Monday, September 28, 2009

27 Days of Fright (The Reprint) - Day Twenty Five

Originally Published Thursday 30th October 2008

Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Dracula is the foundation upon which many of the modern vampire stories are based. Written in the final years of the nineteenth century by Bram Stoker, a drunken Irishman (I don’t know if he was really a drunk but considering the material in his novel and the rumours of his membership of occult organisations he’d better have a bloody good excuse for his behaviour and being a piss-head is a decent excuse for anything), Dracula has laid down what are now considered to be the common rules for vampires – drinking blood, coffins, bats, stakes, and the like, so it’s impact on horror cannot be underestimated. Due to it’s important place in the annuls of horror there are of course multiple film adaptations and spin offs, and like Frankenstein and Werewolves, Dracula got an updated “official” remake during the 1990’s.

Following the plot of the novel, Dracula tells of the fall of the Transylvanian warlord during the fifteenth century after his wife kills herself and is eternally damned. Dracula (or Dracul, or Vlad, or whatever) turn his back on the Church and promises to rise from the grave in order to get a little revenge. The story moves forward to 1897 (the year the book was first published) where we meet Jonathon Harker and his bride to be Mina. Harker is sent to Transylvania to sort out a real estate deal for Count Dracula (who as far as anyone is concerned at this point is just wacky eastern Eurotrash ) who is buying up property in London. Harker goes and gets the job done but the Count refuses to let him leave after seeing a picture of Harker’s missus-to-be, Mina who Dracula believes to be his long dead wife. Harker slowly grows wise to Dracula and tries to escape the castle.

Meanwhile, Dracula travels to London to hook up with Mina and while working on that he has a go on her friend Lucy, alternating between engaging in depraved acts of sexual theatre and drinking her blood. Lucy’s worried suitors call for help from noted quack Abraham Van Helsing who diagnoses a case of vampire attack. Dracula takes his interest in Lucy to the next level and bumps her off, making her a vampire. The lads decide to take drastic action and kill her with a trusty stake and a quick decapitation. Mina, who has travelled to Transylvania to collect her boyfriend after he escaped the castle, returns with him, freshly married, to London. Dracula makes another move on Mina and despite her marriage she’s up for it – but just as she’s about to put out, the boys burst in, ready to kill Dracula.

Drac splits for home and the lads give chase, divided into two groups, they follow Dracula to his castle for the big showdown.

Many stores beef up security when Wynona's around, but there's no need to get this angry about it!

Bram Stoker’s Dracula is a well made, artistic, sensual film that is mostly loyal to the core story of the original novel. The film, like the book, uses readings from diaries, letters, case notes, ships logs, and other media to progress the story and this gives the impression of a true story being presented. The cinematography is fantastic, giving a moody, surreal impression of late Victorian London. Costume, music, and most of the special effects are great, though the rings of blue fire outside the castle near the beginning are a little off.

What lets down Dracula in a very bad way is the choice of actors. Keanu Reeves as Harker was a woeful mistake, and his performance is barely watchable, not to mention his British accent. At that stage in his career he was best known for Point Break and the Bill & Ted movies – what possessed them to cast him as Harker? Almost as bad is Wynona Ryder as Mina, here’s a girl that Vlad has pursued past the walls of death and time and she’s played by a shoplifting skank? Finally, Cary Elwes as one of the (British) suitors is pretty bad. It’s a safe bet that the casting decisions were based on financial appeal in the US as opposed to getting the best performances. Gary Oldman as the Count and Anthony Hopkins as Van Helsing were the highlights and perfectly cast, shame about the rest.

One Thumb Up and One Thumb Down for Bram Stoker’s Dracula.


  1. Watched this again recently, it does have its moments. In some ways it throws back to the Hammer films made in colour.
    On the DVD extras they appear to have scared the life out of a poor little girl used for the scene where Lucy is a Vampire.

  2. That reminds me of the DVD extras for "Hostel", there's a scene near the end in the train station where some little kid was meant to have a big part but the scene was changed when the director, having seen the kids reation to what they were doing, decided they were going too far! Considering the rest of that movie, what they wanted to do must have been pretty bad!