Thursday, November 8, 2012
Today is Bram Stoker's 165th birthday so its a perfect time for this post! I had actually seen Bram Stoker's Dracula (this movie's full title, apparently for legal reasons) before in high school around the time I read the book for a class. However it has been a while since I last saw it and I've actually read the book again since.
The main thing I remembered from watching it years ago was that Keanu Reeves has a terrible British accent. And upon re-watching Dracula his accent is just as bad as I remember! To be fair Reeves does a decent job expressing the confusion and unpreparedness Jonathan Harker faces while meeting Dracula in Transylvania. The main problem is that every time he opens his mouth he sounds like his character Ted from Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure attempting a British accent. Other than Keanu, the rest of the cast is very good with Gary Oldman dooing an amazing job in the title role. Anthony Hopkins is a little over the top but fun as vampire hunter Dr. Van Helsing, and Winona Ryder plays Jonathan Harker's independent fiancee, Mina Murray. Monica Belluci, who was in the last movie I wrote about (Shoot 'em Up), has a small role as one the female vampires who attempt to seduce Jonathan Harker at Castle Dracula.
I really liked how the movie managed to keep the epistolary form of the book by showing us characters writing letters, composing diary entries, making phonograph recordings, etc. There is also a scene done in the style of early movie camera, which while a bit ahead of this time period technology wise with color film, looks great. The visuals in Dracula are fantastic and the best part of the movie, though the makeup, costumes, and special effects look great as well. The practical effects hold up nicely after 20 years, just another reminder that CGI isn't perfect. Dracula won three Oscars for Best Costume Design, Best Sound Effects Editing, and Best Makeup. It was also nominated for Best Set Decoration.
The pacing could have been better, but keep in mind that this is a long book and it would not be practical to film everything from it. The movie also features the backstory of how Dracula became a vampire with Mina being a reincarnation of his wife, which was not in Bram Stoker's novel. Despite this part being an invention of the film, it works here to make Dracula a somewhat sympathetic villain, include more tension with Mina, and to tie in with the historical figure Vlad the Impaler. Again, its been long time since I've read the book but overall this is a solid adaptation that also works well on its own.
I've seen several vampire movies, a few of which I've reviewed on this blog, but this is actually the only Dracula movie I've seen so I have some catching up to do in that department. Speaking of films I still need to see, the only Francis Ford Coppola movies I've watched are this one and Jack... So many movies, so little time!