ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, DEC. 28, 2000
Wes Craven’s name is synonymous with horror films and—judging by the way it’s shamelessly being used to promote Dracula 2000—carries a lot of weight with the moviegoing public. As a director, Craven certainly has a few bloodstained feathers in his cap, but for every commendable Scream or A Nightmare on Elm Street that he’s helmed there’s been a dreadful Deadly Friend or The Hills Have Eyes: Part 2.
Not to mention Music of the Heart.
The guy’s record behind the camera is hit-and-miss, which may be why he’s taken on the role of executive producer and thrown the director’s torch to his long-time editor, Patrick Lussier (Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, the Scream trilogy). For the most part, it’s a good move, because Dracula 2000 is—for the first 40 minutes, anyway—a fast-paced and captivating exercise in gory action-horror, à la Wesley Snipes’s 1998 bloodsucker epic, Blade.
The movie kicks off with a tension-filled heist gone awry, as a gang of high-tech thieves cracks the seemingly impenetrable vault of antiques dealer Abraham Van Helsing (Christopher Plummer, with an accent from outer space). For those who don’t recognize the name, Van Helsing is the quintessential vampire hunter, and he’s been holding Count Dracula’s evil at bay since Victorian times.
But the hyped-up robbers steal the silver coffin in which Van Helsing has secured his nemesis and do dumb things like spill blood all over it. Before you can say “plasma cocktail” there’s a hunky vampire (Gerard Butler) tearing up the throats of skanky newscasters and loose Virgin Records clerks all over New Orleans. Seems that Van Helsing’s lovely young daughter (Justine Waddell) resides in the Big Easy, and Ol’ Red Eyes has a centuries-old hankering for her blood.
Besides, it’s Mardi Gras.
With its corny one-liners punctuated by gore (“Never cross an antiques dealer!”—splat), standard heavy-metal soundtrack, and religious mumbo jumbo (Dracula turns out to be Judas Iscariot!), this film could have been a real hunk o’ junk. But Lussier’s brisk direction combines with Carol Spier’s stylish production design and Peter Pau’s feverish camera work to make it totally watchable.
Pau’s horror credits include the Hong Kong hit The Bride With White Hair and the surprisingly good Bride of Chucky; he was also cinematographer on the romantic martial-arts fantasy Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon that is winning huge raves. If the genre continues to attract talented folks like him, we may yet bear witness to another golden age of horror, as opposed to Scary Movie 2.