Dracula III: Legacy (2005, Patrick Lussier)

dracula-iii-legacy

An occasional series where I write about works inspired by Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula…

These reviews reveal plot twists.

Setting: Other than short scenes at a train station in Germany and Cardinal Siqueros’s mansion in fuck-knows-where, the story takes place in Romania. It’s the modern day.

Faithful to the novel? Being the third film in the Dracula 2000 series, it begins with a vague recap of the previous movie’s plot. Since then, Dracula has headed home to the Carpathian Mountains, so Father Uffizi (Jason Scott Lee) and Luke (Jason London) are now on the hunt. Luke calls his new friend DG (“Damaged Goods… It was either that or Buffy…”) because Uffizi has been tainted by the vampire curse. They go to Romania, which is suffering from a civil war. NATO have been called in and everything, but there are hints that the government forces are actually vampires. Uffizi and Luke find British journalist Julia (Alexandra Wescourt), and eventually they end up at Dracula’s castle, where they find priests impaled on stakes (a neat nod to the Vlad Tepes myth). Julia soon gets drained of blood by Dracula, who finally appears at the 65-minute mark and is now played by Rutger Hauer. ‘Dracula’ is said to be a conceit, a name used simply because it inspires terror. The creature actually goes back as far as Ancient Egypt – which rather contradicts the backstory laid out in Dracula 2000 – and has corrupted all the world’s religions. His castle is full of often-naked women used for their blood supplies. One of them (with clothes) is Luke’s friend Elizabeth from the previous film. Uffizi has a showdown with Dracula and, with Elizabeth’s help, kills him. But then Luke has to behead Elizabeth for her own good, while infected Uffizi takes his place as the king of the vampires.

Best performance: It is shame that they could only afford Roy Sheider for a day’s work. His scene as Cardinal Siqueros shows what a classy presence he could be.

Best bit: Dracula’s first appearance is pretty trippy with staccato editing and double-exposures.

Review: Like the first two films in the series, this is passable hokum. There’s a gag or two, some scary bits, some well-mounted action. But it’s not subtle: English characters talk in Americanisms, Uffizi’s virus has no effect until the plot requires it, Uffizi and Luke stumbles across the next story point whenever they need one, and the middle act is an exercise in killing time until the climax.

Six EBC cameramen out of 10

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Dracula II: Ascension (2003, Patrick Lussier)

Dracula2

An occasional series where I write about works inspired by Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula…

These reviews reveal plot twists.

Setting: After a prologue in the Czech Republic, the main action takes place in New Orleans (the same location as the first movie). It’s the present day – Dracula is resurrected on 10 March.

Faithful to the novel? This is a straight-to-DVD sequel to Dracula 2000, but title character aside it’s a whole new story. Dracula’s burnt corpse from film one is taken to a morgue, where a drop of blood from the cut finger of attendant Elizabeth (Diane Neal) begins a resurrection process. A guy called Eric (John Light) then offers Elizabeth and her colleague Luke (Jason London) $30 million for the body, so they realise they have a money-spinner on their hands. Elizabeth, Luke and two sidekicks (Blonde With Big Tits and Token Black Guy) take the body to an empty house. They start to experiment on it because Elizabeth’s paraplegic boyfriend, Lowell (Craig Sheffer), wants to see if they can use vampire blood to cure ailments. Dracula soon comes back to life, now played by Stephen Billington (Coronation Street, Hollyoaks). To explain the recasting, vampires are said to have Doctor Who-style regenerations. (Not coincidentally, writer/director Patrick Lussier edited a Doctor Who TV movie in 1996. On this film’s DVD commentary he admits to stealing a distinctive mirror shot from it.) Dracula soon kills Blonde With Big Tits, while Token Black Guy gets turned after injecting himself with vampire blood. When Lowell’s palsy is cured by a similar process, he reveals that he engineered the whole situation in order to get access to vampire blood; Eric is in on the scam too, and possibly Lowell’s lover. Meanwhile, a vampire hunter called Father Uffizi (Jason Scott Lee) is on the team’s trail. We see flashbacks to him being given his mission by his boss (Roy Scheider, who gets a high billing for 60 seconds on screen). They know that Dracula can only die once he’s been given absolution by a Christian priest. But before Uffizi can destroy Dracula, Elizabeth – who has slowly been turning thanks to that early finger injury – helps the vampire escape. It’s a deliberate cliffhanger. The next film in the series, Dracula III: Legacy, was filmed concurrently with this one.

