Friday, July 25, 2014

Countdown to Dracula Untold: Recap 2: Bram Stoker's Dracula

Hello and welcome to our second installment of Countdown to Dracula Untold, a project Molly Harper and Jeanette Battista started to indulge in two of their favorite things: vampires and Luke Evans. We’re recapping vampire movies AND Luke Evans movies in anticipation of the ultimate Luke Evans/Vampire movie opening on October 17, 2014. Join us every Friday for our celebration of the good, the bad, and the fanged.

Today’s burnt offering is…Bram Stoker’s Dracula!
Full disclosure—I love this movie in spite of—or maybe because of—its cheesiness and innate 90’s weirdness. The whack-a-doo performances, the ridiculous casting, the over the top effects, all the blood…this is just so good I want to hug it and pet it and call it George. And now, away we go…
First off, damn, I love this score. I own it and it totally rocks. Now, on to the movie!
We open with some gorgeous mood establishing shots of an onion dome, a stone cross, some smoke and Anthony Hopkins’ narration.
Look, A MAP! Dora the Undead Explorer is going to pop up any minute, I just know it.
Blah blah blah, Constantinople (Istanbul!), Turks invading, fires, a red armored gauntlet holding a sword, Gary Oldman and Anthony Hopkins (as the priest) having a beard off, Dracula’s helm that looks like it has kitty ears, Winona Ryder macking on Dracula in a church (get a room, dude!), and….
BLOOD AND FIRE! In silhouette because Coppola decided to be arty. It almost looks like he just got bored and/or went overbudget and said, “F*ck it, let’s use shadow puppets!” Also, people impaled on stakes.
Anyway, Dracula removes his helm and shakes free his gorgeous long locks of bouncing and behaving Pantene hair and kisses the cross just so we know that he’s y’know, CHRISTIAN.
Blah blah blah, riding, Turks are lying liars who lie, Winona goes cliff diving, Drac is PISSED. Back at the chapel of Castle Dracula, he weeps over the body of his dead wife while Priest Anthony Hopkins UNHELPFULLY tells him that Elizabetta is damned because she committed suicide. Like seriously, dude, give the man a little time. He impaled a shit ton of Turks, comes home to find his wife dead and her soul damned. He’s had a rough day.
Dracula takes this about as well as can be expected of a man who IMPALES people for fun and profit. He goes ape, curses God, throws Priest Hopkins out and decides to stab the giant cross on the altar with his sword. It bleeds, as stone crosses apparently do in medieval Walachia, and he drinks the blood.
Wow. That’s, like, a lot of blood.
Fast forward to London, 1897. Renfield has lost all of his marbles in various places, so the law firm has called in Jonathan Harker to take his place as Count Dracula’s Guy Friday. And here we have the most horrifying casting decision EVER. Keanu Reeves is Harker. Him and his atrocious accent and floppy stupid hair are a horror more terrible than anything Drac could dream up for the Turks.
Mina and Harker make out under a trellis so we can get to all of the sexing subtext that was present in a lot of the Victorian penny dreadfuls. Harker heads out and I swear to God, if I have to listen to Keanu’s ridiculous pronunciation of Budapest one more time, I’m going to take a freakin’ hostage. Anyway, he’s going to the Carpathians to see his employer.
Weird closeup of eyeball as Harker reads Dracula’s nice little welcome note. Vampires are so fancy!
Mina is typing in her boring diary and basically doing the Victorian version of doodling hearts and Mina + Jonathan 4-ever on her Trapper Keeper.
Jonathan gets left in the middle of a path in the mountains, in the rain, surrounded by wolves. Too bad they don’t eat him. Anyway, Drac’s carriage arrives and the coachman’s arm grows about five feet too long, but Harker is too deeply stupid to notice or be suspicious of any of this and he just blithely goes along up to the craggy castle on the hill, even passing through a ring of fire, because—hey why the hell not?!—and then he’s in the courtyard of Castle Drac.
And now for one of the most iconic, epic, and downright disturbing costuming choices EVER. Drac appears and he’s got the amazing hairdo, the weird red kimono-robe thing, and starts making bad vampire puns at the oblivious Harker. Harker insults Drac’s “ancestors” because he’s a fucking doofus and Drac speechifies at him while the soundtrack goes ominous in the background.
At this point, if Harker were smart, he’d tip his hat, pull an Eddie Murphy ala his Amityville Horror bit from Raw and “Bye, Felicia!” himself out of there.
Alas. Harker is NOT smart.
This next scene is all about the shadows doing weird shit while Drac makes more bad vampire puns. While Harker blathers on about market share and real estate, Drac notices the picture of Mina and gets all “I HAVE CROSSED OCEANS OF TIME” over her. Harker interrupts by cockblocking the Count, who does not appreciate it.
Mina and Lucy have a little girl talk about sex because the subtext is all text in this version. Lucy gets the shaft in this version, I have to say. She’s the flighty, flirty, and sexually forward girl, so of course, she’s the slutty one. Sigh. ANYWAY… Drac’s shadow touches Mina in England and scene.
Harker buys a clue. Kind of. Maybe. Drac and Harker share a shave and some bodily fluids—NOT LIKE THAT, get your mind out of the gutter!—and then Harker’s accent goes missing and Drac calls out the dogs to come find it for him. Then he dracs away on wings of night or whatever the hell he does when he’s not practicing his shadow-fu.
Harker decides to go all Tomb Raider and hits the jackpot. Dracula’s Brides pop up in bed, one of whom is Monica Freakin’ Bellucci. He gets started with his first supernatural four-way until Drac shows up to spoil all the fun. Harker screams and it is the most embarrassing thing ever captured on film.
