Tag Archives: dracula

Bram Stoker’s Dracula

What’s your favourite movie version of Dracula? For me its always been Francis Ford Coppola’s lavish, eccentric, audacious and full bodied telling of Bram Stoker’s book, brought to life fiercely and passionately by Gary Oldman in what has to be one of his best works. This may be an unpopular choice among the older generation of folks who love this story/character but the old black and whites just don’t do it for me like this one does. Lugosi and Lee had their day but in my eyes Oldman freshness and innovation in his headlong portrait of supernatural evil ravaged by centuries old heartbreak, a romantic angle that wasn’t in the book or most previous adaptations of it but adds a dimension the story never knew it needed.

Coppola makes production design the star of this beauty, beginning with a fearsome prologue showing Oldman’s Transylvanian knight and how the man became a dark prince of vampires, before shifting the action to Victorian London. Dracula is searching for the spirit of his long dead wife who just happens to have been reincarnated as Mina Harker (Winona Ryder). People start turning up dead all over town though and Mina’s friend Lucy (Sadie Frost in an uncelebrated encore performance) has restless dreams, waking night terrors and finally goes full on vamp. This prompts the arrival of Anthony Hopkins’ hilariously blustery, borderline senile Abraham Van Helsing and the beginning of a bloody fight to save Mina, her husband Jonathan (Yes Keanu Reeves tried on a British accent but we’re not discussing that here) and most of London.

Stoker’s book is mostly made up of journal entries, letters and other written correspondence and as such the film has an episodic pace to it, but what really makes it flow are costume design, music and the wonderful performances from the varied, eclectic cast. Oldman is sensational and can almost be said to play multiple characters because of how different each manifestation of Dracula is. He finds sadistic evil in the character and accents it with love that still simmers on the back burner, spinning the character into something, dare we say, sympathetic. Ryder is terrific, her doe eyed naïveté suiting the gradually emerging horror nicely. Other excellent work comes from Richard E. Grant, Cary Elwes, Monica Bellucci, Billy Campbell and Tom Waits in a deranged showstopper of a turn as the lunatic Renfield. Costume designer Eiko Ishioka outdoes herself here with the kind of work that begs for Blu Ray action, showing Dracula in several getups from creepy old Count to full on From Dusk Till Dawn style monster, Oldman embodying each one with grace and style. Composer Wojciech Kilar turns in a portentous rumble of a score that fires up the baroque horror elements but also finds the aching romantic notes in the eye of the orchestral hurricane.

My favourite scene of the film isn’t even in the realm of horror; Dracula and Mina share a moment together with one of his wolves who he has momentarily tamed. She strokes the beasts fur in awe while he looks at her in mournful adoration and quietly says “He likes you.” Oldman finds wonderful opposites to the character in this moment and becomes something so much more than the campy monster that Hollywood has envisioned this character as before. There’s a gentle tenderness to this scene and it’s contradictory elements like that that make it stand out and accent the horror with immediacy. Masterpiece.

-Nate Hill

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Stephen Sommers’ Van Helsing

Who loves the Hugh Jackman Van Helsing flick? I know plenty who hate on it pretty bad but they’re looking at it from too serious a perspective. This comes from Stephen Sommers, the same horror filmmaker to bring us stuff like The Mummy, Deep Rising, GI Joe and the 90’s Jungle Book with Cercei Lannister. This guy is in the industry to make films for fun and if you were expecting the subtlety and restraint of horrors like the source material he draws from well, jokes on you. His Helsing is a splendidly entertaining cornucopia of horror mythology given a juiced up boost of contemporary style and plenty of gothic, mist soaked atmosphere.

Jackman’s Van Helsing ditches the creaky old man archetype for something more virile and torqued up, careening around London like a steampunk Indiana Jones and sporting enough gnarly gadgetry to take on Dracula, Frankenstein and the Wolfman in one film, which coincidentally he does. He’s sort of half sanctioned by the government but the London police force resents his far out methods, especially in a stunning opening romp as he chases Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde (a scene stealing Robbie ‘Hagrid’ Coltrane) across rooftops and edifices like a supernatural parkour death match. Then it’s off to Transylvania to do battle with the big bad Vamp King himself, played to melodramatic, emo perfection by Richard Roxburgh. There’s a loose plot involving Dracula wanting to use Dr. Frankenstein’s corpse revitalizing technology to bring his unholy offspring to life, and as such his work poisons the land, pisses off the locals and prompts sexy monster hunter Kate Beckinsale to call for Helsing’s help. It’s an off the rails theme park ride of splatter effects, wild performances and extended chase sequences all over the land. Jackman makes a stalwart antihero, while Beckinsale looks amazing in leather and is surprisingly convincing as an Eastern European. David Wenham provides comic relief cast against type as Van’s trusty clergyman sidekick and the cast is rounded out by Shuler Hensley as The Monster, Elena Anaya, Will Kemp and Kevin J. O Connor as Igor in a cool black and white prologue that serves as the one sequence paying homage to these horror roots.

