Movie Review: Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Posted: September 13, 2015 in Reviews
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Bram Stoker's Dracula Title Banner

Bram Stoker's Dracula Director Banner

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Bram Stoker's Dracula Kill Graph

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Sword, Bow & Arrow, Flail, Teeth, Bare Hands, Club, Fire Hose, Lever Action Rifle, Hammer & Stake, Holy Water, Revolver, Communion Wafer, Kukri Knife, Cavalry Sabre, Dagger, Bowie Knife

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Reviewed by: Pontifex Aureus

While remaining largely faithful to the novel, Bram Stoker’s Dracula nevertheless makes an important change by reshaping the Count into a tragic, romantic figure, thereby turning the classic vampire story into a love story. As the Count, Gary Oldman delivers a towering performance that is by turns playfully fiendish and genuinely sympathetic. Romance and gothic horror are served up hand in hand with such stylized visual bombast that it may strike some viewers as excessive, but for other viewers, will prove a sumptuous feast for the eyes.

In 19th century England, Count Dracula, an ancient and powerful vampire, finds the reincarnation of his long-dead wife in the form of Mina Murray, fiancée to Jonathan Harker. As the Count vies for Mina’s love, Harker, and the renowned vampire hunter, Dr. Abraham Van Helsing, begin the hunt for Dracula, while Mina finds herself increasingly unsure of where her heart truly lies.

The Count Mina and Lucy

Bram Stoker’s Dracula is a love story, but not simply a romance, rather a story about love itself and the power it exerts on each character. The story begins with Dracula’s love for his wife and God, both of whom he is staunchly devoted to. Upon losing his wife and consequently renouncing God, Dracula is left without love, an event that marks the moment he becomes a monster. Deprived of his own love, Dracula deprives others of their love; he takes Mina from Jonathan and Lucy Westenra from her husband. He sucks up love like he does blood, because he is empty, because he needs it.

Lucy the Vampire Young Prince Vlad

On the other hand is Mina Murray, the bride-to-be who is torn between two loves. She loves Jonathan Harker with a timid love based on devotion and mutual caring, but for Dracula she feels unbound passion with a depth of feeling that swallows her up entirely. Her character represents the crises of choice between passionate and companionate love. Love drives each character toward inevitable fate, even Dracula, as powerful as he is, is the plaything of fate, helpless to do anything but allow his centuries-long love story to come full circle.

Vampire Beast Van Helsing

If all that sounds a tad highfalutin, that’s because it is a little, but this kind of grand vampire opera practically demands to be told ostentatiously. With its bold color palette, superimposed imagery, shadow puppetry, and weird camera techniques, you’ll scarcely believe that this wild bit of celluloid was directed by the same Francis Ford Coppola that made The Godfather. And in fact, it wasn’t; this was directed by the Coppola that made Apocalypse Now—crazy, risk-taking Coppola. With all the visual shenanigans going on, you’d be surprised to know that most of the special effects were accomplished using old-fashioned methods: projectors, body doubles, and lots of miniatures. Dracula’s various transformations are especially impressive feats of effects wizardry, as he goes from old age to youth, to wolf-man, bat-creature, and even a swarm of rats. Along with Oldman’s marvelous Dracula, Anthony Hopkins’ gleefully demented Van Helsing, and Eiko Ishioka’s beautiful costume design, Bram Stoker’s Dracula is a titan in the canon of great vampire movies—a dazzling spectacle that even Keanu Reeves’ silly accent can’t diminish.

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