½*/**** Image A Sound A Extras A
starring Jonny Lee Miller, Justine Waddell, Gerard Butler, Colleen Ann Fitzpatrick
screenplay by Joel Soisson
directed by Patrick Lussier
by Walter Chaw Dracula 2000 is so wilfully contrived and tirelessly stupid that by the end of the film, the fact of itself becomes a matter of onanistic speculation. In other words, what could anyone have possibly been thinking when they decided to not only resurrect the dusty Stoker "Dracula" mythos with a cast of WB-type irregulars, but also follow the lead of Candyman II in featuring a great evil stalking New Orleans circa Mardis Gras?
Directed by veteran horror schlock editor and Wes Craven protégé Patrick Lussier (whose only previous directing credit was for part three of the two-thirds direct-to-video Christopher Walken series The Prophecy), Wes Craven Presents: Dracula 2000 is, despite its vampire genre aspirations, just another tired entry into the teen-spam-slasher genre. Glossy and deficient in the touchstone areas of gore and nudity, the twin pleasures of puerile diversions such as these, Dracula 2000 continues to offend with its lack of cohesion, tension, acting, and pace. It is, in fact, one of the rare examples of a film that has very little of anything to offer to anyone.
Fans of Dracula will note that the Mia character is replaced by Justine Waddell's (Mansfield Park) terminally boring "Mary," while the Harker character is replaced by Jonny Lee Miller's (Trainspotting) terminally boring "Simon." Both are underwritten, but neither more so (nor more unforgivably so) than Plummer's ageless Van Helsing, who, apparently, has kept himself alive for a century by shooting up with Dracula's leech-harvested blood. Why Van Helsing never thinks to expose the immobilized fiend to sunlight in favour of an eternal and tortured vigilance is actually the least of the script's problems, though it, like the others, is never so much as broached, much less answered.
Opening with a badly-timed heist set in the high tech/low tech Batman-esque castle of Abraham Van Helsing (Christopher Plummer), Dracula 2000 launches itself with a series of arbitrary plot developments and exceedingly convenient discoveries that should serve as succinct answer to those wondering if there's something better they could be doing. After a couple of bland booby-trap mishaps and surpriseless surprises involving the gadget-festooned manse of the aged vampire hunter, the bad guys make off with the coffin in which Dracula has been interred for over a century. When the hapless thieves release our favourite bloodsucker (played in this incarnation by Gerard Butler, The Prince of Bland), having somehow gotten onto a plane with Dracula's giant silver casket bound for New Orleans, tame, teen-friendly mayhem ensues.
As the robbers, led by the somnambulant Omar Epps and the wheezy Jennifer Esposito, make their escape by blowing through a wall into the sewers of London, one asks oneself why they didn't just tunnel into the vault through the sewers to begin with rather than execute their improbably complicated fortress-breaking escapades. The answer to that puzzle is not, ultimately as pertinent as the crushing flow of other questions posed by the film's clumsy meandering and its feeble excuses for appropriately feeble action sequences. The worst conceptual failing of Dracula 2000 (aside from its overwhelming poorness and desperately ridiculous Biblical denouement), however, is probably its confusion about whether or not religious images like crosses actually hold any kind of value in repelling these undead. A vampire flick without an establishment of lore is essentially that most crippled of cinematic fantasies: the movie where if anything can happen, no one cares if it does.
The three brides of Dracula--Trekker-wet dream Jeri Ryan, Esposito, and alt-pop recording star Vitamin C (Colleen Fitzpatrick)--gear all of their snarky come-ons to the easily-aroused thirteen-year-old boy set and remain, to a one, modestly covered. How a film featuring a trio of succubae slinking through the torpid sex-soaked streets of Mardis Gras manages to be something coy, approaching chaste, is the biggest technical curiosity of the film.
Ultimately, Dracula 2000 is without gore (save for two largely-bloodless decapitations and a couple of discrete spikings), without titillation (save for an eye-blink topless go by Fitzpatrick), without scares, without surprises, and without tension. Its entire cast save for a slumming Plummer (and that's really saying something) is a giant sucking vortex at the center of an already empty picture, and its screenplay is so rudderless and random that it might just as well have been written by the vacuous pre-teens who most likely comprise its key demographic. To be fair, hardcore Star Trek fans will probably appreciate Jeri Ryan droning a faux-trollop reference to her "tits." All others need not apply.
The Dimension Films DVD release of Dracula 2000 is simply marvellous. Presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect and enhanced for 16x9 televisions, the colours are sharp, the picture is crisp, and there is no evidence of edge enhancement or grain. Really a superb visual transfer supplemented by a Dolby 5.1 soundtrack that makes equal and fantastic usage of the front and rear channels. The film's blaring synth-metal score is oppressive, but its driving beats and rhythms startle more than once by sneaking up from behind.
Dimension continues to impress with its dedication to providing a bursting special features package, including a nicely self-effacing (if mildly deluded) commentary from director Lussier and screenwriter Joel Soisson. Accessible only through the bonus features menu, the commentary track is full of anecdotes concerning script changes and special effects/set design decisions and accidents that are amusing largely because of the extent to which the pair seem unaware that their film is dredge. Still, Lussier and Soisson are clearly at ease with one another and offer the unsuspecting viewer the unwelcome news that they're working on a sequel, though it occurs to me that if you're actually watching the film a second time with the commentary track on, the prospect of a sequel will probably not strike you as a particularly odious one. The only time the commentary really irritates is when Lussier and Soisson discuss the lore behind the Judas myth and offer up a series of pseudo-intellectual, overly portentous excuses for their ponderous ending.
Three extended scenes, each of them featuring commentary by Lussier, do little to add to the sense of the film, although a long monologue featuring a red-faced Dracula screaming at a cheesy neon Jesus does inspire a good deal of satisfying howling derision. Four deleted scenes featuring an option of a joint commentary by Lussier and Soisson are likewise useless in context, but do further the idea that the filmmakers really believed that they were involved in something of value not only to vampire lore, but to biblical scholarship as well. It's amusing--for all the wrong reasons.
An eight-minute behind-the-scenes featurette is the standard press junket glad-handing intercut with scenes from the picture. The sole moment of potential interest is a brief appearance by Wes Craven, who spouts on about his rationalization for putting his name on Dracula 2000. Eight storyboarded sequences are provided without attendant introduction nor insight, and a trio of audition/screen tests for Gerard Butler, Justine Waddell, and Colleen Fitzpatrick serve to underscore the difficulty of finding good help these days. How the three were chosen for their parts based on these screen tests is just another one of those unanswerable koan things, I guess.
In addition to a theatrical trailer for Dracula 2000, the DVD is capped off by previews for The Crow DVD Box Set, The Scream DVD Box Set, From Dusk Till Dawn DVD Box Set, Reindeer Games, The Faculty, Immortality, Double Take, and the Dracula 2000 CD soundtrack. Originally published: July 26, 2001.