Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula ball’s sucking blows. It has all the usual cliches and quotes from the past Dracula movies on top its being a big ‘ol reinvention with Kabuki-style costumes and accents, accents, accents up the ASS! UGH! It sounds like all the nation’s high school rehearsals of Pygmalion rolled into one misdirected mistake of a movie. It’s called Bram Stoker’s Dracula but I don’t remember any blood orgies or cowboys shootin’ at some gulldern carriages in the original novel. But it has been a while since I read the book (with a keen Edward Gorey hardcover) so feel free to correct me in the comments below as to how I have it all wrong. If that turns out to be the case then Bram Stoker’s the fattest idiot.
When the movie retains recognizable characteristics of Draculas past it’s almost passable. Dracula (Gary Oldman) breaks a mirror, crawls down walls, says “I don’t drink wine” and does the whole “children of the night” bit. Renfield, the insane guy who eats bugs, shows up played by Tom Waits with funny hair and glasses. Van Helsing (Anthony Hopkins) goes on about “nosferatu” and the undead. Harker (Keanu Reeves) and Mina (Winona Ryder) are just as dull as ever, and to make things worse, Mina has a greatly expanded role as the reincarnation of Dracula’s dead lover. Did your eyes just roll? Okay, good, mine almost rolled out of my skull and down the street. At least Stephen Sommers made that old chestnut fun again in his Mummy remake.
I don’t mind reinvention and interpretation one bit but the movie is so busy STAMPING everything with its seal of 1990s new-ness it forgets to entertain or at least interest. It’s an hour too long, wasting time on silly-looking sets, extremely ancillary characters like Renfield, who DID things in earlier versions, and Mina’s friend Lucy, who spends nearly all her screentime spouting embarrassing innuendo or masturbatory moans. The Dracula story is rife with sexual metaphor and yes indeed, it SHOULD be sexy but, I know it sounds crazy, simply throwing a plethora of boobies at the camera doesn’t work. There are so many breasts in this movie – including Monica Belluci’s!! ZOMG – it’s distracting and only a tad titillating. But only the way porn is titillating. It’s without class or charm, and only suits to cement this remake as a contemporary modern movie! You know how it’s a contemporary modern movie? Because it’s in color and it’s got TITS.
For a horror movie it’s got a suspicious lack of suspense, opting instead to SHOVE YOUR FACE INTO the oddball art design (Dracula’s old man wig) and the hanky-janky camerawork, which is either so plain as to put to sleep (I nodded off a little) or so erratic it recalls Evil Dead’s first-person rampages, only not as refined. Yeah, I know, not as refined as a movie with Bruce Campbell getting poked in the eye. There are also tons of dopey montage scenes with Dracula’s face or eyes floating around and shit, it just looks embarrassing like they were grasping for straws in the editing room. And TONS of needless narration. All these voice-overs feel like shortcuts yet the movie still feels 10,000 years long. How does that happen? WTF was Coppola THINKING? And the soundtrack, goddammit, is waaaay overpowering. When it doesn’t suck it sounds like a recurring theme from Leon the Professional (fitting, I guess) or plate spinning music from The Turkish Ed Sullivan Show.
Peformances? Yeah, there are certainly performances. Gary Oldman is terrific at first, transforming constantly from a wrinkly old Nosferatu homage, to a giant bat creature or a weird Romanian prince with sunglasses and a stovepipe hat. He’s bizarre as usual and fun at first but like the rest of the movie he grows tiresome. Like, enough already. We know. You’re weird, Gary.
The heroes are duller than wood. Outrageous accent aside, Keanu’s biggest fault is how completely clueless he is. Jonathan Harker is always a dumbfounded prick but considering how fucking bonkers this version of Dracula is (as opposed to the relative refinement of Bela Lugosi’s Count) it’s asking a little much for Harker to apologize to Dracula after he goes crazy and swings a broadsword at him. Yeah, it’s a time before our own, when vampires and Englishmen were polite to the EXTREME to each other but come the fuck on, Harker. And Dracula’s shadow is alive and strangles Harker’s shadow! Dracula ROARS! Keanu yawns! Dracula actually SHAVES him! That’s something you can’t say for the other movies. In Coppola’s version, I’m sorry, Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s version, Dracula shaves people. :3
Winona is actually kind of decent as Mina. She looks like she’s born to play nutjob Gothic heroines and she does the whole English waif thing well but as a main character, who cares? The movie’s struggling enough once the focus shifts on her, but by then it’s too late and it just drags and drags to its silly cowboy shootout end and she doesn’t do much to keep attention. The other actress, Sadie Frost as Lucy, does an admirable job faking orgasms and flopping her dinners around. Bravo!
Anthony Hopkins is just aaawwwwful as vampire hunter Van Helsing, croaking in a German accent while delivering the movie’s only lame attempts at humor. His trademark trait besides his pseudo-scientific knowledge? He’s painfully blunt. Curt, even. Yup, that’s it. He’s at Lucy’s wake (SPOILER ALERT!) and he asks her mourning fiancee for autopsy tools. “Why?” he asks. “I only want to cut off her head and take out her heart!” Ha! He suspects she’s undead! Van Helsing, you insufferable bastard. Not even Stephen Sommers, with all his FUN, could make you a decent movie!
Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula’s one interesting bit, I guess, would be the beginning. An origin scene of sorts, Dracula fights in the Crusades, and the battle plays out like a shadow puppet show. Yup, shadows sure play a big part in this flick. However, once the Church betrays Dracula for some reason he vows to corrupt God’s work and stabs a big cross with his sword and suddenly EVERYTHING starts bleeding. He picks up a chalice of blood, ironically quotes a Bible passage about the blood of Christ, and takes a big gulp. It gives the blood-sucking thing some interesting context but as for the wolves, mist and bats, that’s anyone’s guess.
Oh! He doesn’t even turn into a bat! Not even once! A wolf, a pile of rats and a trained fart, yeah, but no bat. He turns into a batman, though. Which is almost something I’d care about. Keanu’s hair also inexplicably turns white throughout the movie. So not excellent.