Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Halloween Month: "Dracula 2000"

*As always, I write these articles under the assumption that you’ve seen this movie, so...SPOILERS.

It’s October, so I’m going to be watching and revisiting as many horror(ish) films as possible this month. First up is Dracula 2000, also known as Wes Craven Presents Dracula 2000. That “Wes Craven Presents” line cracks me up, especially since they used it for the subsequent DTV sequels, and the IMDb trivia section for each of those movies points out that Wes Craven had nothing to do with them. Wes Craven did serves as an executive producer on this film, though it’s really a Patrick Lussier movie, and he would go on to direct the My Bloody Valentine remake and Drive Angry, which makes him okay in my book. But back to the movie at hand. I remember really enjoying this movie when it first came out. Even back then, I knew it was B-movie stuff, especially since it had the cheesy 2000 in the title, but I found it much more entertaining than it had any right to be. I liked the some of the cheesy humor, but it was the violence that stuck with me. I found most of the violent action to be pretty damn funny, even if it wasn’t meant to be. Looking back, I still like it, but not nearly as much, mainly because I now see it for the shameless Matrix copy it tried to be.

Matrix-Like Action!”

I feel like a real dumbass. How did I not see how much this film wanted to be a Matrix movie but with vampires when I first watched it? It came out so soon after The Matrix and so many elements are deliberate copies: the bullet-time crossbow shots, both Hyde from That ‘70s Show and pre-300 Gerard Butler dressing like Neo, the unnatural metal soundtrack shoehorned in just to sell the soundtrack, the shitty techno score when metal wasn’t being played, that wannabe cool heist sequence, etc.

Let me break a few of these down. I’m skipping the action because ripping off The Matrix is still happening in action movies. But rarely does a non-parody film flat out wear the same clothes as a character from another film, unless it’s one of those DTV movies that simply change a title around to confuse less-savvy customers. Danny Masterson, inexplicably named Nightshade, is dressed in Neo’s trench coat outfit until he is killed by Dracula...who is inspired by Nightshade’s fashion choices? At first, I thought he simply took Nightshade’s clothes, but Nightshade is clothed when he comes back to life later...but he doesn’t have the trench coat. So Dracula took the coat but found matching pants and a shirt? This is making my head hurt, and I don’t want to go back and check the wardrobe changes more closely than I already have. As usual, I have definitely put more thought into this than anyone who was involved in the film.

As for the soundtrack, I remember liking it at the time, and there are still some songs I like (any movie with a Static X song in it is okay to me), but watching it now the music is ridiculous at times. It’s not that metal can’t fit with a horror film; it totally can. But a Static X song is not fitting for a scene showing a Mardi Gras celebration, no matter how many vampires are in attendance. And this happens at least three times. It’s one thing for a rocking song to play while vampire carnage occurs, it’s an entirely different thing to hear that music while drunk people toss beads around on Bourbon Street.

The soundtrack issue is a kind of time capsule thing. I’m part of the last generation that will remember that soundtracks were kind of a big deal at one time. It used to be one of the only ways to get a good compilation album, and sometimes artists would create songs just for movies (the Red Hot Chili Peppers song for Coneheads comes to mind). And sure, some soundtracks today still resonate (Guardians of the Galaxy comes to mind), but it’s different in an era in which you can buy almost any song individually. In the dark days when the internet was still getting its shit together, entire albums were sometimes purchased for one song. It was a dark, chaotic time (just kidding, I often miss the days before the internet became so prevalent and forced me to write about movies on it for a handful of readers). All that said, Dracula 2000’s soundtrack wasn’t all that special, but I do remember buying The Matrix soundtrack, and for some odd reason, I always think of the soundtrack to the shitty slasher flick Valentine as being good. (Update: just checked the track listing; it’s okay, but there’s no reason why it should stick in my mind like it does.)

The Matrix didn’t start soundtracks in general, of course, but it did start this fusion of metal and techno. But it didn’t beat you over the head with it. Most of the films that followed felt obligated to shoehorn in metal and sometimes techno hoping to get people to buy the soundtrack (which is why the DVD case for Dracula 2000 includes a picture of the soundtrack, telling me to pick up the “hot” CD). What’s even more annoying is that this film featured a character who worked in a music store. The scenes with her at work make sense to have all manner of songs playing in the background; it even works to have Dracula flat out watch a Monster Magnet video. What sucks is that they couldn’t leave well enough alone and kept adding in these nonsensical moments just to add another song.

