Review: Dracula (1992)

(Originally published November 2012)

It would be a crime to forget Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula from 1992, the director of the Godfather gives us a near definitive tale of Dracula, as a man and as a monster.

Closely following the novel by Bram Stoker, the film sees the demise of the Romanian Vlad the Impaler (Gary Oldman) transforming him into Dracula, a creature of the night who can change shape, seduce and murder and “turn” others into vampires. Seeking one as beautiful as his dead wife, he is led to London and preys upon Mina (Winona Ryder) and killing anyone else in his way.

Perhaps one of the most iconic horror films of the early 1990s, Dracula was regarded too gory for cinema and had to be cut after tests screenings, the film may have dated somewhat but still retains a massive amount of atmosphere. It is an eerie, theatrical piece; the camera work Coppola uses is creative, relying greatly on composition and shot transitions. Coppola actually fired his initial special effects crews for their insistence on using digital effects, hiring instead his own son for making the effects practically. Nowadays, this decision gives the film an even more unsettling mood! Dracula’s powers are wonderfully portrayed; from clever uses of reflections (or lack thereof!) to the weird disembodied shadow play.
Gary Oldman is fantastic as Dracula and Vlad; he really gets into the role and the numerous beastly transformations the character takes on. Yes, Oldman went through the make-up requirements in all but one occasion! Antony Hopkins as the sociopath Van Helsing is greatly entertaining, making the man near demented with his brilliance and obsession.

Unfortunately, there is one thing wrong, and that was Coppola’s decision to hire Keanu Reeves as the hero Jonathan Harper, who is captured within Dracula’s castle. He hired him for his looks, and that was about all he got! Comparisons of Reeves’ absence performance here and Kristen Stewart’s current career would be ripe for the picking! Reeves has admitted he was never happy with his performance, claiming he was tired from working multiple film projects at the time of shooting.

I was eight when Dracula was released, and while it was years before I could see it back then, watching it again now is a very nostalgic experience. It is a film filled with blood, monsters, sex and seduction. I still enjoy it nowadays, even with some of its dodgy accents!


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