to have the same experience without some idiot ruining it for you.
Lussier’s explanations, however, are absolutely amazing and in-line with Stoker’s story as well - its a wonder to me that in all of the umpteen Dracula movies I’ve seen nobody ever came up with these explanations - because they make perfect sense…I tried to find a loop hole in Lussier’s answers, but couldn’t. It explains why his weaknesses are what they are, why there isn’t any evidence of vampires beyond a couple of thousand years, and so on. The story gets very intense and I won’t go into it so that you can experience it yourself.
Dracula 2000 also has some of the best camera work and cinematography of any horror film of the year. We get to see the action taking place from eerie and very unique angles. The only problem is that the film doesn’t quite take full advantage of the theatrical screen, as What Lies Beneath did earlier this year. That film used the full screen rather than just focusing on one part or the other - this film did that, but not as much as it should have.
All in all, this movie got a few good jumps out of me and had me checking under the bed before going to sleep, like any good Dracula film should. I’d rate this among the best Dracula films due to the intensity and originality of the writing and directing. If you’re into movies with intense plot twists, not lame ones like Unbreakable, but something along the lines of The Sixth Sense, Dracula 2000 have you retracing the film in your mind well after you’ve left the theater. If that’s you and you’re up for a good Christmas fright fest - don’t miss Dracula 2000!!
Robert Bach is a writer, musician and former entertainment editor for an East Coast publication.
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