Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

Title: Dracula 2000 (2000)
Studio Line: Miramax - The Most Seductive Evil of All Time Has Now Been Unleashed In Ours!

The master of modern horror, Wes Craven, presents this riveting adaptation featuring Jennifer Esposito (Summer of Sam), Omar Epps (In Too Deep), Jonny Lee Miller (Trainspotting), Vitamin C (Get Over It) and Jeri Ryan (Star Trek: Voyager)! When a team of techno-savvy thieves break into a high-security vault, they don't discover priceless works of art… they find a crypt unopened for 100 years! Suddenly, the ancient terror of Dracula is unleashed, and his first destination is America and the exotic city of New Orleans - a place where he feels right at home. Not far behind, however, is a vampire hunter (Miller) from London determined to save a young woman (Justine Waddell) with whom Dracula shares his dark legacy!

Director: Patrick Lussier
Cast: Jonny Lee Miller, Justine Waddell, Gerard Butler, Colleen Fitzpatrick, Jennifer Esposito, Danny Masterson, Jeri Ryan, Sean Patrick Thomas, Omar Epps, Christopher Plummer
Box Office: Budget: $37 million. Opening Weekend: $8.636 million (2204 screens). Domestic Gross: $33 million.
DVD: Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9; audio English Dolby Digital 5.1; French Dolby Surround 2.0; subtitles English, Spanish; closed-captioned; single sided - dual layered; 15 chapters; rated R; 99 min.; $29.99; street date 7/3/01.
Supplements: Audio Commentary by Director Patrick Lussier and Screenwriter Joel Soisson; Extended Scenes with Optional Commentary from the Director; Deleted Scenes With Optional Commentary from the Director and the Writer; Behind the Scenes; Auditions; Storyboards; Theatrical Trailer.
Purchase: DVD | Music soundtrack - Various Artists

Picture/Sound/Extras: A-/B+/B+

Thank God this whole “new millennium” hype finally seems to be behind us. It all got old a long time ago, and I’ve never really understood the tendency to totally date projects through a mention of their time period anyway. I guess it’s fine for new EA Sports games to be “Madden 2001” or whatever since that quickly lets us know we’ll get the franchise’s newest iteration, but with movies or similar pieces they just look dopey once the initial frame has passed. Will the title Godzilla 2000 actually sound cool a few years from now?

For that matter, did it sound cool in 2000 itself? Not really, though I guess the marketing gurus must think it works and that the potential hipness at the time overrides the dated appearance in the future.

I don’t know how many films fell into this category, but I hope that Dracula 2000 was the last one I’ll discover. Actually, I must acknowledge that for a movie such as this, the “2000” indication makes a little more sense. As with the Godzilla franchise, there have been so many Dracula flicks that it becomes hard to differentiate all of them. Still, I think they could have come up with something a little more clever than Dracula 2000.

In any case, the movie indeed updates the characters for the new millennium, though it doesn’t do so in a very satisfying manner. At the start of D2K, we encounter Matthew Van Helsing (Christopher Plummer), a descendant of 19th century vampire hunter Abraham. He maintains an apparent collection of valuables in his vault, and one of his employees leads a robbery to steal all of the loot. Unfortunately, they get more than they bargained for, since all they find is an elaborate coffin with an ancient inhabitant.

The crooks fly to America with their prize, and all hell breaks loose along the way. Once he discovers the loss, Van Helsing also heads to the US - New Orleans, to be precise - to recover the evil cargo. Matthew’s assistant Simon (Jonny Lee Miller) goes with him, but they arrive too late to stop the escape of Dracula (Gerard Butler). Coincidentally, Van Helsing’s daughter Mary (Justine Waddell) lives in New Orleans, and inevitably she will become involved in the drama as Simon and Van Helsing try to stop Drac.

All of this sounds quite exciting, but unfortunately Dracula 2000 rarely lives up to its potential. Although it seems like a moderately predictable twist, I liked the change of scenery Drac gets when he comes to America. The update to modern times also makes sense; how many times can we watch him romp around 19th century Europe?

However, the movie didn’t do much to take advantage of these alterations. The film contains a lot of violence, and it usually seems to be fairly pointless. The flicks offers many examples of hysterics and anticipation that fail to pay off with much action, and the result is that D2K almost always feels anticlimactic; many things occur, but little of substance seems to happen.

Part of the problem relates to the cast. With only a few exceptions, this is a drab group. Waddell offers virtually no charm or personality as Mary; she’s our female lead by default, but she makes for an exceptionally bland presence. This probably shouldn’t come as a surprise, as the equivalent character in other Dracula flicks usually seems dull, but Waddell’s drab performance certainly didn’t add anything to the movie.

