Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) follows the classic plot we all know so well, but adds a significant twist. Dracula becomes a vampire to avenge the loss of his beloved wife and finds her reincarnated soul in our heroine Mina Harker. The result is an interesting mesh of vampire romance and Hammer-style sex and gore ultimately let down by uneven performances and plot confusion.
What I had forgotten over the years is how much this movie owes to Hammer horror. In fact, if I didn’t know and you told me it was a Hammer movie, I might believe you. From Lucy walking to meet Dracula in a flowing red nightdress to the imposing shape of Castle Dracula shrouded in fog, this is Hammer all the way. It’s got all the staples, but ups the sexuality. There’s no question that the vampire’s kiss relates to losing virginity or the awakening of sexuality (mainly female sexuality). And there’s much more than just kissing involved.
If there is a major flaw, it’s in the uneven casting. I know it’s beating a dead horse, but c’mon – Keanu Reeves? That poor boy is so out of his element you almost feel bad for him. You wonder why Mina would ever want to be with him when she could choose Gary Oldman instead. Oldman, as Dracula, manages to convey his emotional torment and deep desire for Mina while still maintaining the monstrous aspects of the vampire.
And then there’s The Hopkins. As Van Helsing, The Hopkins is everything Hammer’s Peter Cushing is not – brash, wild, probably slightly crazy, definitely more like Ahab than the refined but very tough hunter that Cushing gave us. When you hire The Hopkins, you pretty much know what you’re in for, so I would assume Coppola wanted this madman performance. And really, since everyone else is so restrained (or, in Keanu’s case, blank), you’re pretty happy when he comes along.
Jenny: Bram Stoker’s Dracula is incredibly over-the-top and stylized. With shadow puppets, animated maps, wild colors, goofy transitions and heavy symbolic imagery, it is the sexy and frightening union of art film and cartoon. For me, this is a positive trait because the rather heavy-handed approach is well-excuted and consistent.
It’s a good-looking film. With the exception of a few dated techniques, the effects are fantastic; often utilizing practical methods and referencing creepy moments from classics like Nosferatu. (long reaching shadow hands, the unbent rise from the coffin) The character designs are amazing too. Lucy in the crypt, the armored warrior Vlad, the count in his dark castle, even Mina’s dresses… I could write pages and pages about the makeup, hair and costuming alone. Luckily, I don’t have to. This book, which I had growing up, covers the subject (among others) in great detail.
Similar to our discussion about Interview with the Vampire, this is “my” vampire. The version of the monster that I grew up with and came to love. Romantic and violent. I do recommend Bram Stoker’s Dracula, but it’s not a flawless film and Dracula fans shouldn’t go in expecting an interpretation that’s true to the plot or flavor of the original book. Think of it as a bizarre reimagining rather than straight adaptation and be willing to laugh off a few silly accents and bad performances.