Mina gets her disappointing letter from Jonathan who expositions us about the Count’s gypsies and gets us all up to speed on everything London related. Meanwhile, Lucy has finally picked a man and Mina frets and then they have a wet corset contest.
Dracula’s on a BOAT! More blood.
The Demeter docks in London, Drac—in wolf form— gets loose and heads to Lucy’s house. Mina goes out in the storm to find her sleepwalking friend, only to discover Wolfman Drac banging away on Lucy like a screen door in a hurricane. He performs some mind erasing mojo and neither girl remembers the horrible spectacle of his wolf-nipples. Lucy is now an infected crazy person.
Renfield shrieks, “MASTER!” a lot.
Young, hot Gary Oldman pops up from a coffin and panties combust everywhere.
The love theme plays while Drac stalks Mina/Elizabetta through the streets of London. Mina attempts to throw shade, but Drac is having none of this. He takes his creeper act away, but then Mina is all “WAIT, HE’S WAY HOTTER THAN JONATHAN AND A PRINCE!” and gets with the program.
Jack the doctor goes to see Lucy. The gentlemen all consult about Lucy’s condition. Jack calls for Van Helsing because Lucy is freaking everyone right the fuck out.
Drac and Mina engage in that tried and true first date activity and go to the movies. Mina pets a wolf. Drac doesn’t understand personal space. I didn’t realize how rapey this scene kind of is. Then they have hand sex while petting the wolf. But they are both wearing gloves so at least they are being responsible.
Back to Harker being drained by the Brides. (I secretly cheer for the Brides.)
Drac and Lucy do the blood draining horizontal mambo while Van Hopkins finally arrives. Apparently Lucy screams out Walachian when she’s having an orgasm. Anyway, blood transfusion for poor Lucy. Arthur goes all British on everyone while Lucy pants and heaves. The boys all gather outside to consult with Van Hopkins who drops some knowledge on them all. VAMPIRES!
Absinthe time! Drac tries to get Mina drunk, he tells her about his home, weird close-ups of eyes AGAIN, Mina has a past life flashback—OH JUST KISS ALREADY!—and then he makes diamonds from her tear. Drac’s got GAME, y’all. Harker is so screwed.
I’ve got good news and bad news. Good news, Harker finally leaps from the castle. Bad news, he survives. He’s suffering from a violent brain fever. Oh, so that’s what they’re calling it.
Mina goes to him, leaving Drac bereft. This is not going to end well for anybody.
“VIND! VINDS!” Also, Dracula is an ugly crier.
Van Hopkins has completely lost the plot. He’s laughing and clapping and just being Captain Inappropriate generally. He explains about vampires and then goes to eat, leaving Quincy in charge of the outside with Art inside, guarding Lucy. Drac takes care of both in about .02 seconds and then moves on to his rebound: Lucy.
I would really love to see the line item in the budget for the blood used on this movie. It’s got to be a couple hundred thousand dollars. I can just see Coppola yelling, “GET THE HOSE!” during this next scene with Lucy.
Also Mina and Harker kiss like two guppies trying very hard to be sexy but not knowing what that actually means. Horrible. And the soundtrack goes BATSHIT.
Lucy in a coffin, I know, I know, it’s serious…
Van Hopkins being Major Inappropriate at the viewing. Harker has a breakdown (not that you can tell from Keanu’s acting) when he sees Young Drac on the streets of London. The Vampire Hunters Three plus Van Hopkins do a little grave desecrating only to find out that Lucy’s been collecting children in her off hours. Oh, and more blood.
When did Van Hopkins become Harker’s doctor? Anyway, Harker admits he was a manwhore, that he didn’t drink vampire blood, and Mina kisses him and gives him a cookie. Then they are off to Carfax Abbey in the middle of the night. Because sure, why not? That’s a great idea.
Mina’s safely ensconced in the boobyhatch, Jack’s shooting up in the office, and Renfield’s screaming in the cells. Just another Friday night in London.
Drac has had enough of everyone’s mess. He goes to find Mina and confesses his undead status. She beats on him for a while on Lucy’s behalf and then professes her love for him. So she drinks from him. As one does.
Van Hopkins busts in as the jealous cockblocker that he is and then uses Christ to compel Dracula to turn into rats. Mina has a massive case of “wtf was I thinking, I’m never drinking again,” and huddles in a corner.
The Vampire Hunters use Mina to track Drac. He’s a Drac in a box. Sorry (not sorry). We get a travelogue and a chase and blah blah blah with maps and that horrible pronunciation of Budapest again. Finally they separate with Mina going with Van Hopkins and the Vampire Hunters Four going to intercept Drac. The Brides torment Mina into stripping? I’m not entirely sure with this one and then she tries to put the moves on Van Hopkins who shoves a Communion wafer at her. The Brides kill his horses, so he cuts off their heads. After which, he yells for Drac like he’s a pro wrestler calling out his opponent from backstage. Seriously, this movie…
Racing sundown. Shooting, horses, Mina doing magic (?!), snow, sunset taking forever, until finally DRAC IN THE BOX. Fighty McFight! Quincy dies! Drac is stabbed! Mina goes to help him and takes him to the chapel. God forgives Drac or whatever when Mina finally stabs him. And then she cuts off his head. Because of LURVE. The End.
Can Dracula Untold top this? I mean, this is the movie that pretty much made canon the idea that Mina Murray is really the reincarnation of Dracula’s first wife and reimagining the gothic horror tale as a love story for the ages. It has Gary Oldman doing accents. It has a LOT of heaving bosoms. It has Anthony Hopkins doing…whatever it is he’s doing. What I’m saying is, there’s a lot of campy crazy to top here. I think Luke Evans is quite the charming hottie, but can he take on the Master of Disaster—Gary Oldman at the height of his crazy—himself?