Far more damaging is the unthreatening and lifeless work from Butler. Frankly, he creates one of the wimpiest Draculas on record, as Butler consistently seems like an afterthought in his own movie. He’s dull and not scary in the least, two factors that significantly harm the film.

Of the remaining cast, only Omar Epps stands out from the group. I like Christopher Plummer, but he seems uninvolved in the proceedings; he appears to regard the gig as just another paycheck. Epps provides the movie’s sole sparks, as he creates a lively and compelling character as one of the robbers. He’s the only performer who seems to have any fun in the film, and this attitude translates across the screen.

Dracula 2000 goes out of its way to provide unusual plot twists. Some of these work, while others don’t. I won’t enumerate them, but at times I felt as though the movie tries to be different just for the sake of being different. It wants to stay reasonably true to Dracula lore but it also wants to create its own personality. Those are admirable traits, but the execution seems to fail as a whole.

Director Patrick Lussier is a veteran of the Scream flicks, so he can’t resist some self-referential nods. For example, at one point Drac states, “I never drink… coffee”. Happily, Lussier keeps most of these occasions to a minimum, especially since they only remind us of better movies such as the classic 1931 version of Dracula.

Actually, I’m not an enormous fan of that film, but I definitely prefer it to the mushy experience that is Dracula 2000. The new movie had some potential, but the execution means that it provides a generally lackluster and unexceptional piece. A few aspects of the flick work well, but as a whole, this is just another ordinary vampire story.

The DVD:

Dracula 2000 appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. While a few minor concerns cropped up, the overall impression left by this picture seemed very positive.

Sharpness looked virtually immaculate throughout the film. At no time did I discern any signs of softness or fuzziness, as the movie consistently appeared crisp and detailed. This occurred without any indications of jagged edges or moiré effects, and print flaws seemed to be similarly absent.

Colors were nicely deep and rich throughout the film. The DVD rendered the blood reds with fine vibrancy, and the mix of other hues also came across well. The Mardi Gras scenes offered a terrific complement of vivid and energetic colors, and all of these looked very clean and bold.

Since this is a Dracula film, dark scenes become all the more important, and most of the time, D2K rendered them cleanly. Black levels seemed to be quite dense and dark, but low-light situations caused some problems. Those sequences often appeared too dark, and this usually rendered dark-skinned actors like Epps and Sean Patrick Thomas virtually invisible. In addition, some dim interiors looked slightly murky at times. For the most part, I thought Dracula 2000 offered a stellar image, but these lighting concerns meant that the picture ultimately was not as good as it could have been.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Dracula 2000 offered a satisfying experience. The soundfield provided a very active and engaging affair throughout the movie. All five channels received a serious workout as they often supplied a wide variety of elements. Speech usually remained centered, but on a few positive occasions, voices spread to the side and rear speakers; for example, the vampirettes’ words panned about neatly when appropriate.

However, music and effects remained the focus of the track, and they were quite energetic. Actually, they may have been too active, especially in regard to the score. While the forward channels displayed good stereo presence, the music also spread heavily to the surrounds. There they occasionally came across as excessively loud and overwhelming; I like a strong response from the rears, but not to the point where I can barely hear the front channels.

In regard to the effects, they also cropped up actively from the surround speakers. For the most part, these elements worked well and they made the film more exciting and involving. However, I periodically thought that the soundtrack seemed to be excessively flashy. Some of the effects appeared to exist simply because they could; it felt as though the mixers amped up the track to give it an artificially dynamic flair. Most of the time their efforts were solid, but on occasion I thought the audio became rather busy.

Audio quality seemed to be very good. Some dialogue displayed a moderately metallic tone, but as a whole, the speech sounded acceptably natural and distinct, and the lines showed no signs of edginess or problems related to intelligibility. Effects were quite dynamic and bold, and they provided a strong punch when warranted. Music also provided a nicely robust and bright experience, and the entire track boasted some fine bass response; the low-end sounded tight and deep. Ultimately, Dracula 2000 featured a positive soundtrack that worked fairly well for the material.

On the DVD release of Dracula 2000, we find a solid collection of extras. These begin with an audio commentary from director Patrick Lussier and writer/co-producer Joel Soisson. The two were recorded together for this running, screen-specific affair. Although I wasn’t wild about the movie itself, I thought this was a very informative and entertaining track. Lussier and Soisson maintained a nice chemistry, and they offered a wide array of details about D2K. They discussed a lot of changes made to the film, and they also covered a variety of technical notes and general anecdotes from the set. The usual happy talk was kept to a minimum, and they even mock that concept toward the end of the commentary. Overall, I really enjoyed this track.

