A few years back I watched Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein for the first time, and walked away thinking that a more apt title would be Kenneth Branaughs’ Crazy Ass Ego Trip. It was not a fun movie to get through, with Branaugh mugging it up in centre stage, and everyone else trying way too hard to act more intensely than anyone has ever acted before. I meant to watch Bram Stoker’s Dracula right after, but disliked Frankenstein so much that I didn’t bother. Over three years have passed and I’m ready to try again.
I read the book Dracula in high school so my memory of it is pretty hazy, therefore I can’t really say how accurate this movie is to the source material. I can say however that at least as a movie, Bram Stoker’s Dracula is kind of goofy.
I think we all know at least the base level story. Jonathan Harker goes out to this guy’s castle and oh shit, dudes a vampire. Then there are topless women and werewolves and lots of writhing. Also Gary Oldman trying to get it on with Winona Ryder. Typical romance shit, you know how it is. Mostly it’s about Dracula finding the reincarnation of his past love who killed herself when she thought he had died in the crusades. So he’s trying to steal her away from Keanu Reeves. Also sometimes he turns into a man-bat, and that’s pretty cool.
The first mistake this movie makes is asking Keanu Reeves’ to act far beyond his capabilities - which basically means they asked him to act. In the right role, Reeves works. He’s of course great in Bill and Ted (god please let them actually make a third one), and other movies work like Speed and Constantine because his wooden nature fits the character. Here he is supposed to have both a personality and an accent, neither of which Reeves is capable of pulling off convincingly. He looks especially silly once his character’s hair turns white. Oldman as Dracula is quite good, but looks all the more ridiculous with his slight overacting next to Reeves and his non-acting. Ryder is ok but I also found she tended to overdo it with the accent.
The highlight is Anthony Hopkins as Van Helsing. He doesn’t show up until about an hour in but the movie immediately gets better once he arrives. His character is just so curt and forward about everything. The movie is quite humourless overall so when he shows up to add some levity it’s a huge relief.
Like I said I don’t remember the book but did Dracula really have the ability to turn into so much shit? Not only can he appear younger, but he can turn into a bat creature and like six different kinds of wolves. It’s more power than I ever thought he had. Also there’s a pretty amazing part where he and Harker are taking about wolves, when all of a sudden Harker looks out the window and Dracula is just outside climbing around on the walls. Cuz I guess fuck it, why not? “God damn man these wolves get me so jacked! Gotsta to go climb them walls!!” The non-reaction on Harker’s face makes it even better. It’s strange moments like that and the aforementioned man-bat thing that kept my interest as the love story is pretty meh. Lots of boobs though. I respect that.
The movie is well shot and the set design and overall look are great and are another highlight of the film. It captures the gothic feel very well. I’m just not into the whole vampire eternal love thing where everyone talks in poems and uses the word “forever” or “eternity” in every other sentence. I don’t care if Ryder ends up with Harker or Dracula. One has no personality and the other looks like her dad. Thankfully there’s enough insane shit that it kept me entertained for the entirely of its, admittedly too long, running time. If you haven’t seen it, check it out. Consider it as “Twilight: The Good Version”.