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John’s Horror Corner: Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992), Francis Ford Coppola’s wonderfully ambitious romantic horror-fantasy about a vampire with a broken heart.

May 1, 2018

MY CALL:  This admirable and perhaps unparalleled vampire film brings us both the classic monster and star-crossed lover alike. Iconic horror atmosphere coupled with dark fantasy, romance and a major budget. Wow.  MORE MOVIES LIKE Bram Stoker’s DraculaVampire movie lovers should also try Fright Night (1985), Fright Night part II (1988) and Interview with a Vampire (1994). For more gothic horror perhaps Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994), The Bride (1985) or Gothic (1986). Need more dark fantasy romance in your life? Try Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak (2015) and The Shape of Water (2017).

To anyone casually strolling up to this film for the first time, I’d remind you that it’s approaching 30 years old and (among a divisive crowd) it should be regarded with respect. I remain pleased with the production to this day, but some of the impressively designed sets (e.g., the altar scene when Dracula drinks the blood of the cross) may strike some as “small.” I hadn’t seen this since my college years (maybe around 2001-2003). I recall loving it and, you know what?  I still do—as Dracula did Elisabeta.

The introduction to our famous monster’s origins paints suffering in Dracula’s war path to return to his love Elisabeta (Winona Ryder; Beetlejuice, Stranger Things, Heathers), with unsubtle brushstrokes reddening his berserk discovery of her death. Yell at a few priests, you go to confession. Drink the blood of Christ in an act against Christ… you forfeit your humanity.

Gary Oldman is one of the silver screen’s great treasures.  Manic in Sid and Nancy (1986), terrifying in Leon: The Professional (1994), and embracing cheeky villainy in The Fifth Element (1997; podcast discussion), his range is broad and admirable. Oldman always brings his A-game, yet here things feel even a bit more intense than his oft-dire presence typically permits.  Whether emotionally exploding in a cathedral imbibing the Lord’s blood in sacrilege, or questioning the fate of his love mid-blood baptisim, he is wonderful as our stylish Dracula!

Director Francis Ford Coppola’s (The Godfather, Apocalypse Now) undead adaptation was ambitious.  This film really went for it!  It may be regarded by some as “a bit much,” but I think its atmosphere conveyed a sense appropriate for horror-fantasy. The opening scene’s religious influences, the horrific mystique of Transylvania, Jonathan’s (Keanu Reeves; Constantine, Knock Knock, The Neon Demon, John Wick) letter-narrated journey to the foreign land, the succubus-like Brides of Dracula, and Van Helsing’s (Anthony Hopkins; Westworld, The Wolfman, Silence of the Lambs) harrowing yet hammed-up accounts of Dracula’s oversea journey all pour over a sense of epic saga.

Dracula’s incredibly long robe and almost impishly unmatching shadow, blood geysers bursting from the sides of the bedroom and the Raimi-esque blood vomit, his curiously demonic coachman, the hyper-erotic illness striking its victims and turning Keanu into a sexualized blood bag for the brides of Dracula (including Monica Bellucci; The Brothers Grimm, The Brotherhood of the Wolf, Matrix: Reloaded), and Van Helsing’s garish commentary regarding the mutilation of a corpse all contribute to this incredibly stylish, star-studded and ambitious endeavor.

The wonderful make-up for Dracula’s hybrid wolf and bat forms, the skittish wall-crawling (reminiscent of 1990’s Exorcist III  and 1988’s Fright Night part II), and the inclusive effort covering all of the classic folklore (e.g., mirrors, stakes, reflections, crucifixes, garlic) contribute to this admirable and perhaps unparalleled vampire film—bringing us both monster and star-crossed lover alike. This delivered a classic horror atmosphere coupled with dark fantasy, romance and a major budget. What can I say? I’m a fan.

PODCAST SIDEBAR: If you want to know more about Bram Stoker’s Dracula, check out our in-depth podcast discussion: Episode 115: Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Mark did TONS of research on the film and the behind-the-scenes. You’ll walk away with forgiveness for Keanu’s accent and an appreciation for Coppola’s studio-defiant approach to this magnificent horror film.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. May 2, 2018 12:33 pm

    I’m a fan as well because the film’s a lot of fun.

    I love the mistake where the good doctor sits on the cowboy’s hat. Check it out… You’ll see.

    • John Leavengood permalink
      May 2, 2018 1:17 pm

      Totally missed that despite seeing it thrice in a short timeframe! LOL

  2. May 3, 2018 9:53 am

    Really like this film. Its an epic horror romance rich with atmosphere, lashings of blood, some really impressive sets, and a stunning performance by Gary Oldman as Dracula! Love that scene with the hybrid bat form, brilliant!

    • John Leavengood permalink
      May 3, 2018 11:26 am

      Gary Oldman is such a screen treasure. Great villain!

      • May 3, 2018 1:15 pm

        He’s fantastic in this film, his Dracula has a tragic edge to it, and his powerful presence gives a fascinating insight into the character like none we’ve seen before. The effects and make up were great as well.

    • John Leavengood permalink
      May 3, 2018 4:26 pm

      AMEN! For me this, Fifth Element, The Professional and Sid & Nancy are his best roles.

      • May 3, 2018 5:10 pm

        Oh yes, he was fantastic in Sid & Nancy, such a brilliant actor. I also liked Oldman’s role in Leon as Stansfield, he was great in that as well.

      • John Leavengood permalink
        May 3, 2018 5:33 pm



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