Dracula 2000
review by Cynthia Fuchs, 5 January 2001

Why 2K

Vampire Rules are usually pretty well fixed -- that's what makes them Vampire Rules. Some are well-known (wooden stakes, garlic, and crosses tend to repel vampires, sunlight makes them sizzle) and some are less so (vampires can't enter your home unless you invite them inside, vampires cast no mirror reflections), but they're all supposed to be adhered to -- otherwise, those pesky undeads can do whatever the heck they want, and mere mortals are left defenseless. At the same time, as anyone who's been exposed to Buffy -- or  Samurai Vampire Bikers from Hell (1992), or Vampire Lesbian Kickboxers (2000) -- knows, it's hard to stay fresh. And so, you might sympathize with the challenge faced by anyone looking to make a vampire movie these days -- it's all so, well, you know... done. Think Max Schreck, Bela Lugosi, William Marshall, Klaus Kinski, Nic Cage, Gary Oldman, Kirsten Dunst, Wesley Snipes, even George Hamilton, the tannest toothy fiend ever to wander the planet. With all this and more, quite literally since the birth of cinema, it would certainly seem that there's little new to be said on the subject.

But you can't keep a good count down -- into this way-overkilled fray leaps yet another vampire flick, carefully timed for maximum suckage during this Holiday Season. Based for a minute on the Bram Stoker novel, Wes Craven Presents Dracula 2000 (which is executive produced by the master) is set mostly in London and New Orleans, around the time of Mardi Gras last year, with the most famous of all vampires again seeking the chick he feels destined to possess. The film should be focused on the considerable charms of Omar Epps, Jennifer Esposito, Jonny Lee Miller Sean Patrick Thomas, and Christopher Plummer as Dr. Van Helsing, but instead, it gives over too much screen-time to Gerard Butler's decidedly uncharming performance as Dracula 2K.

It's not a bad performance, just a little tedious, like he's determined that glowering will get him more access to the necks of assorted young lovelies than any of that wussy-boy seduction stuff. At the beginning of the film, Cranky Drac is locked up inside a steel coffin in the dungeon-like basement of a London building (the sign says, "Carfax Antiquities," Carfax Abbey being the name of the Count's residence way back in Stoker's day, which makes the sign, you know, clever and intertextual). It seems that when the first Van Helsing mostly killed Dracula, he secured the remains in the coffin, where they were intended to stay until a means to completely kill him might be found. Clearly, D2K -- co-written by director Patrick Lussier (former Wes Craven editor, notably for all three Scream joints) and Joel Soisson -- plays fast and loose with the Legend, the Stoker novel, and the Vampire Rules, apparently in the service of keeping viewers from anticipating every single move that every single character makes at every single point. To an extent, this disregard of precedents works, but once you do figure out the basic layout, it won't take much for you to guess general directions of all that follows. So, you won't be surprised to see the present day Dr. Van Helsing, Abraham (Plummer) fretting about his legacies, which include not only the "antiques" business and those yeechy leftovers in the basement, but also a little detail concerning his own blood and late rituals with leeches.

Because this movie comes tagged with the number "2000," you can also expect that young folks  constitute a next generation of biters and bitees. The first of these introduced is Abraham's assistant Simon (Miller), a sweet enough lad with just a touch of a murky past. Details are sketchy, but you do learn that he owes the old man big time and so will lay down his life for him, which of course he will be called on to do, repeatedly. But if Simon is the golden boy, he's more than offset -- in energy and presence on screen -- by the crew of would-be thieves who steal the coffin, thinking that if Van Helsing keeps it so well guarded, it must be worth bijillions to someone. This crew includes Solina (Esposito) and her boyfriend Marcus (Epps), along with Nightshade (Danny Masterson) and Trick (Thomas), and don't you know, as soon as they've lugged their loot onto an airplane bound for some island, Dracula awakens and eats everyone in sight, including the pilot, so the plane crashes. Or more precisely, he turns them all into minions. And if nothing else, watching Solina, Marcus, and Trick mug about and flip through the air while in pursuit of edible napes is something of a treat. Epps and Esposito especially seem to be having frightful fun.

But this treat is brief, because, again and again, the film turns back to that lugubrious guy, who, you learn soon enough is seeking a very specific nape, belonging to one Mary Heller (Justine Waddell), living in New Orleans, where she works in a Virgin Records store (and hence sports the "Virgin" logo t-shirt a few more times than necessary to make the joke stick) and finds herself haunted by bloody nightmares and inexplicable sexual longings, all involving this Drac fellow, though she doesn't know him yet. The reason he wants her is that she's Van Helsing's estranged daughter and is also conveniently related to Drac himself, such that the incest thing works out nicely, that is, underlines their perversity in case it needed underlining, and borrows from Paul Shrader's Cat People. Oh, and along the way to hooking up with Mary, Dracula gnaws at and so establishes his three-girls harem, with Solina, a completely cleavagey reporter who happens to be at the airplane crash site (Jeri Ryan), and Mary's roommate, red-haired Lucy (Vitamin C).

By the time everyone arrives in the Big Easy -- and the scene is crowded with standard-issue Mardi Gras street-revelers, men with face-paint and feathers, women without shirts -- you're quite ready to have Dracula just exterminate them all, double-quick, so you don't have to sit through the rest of it. But then you'd miss the film's most outrageous and overreaching bit of business, which is to concoct a brandy-new explanation for Dracula's constant sorrow. And that is, he somehow is Judas Iscariot, the one person in history who carries enough guilt to make an everlasting undead life look Très Hellish. Actually, the film is a little sketchy on these details too -- Dracula might be a descendant of Judas, or the spirit of Judas, or something else having to do with Judas -- but whatever he is, it's clear that he has good reason to be so damn mopey.

But for all that, Dracula's not exactly the type to inspire sympathy -- he's too single-minded, and not self-parodic like Tom Cruise or full of himself like Snipes. Which means that when the showdown-that-must-come finally does come, you don't feel like there's much at stake. Thank goodness, it takes place in and around a rooftop greenhouse, allowing Simon to fight off the Ladies of the Night with flowerpots and garden shears. Not quite as fine as the finale in Out For Justice, when Steven Seagal beats up William Forsythe with kitchen utensils -- rolling pins and frying pans -- but it is among D2K's wittier moments.

Written and
Directed by:

Patrick Lussier

Jonny Lee Miller
Justine Waddell
Gerard Butler
Omar Epps
Christopher Plummer
Colleen Ann Fitzpatrick 
(Vitamin C)
Jennifer Esposito
Sean Patrick Thomas
Danny Masterson
Jeri Ryan
Lochlyn Munro








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