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Tonight's Feature Presentation

DRACULA 2000 (2000)

Starring: Gerard Butler, Christopher Plummer, Jonny Lee Miller, Justine Waddell, Colleen Fitzpatrick, Jennifer Esposito

Written By: Joel Soisson (also story), Patrick Lussier (story) Directed By: Patrick Lussier

The Short Version

Dracula wakes up at the turn of the century and heads for the Virgin Megastore.

Great premise insofar as who Dracula really is; horrible execution.

Gerard Butler makes for an extremely dreadful Dracula.

The rest of the cast isn’t exactly inspirational, either.

For genre fans, the premise is worth it, once; for others, Dracula 2000 is pretty easy to skip.


The Long Version

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?

AMERICAN.

It’s supposed to be cheese, it’s marketed as cheese, but no one who actually likes cheese believes that it is cheese.  There’s a reason the world calls it “wax.”


Pairs Well With...

SCREWDRIVER.

Good old vodka and orange juice.  After all, everyone should drink their Vitamin C.

“You know why you never had me, Simon?  Huh?  Because you Brits like to sweet talk and you Brits like to romance, and all I wanna do is suck.”


I distinctly remember the experience of going to see Dracula 2000 at the theatre.  I went somewhere other than my usual haunts, and I was surprised to see that despite the fact that I’d gone to a prime showing during the film’s opening weekend, I was one of only four people in the theatre.  (Of course, this didn’t stop some 400 pound jerk from deciding that out of all the empty seats available, he had to pick the one in front of me.  The fact that his bathing skills were apparently even less developed than either his manners or his common sense prompted me to move.)  By the time the end credits had rolled, I remember that my initial perceptions had been, in order: 1) I really liked the origin story they’d come up with for Dracula, 2) I really didn’t like the guy playing him, at all, 3) I was thoroughly convinced that the Virgin Megastore must have provided major financial backing for the film, and 4) I was really disappointed that Jeri Ryan had kept her shirt on for the entire movie.  There was also a fifth point, namely that nothing else about the movie was really worth remembering.

Twelve years later after a fresh viewing at home, my perceptions haven’t really changed, save that it turns out that I must have missed something the first time around, because the soundtrack – both the score and the rock – is actually pretty hot.  Beyond that one item, though, the reason not much else was worth remembering is that Dracula 2000 is pretty bad overall, despite having the potential to be pretty good. 

As the credits roll, we get to hear some of that decent soundtrack, while behind the names, we see an old sailing vessel which is identified for us as the Demeter, sailing for London in the year 1897.  Savvy vampire fans will recognize this immediately as Dracula’s crossing from Transylvania to England; however, it fades to the year 2000 the moment that Dracula (Gerard Butler, 300) steps off the ship.  That’s because the only real point to this opening scene is so that you can connect the visuals from it to something else you’ll see later.

Meanwhile, in our “present day” of early 2000, we find ourselves at a lovely and quite well-to-do establishment called Carfax Antiquities, which is run by a certain Matthew Van Helsing (Christopher Plummer, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country), with the help of his protégé, Simon Sheppard (Jonny Lee Miller, Aeon Flux).  What neither of them knows, however, is that another member of the staff, Solina (Jennifer Esposito, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer), has taken advantage of what she’s learned about the place to arrange for some after hours burglary.  Of course, all she really knows is that there’s a very secure vault down in the basement, but hey, considering how expensive the stuff that Van Helsing puts on display is, whatever’s down there has got to be worth a king’s ransom, right?

When she and her fellow thieves get to the vault, however, all they find is a big silver coffin that’s sealed up tight.  Undeterred even after two of the thieves suddenly find themselves dead courtesy of silver stakes that appear out of nowhere to impale them, the gang decides to take the coffin and fly to the Caymans with it, figuring that they can find a way to get it open while they’re on the plane.

Does anyone need more than just one guess as to what’s in that coffin?  Anyone?  Yeah, that’s what I thought…

I wanted to like Dracula 2000.  I really did.  I still do.  Especially with the twists the movie makes to the stories of both Dracula and Van Helsing, the potential here is enormous.  Alas, the end result takes the rock video route of being all superficial flash with very little room for substance. 

I find this especially vexing because it’s obvious that the people working on Dracula 2000 didn’t walk in blind.  (Considering all of the work that Patrick Lussier – who’s gone on to do better work than this – had done for Wes Craven in various capacities, one would certainly hope so.)  The influence of the Hammer Dracula films is plain to see both in the script and in the look of the red-eyed vampires.  (Indeed, though it is a sufficiently different story, it’s hard to imagine that some inspiration didn’t come out of Dracula AD 1972, which also had Dracula reappearing in the modern day and targeting antiquarian Van Helsing’s nearest young female relative.)  And yet, despite this awareness and despite a base storyline that is very conscious of the fact that it’s all about vampires from start to finish, somehow, the film manages to de-emphasize the Dracula part while go full tilt with the 2000 stuff.  It really, desperately wants to be modern and hip, and unfortunately, the only standout good it gets from the attempt is a decent soundtrack and a Virgin Megastore t shirt.

Wow.  Talk about product placement.

I remember wanting to double check to see if Richard Branson was an executive producer on Dracula 2000 when I saw it in the theatre, and even now the urge was still there.  I’m all for using real world items, names, and places to properly set and stage things, but the overwhelming presence of the Virgin Megastore (and really nothing else; you barely see the name of a bar in passing) is very much over the top.  Is it a point against?  No, not really, but it does scream to the production’s desperation to connect to the modern generation at the time of the film’s release.  Because nothing says “hip” like young people in a music shop, right?