Friday, July 18, 2014

Countdown to Dracula Untold: Recap 1, Dracula 2000

The inaugural post in our countdown to Oct. 17's release of Dracula Untold, featuring one of the most ridiculously handsome men on the planet, Luke Evans. Jeanette and Molly feel the need to celebrate this as it's very rare for us to find a man we BOTH drool over. We have very different types. But in the Molly-Jeanette Venn Diagram of Hotness, Mr. Evans lands right in the middle. 
And so we examine one of Molly's favorite versions of Dracula, Dracula 2000. And it's written from Molly's perspective because it's her post and she'll do what she wants.
(If you're watching at home, hit play now.)
OK, we have the pre-requisite scary image montage to show us that while the fillmakers are updating the classic Dracula tale, they still respect the original material.  I call this the “We’re not going to crap all over your favorite story” montage.  And holy hell, suddenly it’s modern day London and Carfax Abbey seems to be part of an enormous, super-modern mall.

Let’s just stop and admire the deliciousness of Jonny Lee Miller holding a crossbow.
It’s almost enough to make me miss the dialogue about antiques dealer “Matthew Van Helsing” being a put-upon descendant of Abraham Van Helsing, who doesn’t like to the talk about his grandpa inspiring Bram Stoker’s vampire hunter character.  Or that his antiques business seems to deal exclusively in scary medieval weapons used to kill vampires.  And he runs his dealership out of a building named Carfax Abbey. Coincidence, I tell you!  Coincidence!

Meanwhile, Simon (Jonny Lee) is flirting with Selena (Jennifer Esposito) and she is turning him down flat, which is just proof that we can’t trust Selena. 

And suddenly, we’re in a heist film. Selena is in on it, which proves my theory on her untrustworthiness. Omar Epps is in charge of this diverse, technologically advanced theft crew, which makes them significantly less scary. 

