Bram Stoker's Dracula (Coppola, 1992)
I have to admit I was bored, so I decided to watch this one again. I found it at Wal-Mart for five dollars and said what the hell, I'll buy it. And I'm so glad I did. Not only do I remember how much I used to love Winona Ryder, but I get to watch Gary Oldman take on an iconic role and be creepy yet oddly sensual. My one regret for this film is the inclusion of Keanu Reeves. Although he's obviously good for a laugh, sometimes I just want to shoot him in the face for thinking he could do anything besides say "whoa" or play air guitar.
Besides the classic 1931 Dracula and Nosferatu, this is really one of the best adaptations of Dracula's story to date. Of course it took some liberties with the story, making it more of a love story across the centuries than a hunt after an old guy who happens to drink blood and defile virgins. It makes it a lot more heartwarming and beautiful, but it kind of takes away the fear. I read the book twice in seventh grade (I was an odd child), and I always love thinking back to it. I really want to read it again actually. I should get around to that someday. But I really think it's a scary story, although I can see where they took into account the sexuality and emotion of it. Because let's not kid ourselves, what are vampires really about? The male vampire penetrates the young virgin (albeit with his teeth in her neck) in order to exchange bodily fluids and perform a transformation from innocent young girl to sensual vixen. Or maybe I'm just reading too much into things. But Coppola does a wonderful job portraying this raw passion between Mina and Dracula, and I love the way Oldman interacts with Ryder. The characters have known each other centuries before, and now across time and bodies, they meet again. It's really quite beautiful, if not creepy and kind of disturbing. Dracula has been alive for centuries, while Mina's body is just a very young reincarnation of his old love Elisabeta. So how old is Winona Ryder compared to the Dracula character? 25? 30? That's kind of gross.
I always love throwbacks to older horror, especially in vampire movies. There are a lot of references to Bela Lugosi and Nosferatu, among others. The play of the shadows on the wall is especially entertaining and well-done. The shots of Ryder's and Oldman's faces, the iconic rising of the vampire from his coffin, straight out of Nosferatu, the mirror/shaving scene with Keanu's terrible double-takes, the tears-to-diamonds scene get me every time. The only scene I could have done without would have to be Jonathan in the pit with the women. Why on earth they had the women licking Keanu's bleeding nipple, I could not say. Odd choice. I mostly try to block it from my memory, but it is really quite disturbing. Probably the scariest part of the movie. It could have been much better, but Keanu was there, so all hopes of greatness are lost.
Anthony Hopkins, as always, is wonderful and amazing and kick-ass. He makes any movie worth watching. And playing the famous Van Helsing, he can't help but appeal to the audience and breathe life into the character. He's just so wise and calm and dignified. But he still terrifies me. I bet in real life he's just the nicest guy, but I can't stop thinking he might try to rip out my liver and eat it. I wonder if he even likes fava beans.
But overall, I would say this is one of the better adaptations and that's saying something. You can't go far in the horror section at the video store without running into Dracula. But don't pass this one up, it's worth watching at least once.