This was never going to be an awards season darling but it’s nowhere close to as bad as people say. Any film that has all three iconic monsters in it (plus quite a few others too) is going to have a lot to juggle and will just feel chaotic by default, but Sommers handles the pandemonium quite well and knows how to spin an absorbing popcorn yarn. There’s plenty of drop dead gorgeous landscape cinematography given the appropriately macabre touches, monsters running all about the place to give horror fanatics their fix and enough action to spawn a whole video game franchise. My favourite part is where Dracula’s babies finally hatch in spectacularly gooey fashion from Alien style eggs and start swarming the landscape like demonic infant bats. That sequence alone is worth the price of admission and showcases the kind of gung-ho, all or nothing spirit of horror adventure filmmaking offered here. Love this film.

-Nate Hill

Actor’s Spotlight: Nate’s Top Ten Gary Oldman Performances

Gary Oldman is both one of my personal favourite actors and an absolute champion of the craft, an adaptable master of any role thrown at him who can take words on a page and lift them to magnificent heights in his work. Intense, implosive, focused, hard working and super dynamic in front of a camera, he’s always an actor to watch and an undisputed master of his craft. I love each and every performance this man has given us so far in a brilliantly diverse career, but here are the ten characters that stand out the most for me:

10. Charlie Strom in Sin

Bear with me on this one. Like any actor, Gary has appeared in a few duds, and overall this happens to be one of them *but* his performance in it is fantastic. Ving Rhames plays a tough ex cop whose sister (Kerry Washington) is raped and brutalized on Oldman’s orders as some kind of underworld porn king. A deadly game of cat and mouse ensues in which Rhames seeks revenge for the atrocity but discovers that Oldman targeted him for reasons of his own going back into both their pasts. It’s a decent script given the scrappy low budget treatment but Oldman’s tormented villain is worth sitting through for. He has a conversation with Rhames midway through the film that gets philosophical in nature and overall he just nails the haunted persona of this role.

9. O.W. Grant in Bob Gale’s Interstate 60

This is a playful role in one heinously overlooked hidden gem. Essentially an existential road trip movie with supernatural elements and enough cameos to launch a pilot, Gary plays a mysterious genie like deity who grants everyone he sees one wish by blowing green smoke from his monkey shaped pipe. He also has no reproductive organs, as a hitchhiking nymphomaniac chick hilariously discovers. It’s light, easygoing work from the actor who isn’t doing any heavy lifting with the performance yet still makes a terrific comedic impact and seems like he’s having a lot of fun.

8. George Smiley in Tomas Alfredson’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

John Le Carré’s chilly Cold War thriller sees Oldman take on the role of an MI6 lieutenant embroiled in the treacherous search for a soviet spy amongst his own ranks. Restrained and opaque, one begins to see the keen scrutiny hiding behind the character’s initially withdrawn nature. When an event causes him to almost lose that composure, he expertly shows the emotions bursting forth and the efforts to keep them within, reaching a pitch perfect note of performance that gets better and more detailed every time you revisit the film.

7. Jackie Flannery in Phil Joanou’s State Of Grace

One of the great crime dramas he has taken on, this one sees him play a volatile, unstable Irish gangster in NYC’s brutal Hell’s Kitchen, stick between his mob boss older brother (Ed Harris) and childhood friend (Sean Penn) who is now an undercover cop infiltrating their ranks. With a mop of greasy hair and the mannerisms of an untrained dog let off the leash, this is a ballistic tornado of a characterization with childlike notes, a good dose of rambunctious restlessness and primal violent nature uncaged.

6. Sirius Black in Alfonso Cuaron’s Harry Potter & The Prisoner Of Azkaban

From the moment we see gaunt, haunted eyed convict Black onscreen Gary makes him a magnetic, spooky presence to be reckoned with. Even before that we see him howling out of moving wanted posters in Diagon Alley and off the front page of the Daily Prophet. Oldman makes juxtaposed genius out of his work here and the shift from scary fugitive to compassionate friend and mentor to Harry is handled beautifully. It’s also nice to see him and fellow British thespian David Thewlis collectively chewing scenery, they have palpable chemistry and I’d love to see a buddy cop thing with them one day, or something like that.

