Rated R - Running Time: 2:07 - Released 12/22/00

Attaching famous horror director Wes Craven's name to Dracula 2000, which he did not direct but co-produced, was a wise move on the part of Miramax, since calling it Patrick Lussier's Dracula 2000 doesn't exactly have the same drawing power. Craven, who directed not only Nightmare On Elm Street, but all three Scream movies among many others, is but one of ten producers who put their faith in erstwhile editor Lussier's first feature film, which he also wrote along with Joel Soisson. The film is not bad for a freshman effort (Craven and his nine pals must have had some reason for high expectations), but, like most directors these days, Lussier tends to spend more effort on cool effects and eye-pleasing presentation than more substantive issues, like character interaction.

Most films about Bram Stoker's original bloodsucker take place at least 100 years ago, but as its title suggests, this one is set in the present. We all know vampires never die, but the reason we haven't heard much from the Fab Fang in the last century is because he has been locked away in a vault by his age-old nemesis, wealthy London antiques dealer Abraham Van Helsing (Christopher Plummer). Van Helsing, whom Dracula took a bite of back in the 1800s, has been living a secret life trying to find a way to destroy the seemingly invincible creature. Of course, Van Helsing is a vampire too, but instead of prowling the streets looking to drain other people's life fluid, he simply survives on the blood sucked out of his pointy-toothed creator by leeches. No, it ain't pretty, folks. But when thieves rob the vault of its precious casket-clad booty, all heck breaks loose. Dracula (Gerard Butler) descends on New Orleans during Mardi Gras, searching for Van Helsing's estranged daughter Mary (Justine Waddell), thinking that since she is descended from his own blood, she is his to suck. Rather forward, but I guess during Mardi Gras, anything goes. Meanwhile, Van Helsing's assistant (Jonny Lee Miller), who tries to help, finds himself under attack not only by the count but by a bevvy of sexy, sucking she-devils, including Colleen Fitzpatrick and Jennifer Esposito. Hubba, hubba.

There are precious few good performances in this movie, and it would be really great if the title character were one of them. As Dracula, Butler looks good, and younger than we are accustomed to (he doesn't resemble Bela Lugosi or Christopher Lee so much as Vinnie Barbarino), but from a character standpoint, he doesn't do much except stride out of various walls of mist and bare his teeth. Waddell shows a bit more life as the virginal Mary, and Plummer is quite effective as her dear old dad. The film culminates with an utterly ridiculous plot contrivance regarding who Dracula really is, and is shamefully peppered with plugs for Virgin Records, who must have put up half the money to fund the thing. In the end, the craftily-named "Wes Craven's Dracula 2000" seems more like a work of commerce than of art. ***

Copyright 2000 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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