I’m not too sure what the ultimate plan was for the Dracula character in the larger scheme of things, except the fact that everything had to be rebooted in the new millennium apparently. Everything had to press the reset button, including Dracula. This Dracula was a hunky vampire for the modern age where he would once again roam free to build his army, and do battle with Van Helsing. And he would do it set to rock music that ruled the radio, wreaking havoc to the tune of System of a Down, Linkin Park, and Disturbed, to name a simple few.
Hundreds of years ago, Abraham Van Helsing (Christopher Plummer) imprisoned the infamous Count Dracula (Gerard Butler) within a vault inside Carfax Abbey. In the present day, Van Helsing relies on Dracula’s immortal blood to remain alive through a process involving leeches. But then an organized group of thieves breaks into the vault and steal the vampire’s coffin, thinking it contains something valuable.
After an accident during shipping, Dracula is liberated from his prison. Now hungry, and angry, Dracula seizes the opportunity to escape, but Van Helsing sets out to banish him to the crypt once again with the help of his apprentice and his estranged daughter, who Dracula also has a particular interest in.
This was the emo Dracula for the emo age, and he was played competently by a then unknown Gerard Butler. You have to give it to Butler, as the very Scottish actor plays Dracula with a soft whisper with a hint of the Transylvanian drawl. Often times he talks like he has something of an overbite and he looks damn awkward. However, he does serve his purpose, playing more of a clean cut and dashing Dracula with even a signature trench coat and all. Butler may not be the best Dracula (he’s not even in the top ten), but he seems to be doing the best with what little material he gets.
And it only adds to the inherent silliness of Patrick Lussier’s vampire reboot. “Dracula 2000” is that right mélange of camp and cool, silly and slick, and sexy and ridiculous. When I say ridiculous, I mean there’s literally an entire sequence where Dracula walks through a Virgin Records megastore, drawing lust from every woman he passes (and introducing the grand daddy of early aught product placements). It has such a large unusual cast from Christopher Plummer, and Johnny Lee Miller, to nineties stalwarts like Lochlyn Munro, Omar Epps, Sean Patrick Thomas, and Danny Masterson, et al.
Nathan Fillion even garners a walk on role as a trusted priest that Mary Van Helsing turns to when in doubt and fearful of the ensuing battle. It’s such a weird assemblage of actors in various levels of their popularity, and most of them are there to pretty much be cannon fodder for Dracula. Dracula even gets his own Brides bringing together the trifecta of early aughts foxes including Jeri Ryan, pop star Vitamin C, and the gorgeous Jennifer Esposito. The latter is allowed to really ham it up, even being given a memorable scene in a police station involving a well placed hospital gown and some hapless male officers.
There seemed to be something brewing with “Dracula 2000” as Patrick Lussier and writer Joel Soisson seem to be building some kind of mythology. Before “Dracula Untold,” the pair introduces Van Helsing’s descendents Matthew and Mary, a cadre of vampire hunters working in the dark to stop Dracula, the notion that just a little bit of Dracula’s blood can extend one’s life, and of course, there’s the big twist in the finale.
Say what you want about “Dracula 2000” but that new explanation for origin of Dracula is pretty damn clever. I would have loved to know more about Dracula’s origins? What about Mary and her connection to Dracula? Does this mean she can track other vampires to hunt them down? Were there other descendants of Van Helsing? Did anyone else train with Van Helsing and his apprentice Jimmy? Why could vampirism turn its victims in to kung fu masters?
I’m not sure where it all fell apart as the film gives way to a trilogy, the final two films of which are also soft reboots of the previous films. Both times Dracula is recast, as well. So any and all mentions of Van Helsing’s descendants, and the plot elements introduced to further the lore are flushed down the toilet. The apparent Extended Universe sputters out with two pretty forgettable vampire films that have no actual intention to build on anything except to the closing credits. I don’t think the “Dracula 2000” mythos would have been compelling, but with the “Underworld” series right around the corner, I think they could have given the aforementioned a run for their money in terms world building with Dracula at the center of it all.
That said, “Dracula 2000” is a fun, slick, and action packed vampire film dripping with early aughts aesthetic, and a bang up eccentric cast. It’s perfect late night movie fodder that deserves a larger following.