“It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time” is a series that focuses on movies which have a bad critical reputation, bombed in the box office, or serve as guilty pleasures. It will largely focus on genre movies, though I will venture outside of that area
When you really get down to it, Scream turned out to be a mixed blessing. On one hand, it was the kick in the ass the horror genre needed. After things like Hellraiser: Bloodline (you know, the one that gave us Pinhead in space) threatened to reduce the genre to a bad parody of itself, a self aware post modern slasher homage/satire may have seemed like the last thing anyone would have wanted. Instead, it proved to be a smart, scary, and funny little film that proved to be a hit. Love it or hate it, without “Scream,” horror probably wouldn’t be as popular as it is today.
On the other hand, it also led to an unfortunate trend in horror that centered around mediocre, teen oriented horror movies that were nowhere near as clever or inventive. Granted, horror is a genre that more often than not gears more towards teen and young adult audiences and there has been poor imitations of better horror movies for God knows how long. However, this trend proved to be pretty egregious, as we ended up getting the likes of The Forsaken, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer and Soul Survivors entering multiplexes to the delight of nobody.
This also proved to be a mixed blessing for Wes Craven. A veteran of the genre whose directorial credits include classics like The Last House on the Left, The Hills Have Eyes, A Nightmare on Elm Street and the underrated “The Serpent and the Rainbow” (and to a lesser extent, The Hills Have Eyes 2, Cursed and Vampire in Brooklyn), he has proven to be the most successful of horrors big four (the others being George Romero, John Carpenter and Tobe Hooper). Before “Scream,” his career had seen better days. So while the movie rejuvenated his career, it came with the price of pissing some people off. The people he pissed off? Horror fans.
Well, not all of them. Sure, to this day you’ll still hear some horror fans bitch and moan about how they think “Scream” ruined horror, but it’s mostly accepted as the classic it rightfully is today. Back when it came out you couldn’t turn around or go anywhere on a horror themed website without hearing people show their distaste for the film. Sure, some horror fans enjoyed the film, but good lord the people who hated it really hated it. To them, it was the ultimate sellout movie – something that mocked horror fans and horror conventions (though let’s be honest, people were mocking that kind of thing beforehand) for an audience of gullible teens who had never seen a George Romero or Lucio Fulci movie, let alone Craven’s first two movies. To them, Wes Craven and this movie represented everything wrong with the world or something. To be fair, horror fans, like any fandom, can be a pretty petty bunch.
So when it was announced that Craven was going to be producing an updated Dracula movie, you can only imagine how angry some people got. How dare this sellout desecrate a beloved, iconic figure. I mean, it’s not like Dracula A.D. 1972 made him a joke. Nevermind that even Dario Argento would later do his own awful Dracula movie. People needed something new to blame on their new scapegoat. So in late December of 2000, the world would get “Dracula 2000.”
Our film at first deals with Edward Van Helsing (Christopher Plummer), who now works as an antiques dealer with assistant Simon (Johnny Lee Miller). So far, so what. Well, that is until a group of thieves (Two of who are played by Omar Epps and “That 70’s Show” actor Danny Masterson) decide to steal a coffin that they think could be holding something valuable. Of course, it turns out that said coffin holds a certain vampire known as Count Dracula (Gerard Butler), and after he attacks the thieves and the crew on the plane carrying him, they crash land in New Orleans.
Now Van Helsing and Simon must head there, and not just to stop the big bad vampire. You see, Van Helsing’s daughter Mary (Justine Waddle) just happens to be living in this city, and Dracula has eyes on her, as well as being allergic to buttoning up his shirt. In the process, our heroes must also deal with the vampire’s new minions, including the former thieves and his new brides in Van Helsing’s Secretary (Jennifer Esposito), a news reporter (Jeri Ryan), and Mary’s roommate (Colleen Fitzpatrick aka pop star “Vitamin C” aka that girl who did that graduation song).
On paper, I should hate this movie. The soundtrack is dated as hell (way too much Nu Metal – the only respites are System of a Down’s cover of the Berlin song “The Metero,” Slayer’s “Bloodlines,” and Pantera’s “Avoid the Light),” and I doubt Count Dracula would be a fan of post “Dopes to Infinity” Monster Magnet – or any form of rock music in general. At the end of the day, this really isn’t a good movie. However, as far as dumb major studio B-movies are concerned, this one is a fun little guilty pleasure that has plenty of goofy, dumb charm to it.
The main thing this has going for it is the self aware but never condescending script by Joel Soisson and director Patrick Lussier. Lussier in particular knows what kind of movie this is – a slice of horror hokum for a newer generation – and like his later films in My Bloody Valentine 3D and the mostly awesome exploitation homage Drive Angry, knows how to execute it with a knowing wink and flair for action. Add some solid cinematography and visuals (I love the hallway that lead’s to Mary’s apartment, which is filled with dark blacks and blues and deep, blood red drapery) and even throwing in a few nods to prior vampire classics (the best being an inverse on a scene from Roman Polanski’s The Fearless Vampire Killers that answers the question “how do you deal with an atheist vampire?”)
He also (mostly) gets some good mileage out of the cast. Plummer does fine work as Van Helsing that thankfully avoids the usual camp histrionics that most people associate with him. Jonny Lee Miller and Omar Epps are obviously having a good time (Epps in particular is clearly having fun playing against type), and Butler, whilst not the best Dracula ever, is far from the worst. The fact that the movie understands that while he’s a sexual being he is also still a monster and not the tragic romantic anti-hero many try to portray him as nowadays helps. This brings me to the most controversial aspect to the movie, in that [SPOILER] Dracula is actually none other than Judas Iscariot. While I do find turning him into a figure from the Bible to be a bit corny, I can’t help but also applaud a movie that tries to take the religious aspects of the Dracula story and does something new with them.[END SPOILER
At the end of the day, I’m a horror fan through and through. I love all the essentials – old Universal horror films, Italian horror, some of the 80’s slashers, etc. – and I know many will hate this movie. Me? Well, as the meme goes, haters gonna hate. If enjoying a slice of cheesy, cornball movie like this is wrong, then sue me.
Budget: $54 Million
Box Office Total: $47,053,625
Next Time: “The Love Guru” aka “Fuck You, Mike Myers”