Monday, October 24, 2016

Halloween Movie Review #24: "Bram Stoker's Dracula" (1992)

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Movie"Bram Stoker's Dracula"
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Year: 1992
Rating: R
Running Time: 2 hours, 8 minutes

A law clerk named Jonathan Harker (Keanu Reeves) is sent to the home of Count Vlad Dracula (Gary Oldman) in the Carpathian mountains to close a real estate transaction. When Vlad sees a picture of Jonathan's fiancée Mina (Winona Ryder), he notices she bears a striking resemblance to his deceased wife Elisabeta. Vlad then decides to trap Jonathan in his castle while he travels to England in an attempt to seduce Mina and make her his own.

"Bram Stoker's Dracula" is directed by Francis Ford Coppola, who is best known for directing "The Godfather" trilogy and "Apocalypse Now." It is written by James V. Hart and is adapted from Bram Stoker's novel "Dracula." It stars Gary Oldman as the titular Dracula, who fits this part perfectly as he has an innate ability to move between crazy and cool with great ease. It also stars Keanu Reeves as Jonathan Harker, which has to be Coppola's worst casting decision since putting his own daughter Sophia in "The Godfather Part III." Reeves' accent and delivery are laughably bad. There are roles that work for an actor like him (stoner, surfer, hired gun, goofball, baseball coach), but a British law clerk from Victorian England? This role definitely isn't one of them. Joining them are Winona Ryder as Mina and Elisabeta, the love interests of both Jonathan and Vlad, Anthony Hopkins, who plays Van Helsing (and does so with great wit and charm), Sadie Frost as Mina's flirtatious friend Lucy, who is Dracula's main source of food while in London, as well as Cary Elwes, Richard E. Grant, Billy Campbell, and Tom Waits.

"Dracula" is a classic Gothic romance that has been brought to life decently in this offering. Being a Gothic romance, it has a strong emphasis on drama and relationships. This doesn't mean it's completely devoid of horror. There are many scenes containing genuine scares and horrifying amounts of blood and gore, though its real focus is on the dramatic aspects of the story. Oldman is the true standout in this picture. He is charismatic in his intoxicating appeal, and is dreadfully scary with his cloak and fangs. Ryder is charming as well, but in a very different, demure way. Reeves feels wholly out of place, and unintentionally garners laughs with his aforementioned bad accent and goofy look. Grant, Elwes, and Hopkins also return to the screen occasionally, but in much smaller capacities. From a technical standpoint, there is some really great makeup work in this film, and its costume designs, art direction, and visual effects are all top notch. The effects are almost entirely practical as the early 90's really didn't have the technology to make convincing CGI, which we appreciate and look back upon with great affection. This movie took home the much deserved Oscar for both makeup and costumes.

Unfortunately, "Bram Stoker's Dracula" is not without its flaws. The entire movie feels crowded, like there are too many characters and too many things going on at once. Though it is beautiful looking, it's overly opulent and thus, is overly dramatic at times. Oldman might be fantastic here, but he's no Bela Lugosi. Ultimately, this might be a somewhat flawed film because of some odd casting choices and a penchant for the lavish, stuffed story, but it's still a solid offering and is mostly enjoyable if you can get past its problems. There are so many versions of Dracula out there, this choice settles nicely somewhere in the middle.

My Rating: 6/10
BigJ's Rating: 7.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.5/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 78%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?
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One year ago, we were being scared by: "Frankenstein"

Two years ago, we were being scared by"White Zombie"

Three years ago, we were being scared by: "MST3K - Manos: Hands of Fate"

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