aka DRACULA 2001 (UK)
Movie Review by Susannah Macklin
Starring: Jonny Lee Miller, Christopher Plummer, Jennifer Esposito, Jeri Ryan
Director: Patrick Lussier
After some speculation over the script and various name changes (it was very nearly WES CRAVEN PRESENTS DRACULA 2001 – Craven executive produced) this hotly anticipated vampire movie finally gets its UK release. So the question on every horror buffs lips is, does the film that got off to a pretty shaky start have a sharp enough bite?
The timeless Christopher Plummer plays vampire hunter Abraham Van Helsing, who after a pledge to himself to dedicate his life to keeping Dracula down, has him secured deep in a vault. Van Helsing’s lifes work comes horribly unstuck however, when some hapless criminals trying to uncover hidden treasures break into the vault – unleashing the evil. Let loose in new millennium America, Dracula wreaks havoc, picking up new recruits and seducing young women, and he won’t stop until he reaches New Orleans and gets what he really came for.
Stepping into some rather well worn shoes is the relatively unknown Gerald Butler who makes a reasonable Dracula. He underplays it rather than playing on the Eastern European charms common to the numerous Hollywood characterisations of the Count. It’s a shame however, that Jonny Lee Miller is so painfully miscast as priceless antiques dealer and assistant to Helsing -Simon Sheppard. Unfortunately the only priceless thing this character deals in is the dialogue, which shows him up to be the half-baked hero he’s trying so hard not to be. Rather than come out as the quick witted boy BUFFY screenwriter Joel Soisson (HIGHLANDER: ENDGAME) perhaps intended, he seems more like a scrapping schoolboy.
It appears that the script might have been meant as some sort of homage to the vampire movie genre but instead Soisson has just succeeded in grouping together every neck biting cliche imaginable. There’s more dry ice and death metal than you can shake a stake at, and the bevy of busty young women that Dracula seduces are totally surplus to requirement, although STAR TREK fans will be pleased to see Jeri Ryan amongst them.
The film redeems itself slightly towards the end with a story twist that’s bound to be a pull factor to the M. Night Shyamalan generation, but a run of bad direction leading up to it, means that by the time it’s revealed, it doesn’t quite live up to the lightbulb switch on Soisson must have had when he thought of it. However fans of the movie PREDATOR will appreciate the outback attack on a reporter and her cameraman, which is a definite highlight.
Vampire movies seem to fall into two categories these days, stylishly good – or schlock horror sham- it’s unfortunate to have to say that this film leans heavily toward the latter, especially as you just really want to like it! It will drag in a Friday night crowd or the odd BUFFY straggler, but DRACULA 2001 will be forgotten quicker than you can say JOHN CARPENTER’S VAMPIRES.