The thieves completely ignore their sense of self-preservation as the stairway to the Abbey vault is decorated in a “fanged skulls and cobwebs” theme.  Instead of saying, “Hey, the number of fanged skulls in this room seems… excessive for an antiques dealership. Let’s go bump off a nice safe auction house NOT associated with the Dracula legend,” they press on, griping about the lack of expected gold and jewels. 

Poor Danny Masterson. Horror movies are historically discriminant against gingers, curly haired people and smartasses. Completely unfair. I estimate he has about ten more minutes to live.

OK, so when you rob a place and the big prize is a silver coffin with no latch, surrounded by skulls – bug out.  The coffin is going to be booby trapped with spikes and swinging gates of death.

(Cue swinging gates of spiky death)

NO ONE LISTENS TO ME!

It’s hard to feel sorry for Mary Van Helsing and her “torturous” dreams of locked in a coffin with a hot dude with fangs. Personally, I think she should stop whining and go with it; particularly when she has more upsetting issues to contend with, like the fact that popstar Vitamin C (stunt casting!) is her roommate and coworker. She does not have access to any Vitamin C-free space. This is something to worry about.

(If you understood how many times I had to listen to “Graduation: Friends Forever” while covering school events, you would not judge me for my anti-Vitamin C feelings.)

Simon discovers Matthew bolting after the thieves and questions why he doesn’t maybe call 911 instead. Matthew yells something along the lines of “Don’t ask me questions about my business!” and catches a plane to New Orleans. He seems to instinctively know that this is exactly what the thieves are doing, except they are going the classy route and flying a private jet, US Flight 2KDoooooooooomed.

Danny Masterson fulfills my ten-minute guess by opening the coffin to reveal a leech-covered emaciated corpse, and Danny pokes it with a stick.  Always a good idea.  The corpse comes to life, drains the ginger dry, steals his coat and turns into a gorgeous, flowy coat-wearing vampire…. Who promptly shows Omar Epps that you never, ever doubt Dracula’s ability to steal your girlfriend with a meaningful look, then drains all of the thieves on board and crashes their plane into the swamp.
Mary has a vision of this carnage, which is upsetting since she’s awake instead of dreaming… also, Dracula seems to recognize her in that “Hey, didn’t you dance topless at Mardi Gras once?” way, which is never good.  And then Lucy bursts through the illusion of Dracula like a puff of smoke, which is a super-crappy tradeoff.

Mary confesses her Dracu-lusions to her late mother’s priest, Father David (NATHAN FREAKING FILLION). And he is not very forthcoming about her family’s deep, dark, terrible secret. Basically, Nathan Fillion is equally reluctant to help distressed damsels as a priest and a space cowboy.

Meanwhile, in the swamp, smartass cameraman Shane West is shooting news gal Valerie’s (Jeri Ryan’s) report on the “Death Swamp Crash.” Shane West is both a smartass (see above) and not a beautiful blond and therefore expendable. Valerie is scared at first, but then willingly submits to being a hot vampire’s juicebox, which just goes to show you that Paducah, Ky., girls are smarter than almost everybody in this movie.

By the way, I am having super-inappropriate thoughts about Nathan Fillion in that priest’s collar. I should be ashamed.

But I’m not. 

Matthew visits the death swamp church and uses his scary anti-vampire weapons on the now vampirized Omar Epps and Selena.  (How did he get that stuff through airport security?) Simon witnesses this vampire versus old man confrontation and promptly flips the hell out. 

Matthew explains that he is actually Abraham Van Helsing, (surprise!) and he helped capture Dracula back in Merry Old London during the events that inspired the book. He was accidentally infected with Dracula’s blood during the capture, and has become the Splenda of vampires –getting eternal life without the hassle of bloodthirst. For years, he filtered Drac’s blood through leeches and used it to stay alive.  And when he settled down with Mrs. Van Helsing, Mary inherited the crazy coffin sex dreams and a link to the telepathic vampire network.

Having had another vision, Mary has bolted, leaving Drac with second-choice, Lucy.  Lucy has so sense of girl code or self-preservation and promptly invites a total stranger with fangs back to her house.

Dracula assures her that he doesn’t drink coffee and then has sex with her against the ceiling. (It happens.) While this is an interesting scene and I totally dig hearing Dracula sweet talk, I didn’t need to see Vitamin C topless. Also, I’m pretty sure it makes Dracula terrible boyfriend material.

Simon demonstrates heretofore unknown badassery dispatching vampire Omar Epps, who learns an important lesson: Never eff with an antiques dealer.

