Sunday, November 05, 2006

Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992) [second or third viewing, first in at least ten years]

Far be it from me to criticize a film from the creator of Apocalypse Now on grounds of mad overkill, but this film really is too much. As a teenager, the excess of excess indulged by Francis Ford Coppola made the film cool despite its various flaws; looking at it today, the older me sees exactly the opposite -- a film whose indulgences only serve to amplify the flaws. Everything is cranked up as high as it will go, which means its cast, made up primarily of bland young actors (Winona Ryder, Keanu Reeves, Bill Campbell, et al), only seems the blander in contrast. Hopkins, Oldman and Frost get the truth of Coppola's ethos (that there is no top to go over, so shoot as high as possible); everyone else gets lost inside the maelstrom of activity. (By the time Reeves reappeared, sickly and pale, I'd forgotten he was in the damn film.) Furthermore, the fact that every single aspect of the film is pushed to its extreme is a fatal flaw in and of itself, as that means the soppy melodrama at the heart of the tale gets inflated to the point of exasperation. What we have, then, is the soggiest of Gothic romances mated to a psychotic gore-n-tits freakout, which doesn't work at all. It still has many moments that shock and impress, whether borne from Coppola's still-sharp savant-level filmmaking expertise or his complete disregard for rational forms of expression and willingness to give himself over to utter ludicrousness; as a whole, though, this Dracula exerts an extraordinary amount of energy for a surprisingly paltry payoff. Remember that "Saturday Night Live" sketch with Chris Kattan and Molly Shannon playing suburban Gothabees? Yeah. It's like that.

Grade: C+ (down from B)


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