There was a time when the thought of the millennium was a fantastical thing, some crazy time in the far flung future that we, as mere mortals couldn’t possibly understand. Now, as we stumble forth through the 21st century we just look back at the year 2000 as something a bit old fashioned and embarrassing.
Talking of old fashioned and embarrassing Dracula 2000 completely passed me by when it came out. Maybe I was too busy not giving a shit about the KY2K or whatever the hell it was. Obviously trying to cash in on both the approaching millennium and the horror revival brought about by Scream*, Drac 2k (as no one probably ever called it) has a cast of young hot things recreating the old Dracula story in modern day New Orleans. This bringing Dracula to the present has, of course, been done before in everything from Blacula to Love at First Bite to Hammer’s Dracula 1972 A.D. usually with terrible results. Drac 2K is really not much better although it does have several things going for it:
2) Christopher Plummer is slumming it as Van Helsing but as anyone who has seen Star Crash will tell you, Plummer slumming it is still better than most people making an effort, as is certainly the case here.
3) It looks incredibly dated, like an episode of Friends but with less sofas. This is a good thing as it brilliantly captures a moment in the 90s when girls wore tiny t-shirts and everyone shopped in Virgin Megastore.
4) It is almost never boring, mostly because its so silly but takes itself incredibly seriously.
But don’t think that these points make this in any way good because it isn’t.
Things start off old school and very promising as we see that old Russian ship the Demeter floating into Victorian England with all the crew dead. There’s a reason why Dracula has endured to this day and it is a lot to do with its incredibly vivid imagery. The sight of the Demeter floating out of the fog with all its crew, their throat cut out, pinned to the mast and helm with no explanation is a powerful sight and director Patrick Lussier creates an atmospheric and creepy beginning. Then, we switch to London in the year 2000 which looks suspiciously like Canada in 1999 and the whole thing goes to pot. Van Helsing lives in some big old building with high security and Jonny Lee Miller. Thanks to a treacherous secretary (Jennifer Esposito), a gang of young and attractive thieves break into Van Helsing’s gaff to steal what they presume is his secret stash of gold. Instead they find a sealed coffin which they presume must contain all his treasure. This is quite a leap of the imagination on their parts. If I broke into a futuristic vault only to find a stiff in a coffin I’d realise something was up, especially when two of my comrades were impaled on spikes in the process of stealing said oblong box.
Not to worry, our thieves and Esposito decide to take the coffin with them and open it on the private jet they presumably have stolen for their getaway to New Orleans. We are then treated an almost endless scene of one guy trying to open the coffin, finally open the coffin, get a leach stuck to his eye, then go look at the corpse in the coffin for about an hour before finally being head butted by Dracula in a helmet. Did I say the film is never boring? No, I said ALMOST never boring: this is the boring bit, it never seems to end. Its a relief when Dracula kills everyone and crashes the plane.
Ah no, there’ s another sub plot which is also pretty tedious. Cutting between all this action we meet Mary (Justine Waddell) and her friend Lucy (er… Vitamin C) living in New Orleans and working at the previously mentioned Virgin Megastore. Mary has been having dreams all her life about Dracula coming to get her and have a good time with her tonsils. For some reason these nightly visits are destroying her very soul. If I was having wet dreams about playing tongue wars with a hot member of the undead I would walk around with a smile on my face all day. Not Mary though, no. She’s a right miserable drip, bursting into tears at a moments notice, having to go home and lie down, leaving parties because its all too much. Lucy is incredibly patient with her. Personally I think she should grow up a bit. She’s getting pursued by a hot eternal being who wants to give her immortality AND great sex for, well, forever. What’s not to like about this scenario?
Dracula himself is played by an incredibly young Gerard Butler and depending on who you ask is either sex on legs or kind of ridiculous. I think the man has grown into himself as he’s aged but here he is definitely within the realms of the ridiculous. The role of Dracula is so iconic and has been brought to the screen so many times that its actually incredibly hard to cast him well. He has to have the gravitas of on ancient being but also be an intoxicating screen presence. The best Draculas (Christopher Lee, Frank Langella) are able to bring all that across often with nothing more than a stare whilst floating through a window, the worst (Richard Roxburgh in Van Helsing, Dominic Purcell in Blade: Trinity) just come across as camp. I think Butler tries his best here but the for the most part he just appears in various scenes, mostly shot from exactly the same angle, and stands there looking menacing. Unfortunately his menacing comes across like he’s just let off a bad fart and is trying to act like someone else dealt it. There is a new spin on his origins though. It turns out that the reason he’s so against crosses and silver is because (SPOILER) he is in fact Judas Iscariot, the cross reminds him of his betrayal of the baby Jesus and silver the thirty pieces of silver he got for said betrayal. That’s quite inventive in a pre-De Vinci code type fashion. Plus when he’s “killed” he is hung (more Judas stuff there) from a crucifix and burnt up by the sun so he’s really getting the full lets-piss-off-the-prince-of-darkness treatment.
Jonny Lee Miller isn’t much better. I’ve seen Miller in Danny Boyle’s Frankenstein at the National, and he’s been killing it in Elemental for a while. He’s another actor who’s grown into a good performer but here he’s lumbered with an incredibly phoney cockney accent (I think that’s what its meant to be) which is jarring every time he opens his mouth. His character is also bit whiny and Plummer acts like he wants to slap him for most of their scenes together.
So what we end up with is a soppy leading lady, a drippy young hero and a Dracula that no one can take very seriously. There are no scares at all after the opening scene on the boat. There’s attempts at scares sure, but everything is so colourful, well lit and glossy that there’s no horrific atmosphere at all. There’s some funky moments like when Miller shoots a jumping Wolf-Dracula and he bursts into a colony of bats but that bit is almost out of nowhere and feels like it was shot exclusively for the trailer. Plus time has not been kind to the effect.
At least there are the brides of Dracula.I never found the whole Dracula in love with Lucy/Mia/whoever plot line particularly compelling in any incarnation of this story, however the brides have always been much more fun. They are bitchy and mean, jealous of Dracula’s favourite woman, but also always seem to embrace the whole undead vamp lifestyle with relish. They’re the same here. Admittedly Esposito, Ms C and Jeri Ryan (Seven of 9 from Star Trek: Voyager) play it more over the top than most but at least they seem to be having some fun here, unlike the rest of the cast, who mostly seem just miscast. Case in point Nathan Fillion as a priest. AS A PRIEST! Madness.
I’ll be checking out Dracula 2: Ascension and Dracula 3: Legacy soon enough. The sequels dropped the 2000 bit which means they could in theory be sequels to any old Dracula movie. I wonder why they did that? Maybe the 2000 dated this first one too much. As if.