Best performance: Diane Neal is reasonably good. She’s a believable human being.

Best bit: Dracula *bites someone’s face off*.

Review: It’s pacey and lasts just 80 minutes. Maybe it’s too pacey. There are a few jarring leaps forward in the plot. But like the first film in the trilogy there’s also a self-aware B-movie vibe about this. A mixed cast and a dull middle act are problems, while Dracula himself is essentially just a talking MacGuffin. But on the whole it’s shallow fun.

Six abandoned swimming pools out of 10

Dracula 2000 (2000, Patrick Lussier)

dracula-2000-gerard butler

An occasional series where I write about works inspired by Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula…

These reviews reveal plot twists.

Setting: We begin in 1897, on board the ship the Demeter then in London. We soon cut to the year 2000, in London and later New Orleans.

Faithful to the novel? It’s a new story – a sequel to the events of the book, in effect – but there are lots of interesting parallels. After a Victorian prologue, the main action takes place in 2000. Matthew Van Helsing (Christopher Plummer) initially tells us that he’s the grandson of Abraham Van Helsing, the man Bram Stoker fictionalised in his novel. Matthew runs an organisation called Carfax Antiquaries and collects ancient weapons. One night, a team of criminals break into his vaults, where they find a coffin – inside it are the remains of Count Dracula, who was defeated a century earlier. When the crims steal the coffin and fly it back to America, Dracula (Gerard Butler) is accidentally resurrected and starts killing. The plane crashes near New Orleans and the pilot is later found lashed to his controls (a nice echo of the captain of the Demeter in the novel). Van Helsing and protégé Simon Sheppard (Johnny Lee Miller using a wideboy accent) follow the count to the States and start to hunt down the vampires he’s created. Van Helsing also reveals that he’s actually Abraham: he’s been taking small doses of vampire blood for over a century in order to extend his life. (We see flashbacks to him capturing Dracula in 1897: it’s nothing like what happens in the novel. Is the idea that Bram Stoker invented all the stuff with Jonathan Harker and the others?) Unfortunately, Van Helsing’s connection to vampire blood has been passed on to his daughter, Mary (Justine Waddell, poor), who Dracula is now targeting… The character of Dracula is given a new history – after the clichéd hint that he’s Vlad the Impaler, we get the real story. In a move that adds an extra layer of meaning to the film’s title, it’s revealed that Dracula was Judas Iscariot before his immortality – hence his dislike of Christian symbolism and his allergy to silver. There are also some other interesting rhymes with the novel: Mary’s best mate is called Lucy Westerman (sic), a police doctor is named Seward, while three of Dracula’s female victims form a version of the Brides.

Best performance: Nathan Fillion shows up as a priest, a role that prefigures his grandstanding stint in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (a show that must surely have been an influence on this movie).

Best bit: Newly arrived in America, Dracula attacks a TV reporter (Jeri Ryan) and cuts her throat – but because we view the incident through the viewfinder of a camera (which uses a mirror) we don’t see the vampire as he does it.

Review: A pleasant surprise. ‘Executive produced’ by horror legend Wes Craven, this is good schlocky fun. There are effective scares, a few good gags, and lots of pleasing directorial flourishes. It also inventively riffs on Stoker’s story and characters, while there’s a pleasing combination of old-school horror tropes and modern, high-tech thriller elements. It’s not perfect, of course, and sadly the two lead characters – Simon and Mary – are very underwritten. But this is a mid-budget B-movie that isn’t embarrassed to be a mid-budget B-movie. It revels in its genre-ness and is all more entertaining for it. (When released in Europe several months after its US debut, it was renamed Dracula 2001.)

Eight Virgin Megastore logos* out of 10

*The movie’s director claims on the DVD commentary that the frequency and blatancy with which we see the Virgin logo is not actually product placement but rather a gag punning on the brand’s name.