As for those young people…

The supporting cast of Dracula 2000 is, alas, either completely forgettable or actively annoying.  Jonny Lee Miller looks lost as the young hero, but even more hapless is damsel in distress Justine Waddell (Chaos), who has no presence whatsoever and who frankly would be eaten for breakfast by even the most clueless “final girls” from the slashers that Dracula 2000 is clearly trying to imitate.  Colleen Fitzpatrick (aka Vitamin C, and hey, she’s standing in front of her own CDs at the Virgin Megastore; how cute!) at least seems to be trying, but if you remember anything about her at all a week later, it’ll be her contribution to the nudity and that’s it.  (Very brief topless shot during a sex scene, plus the flash of a beaver shot later on out in the street.  Go ahead and make your own jokes about Dracula making sure to drink plenty of Vitamin C.)  Of course, that’s better than you’ll get from Jennifer Esposito, whose “hot shit” act gets old before it even starts, and who is so actively annoying that you just know that her character is going to be one of the last to die.  Attitude is no substitute for acting, but for this movie at least, Esposito just doesn’t clue in to that fact.  If I were still giving numeric ratings, I’d dock a point from Dracula 2000 just because of her.

Both Omar Epps (Halloween Resurrection) and Jeri Ryan (best known as Seven of Nine from “Star Trek: Voyager”) are wasted in throwaway roles despite having the ability to handle more.  (And yes, I’m still disappointed that Jeri Ryan keeps her shirt on, especially since one of her few lines explicitly calls attention to her assets.)  The other great underutilized talent that savvy fans will spot in the background is Nathan Fillion (best known from “Firefly” and “Castle”), who’s got a single scene cameo as a priest.

Looking at things from the formula of the slasher that Dracula 2000 wants to be, throwing away your best supporting talent and giving your mediocre/annoying cast members most of the screen time is considered acceptable with the understanding that your killer is worth it, and taking things from the standard gothic Dracula perspective, no one really gives a damn about anybody not named “Dracula” or “Van Helsing” anyway.  If the movie could have at least salvaged those two roles, then it would still have come out okay.

Oops.

We’ll start with the dude they named the movie after.  Unfortunately, despite having a dynamite backstory (which, alas, the audience only becomes privy to during the movie’s final ten minutes), the guy on the screen comes across less like Dracula and more like a poser gigolo with a really crappy haircut.  I would not have been shocked in the least if at any moment his next lines would have been “I’m too sexy for my shirt, so sexy it hurts.”  Okay, so he turns every female head within fifty yards despite looking like a refugee from the Wham era.  Yay.  How about some more layers, huh?  Yes, seductiveness has always been central to the Dracula character, but it is seriously overplayed here, to the point where this Dracula might as well be the “package delivery man” from an old school porn flick.  (And frighteningly enough, it really wouldn’t take much tweaking to turn this story into one.)  There’s just no effort put forward at all on anyone’s part.  All Gerard Butler really does is show up, do a few fashion model poses, and read his lines, and no one else is pushing him to do any more, either.  While he may not be the worst Dracula ever, Butler is seriously miscast, and definitely lives with the bottom ten.

This leaves us with the character of Van Helsing, who, like Dracula, is given a fascinating new backstory here, and in his case, we even get to see it before the last ten minutes of the movie.  And considering that he’s played by the generally excellent Christopher Plummer, this should count as a bright spot, right?  Umm… not really.  Van Helsing’s got a good backstory, but beyond that, the character’s been run through the pathos grinder here (there’s a definite line between “eccentric” and “street person,” and this role crosses it), and Plummer’s performance isn’t up to his usual standards, either, though whether that’s a side effect of everything falling apart around him, a directorial choice, or simply a case of phoning it in is hard to say.  Regardless of why, his accent’s terrible, and he spends his portion of the movie looking like he’d rather be in bed than in front of the camera.  This may indeed be one of the sadder iterations of the Van Helsing character that I’ve ever seen.

And hey, while we’re on the good news train… it seems petty, and maybe it is, but in a movie that seems to be all about the style, what’s up with the lousy haircuts?  Seriously?  Dracula’s looks like something out of an Air Supply video, Van Helsing’s looks like a dead rodent rewoven as a comb over toupee, and no one under forty should be sporting what’s on top of our heroine’s head.  The fact that these things stood out so prominently in my mind while I was watching Dracula 2000 says a lot for how little anything else was grabbing my attention, and what’s worse is that in terms of impact, the bad hair was better than some of the actors were.  Burn.

With that said, though, it’s not all bad news.  As noted before, the underlying premise of who Dracula really is and what Van Helsing in turn became to fight him is fascinating; indeed, that stuff is some of the best material to be injected into the Dracula legend in years.  For vampire aficionados, that’s going to make Dracula 2000 worth watching in and of itself, regardless of whatever else may be wrong with it. 

Unfortunately, “whatever else” is plenty, and even though the script is said to have gone through at least two major doctoring sessions (and probably more), that just wasn’t enough.  Apparently, someone didn’t want the material thrown on top of the premise to be good; they just wanted it next week.  (Time from start of principal photography to date of release: six months.  You figure out whether or not someone was rushing to hit a deadline.)

Bottom line, I really wanted to like Dracula 2000, both twelve years ago and today, but there’s just too much wrong with it to be any real fun.  For genre fans, the premise is worth checking out once, but thanks to a largely forgettable cast and one of the worst Dracula portrayals ever, it’s not really worth revisiting.  Unless, of course, you’re feeling nostalgic for the once-prolific but now defunct Virgin Megastore (they’re all closed outside of France, Germany, Greece, and the Middle East), in which case, Dracula 2000 has got your fix.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, January, 2012


You can email Ziggy at ziggy@cinemaontherocks.com. You can also find us on Facebook.


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