5. Jack Grimaldi in Peter Medak’s Romeo Is Bleeding

The ultimate corrupt cop, Oldman’s Jack is a loose cannon dirtbag who discovers that his ways have consequences when his life is made into a living hell by terrifying femme fatale Mona Demarkhov (Lena Olin) and ruthless mafia don Falcone (Roy Schneider). He inhabits the sweaty, desperate neo-noir palette of this great film very well, especially in sly, mournful voiceover as he literally narrates his own story as if it didn’t happen to him.

4. Dracula In Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Francis Ford Coppola outdoes himself with this lavish, baroque piece of eye candy that for me is the best film version of Dracula ever made, likewise for Gary’s knockout performance as the titular vampire king. He has several incarnations here from armoured Transylvanian knight to skeletal senior citizen to dashing foreign prince to full on nine foot gorilla werewolf hell-beast thing and he rocks each one with full blooded embodiment and spectacular verve. Surrounded by solid players like Anthony Hopkins, Winona Ryder, Sadie Frost, Keanu Reeves, Cary Elwes, Richard E. Grant and Tom Waits in an encore as the lunatic Renfield, this is a magnificent dark jewel of a film and a horror masterpiece.

3. James Gordon in Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises

The actor goes inward here for a fierce, gritty turn as the legendary police commissioner, giving the character all the salt of the earth integrity and brooding charisma we could hope to get. In a career full of extravagant portrayals and amidst a trilogy riddled with flamboyant villains and people who dress up in costumes, ironically he gets to play the most down to earth and level headed guy, comparatively. His Gordon is a straight arrow cop who is fallible, tactical and compassionate.

2. Drexl Spivey in Tony Scott’s True Romance

A white pimp who thinks he’s black, this has to be the single most impactful performance ever filmed that only takes up one five minute scene and another brief thirty second one. Dreadlocks, gnarly scars, a dead eye, leopard print housecoat, this guy couldn’t be more visually ridiculous but for all the flourish and swagger, it’s Gary’s mannerisms that shine through and win the day. The goal of his scene is essentially to circle and intimidate Christian Slater before pouncing on him like a pissed off coyote, and he succeeds in freaking him out plus the rest of the world watching on their screens. This film is filled with memorable moments scene after scene but his mad dog portrayal of this reprehensibly hilarious Detroit gutter-rat piece of shit stands out.

1. Norman Stansfield in Luc Besson’s Leon The Professional

I’m not sure what Besson’s direction to Oldman was in playing this spectacularly corrupt DEA agent but he kind of just runs off and does his own thing to the point where other actors in the scene look scared of him for real. Casually homicidal, easily distracted, highly unstable and so intense he frequently goes red in the face, this is a villain that would frighten most others into submission. Contrasted with Jean Reno’s and Natalie Portman’s more contemplative performances he’s the wild card of this tale and fills it to the brim with madness, firepower, dark humour and that trademark white suit that you better not get blood on or he’ll shoot you after he’s already killed you in a crazed tantrum of scenery chewing that only Gary Oldman is capable of.

Thanks for reading ! Please share you favourite Gary Oldman performances as well!

-Nate Hill

“All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain..”. Saying goodbye to Rutger Hauer

A dark angel android desperately seeking longer life. A spectral hitchhiker hell bent on homicide. Both Dracula and Van Helsing at different points in his career. A rogue cop stalking an alien beast through futuristic London. The CEO of Wayne Enterprises. A psychotic drifter who drives a wedge between a married couple. A blind Nam vet with a deadly samurai sword. A rogue medieval warrior put under a magic spell. A ruthless European terrorist waging war against an entire city. A hobo with a shotgun. Rutger Hauer has passed away, and leaves behind him a legacy of incredible work over a decades long career that has firm and lasting roots in the horror, action and science fiction genres. With a rough hewn, elemental figure, a honey soaked purr of a voice and electric eyes, the guy practically radiated originality, never one to rush a line, hurry a glance or let his gaze move too quickly.

A native of The Netherlands, Hauer got his start in Dutch television during the 70’s, until a lasting friendship with director Paul Verhoeven led to his casting in the director’s Middle Ages romp Flesh + Blood alongside Jennifer Jason Leigh. From there the rest of the world saw this man’s immense talent and he found himself taking part in Richard Donner’s Ladyhawke, Sylvester Stallone’s Nighthawks, Nicolas Roeg’s Eureka, Sam Pekinpah’s The Osterman Weekend, Albert Pyun’s Omega Doom, Phillip Noyce’s Blind Fury, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, George Clooney’s Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind, Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, Robert Rodriguez’s Sin City and so many more. He also had a multitude of memorable television appearances including Smallville, Alias, True Blood, The Last Kingdom to name a few.

