Monday, October 31, 2005

Halloween Countdown...02

And the runner up is...
02 Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992)
Nothing says "Halloween" more than sunlight aversions and blood-lust. If this were a less cinematic list I'd want to put TV's Buffy the Vampire Slayer in here or even in the top spot. But we're talking movies --you have to narrow it down somehow. So, in honor of the original bloodsucking Count I've also jettisoned any vampire movies that have torn free from his (or from " first vampire" stories --you can't discount Nosferatu, now can you?) enormous shadow. Of the many --seriously many-- film adaptations or movies inspired by Bram Stoker's epistolary horror novel (1897), Francis Coppola's take on the immortal fanged Count (titled after the novel) is as good as many and better than most. It represents the vampiric in my Halloween list.

Of all vampire films, FW Murnau's silent Nosferatu (1922) is the most important to see if you're taking cinematic historical importance into account. But this list is a personal one. So I chose Coppola's elaborately bizarre, colorful, and passionate 90s treatment of the vampire mythos. The most peculiar thing about this film and my love for it, is that I don't really think that much of it works. A good deal of the problems seems to be in the casting. The most interesting performance (Sadie Frost as Lucy) has the least screen time. Keanu Reeves is wooden as Jonathan Harker, Gary Oldman lacks the onscreen sexual charisma that one would expect from a lead in a romantic horror epic, and strangely, despite it being filmed during what were unarguably her peak years, Winona Ryder also flails about. She never was adept at period (nevermind those two Oscar nominations) but her star turn reads as slightly over-the-top silly rather than passionate when the blood really hits the walls in the second half of the film. Still, despite many misgivings, the film is a spectacle in the best sense. You can't take your eyes off of it. Coppola's passion for le cinéma is evident throughout as he tries every conceivable camera trick in the book. His sort of operatic passion and creative invention is lacking in most every other vampire film. That's a pity because the approach is a perfect fit for this grand guignol literary classic.

This 1992 vampire epic is best seen on the bigscreen where the enormous oddness of its Oscar-winning costumes and makeup and its in-camera visual effects are properly showcased. Bram Stoker's Dracula is large and fascinatingly messy. There's no trace of laziness here--no fingerprints of the undead were involved in this film's making, only fully committed living and breathing artists attempting something awesome. For whatever reason, this particular Coppola film is never booked for repertory houses or even midnight screenings (though it would seem an ideal fit for both) so rent it soon if you've never seen it.


NicksFlickPicks said...

Given my banner image, t'aint no secret that this movie is on my countdown of 100 personal faves. And since I'm only up to 85, don't expect to see it for a good, long while.

adam k. said...

I used to watch this movie on Encore when my parents didn't know, and I always felt like the scene where those ghoul women or whatever were quasi-raping Keanu was SO hot and naughty.
Sorry, I just had to mention that... it is my primary memory of this movie.

But you know what movie reminds ME of Halloween? The Exorcist. Get it, Nathaniel. Go. Right. Now. Even if The Boyfriend has to peel your eyelids back so you don't cower and hide your eyes. You only have 8 hours left of Halloween! YOU MUST SEE THIS MOVIE.

adam k. said...

Oh, I also, I just wanted to point out that the link to the blog on the main page is down... I can only get here now through your "early oscar buzz leaders" link. Just letting you know.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to admit but I found it a tad hard to watch this film with a straight face. (No pun intended.)

Lugosi? Yes.

Lee? Yes.

Langella? Yes.

But Oldman? Er, no.

Maybe it's a "L" thing...

Anonymous said...

Never seen this one. I will try and get ahold of it.

However, I received "Clue" in the mail today, so that was pretty great.