Bram Stoker’s Dracula is a Polarizing Movie
In Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the main vampire, Vlad himself, is a lonely, forlorn creature with a centuries of religious hate and a longing for love. It is really hard to feel genuinely scared with this kind of Dracula lurking about. But the movie does have its shining moments, and the some of the actors are exceptionally fun to watch (Gary Oldman manages to live up to the undead role). It does get a little tiring to keep up with the odd transitions and the way that the film seems to expect its viewers to put together all the random dots. So is this a good movie? It goes both ways.
Dracula, the Lovesick Vampire
The film starts off with the key driving force of Dracula’s life. As a human in the 1400’s, he dutifully fulfilled his religious obligations by marching against the Turks and actually winning (in the name of religion no less). But on his victorious return home, he learns that his wife, Elisabeta, has committed suicide when she heard fake news of his death. Even worse, his church now considers her soul as damned for having killed herself. He rages against this and curses the church of his faith.
The film advances to the later 1800’s and Dracula wishes to purchase land in London (as to why, the film fails to elaborate, and this ends up as an unresolved plot). Jonathan Harker is sent to Transylvania order to arrange the papers. When the two meet, Dracula discovers that Harker’s fiancée, Mina, looks just like Elisabeta. The vampire lord quickly sends his brides to seduce and kill Harker while he makes his way to London.
In London, Dracula makes full use of his shape changing abilities to seek out Mina. First he seduces and turns Lucy, who is a close friend of Mina. Then he tries to befriend Mina directly. Lucy, who is slowly turning, is brought to the attention of Morris (her former suitor), Dr. Seward, and her fiancé, Holmwood. They realize that she has been bit by a vampire and contact Professor Abraham Van Helsing.
The rest of the film is a mad chase as Dracula manages to capture and bite Mina, who appears to be aware of her past incarnation of Elisabeta. Harker also manages to join the chase as Dracula brings Mina back to Transylvania. The film ends with Harker and Morris managing to fatally wound Dracula and Mina grants him closure from his long ordeal of waiting by killing him. Dracula and Elisabeta’s souls are freed and they are able to finally ascend to heaven. It is assumed that the Harkers are reunited.
Doctor Lecter, is that You?
Anthony Hopkins is cast as Professor Van Helsing, though many of his mannerisms that have been associated with his role in Silence of the Lambs (released just a year before Bram Stoker’s Dracula) so it feels a little weird seeing Helsing acting all serial-killer like when he’s trying to be mysterious. On the other hand, Keanu Reeves is giving the entire world a preview of the very same unamused and disconnected look that he wears all throughout The Devil’s Advocate.
Not surprisingly, Gary Oldman takes his role as Dracula to amazing levels, exuding both charisma and power with almost every enunciated word that comes out of his lips. Indeed, he’d be one of the most iconic Dracula actors if it only were not for the overly contrived way that the film is delivered.
Where’s the Horror?
The way that the film is marketed with the overtly gothic and dark themes makes you think that this movie will be far more sinister than the Exorcist or Omen, and yet we get something more akin to Bonfire of the Vanities. The film tries to be too sexy to the point that it gets really awkward. Sadie Frost’s seduction scene and the attack of the brides on Keanu feel like they don’t quite belong with the overall film. Of course, the general sense of disjointedness in each scene is proof that Coppola is unable to grasp or deliver a consistently smooth transition of one event to the next in this movie.