For me the two roles that stand out from the rest are Roy Batty in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner and John Ryder in Robert Harmon’s The Hitcher. Within those two performances Rutger packed more magnetism, charisma and character than some can hope to exude their whole careers. It’s no secret that a great portion of his career was spent in some lower budget B movie fare, a fact that some people lament given his great talents. Here’s the thing though: He never phoned it in, gave a bad performance or threw away a line. No matter what the project was, he was always there and always stepped up to command the scene even if it was just a cameo. I remember in one horror flick about killer wasps he played a mercenary who, when warned about the creatures, stated with a straight face “actually, wasps are allergic to me.” The same conviction was put into that ridiculous line as any of his serious roles in iconic stuff, but that was his power. Character actor, leading man, comic relief, heinous villain, the President or a street thug, this guy could do it all and everything in between. As Roy says in Blade Runner: “All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.” He improvised part of that line too, highlighting the organic nature of his talent beautifully. Time to say goodbye. Peace out, Rutger ❤️

-Nate Hill

B Movie Glory- Dracula III: Legacy 

Dimension films made a few Dracula sequels following their solid 2000 effort starring Gerard Butler, most of which are meh. Dracula III: Legacy, however, has the ace-in-the-hole asset of having legendary cult thespian Rutger Hauer in the titular vampire role, and that alone makes it noteworthy. Even though the guy doesn’t even show up until the third act, and isn’t around for long, he’s magnetic as the dark prince of bloodsuckers and not to be missed when rallying up the lengthy list of actors who have played the role. The film itself is grade A-cheese and hardly ever feels like a Dracula story, as well as being fairly incomprehensible in relation to the other handful of films in the franchise. I’ve got a weakness for Dimension horror films though, and they’re particularly slick brand of schlock. Jason London, who we all wistfully remember as Randall Pink Floyd in Richard Linklater’s Dazed & Confused, is some random vampire hunter, off trekking into the Eastern European alps with martial arts actor Jason Scott Lee to find the Vamp of all Vamps. They do find him, in the form of Hauer’s entertaining fiend skulking around a derelict castle and… that’s pretty much it. For Hauer fans, load up Final Cut Pro and edit a breezy short film with just his wicked good scenes. For fans of B Movie silliness, have a few beers first. Everyone else, keep on browsing the blockbuster shelf. Oh yeah, and Roy Scheider is in it too, and I’ve completely forgotten who he plays. 

-Nate Hill

Dracula 2000: A Review by Nate Hill

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Wes Craven’s Dracula 2000 is one of those horror flicks that proudly slaps his name over the title like he runs the show, when in fact he’s only participating under a vague executive producer credit. Now that we’ve got that little detail out of the way we can talk about what a thoroughly awesome movie it is, and how the haters can go suck it. It’s a high concept slice of bloody fun and has easily one of the best pairings of an actor with the Dracula mythos ever: Gerard Butler. He’s young and lean here, before he turned into a tank later in his career, and he makes one hell of a kick ass Dracula. The story is too good to be true: a team of arch criminals, led by Omar Epps and also including Hyde from That 70’s Show (lol) break into the European mansion of Dr. Abraham Van Helsing (Christopher Plummer) and steal the heavy duty coffin which he has stashed in his basement and used to contain Vladdy for over a hundred years. Helsing has always used a compound derived from his blood to keep himself alive all that time and ensure that he never gets loose. The burglars have no idea what they’re on for, and pretty soon Butler is loose and ready to get freaky, tearing apart their getaway plane and running off into the chaotic streets of New Orleans during Mardi Gras. He’s searching for a girl (Justine Waddell) to have sex with her and fulfill some horrific prophecy (nice little nod to End Of Days there). Dracula, Mardi Gras, Gerard Butler, Christopher Plummer; four ingredients to pretty much ensure your movie is gonna rock. Plummer makes one of the best onscreen Van Helsings in my books, rivaled only perhaps  by Anthony Hopkins. Butler is a sleek, hip and sensual Dracula, playing the role to the bloody hilt and sedimenting a really cool rendition of the character, with a surprising twist ending that adds some depth to the guy. Watch for work from Jennifer Esposito, Sean Patrick Thomas, Shane West, Lochlyn Munro and Nathan Fillion as well.
Great retelling, or rather addition to the legend, held up by Butler.