Dracula straight up murders Van Helsing, telling him that his daughter is “my Mary now.” Cause the best way into a girl’s heart is murdering her roommate and leaving daddy’s corpse under her bed.  And scrawling Aramaic messages in blood on her walls. And having your three girlfriends try to recruit her to your vampire pimp harem. And then sending a hallucinatory wolf after her, which turns into a flock of bats. 

Also, vampire Lucy has some major jealousy issues and is a pretty crappy undead friend.

Again, Simon is showing some amazing proficiency with unfamiliar vampire-fighting weapons, especially while a girl is literally falling on top of him. What exactly are they teaching at British boarding schools?

There’s a lot riding on Mary’s shoulders right now.  She’s Dracula’s chosen bride. She’s Simon’s shot at salvation and continued employment. Sometimes a girl just needs to step back and say, “you know what, I just want to eat ice cream in my yoga pants.  Keep your vampire bullshit to yourself.”

It’s exposition time. I’m bored and thinking about Nathan Fillion in the priest outfit again.

I gotta be honest, if vampire Gerard Butler was chasing me through a cemetery, I would just let him catch me.  Even if he is making vampire duck faces.

“Everything I am is yours and all you are is mine.”  OK, I fell for it.  Can’t help it. It’s an awesome line.

Dracula’s brides have changed into three white gowns of alternating necklines. Simon foolishly follows them into the Dracula’s Bride Storage Warehouse. Valerie gets staked first while Selena and Lucy cartwheel out of the way, which I find remarkably anti-Kentucky.   Also, I call bullshit on anybody being able to cartwheel in a bridal gown.

In a sexy, blood-swapping Biblical flashback (words I never thought I’d write), Dracula reveals his origin story to Mary. Turns out Dracula is Judas Iscariot, cursed to live forever, with no shot at heaven, while being tortured by reminders of his betrayal – the cross, silver, holy water.  The music of Vitamin C, whom he foolishly chose to make immortal.  

Dracula decides to get his revenge on God by feeding from his children, Mary in particular.   Unfortunately, Mary’s initiation into Club Vampire is killing Simon and she thinks he’s pretty cute.  

Betrayal all around!  Lucy discovers Mary faked biting Simon just before Mary shish kabobs Dracula and cuts off Lucy’s head. Selena, whose hair has inexplicably grown two feet in the last hour, is dispatched at last by Simon. For the record, I am now going to carry a pair of hedge clippers with me, everywhere I go.

Dracula’s all, “Bitch, my middle name is Betrayal!” and proves my bad boyfriend theory by tossing Mary around like an adorable rag doll. She makes good use of Dracula’s blood swap,  breaking out British kung fu moves and hanging Drac from a neon cross. (Irony!) 

Dracula releases Mary from his vampire-y curse, which still doesn’t make him a nice guy. And then he bursts into flames because Simon and Mary timed this just before sunrise.

It’s actually pretty realistic that this would happen, dangling over Bourbon Street, and no one would notice.

So Mary and Simon return to London, presumably to deal in antiques and hunt vampires on the side. Mary keeps her ash-crumbled ex in a coffin in the family vault. Everybody lives happily ever after.

Except for the people who were decapitated with hedge clippers.


So ten years after watching it for the first time, overall, I still enjoyed the movie. It’s likeable and campy and has a sense of fun about it.  And it helped me remember why I based my first vampire hero’s appearance on Gerard Butler.  But I still haven’t forgiven him for The Ugly Truth. Or Vitamin C. For everything.

Countdown to Dracula Untold: From Molly Harper and Jeanette Battista

Anyone who knows either of us knows that we love us some vampires. And Luke Evans (Molly may love him more than Jeanette, but Jeanette certainly has an appreciation for him). In honor of combining two great tastes that taste great together in the upcoming movie, Dracula Untold (seriously, this is the Reese’s Cups of the fandom world for us), which goes into wide release on October 17, 2014, we are committing to a monumentally epic countdown of vampire snark and Luke Evans hotness.
Over the course of fourteen weeks, culminating in the viewing of Dracula Untold, we will be reviewing/recapping/snarking on our favorite vampire and Luke Evans’ films. Posts will drop every Friday on alternating websites/blogs. First up is Molly Harper with Dracula 2000. Jeanette Battista will follow on Friday, July25th with…well, you’ll just have to keep track of us to find out.
So if you love vampires or Luke Evans, or vampires and Luke Evans, please join us every Friday for a rousing helping of snark right before your weekend really takes off!
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Stay tuned….