Some material that was cut from the film appears in two different sections. We find three Extended Scenes and four Deleted Scenes. The former all run between two minutes, 45 seconds and two minutes, 55 seconds, for a total of eight and a half minutes of footage. The “Deleted Scenes” go between 48 seconds and four minutes, three seconds for seven minutes and 26 seconds of shots.

I didn’t think that the “Extended Scenes” made much of a difference, though the filmmakers apparently feel otherwise and wish they’d kept some of the unused material. As for the “Deleted Scenes”, I actually rather liked the first one; it depicted Dracula’s capture, and it seemed to be fairly stylish and exciting. The others were less compelling, however.

All of the “Extended Scenes” can be viewed with or without commentary from director Lussier, while the “Deleted Scenes” can be watched with or without remarks from Lussier and writer/co-producer Joel Soisson. Why Soisson failed to appear on the “Extended Scenes” track is a mystery, but the overtone of both sets of statements remains similar. For the most part, the commentaries do more to discuss the segments themselves and relate their place within the film’s framework. While this was interesting, I thought the tracks needed to tell us more about why the snippets failed to make the final cut. The commentaries featured some of that information, but I remained unsure about some of the excisions. Still, Soisson and Lussier continued to provide lively and interesting statements, even if they didn’t deliver all of the data I desired.

One odd note: the “Deleted Scenes” were enhanced for 16X9 TVs, but the “Extended Scenes” were not. If both won’t offer anamorphic transfers, I’d expect the “Deleted Scenes” to be the unenhanced clips; it seemed odd that the DVD worked in the opposite manner.

Next we find a Behind the Scenes Featurette about D2K. This eight-minute and 45-second program combines the usual mix of film clips, shots from the set, and cast and crew interviews to create a surprisingly rich piece. The abbreviated length of the featurette means that it can’t offer too much depth and information about the movie, but I thought it seemed reasonably interesting and detailed for such a show. It doesn’t replace a real documentary, but as far as featurettes go, this was a good one.

Note that the “Behind the Scenes” program provided a lot of plot twists that occurred during D2K. As such, folks who haven’t already seen the film will want to skip this piece until after they’ve screened the flick. Otherwise I think the featurette will probably ruin any fun to be found in D2K.

Auditions was another good video piece. It provides try-out clips from Gerard Butler (Dracula), Justine Waddell (Mary), and Colleen Ann Fitzpatrick (Lucy). These run between one minute, 47 seconds (Fitzpatrick) and four minutes, 25 seconds (Butler) for a total of eight minutes, 33 seconds of footage. (In case you don’t want to do the math, Waddell’s sequence lasts two minutes, 22 seconds.)

I found these to be quite interesting, especially since I thought Butler and Waddell provided stronger work in their auditions than they did in the final film. Sure, Butler looked like a cheesy rock star with his beard and eyeliner, but he showed an intensity he failed to deliver in the end product. Waddell showed greater depth and sincerity in her try-out. As for Fitzpatrick, she appeared rather shallow and lifeless in her audition; she wasn’t much better in the movie, but she still seemed stronger there.

The Storyboards area includes artwork prepared for eight different segments that didn’t appear in the final film. Each of these offers between 17 and 162 frames of drawings, which gives us a total of 654 boards. I’ve never been a fan of storyboards, so these didn’t do a lot for me, but I really liked the fact they all showed material left out of the finished flick. That made them more valuable. Some of the shots popped up in the “Deleted Scenes”, but most didn’t appear anywhere else on the DVD.

Finally, a slew of advertisements fill out the DVD. In addition to the trailer for D2K, we get promos for the Crow boxed set, the Scream Collection boxed set, the From Dusk Till Dawn boxed set, Reindeer Games, The Faculty, Immortality, Double Take, and the D2K soundtrack album. Note that although the trailer for D2K appears in the “Bonus Features” domain, the rest can be located in the “Sneak Peeks” area. While the DVD doesn’t offer an exhaustive collection of extras, I thought it was a nice package that helped flesh out the movie.

And Dracula 2000 needed some expansion, for the film itself was a fairly flat piece of work. It wasn’t a bad horror flick, but the movie lacked a great deal of personality or spark, and it came across as a pretty generic take on our favorite vampire. The DVD offered very strong picture and sound, plus it included some good supplements; I really enjoyed the audio commentary, and some of the other elements were also interesting. Ultimately, Dracula 2000 won’t establish any new fans of the genre, but vampire aficionados may enjoy it.

Equipment: Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.
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