The Horror Honeys: Vampire Month: 19th Century Chills Terrify the 21st Century!

Vampire Month: 19th Century Chills Terrify the 21st Century!

A Head Honey Vampire Month Review by Kat

Dracula 2000 (2000)

In the late 90s, the internet was fairly new (you remember those days with that non-sexy dial-up, don't lie - our generation gave birth to that abomination we now call the interwebs), and a revelation had begun in the horror community. We were awake... there were new horror fans with a seemingly insatiable appetite for all things horror. Why was this? Well, Scream is probably mostly to blame, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. But what also came hot on the heels of its success, was all kinds of badness. We're used to it now, a successful - or in possession of a popular name - director adds their seal of horror approval on a film as a producer, and said film is now associated with that director forever... such is the case with Wes Craven Presents: Dracula 2000. A hot director, adding the (substantial) weight of his name to a project in the hopes that the viewing audience will follow said project to the theatres. Unfortunately, Dracula 2000 didn't really do as well as was hoped.

In 2000, Gerard Butler was a really (really) pretty background face - Dracula 2000 was his first starring role (at least, as far as I can tell) and the only reason you can even call Dracula 2000 a starring role is because he happens to be the titular character. He doesn't do a huge amount of talking, but then again, that's not what we're here for, is it?

The story of Dracula 2000 is a familiar one, hitting all of the notes of the (very) loosely referenced source material and adding a few laughably modern updates (as per usual, the IMDb synopsis has been edited for my amusement): A group of thieves breaks into a chamber (wait, it's actually Carfax Abbey in the middle of some kind of MALL thing, and Van Helsing is an antiquities dealer) expecting to find paintings (or y'know, anything of value, but hey, this whackadoo coffin thingy, the old man guards it like gold! Let's take that!), but instead they release the count himself (but they don't know that... only Old Man Helsing knows that), Inexplicably, they fly to New Orleans (and the plane they're in crashes and the pilot is strapped to the flight controls just like on the Demeter, so that's kind of cool) to find his nemesis' daughter, Mary Van Helsing - she works at Virgin Megastore (nyuk nyuk nyuk). Also, dun dun dunnnnn.

The story sticks pretty close to the traditional Dracula mythology and Bram Stoker's source material, but somewhere along the lines, shit just goes off the rails. It might be on the plane ride to New Orleans - so about 20 minutes into the film, everything goes a little sideways. We've got the Three Wives - Lucy Westerman (rnnggg - Vitamin C), one of the 'criminals,' Solina (Jennifer Esposito), and TV 'personality' Valerie (Jeri Ryan - Seven of Nine, yo!), and the prize everyone wants - Lady Mary. But nothing else about the original mythology is there. Mary is single, virginal (wait for it) and completely in the dark about her father's past and connections to the supernatural. There is no Jonathan Harker, no Renfield (Unless maybe that's Johnny Lee Miller's raison d'etre, but I doubt it), and nothing else to bind the story to the source material.

Left to right: Shouldn't be in a film, Seven of Nine, Jennifer Esposito needed a job

But really, the film is 15 years old... you've had time to see it. 

Is there something on my face?
Now, the interesting part. With so many approaches to the vampire genre, the one thing that I truly enjoy about Dracula 2000 is the one aspect that nearly everyone complains about, and I'm not talking about Vitamin C as a feature actress. Like many vampire movies, Dracula 2000 is very heavy with religious overtones, and when I say heavy, I mean "OMG, my back!" heavy - and there's good reason for it, but it's also where things get a little murky. Mary Van Helsing, our Mina, is a lapsed Catholic, but not so lapsed that she doesn't still attempt to go to confession, and still carries around a weighty metaphorical suitcase full of all that lovely Catholic guilt. Plus... virgin. In direct contract with the "wives," who are literally portrayed as objects of pure emotion and desire, Mary is a veritable incarnation of the Virgin herself. This pure, innocent, flower is the object of Dracula's lust (but it's hard to decide if this desire is sexual in nature, or not), and also the tool by which he will exact revenge against his (literally) ancient enemy, Abraham Van Helsing.

Mary's thirst for knowledge brings her to the heart of the matter - Dracula is actually Judas Iscariot. 

*pause for drama/horror/shock to set in*

*another pause for raised eyebrows/involuntary laughter to subside*

Iscariot's ancient suicide attempt was thwarted by God himself, cursing the betrayer of His only Son to eternal life. This little nuance also explains why Dracula has an aversion to crosses, and is allergic to silver (For those not in the know, Judas sold Jesus to the Sanhedrin for 30 silver pieces) - his quest for revenge against Van Helsing, is ultimately (in a kind of maudlin way) the search for divine forgiveness. His conquest of Mary and the Wives is a by-product of his real goal, and despite the inherently sexual nature of the vampire, Dracula 2000 is surprisingly monkish (except for that romp with Vitamin C, but whatever) and he doesn't really seem to have any interest in any of the women beyond the surface of their roles - solidified by the fact that his connection with Mary is more familial than sexual, as she shares his blood via a weird side-story detail.

The final scenes of the film are focused on Dracula's bitterness, guilt, and remorse. Mary's defeat of this ancient evil is really more of an act of benediction, with her actions allowing Judas/Dracula to finally be forgiven for his sins, and transcend the mortal (or immortal in this case) coil.

Dracula 2000 takes itself vert seriously for what it is, which is part of the reason why I enjoy it so much. Wes Craven's involvement as producer can be seen in small aesthetic ways, and even the way the comedy is delivered and woven through the script feels familiar. Is it terrifying? No, not really, but Dracula 2000 is at least entertaining in its overacted awfulness.

Vampire Week Verdict: 3 misplaced heavy handed religious overtones out of 5 - .5 of that score is for the hint of originality in the vampiric backstory twist...  the rest is for Gerard Butler.

Dracula 2000 is available via iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Vudu, YouTube VOD, Google Play, and blu-ray/DVD

What do YOU think of Gerard Butler as Dracula... 2000?
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