Dracula 2000

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I really enjoyed that! Dracula 2000 (or Dracula 2001, as they had to rename it by the time it had reached Britain) is a fun, lively piece of nonsense with great ideas and lots of pace. It may sometimes be silly, but at least that's better than being boring.

It opens with the Ship of Death from Bram Stoker's novel. That looks great! There's some nice mood, with imaginative visuals. In fact the movie's first act is all good, apart from Jonny Lee Miller's "acting" and a big logic hole. (Why would Van Helsing want those stupid, stupid traps?) There's plenty of action, but tension too. When the coffin was being opened, I jumped. I'm not being ironic or sarcastic when I say that everything in Dracula 2000 until the appearance of Dracula himself is damn good.

But then we see Dracula. No sniggering! Dear oh dear...

Gerard Butler plays the Count, which is probably a sign of the impending apocalypse. Has the world gone mad? Gerard Butler doesn't want to bite open your throat, he wants to get his hair styled and appear on the cover of Vogue. He's a pretty boy with puppy-dog eyes and Lawrence Llewellyn-Bowen hair. What's more, there's that Sexy Vampire thing going on. Men he kills. With women he stares meaningfully into their eyes and turns them into mesmerised drool queens. (They don't even wear transparent nightdresses after being vampirised! I'm shocked, I tell you. Why couldn't Jeri Ryan have flashed her titties? Would that be so much to ask?)

No scene involving Dracula is remotely scary. Instead he's unintentionally hilarious, mincing through the movie like a great poof as women practically swoon at his feet. In fact, no vampire is scary. There are still some juicily effective scenes even after Dracula's awakening, but they all involve the bloodsuckers being offscreen.

The rest of the cast is variable. Jonny Lee Miller is truly dreadful at times, but he does an entertaining Bruce Campbell macho. On the other hand one vampire is hilarious, with some of the best comic timing I've ever seen from the undead. Christopher Plummer as Van Helsing is okay, but nothing special. There's a Mina Harker figure (well, "Mary"), complete with a friend called Lucy Westenra... sorry, Westerman. Mary likes wearing a Virgin T-shirt, a dodge from the film-makers which is utterly shameless on at least two levels. (Leaving aside the horror movie cliches, the product placement in Dracula 2000 must be seen to be believed.) Jeri Ryan is Jeri Ryan. None of it's going to win any Academy Awards, but it's not trying to. It knows what it wants to be - good silly fun.

Did I mention the ideas? The script has some great concepts, taking in Van Helsing, Mary and a secret origin of Dracula himself. That's clever. I loved it all. Dracula's story explains a whole parcel of disconnected vampire lore, from the indestructible Hammer Dracula to the religious iconography. They even tie in with something that I think they got confused with werewolves. No matter; these are some funky revelations. (Though wasn't Van Helsing taking a hell of a risk over the years? One might have expected nasty consequences from his actions, though I imagine Mary would say the consequences were quite far-reaching enough already.)

Things get perhaps a tad Buffy-ish towards the end, but I thought those final confrontations were cool anyway. Those secrets kick in big-time for an ending that I really liked (as if they hadn't already done good service by for once giving Dracula a decent reason to fixate upon his latest woman). Dracula gets the by-now traditional attempts at sympathy, in which the film-makers invite us to see him as a more human figure, but thankfully these bits are: (a) a lot better than they might have been, and (b) not overdone. He's still a monster.

This is a Dracula for the music video generation, but that doesn't mean it's bad. On the contrary, Dracula 2000 has some clever ideas, imaginative visuals, decent special effects (their severed heads are halfway convincing!), effective tension and exciting action. Of course it's sometimes pretty stupid, but I'd expected worse. Be prepared to laugh in derision at the dafter moments, but in between there's a lot to enjoy here. I still can't believe they cast Gerard Butler, though.

Reviewed by Finn Clark