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review added: 7/10/01



Dracula 2000
2000 (2001) - Dimension (Buena Vista)

review by Greg Suarez of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Dracula 2000 Film Rating: B-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/A/A-

Specs and Features

99 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 56:55, in chapter 8), Amaray keep case packaging, audio commentary track (with director/co-writer Patrick Lussier and co-writer Joel Soisson), EPK "making-of" featurette, 3 extended scenes (with optional director's commentary), 4 deleted scenes (with optional director's commentary), 8 storyboard segments, 3 audition reels, theatrical trailer, promotional trailers (for The Crow DVD boxed set, The Scream Collection DVD boxed set, From Dusk Till Dawn DVD boxed set, Reindeer Games, The Faculty, Immortality, Double Take and the Dracula 2000 CD soundtrack), film-themed menu screens, scene selection (15 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1) and French (DD 2.0), subtitles: Spanish, Closed Captioned

Oh, great... another tired vampire movie. That's what I said to myself the first time I saw the trailer for Dracula 2000. However, much to my delight (vampire buff that I am), this film turned out to be a very original modernization of vampire lore. Basically, what the filmmakers did was pick up where Bram Stoker's novel left off (taking a few liberties) to create a new chapter in the author's timeless tale. Unfortunately, the film does suffer a significant flaw. But first thing's first. Let's begin with a taste of the plot…

During the opening credit sequence, the filmmakers recreate Dracula's journey to London on the ship Demeter, so immediately the audience knows that they are dealing within the realm of Stoker's story. Dracula 2000 begins to veer away from the original tale, once it's revealed that Dr. Van Helsing (Christopher Plummer) successfully captured Dracula (Gerard Butler) in the late 19th century. The good doctor decided to do so after he couldn't figure out a way to kill the beast (crosses and stakes apparently didn't worked). Van Helsing sealed Dracula in a tomb, designed to keep the vampire in (and everyone else out), and hid the tomb in a highly secured area of his office building. Vowing to protect mankind from Dracula as long as the threat exists, Van Helsing uses leaches to harvest the Count's "fountain of youth" blood and injected it into his own body in order to cheat death.

Flash forward to the present day. A group of young thieves with an inside connection (led by a bad boy named Marcus, played by Omar Epps) successfully steals Dracula's tomb out of Van Helsing's office, believing that the doctor was hiding some great fortune inside. Needless to say, the thieves release Dracula into the world, and all hell begins to break loose. The Count - mega-pissed that Van Helsing was stealing his blood - goes after Van Helsing's daughter, Mary (Justine Waddell). Since Mary was conceived while Van Helsing was using Dracula's blood, the vampire shares a chromosome or two with her, and he desires the companionship of a female of his kind who was not made a vampire by another vampire (but rather was born into the lineage). As Mary begins to realize what's going on, she and her father's trusty right hand man, Simon (Johnny Lee Miller), must attempt to avoid the terrible fate Dracula has planned for her. And maybe try to find a way to kill the blasted vampire once and for all in the process.

I loved the story for Dracula 2000. In no way did I find it derivative or campy. This film also holds two nice surprises [minor spoilers follow]. First, the writers offer their own explanation of the origin of Count Dracula, one that is smart, intriguing and will make you think, "Why the hell didn't anyone think of this before?" The second surprise is that the filmmakers leave the ending intentionally open-ended, so that audience can interpret it as they wish. In today's world of test screenings and focus groups - which invariably leads studios to clamor for tider endings to films - this is a very refreshing change. And boy... is this film ever sexy! It's not because there's a lot of on-screen sex (there's only one brief segment), or that there's lots of nudity (just a very quick breast shot). The three women who end up playing Dracula's "wives" (to tell you would spoil the story) do a superb job. The way they move, the way they use their eyes, the cinematography and the wardrobe all contribute to achieve a maximum effect. Dracula 2000 stands as one of the most tastefully sexy vampire films I've ever seen.

Trouble only rears its ugly head in this film when it comes to stylistic vision. Director Patrick Lussier tries to make Dracula 2000 a horror movie in one scene, a comedy in the next scene and then some kind of wire-fu, bullet-time, Matrix knock-off the next. These changes of gear often don't work within the story. When Dracula 2000 tries to be funny, it's not. And the hand-to-hand combat sequences are totally out of place within the atmosphere of the film. That's a shame, because this is one of the most original vampire stories that's come out of Hollywood in a while. If Lussier had played this straight, and perhaps even a little more stylishly dark, who knows how amazing the film might have been? As it stands, Dracula 2000 boasts a great story, but with somewhat questionable execution.

Moving on to the technical end of this Dimension DVD, you'll find a very nice anamorphic widescreen transfer (framed at 2.35:1), which successfully reproduces the dark nature of this film. Colors are accurate, and the black level is effectively deep. The picture shows off a nice amount of fine detail, remaining just a notch below the sharpest transfers available. There are also occasional bouts of visible edge enhancement and noticeable compression artifacting here and there, but these rarely distract from the experience.

Get ready for a sonic thrill-ride with this Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack! The rear channels in this mix are used heavily for directional (and sometimes even discrete) surround effects. Dialog always sounds natural and is well integrated into the film's soundstage. Low frequency is heavy and deep at times, giving your subwoofer a run for its money. And the music fills the listening area, sometimes swelling from the rear channels as well which adds a great deal of atmosphere to the experience. The audio on this disc can be easily considered reference quality.

Not technically labeled a special edition, Dimension and Buena Vista have nevertheless loaded this DVD with more features than many official special editions can boast. First of all, you get a feature-length audio commentary track with director/co-writer Patrick Lussier and co-writer Joel Soisson. The filmmakers delve into detail about the origin of the script and how they went about getting the film produced. They also take time to discuss casting, locations and cinematography. It's quite an informative track, and if you liked the film, it's worth your time. Next up is an 8-minute, EPK-style featurette that - surprise! - is actually informative. The featurette offers some behind-the-scenes footage and most of the cast members are interviewed briefly. What they say is actually more than the typical "see our great film" B.S.. A trio of extended scenes (with optional director's commentary) also appears on this disc, along with a quartet of deleted scenes (again, with optional director's commentary). None of the omitted material would have greatly changed the flavor of the film. There's also a series of eight storyboard sequences, cast member audition footage (for Gerard Butler, Justine Waddell and Colleen Ann "Vitamin C" Fitzpatrick) and the theatrical trailer, which rounds out the supplemental section of the disc. From the disc's main menu screen, you can also access sneak peaks for other, similarly-themed Dimension/Buena Vista titles (specifically The Crow DVD boxed set, The Scream Collection DVD boxed set, From Dusk Till Dawn DVD boxed set, Reindeer Games, The Faculty, Immortality, Double Take and the Dracula 2000 CD soundtrack). All in all, a very nice set of supplements.

If you're a fan of the vampire genre, you should make Dracula 2000 a rental priority at the very least. The story is very original, despite some flaws in the film's execution. Dimension and Buena Vista have served up the DVD goods with this disc by offering a nice transfer and powerful Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. Add to that a splendid array of extras, and you'll have yourself a full evening of entertainment. And don't worry about bringing your crucifix... it won't do you any good.

Greg Suarez
gregsuarez@thedigitalbits.com




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