HMM Day 7 – Bram Stoker’s Dracula

The year was 1992 and there I was, a young ten year old boy sitting as close as a child should be allowed to sit in front of the television. But nothing could pull me away from the tube because tonight we were watching MacGyver. MacGyver, my most favorite show of all time. The best thing about MacGyver is that I had absolutely not clue what this show was about. Was he a spy or was he an assassin? Who gives a shit because all I know is that MacGyver was one bad ass you don’t mess with. He always found himself in a world of chaos and he always got his way out without using any gun. Instead he would make traps or weapons out of random objects. I could give a shit if it was all realistic or not. If MacGyver wanted to make a helicopter out of random piles of garbage then the guy do it! I’d go to school the next day and tell kids how you could kill an entire Russian army with only a Swiss Army Knife and a fucking paperclip.

So the night goes on and MacGyver is killing it. At the highpoint of the show we always go into commercials. This is the pivotal point where MacGyver is stuck in a sticky situation. The bad guy has guns drawn on him or the ticking clock is counting down to an explosion. I always hated this but secretly loved the tension. Nothing could distract me from Mac right now. It was the climactic point where whatever he does next determines if he dies!

So the commercials are rolling and nothing is very interesting. Until all of a sudden I see one of the most amazing things I have ever seen! A movie trailer. A movie trailer that made my eyes go wide. I jumped up and crawled closer to the television. I looked like Gollum as my hand outstretched to touch the glowing screen. “Sit down Nate, you’re in the way!” said my dad. What I saw before me lasted for little more than a minute. It was so quick and mesmerizing that I lost all track of my surroundings. At this point there was no MacGyver. I couldn’t even remember what predicament the guy was in anymore. I jumped up and down when it was over and flipped! Somebody was making the movie Bram Stokers Dracula and it looked sweet!

I wanted nothing more than to see this dark looking movie. But it was rated R and my parents weren’t that cool. It took me years before I finally saw the movie and when I finally had my chance and began… I… didn’t… know… what the fuck… I was watching. Is this a love story or something? Why is Dracula an old man wearing a dress? Why is everything so weird looking? Is Dracula a good movie or am I just losing my mind? Seriously, why the hell is Ted Logan and Lydia Deetz in this movie and who thought they could do English accents? Who the fuck would make something like this? I did not understand and quickly lost interest. I was still young so I expected loads of blood and gore. Scary fangs and a guy turning into a flying rodent. JUST KILL PEOPLE LIKE THE LOST BOYS! How could they do this? Dracula wasn’t a lover, he was meant to be a walking monstrosity that sucked the blood out of anyone he came across! What the fuck is up with 1992’s Bram Stokers Dracula?

Bram Stoker’s Dracula is a 1992 horror/romance film directed by film legend Francis Ford Coppola and stars Gary Oldman, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Wynona Ryder and Keanu Reeves. The movie received mixed reviews, praising both the interesting stylization of the film and acting of Oldman and Hopkins. But the film did receive quite a lot of criticism for the acting of Ryder and Reeves.

The Story

As a young Jonathan Harker heads to the mysterious Carpathian land of Transylvania, he encounters an ancient castle home to a Count Dracula. Harker soon finds his stay in this ancient castle is not as it seems. Count Dracula soon discovers Harker’s fiancé Mina and decides to reveal his true nature and enslave poor Jonathan Harker. Dracula sets out to England in pursuit of his long lost bride. Now the hunt is one for this ancient creature!

Often times there are certain movies that just don’t register to a viewer when they are young and stupid. But through time and understanding, the curtains of jack ass peal back and what you once hated is now something great. This is what 1992’s Bram Stokers Dracula is to me. The first time I saw this movie, I was disappointed beyond comprehension. But through the years, this movie has grown on me. Even becoming one of my most favorite nineties horror films.

