Saturday, July 9, 2011

Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie Moments:#79-Bram Stoker's Dracula(1992)

By Eric Polk-
To begin with, this is one of Brandon's favorite films, in his top 5 to be more specific. As for me, I love the director of this film Francis Ford Coppola, the man who directed my favorite non scifi/horror film, The Godfather. Now, given the backlash vampires have received since Twilight reared it's melodramatic, sparkly head, I want to go out of my way not to bash this film if it didn't deserve it. So....

In 1462, Vlad Dracula, a member of the Order of the Dragon, returns from a victory to find his wife Elisabeta has committed suicide after hearing reports of his death. Enraged at the notion of his wife being damned for committing suicide, Dracula desecrates his chapel and renounces God, declaring that he will rise from the grave to avenge Elisabeta with all the powers of darkness.

In 1897, newly-qualified solicitor Jonathan Harker takes the Transylvanian Count Dracula as a client from his colleague R.M. Renfield, who has gone insane. Jonathan travels to Transylvania to arrange Dracula's real estate acquisition in London, including Carfax Abbey. Jonathan meets Dracula—now a wrinkled, pale old man inhabiting a bizarre castle. During the signing of the papers, the Count discovers a picture of Harker's fiancĂ©e, Mina, and believes that she is the reincarnation of Elisabeta. Dracula leaves Jonathan to be seduced by his brides and sails to England with boxes of his native soil, taking up residence at Carfax Abbey.

In London, Dracula emerges as a werewolf-like creature amid a fierce thunderstorm and hypnotically seduces, then rapes and bites Lucy Westerna, with whom Mina is staying while Jonathan is in Transylvania. Lucy's deteriorating health and behavioral changes prompts Lucy's former love-interests Quincey Morris and Dr. Seward, along with her fiancee, Arthur Holmwood, to summon Dr. Van Helsings, who recognizes Lucy as the victim of a vampire. Dracula, now young and handsome, meets and charms Mina. When Mina receives word from Jonathan, who has escaped the castle and recovered at a convent , she travels to Romania to marry him. In his fury Dracula transforms Lucy into a vampire. Van Helsing, Holmwood, Seward and Morris kill Lucy.
After Jonathan and Mina return to London, Jonathan and Van Helsing lead the others to Carfax Abbey, where they destroy the Count's boxes of soil. Dracula enters the asylum, where he kills Renfield for warning Mina of his presence before visiting Mina, who is staying in Seward's quarters while the others hunt Dracula. Dracula confesses that he murdered Lucy and has been terrorizing Mina's friends, but a confused and angry Mina admits that she still loves him and remembers her previous life as Elisabeta. At her insistence, Dracula begins transforming her into a vampire. The hunters burst into the bedroom, with Dracula claiming Mina as his bride before escaping. As Mina begins changing, Van Helsing hypnotizes her and learns via her connection with Dracula that he is sailing home in his last remaining box. The hunters depart for Varna to intercept him, but Dracula reads Mina's mind and evades them. The hunters split up, with Van Helsing and Mina traveling to the Borgo Pass and the castle, while the others try to stop the Gypsies transporting the Count.

At night, Van Helsing and Mina are approached by Dracula's brides. They frighten Mina at first, but she gives into their chanting and attempts to seduce Van Helsing. Before Mina can feed on his blood, Van Helsing places a communion wafer upon her forehead, leaving a mark. He surrounds them with a ring of fire to protect them from the brides, then infiltrates the castle and decapitates them the following morning. As sunset approaches, Dracula's carriage arrives at the castle, pursued by the hunters. A fight between the hunters and gypsies ensues and at sunset Dracula bursts from his coffin.

Visually, this movie is stunning, deserving of the Oscars for Best Costume and Best Makeup. The sets are elaborate and effective. But, on the other hand, Keanu Reeves' English accent is as phony as Madonna's, hardly convincing. The romance to me is overdone and very sloppy. I understand it's a gothic-romance at the heart of the movie, but it's way too overdone. Gary Oldham and Anthony Hopkins are wonderful in this film, as expected. So, I guess Dracula is a mixed bag. It's no Godfather but no My Best Friend is a Vampire, either.

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