Okay, enough harping on this. I do like this movie, so I’ll move on to what worked for me.

Omar Epps’s decapitated head flying into a dumpster.

That’s my answer to the question: Why the fuck do you like Dracula 2000? Now, add an unbroken shot of someone flipping off a balcony and landing flat on their back onto a hardwood floor, and now you’ve answered, “Why the fuck do you own Dracula 2000?” Those two moments seriously make the movie for me.

Some of the other action is okay, but those two specific moments always make laugh/say “Oh, shit!” I like to think the filmmakers intended this reaction, but even if they didn’t, it still works. There is a sense of humor to the film, so I think it’s intentional.

Aside from the funny violence, there are a few elements that bring me back to this movie. The cast is far too good for a movie like this (Christopher Plummer is in this!), especially when you see Nathan Fillion in a throwaway role. The film is worth revisiting just to see Gerard Butler before he became much more famous, and his audition on the DVD is pretty fucking nutty.

But honestly, the decapitation and the balcony fall are the only reasons why I own this movie. But I was glad I revisited it and checked out some of the special features. I had no clue about that Gerard Butler audition until now. That’s part of the magic of revisiting some of the weaker entries in my collection.

Do I regret buying this?

No, I guess... I still don't think this is a good movie, but I have watched this DVD at least five times, so I suppose that justifies the cost. I still don't quite understand my fascination with this movie, but I can't deny that I enjoy it each time I watch it.

Random Thoughts

In the (title) vein of the great Blues Brothers 2000

Despite lame attempts to make it “hip" or “edgy" or whatever, it still ends up being a surprisingly decent movie. I like the overall mood of the film.

Nice transition shot from the eye to the vault door.

They got rid of Lochlyn Munro way too soon.

The dude who gets impaled by about a dozen spikes...did we really need a close up of him slowly closing his eyes to signify his death?

Remember when Vitamin C was a thing?

Not going to lie, Dracula's body with the mask on it is pretty damn creepy.

Masterson pries a leech off the body right into his eye. Why was he prying the leech off in the first place?

Terrible gunshot sound effects.

Nathan Fillion!

“I boycotted your ordination.”

The local news anchor pronounces it “New Or Lee Uns.”

Would've been cool if they had the budget to show the plane crash…

The main character working at a Virgin music store definitely dates the movie quite a bit, as does the attempt to make the film's soundtrack a thing.

These are some smartass vampires…”I said I was sorry.” “Sorry, sport. I'm an atheist.” “All I want to do is suck.”

The action scene in the church is actually quite impressive. Well, not really, but that shot of Sean Patrick Thomas falling from the balcony is pretty good. Rarely do you see the full fall and impact in one shot. According to the commentary, that was practical. Just a stuntman falling from a balcony. Crazy.

Dracula watches a solid thirty seconds of a Monster Magnet video and calls it “brilliant.”

I can't tell if Gerard Butler is using his natural accent or attempting an American accent. I'm a firm believer in Butler only using his natural accent because his American accent is laughable.

The Omar Epps decapitation is ridiculous, but the shot of his head flying into a dumpster always makes me smile.

Justine Waddell’s whisper-acting annoys me.

Gerard Butler isn't a very imposing Dracula. He looks more like a bro-Dracula. He'd be much more frightening if they kept him old-looking, like he looked after getting that Masterson blood.

When Sick Boy opens the Bible towards bro-Dracula, what made the pages fly out like projectiles? This movie is bullshit!

I love Static X, but they are not a Mardi Gras band…

What's with Mary's leather outfit at the end? I guess I never realized just how much they tried to make this like The Matrix.

I like the twist that Dracula is Judas. But what's his plan exactly? Is just existing with his sort-of offspring a victory for him?

Did I zone out and miss another scene with Fillion? It seems like he should have reappeared at some point.

According to the commentary, Fillion’s character was added in reshoots. That explains his disappearance, but it's still bad writing to introduce this character who seems to know something, and simply have him disappear from the film.

According to the commentary, Fillion added more to the character than the writers did.

Something occurred to me about Gerard Butler’s audition. I wonder if he did his own makeup for it. He had to, right? There's no makeup department for auditions, right? Can you imagine being in the waiting room to audition for the part and in walks Butler, with his flowing mane and eyeliner? What an asshole!

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