Now, right off the bat (get it!) this movie is weird. You have weird shots where purple eyes are in horizon sky. Hot vampire chicks are coming out of beds. Water drips upside down. Dracula in wolf form looks like he’s jacking off with sand paper. Blood sprays out of nowhere at times. There’s just strange things that happen in the weirdest places. There is no doubt about it, it’s balls to the wall crazy. But it is in this craziness and understanding of what Francis Ford Coppola was trying to achieve that makes it truly one of the best films of a recent past. The thing is, I was too young to understand why this movie was shot the way it was. I couldn’t get passed the Keanu acting or the weird imagery. In the words of a crazy cult follower. That was the baggage… I was making… the movie carry.

Meta Cool

I really love the sub-genre of meta horror. 2008’s Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon and 2010’s Tucker & Dale Vs Evil are great meta films about the slasher genre. 2011’s Cabin in The Woods is an amazing meta film about the entire horror genre! Then we have 1992’s Bram Stokers Dracula, a film that is a meta movie in regards to the entire history of movie making. This is probably why I didn’t actually like the movie in the beginning. I couldn’t understand the blend of cinematography that is used because my index of horror movie history was so limited. But now I see it and its absolutely brilliant. What Coppola does is honor the various filming styles from beginning to end. From the silhouette battle scene in the beginning. To the sped up camera movements down a street. To the foggy atmospheres in overly large sets. Every single shot is a nod to past movie making techniques. It’s like you’re watching a modern movie but still shot with the original silent film style, that blends practical effects that have been secrets of the trade for decades.

The best way to truly enjoy this movie is to watch the making of the film. Coppola uses these special effect that are genuine and classic. When you see the rats running across a metal beam upside down, it’s not a lazy CGI effect. It’s literally just layering two separate shots on top of each other. Just one of them is flipped. It’ so easy! But they do this throughout the entire movie. The transition of scenes with iris wipes are brilliant and the blending of colors makes everything look vibrant and foreign. Seriously, there is only one CGI effect in the entire movie and it’s just a blue fire ring that hovers outside Draculas castle. This kind of stuff makes me appreciate this movie far more. Coppola makes use of shadow and sound to create dramatic and eerie effect and enticing atmosphere. It’s a visually pleasing tone of a film that you can almost sink your teeth in.

It is a love story and for the most part this is a horror film that isn’t too scary. But it does have some pretty intense visuals. The monster design is off the charts amazing. I don’t think anyone has ever made a Dracula look this cool before. As the ancient form in the castle, Dracula is fragile and sickly looking. But his wide smile and demeanor is haunting and enticing. He haunts your subconscious and makes you fear the elderly form. Then when Dracula is in bat form, he is devilish and everything a vampire should look like. This depiction is probably what inspired other depictions in films like Underworld.

Fangs Are Used Sparingly

One of my most favorite things about this version of Dracula is the use of fangs. One of the most stupidest things in vampire films is the constant use and showing of fangs. I mean, I get it; they’re scary and like a cat are meant to strike a warning of fear into people. But after a while, it gets old. It’s kind of like the Star Wars sequels and the lightsaber. In the first Star Wars movies the lightsaber was used very sparingly. Only in desperate times would Luke bust that shit out. But when he did, you knew it was go time. But the new films… that’s all Jedi do! It diminishes the awesomeness of the lightsaber folks. They do this with Wolverine as well. Wolverine gets angry and the blades come out. Wolverine gets annoyed with technology and he stabs a metal detector. Wolverine gets pissed at Cyclops so he flicks him off with the middle blade. Wolverine needs to open a bottle cap so he flicks it with the blades. Wolverine has a bad nightmare and wakes up with his blades out and he’s cut through the person he’s banging. It gets to the point where they’re not threatening anymore. The only thing that can make an appearance and be appreciated every single time is when my wife is naked!

But most Dracula films after Bela Lugosi were all about the fangs. Christopher Lee in the Hammer horror Dracula films probably started it all. He would always make numerous fang appearances in one of the many times he played the part. It was always accompanied by thunderous music as if lightning had struck. Since then every vampire movie had to do the fang thing. The Lost Boys, 30 Days of Night, Vampire in Brooklyn, Fright Night! EVERY DAMN ONE relies on the teeth. Those movies aren’t bad but they could execute the fangs a little better. It’s not scary after the tenth time you do it.

But not Bram Stokers Dracula! The teeth are the defining trademark about Dracula but this movie only really gives you one or two great moments that show them. But they’re not drawn in intimidation and there’s this sweet build up to the moment. I love that about this movie and wish other films would mimic its use.

