And so, we bring to an end our dalliance with all things Dracula, with the turn of the century – oh, and a chance to continue my Gerard Butler Cinematic Universe Retrospective.
Dracula 2000, directed by Patrick Lussier and backed by horror icon Wes Craven, is widely considered to be one of the worst Dracula adaptations in recent memory. With just 17% on Rotten Tomatoes and a dreadful reputation to match, I have to admit, this was one of the watches that I’d been least looking forward to.
And look, let’s be quite honest, this is very much a film of the early noughties. It’s got that late-nineties sexy sexlessness in the form of the brides; heaving bosoms and erotic enchantment and sexual puns, but no actual ability to sell the idea that any of them have had sex before. The soundtrack is a screeching Linkin Park-knock-off industrial wreck; the editing akin to leaning your head against the window of a moving bus and spending the next ninety minutes being jostled into eternity.
But I have to admit: I actually quite like it. Maybe because it captures so many of the cinematic trends that I grew up in and remember so fondly, maybe because it’s got Gerard Butler sweeping around in the middle of it giving his usual daft but immensely fun energy, maybe because Christopher Plummer is here, and he’s a man who has never, ever half-arsed a performance in his life. But honestly, I think what I like most about it is the reworking of the Dracula story.
And yes, that might be because I have seen so many straight-up adaptations of it in the last couple of weeks that I’ve gotten to know it back to front and want something a little fresher, but still – Butler’s Dracula (so, so clearly styled on Spike from Buffy that it’s actually a little funny) is actually Judas Iscariot, forced to live for hundreds of years as punishment for his betrayal of Jesus. It’s certainly not a totally original reading of the vampire legend, but applying it to Dracula, and reworking Dracula’s hedonism as an alternative to the Christian piety and salvation (represented, in unlikely fashion, by Nathan Fillion as a local priest) is actually a pretty neat idea.
This is, after all, the Y2K Dracula, the big Fear of Change and Abandonment on the Good Christian Values of the Past vamp himself; it makes sense that he would tie into something that ran so far back. The Dracula myth is an aligning of past and present, and what better way to give the Count more past than to fit him into one of the oldest and widest-known stories of all time? The film opens with the dusty, decrepit tomb of Dracula, painstakingly upheld in a glossy glass-fronted London vault, being broken into by a bunch of low-rent criminals annoyed that all they can find is skulls and silverware; Butler’s first real appearance as Dracula happens in mid-air on a plane. The Brides are a news anchor and a Virgin (heh) record store clerk, and Butler’s defeat comes in the form of him being strung up from a giant neon crucifix over New Orleans during Mardi Gras.
Dracula 2000 is a noble early-noughties attempt to mix old and new – but the new that it’s playing with just happens to look tragically dated by today’s standards. I don’t think it’s anything close to a masterpiece, but I do think it’s gotten an unfairly bad rap in the couple of decades since its release, and if you’ve been avoiding it on account of the bad reviews, I think it’s worth giving it another shot. Just be prepared for the most annoying soundtrack you’ve heard in months.
Well, that’s us for the Season of the Count over here at No But Listen! You can check out the other articles in this series over on The Cutprice Guignol; I really hope you’ve enjoyed exploring these Dracula movies with me! If there’s another iconic monster or character you’d like me to take a long-term look at, let me know in the comments below.
By Louise MacGregor
(header image via Midwest Film Journal)