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DRACULA, 1992
Movie Review

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DRACULA MOVIE POSTER
DRACULA, 1992
Movie Reviews

Directed by Francis Ford Coppola
Starring: Gary Oldman, Keanu Reeves, Anthony Hopkins, Winona Ryder
Review by Emma Hutchings



SYNOPSIS:

Young lawyer Jonathan Harker is sent to Transylvania to finalise the sale of a property in London. There he is imprisoned by Count Dracula, who travels to London determined to find Harkerís betrothed Mina Murray, convinced she is the reincarnation of his lost love after seeing her picture. But Van Helsing and his companions stand in the way of Draculaís quest for true love, seeking revenge for his murder of Minaís friend Lucy.

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REVIEW:

Bram Stokerís Dracula begins by showing audiences the story of how the man became the monster. It is a tragic tale; Vlad the Impaler, a righteous warrior, marches off to the Holy Land to fight in the Crusades only to return later and find that his beloved wife Elisabeta has thrown herself to her doom after hearing reports that he was killed in battle. Vlad cannot see how God could let such a thing happen, he renounces him and by doing so, curses himself to an everlasting life of bloodlust and mourning as the vampire Dracula.

Much of the action then takes place between a late Victorian London and Draculaís home in Transylvania. Jonathan Harker travels to Transylvania to meet Count Dracula and arrange his purchase of a property in London, but when the Count spots a portrait of Harkerís soon-to-be wife Mina, he sees his beloved Elisabeta reincarnated (a bit of a coincidence!). So, leaving Harker trapped in his castle with only the three brides for company (poor man), Dracula heads for London for a reunion with his true love. Mina must subsequently decide between this new mysterious man she finds herself attracted to, and Jonathan. Meanwhile, her friend Lucy falls ill with an inexplicable disease of the blood, causing worry for her three suitors, who decide to consult an expert in the field, Professor Abraham Van Helsing.

This film is based on Bram Stokerís 1897 novel and is adapted by American screenwriter James V. Hart. It takes a few liberties with the book; the film includes a lot more romantic scenes and is more of a tragic love story. However, the film does retain certain elements of the novel that are usually emitted from Dracula films and vampire films in general, including the idea that Dracula can move about during daylight hours. The notion of vampires being destroyed by sunlight was invented by motion pictures. It was first used in Nosferatu (1922) and has been continued in films such as Blade and Underworld as well as TV seriesí, most famously, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. However, it isnít part of vampire folklore at all. Original lore stated that vampires only became powerful after sundown and that during the day they were required to return to their graves or coffins. They could still move around if they wished, they just didnít have any supernatural abilities.

As for the romantic elements added to the film, these result in it feeling far more like a doomed Gothic love story than a horror. The beginning is reminiscent of Romeo & Juliet, if Juliet had chosen to become a vampire rather than kill herself. The tag line for the film is simply ĎLove Never Diesí. What the film effectively does is humanise the famous blood-sucking, murderous villain. As a result, I often found myself sympathising with Draculaís plight and hoping itíd work out between him and Mina. He deserved some good luck. All he wanted was to be happy and he had his true love cruelly snatched away from him. This sympathy may also have been caused by some truly awful acting by Keanu Reeves, playing Jonathan Harker. His terrible English accent and wooden performance left me struggling to identify with the man who is the supposed hero of the story and wishing his soon-to-be bride would ditch him for the far more appealing Dracula.

The other actors in the film are far more effective. Winona Ryder does a decent job as a likeable Mina Murray, Anthony Hopkinsí Van Helsing is a quirky, eccentric Professor with a wry sense of humour and Gary Oldman does brilliantly with his roles as Vlad, Dracula old and young, as well as some monstrous versions. I think his performance as the older Count is the most successful, with his playful yet sinister demeanour; ďYou will, I trust, excuse me if I do not join you. But I have already dined, and I never drink...wine.Ē

Bram Stokerís Dracula has many plus points. Above all it is a very stylishly directed film. Francis Ford Coppola said the film pays homage to others of the genre, pointing out the shot of Dracula rising out of his coffin (a homage to F. W. Murnauís Nosferatu (1922)). Also, the blood splashing onto Lucyís bed from the sides of the room is a homage to Stanley Kubrickís The Shining (1980) and Lucy vomiting blood all over Van Helsing is a homage to William Friedkinís The Exorcist (1973).

The film also benefits from some great sets, costumes and make-up. In fact, everything you see on-screen is impressive. It does suffer slightly in terms of story though. The basic plot is quite simple but there is a lot of switching back and forth between London and Transylvania, there are many different sub-plots and the film is just too long. I do imagine it would be fairly difficult to develop a coherent narrative from the novel though, as it is made up of letters and diary entries from the various characters.

Bram Stokerís Dracula is an enjoyable movie, although it might not be what you expect. Itís very heavy on spectacle but rather light on substance. I wanted more from a film about the most famous vampire ever; I wanted more history and an explanation of how exactly he became a vampire; I wanted a darker, more exciting story because mourning his lost love just seemed a bit pathetic for Dracula. Anyway, arenít vampires supposed to lose their soul? Why does he care? Heís supposed to be a blood-sucking monster! So if youíre looking for a horror film with vampires, you may want to look elsewhere. However, if youíre looking for a love film with vampires, this is definitely one to watch.

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