Poor Keanu

So I get it, Keanu Reeves is pretty bad in this film. His gray hair looks like baby powered was sprinkled in it and his lines seem that of a high school play. He’s like that one annoying theater kid in your class that thinks he’s great at playing any part. But really he sucks. He’s not even minimally ok like Tom Cruise or a lying politician. Ryder is also not the best in this film. Maybe the entire reason for casting them is a homage to the silent film style because Reeves and Ryders style is exaggerated. Just like the silent film actors would do. I could be wrong. They were most likely used to draw in the new hip crowd at the time. Reeves would be the good looking guy and Winona has boobs. Like Leslie Vernon said “It’s convention, deal with it.“

But the faulty acting is certainly matched between Goldman and Hopkins. Together they are an insanely gifted duo. Goldman is the best in his commanding severity as Dracula. When he is evil and threatening, you believe it in his face. Dracula alone is a more menacing character than ever before. His presence seems to alter reality. Flowers wilt in his presence. Animals become ruthless and more dangerous. His shadow bends light to reflect his emotions. It’s like his deal with Satan is exactly the nature of Satan himself and be at odds with Gods creation. Goldman presents this entire character flawlessly. Strange and odd but flawless. He’s a conflicting antagonist to have for a film. When he cries and suffers, you feel for his plight. But when he feeds and does what he does you want him to die. He delivers a character that is both the evil monster and the suffering widower. You can hate him yet cheer him on at the same time.

All of Goldman’s skills and serious style is countered with Hopkins more quirky and laughable style of Dr. Van Helsing played by Hopkins. The man enters a room and changes the entire tone. When you first see Helsing, you don’t know to respect him or laugh at his personality. Although the two actors never officially meet, they serve as the opposing forces in the entire fight. It’s brilliant and holds up so much that it makes you forget a dim witted Neo or a neurotic Joyce Byers.

All in all the movie is brilliant and breathtaking. Its loud and showboats it’s over the top presentation. But it’s not to the point where you get annoyed like most modern blockbuster films like The Hobbit or Ready Player One. You go on this strange ride and accept the personality of the film. Add in one hell of a brilliant score and you have yourself a wonderful work of art. You can watch this film over and over again and each time, see something different.

Even though it is a romance film with less scares than most horror fans would like. It does have some pretty sweet moments. Like when Dracula gets pissed and attacks Lucy the first time. Or when Van Helsing performs the exorcism of Dracs new bride.

There’s no jump scares with loud crashing bangs. Just captivating reveals that are shocking and memorable. It’s a movie that deserves both your time and appreciation. To wonder at the history of film making and how it can still be used to make enticing art. Just like the story of Dracula being told throughout the ages, with minor variations being made; the story is still timeless and just like the art of film will continue for generations. This is why I have chosen 1992’s Bram Stokers Dracula for day seven of my Horror Movie Marathon.

Thanks For Reading

If you would like to see past day seven marathon entries then check these out below!

Also, if you’re new to the entire marathon then check out all the posts I have covered.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. A great movie. 👍

    Liked by 1 person

    1. nscovell says:

      Absolutely, I’ve actually even come to admire the Reeves and Ryder lines.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. rdfranciswriter says:

    This is one that I didn’t care for in the theater, but it grew on me via cable and home video. Yeah, Reeves is a bit out of his element. Gary, well, hell: Gary is Gary. Now, he’s no Klaus Kinski in Nosferatu — and who is (I’m a KlausHead) — but he keeps you watching, in spite of the weakness that everyone seems to note, brought to the table by Ryder and Reeves.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. nscovell says:

      Yea. It’s one of those films that you keep going back to and finding yourself enjoying more and more about it. One of my most favorite things to look for is how Dracula alters reality around him. It’s very subtle things but it makes his presence more monstrous

      Liked by 1 person

      1. rdfranciswriter says:

        Exactly. Coppola has that going for him. He avoided the gore for chills. He eliminated the fangs for the psychological. That, as you said, keeps you coming back and finding a deeper appreciation.

        Liked by 1 person

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