A stellar cast and a celebrated director team up with Keanu Reeves to bring this classic vampire tale to the silver screen the way Bram Stoker intended it. Well, so he intended it to be a book. As if people read anything that's not flashing at them like a bad acid trip.
The brave and fearless prince of Transylvania returns from a crusade to find his beloved deceased. Of course, the brave and fearless prince never flinched while impaling heathen scum, even if they were women and children, as long as their heads went on sticks. But matters of the heart are different, so the brave and fearless prince flinches.
He utters a string of petty blasphemies, reminiscent of Morbid Angel in their early days. This is enough to become excommunicated, which is a blessing in disguise, really. Since being excommunicated, the prince is demoted to a count, yet somehow manages to escape death and greatly increases his fortune. Moral of the story: the private sector is where the real opportunities are. You can slave away your whole life working for the government, and what do you get in return? A cubicle-sized house served by a modest motley crew of servants if you are lucky, flying lessons for your bride to be if you're not.
Being excommunicated also has other benefits, like an autonomous shadow and this thick accent which makes women swoon and commands beasts. Which, come to think of it, amounts to the same thing. The count ends up in the 19th century, which would explain why he dresses like Oscar Wilde without getting beaten to a pulp. Except if the movie played off in France, in which case you get smacked with gloves for not dressing like Oscar Wilde. Yet not beaten to a pulp, because the French are pansies.
The count devises a cunning plan to sweep Mina (Wynona Ryder) off her feet. There are only a few technicalities, namely that she's not really his Mina but the reincarnation of his Mina and currently the Mina of Keanu Reeves (does it really matter what character he plays? He's like Tom Cruize, he can only play himself with the kind of conviction that's either laudable or laughable). That, and sunlight is a burden. Oh, and he has to sleep in a coffin. On a bedding from a garden of his homeland. That will certainly get the neighbours talking, so the cunning plan involves seducing Mina's friend and keeping Mina sedated on vast quantities of absinthe. Hey, if the neighbours are going to talk anyway, you might as well make them talk a great deal.
Sadie Frost, who dresses like Robert Smith in this film. Everyone wants to bonk her, once they find out she's not really Robert Smith. Can't say I blame them.
Nothing says 'I love you' quite like sleeping with her best friend, keeping her intoxicated and dragging her off to the wildest parts of Europe where nobody can reach you without a coach driven by a ghoul, so naturally the plan works. Except that there are other suitors who want to sleep with Mina's best friend, keep Mina intoxicated and drag her off to other wild parts of Europe. Parts that could be reached more easily by crossing a channel, for instance. Except for France.
This film has some really impressive Victorian costumes. It is a period piece, but the designers managed to concoct a modern feel despite the hair pieces and the rusty medical equipment. There are also some great latex props, with CGI reserved for what it does best.
The DVD features a host of treats, from the theatrical trailer to a documentary on Dracula to a making of. The making of reveals just how brilliantly Francis Ford Coppola directed the cast. Actors were allowed to give their input after the entire cast sat reading the source, namely Bram Stoker's Dracula. This often leads to complications, as actors are often attention hungry and they spoil the craft with self-indulgence. Coppola manages to hold tight reins, while not making it appear so to the actors. This clever tactic does not stifle the creativity of the actors, while simultaneously allowing Coppola to orchestrate the entire affair to his liking. Truly one of my favourite films, especially thanks to the great directing and the sheer effort that went into preserving detail.
The unsettling score by Wojciech Kilar stands by itself as a horror film for the blind. He also did an excellent score for The Ninth Gate. Brooding, atmospheric and more intoxicating than that punch you virtually can't remember. At least that's your excuse.
Francis Ford Coppola.
Sadie Frost, Richard E. Grant, Anthony Hopkins, Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder.