I know that in previous columns I have demonstrated a tendency to obsess over a film’s title almost as much as its content, and while I strive to overcome that impulse I can’t let it go in the case of “Dracula 2000.” It got that title because it was set in present-day New Orleans rather than Victorian England, and because it came out in 2000. The problem is, it came out Dec. 22, 2000. So it has this nifty, up-to-date title, and then it’s obsolete 10 days later.
This is poor planning. Do not put the year of your film’s release in its title if the film is not going to be released until the year is over. You might as well put an expiration date on it. “Do not watch after Dec. 31!” Come January, audiences would be saying, “‘Dracula 2000′? That’s so last year.” “Dracula 2001” would have worked just as well. Other fitting titles would have been “Dracula in Modern Times, Not the Olden Days,” “Dracula Goes to Mardi Gras,” “Dracula: Still Suckin’,” and “Another @&$*% Dracula Movie.”
“Dracula 2000” was actually billed as “Wes Craven Presents Dracula 2000.” Note that Wes Craven did not write or direct it; he merely “presented” it, whatever that means. I do the same thing when I have friends over to watch a movie. I might say, “Eric D. Snider Presents ‘FernGully: The Last Rain Forest,'” for example. In Wes Craven’s case, it was a marketing gimmick to make people think, “Hey, I’ve heard of Wes Craven! He made a couple dozen films, four or five of which were kind of good! Evidently he’s somehow affiliated with this movie, too! I need no further endorsement!” The film’s failure at the box office suggests that not many people were fooled by this, though it didn’t stop Craven from trying it again two years later, with “Wes Craven Presents They.” Apparently Wes Craven will try anything to get people to watch movies that he has produced, short of producing good ones.
But I digress. The point is, “Dracula 2000” is lame, regardless of what year you watch it in. 2009, for example. You could watch it in 2009 and find it to be just as awful as it was in 2000. Its idiocy is timeless!
Movie review: “Dracula 2000” (2000) D+
You may recall that there’s a guy named Van Helsing who hunts Dracula in Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel, as well as in most of the Dracula-centered movies, plays, video games, folk songs, theme parks, and ballets. In “Dracula 2000,” we meet his grandson, played by Christopher Plummer, who says that his grandfather was a simple country doctor whose reputation was forever tarnished when Stoker used him as the basis for his fictional vampire hunter. The modern Van Helsing says he doesn’t believe in that vampire nonsense, though he does happen to collect old weapons, including the kind that vampire hunters — if they existed! — would have used.
Van Helsing keeps these artifacts in a vault underneath his collection of non-vampire-related antiques. I guess he is an antiques dealer? Or something? Is that a real thing? “Antiques dealer”? That doesn’t sound right. Anyway, his assistant, Simon, is played by Jonny Lee Miller, who is qualified to appear in a vampire movie because he was once married to Angelina Jolie. Another employee, the super-hot Solina (Jennifer Esposito), helps a team of criminals break into the vault to steal whatever’s inside, which they assume must be more valuable than the boring old priceless antiques on display upstairs. Two of the greedy criminals are killed by booby traps in the vault, and Solina, ringleader Marcus (Omar Epps), and the surviving thieves are barely able to escape with the primary artifact: a coffin.
It’s while they’re on a small plane bound for the Cayman Islands that they manage to pry open the coffin, whose contents include the following:
One (1) Dracula.
Dracula is played by Gerard Butler, wearing fake vampire teeth such as those purchased for 99 cents prior to Halloween. He kills or vampirizes everyone on the plane, which then crashes into a bayou near New Orleans, which is 1,000 miles away from the Cayman Islands but which happens to be where Dracula wanted to go anyway! This is Dracula’s lucky day! He is drawn psychically to a New Orleans resident named Mary (Justine Waddell), who it turns out is Van Helsing’s estranged daughter, and she has been having spooky visions of the Dracula that her great-grandfather once hunted (fictionally) (except not fictionally) (see next paragraph).
As that flurry of parenthetical remarks suggests, it gets very complicated. Turns out Van Helsing is THE Van Helsing, the 1897 one, now well over 130 years old but only looking as old as Christopher Plummer (120). That whole story about Dracula being fictional and Bram Stoker being a reputation-ruiner was a lie. (NOW who’s besmirching whose good name??) Van Helsing managed to capture the real Dracula back in olden days, but the regular vampire-slaying methods didn’t succeed in killing him, though I find it hard to believe that even Dracula could recover from a good old-fashioned beheading. Van Helsing swore he’d stay alive until he could find a way to kill Dracula, and he’s accomplished this by taking some of Dracula’s blood, filtering it through leeches, then injecting it into himself. This gives him immortality without the troublesome byproduct of being evil or a vampire. Leeches, as you know, have been used since ancient times as an evil-removing agent.
So Van Helsing and Simon — who I forgot to mention is very boring and devoid of personality — hurry to New Orleans to recapture Dracula. I need hardly tell you that it is Mardi Gras in New Orleans, because in movies it is always Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Dracula is living it up on Bourbon Street in the traditional fashion (throwing out beads, collecting STDs, etc.) when he finds Mary, who works at the Virgin Megastore, the name and logo of which are shown or mentioned approximately one trillion times. Then he has vampire sex with Mary’s trashy roommate, Lucy (Colleen Fitzpatrick), as a means of getting to Mary. I think. Or maybe he just wanted to have sex with Lucy, with no ulterior motives. Who can say? The last time he was with a woman was in 1897. He’s probably just glad not to have to remove seven layers of petticoats first.
Van Helsing will need to die, obviously, since he is too old to be the movie’s handsome young action hero, and also maybe as punishment for sitting on Dracula’s coffin for a hundred years without figuring out a way to kill him. (Seriously, did you TRY cutting his head off? Or fire? A very, very hot fire that melts his body? Or, you know, sunlight? On the plane, someone shoots a hole in the roof, and the ray of sun that comes through scorches Dracula’s forehead. I’M JUST SAYIN’.) Sure enough, Van Helsing gets his due, and the action-hero duties fall to Simon, who continues to be boring. He’s pretty good with weapons, though, as you’d expect from an antiques dealer’s assistant. When Dracula turns into a wolf and pursues him and Mary, Simon shoots a silver arrow at him, which has the same effect that it would have on a regular wolf, i.e., it makes the wolf shatter into a thousand bats that fly away.
It’s Simon and Mary’s job to figure out Dracula’s secrets so they can kill him. You will recall that Van Helsing spent the entire 20th century trying to do this; naturally, Simon and Mary accomplish it in one night, with minimal effort. In fact, most of what Simon accomplishes, apart from the wolf-shattering, occurs accidentally. In the midst of running for their lives and chasing down Dracula’s newly fanged minions, Simon and Mary stop off at a library to do some research. They know that Dracula hates crosses, holy water, and so forth — anything associated with Christianity. And the only person who hates Christianity that much is … Bill Maher! Bill Maher is Dracula!
No, I kid. I already told you the movie isn’t scary. The real answer is even worse: Dracula is Judas Iscariot, cursed to become an immortal vampire as punishment for betraying Jesus Christ. For realz. I know it sounds like something stupid you would make up if you were parodying a bad movie, but no, this movie parodies itself. The only way to kill Dracula, it turns out, is to hang him by the neck. With a regular ol’ rope, too, not a silver rope or one made of garlic or something. Just rope. (I hasten to point out that Simon and Mary discover this accidentally, not through deduction or intelligence or skill.) Oh, and then the sun comes up and sets him on fire while he’s hanging there. So maybe it’s that specific combination — hanging and sunlight — that Van Helsing never discovered? Or maybe Van Helsing was just a lazy old man who liked injecting himself with leech-filtered vampire blood. Maybe that question will be addressed in the sequel, “Dracula 2000 2.”