Not just “Dracula” – “Wes Craven Presents: Dracula 2000,” and that humble title is a thoughtful tip that the updated proceedings cross-breed Craven’s “Scream” trilogy with the classic myth of Nosferatu.
It all opens promisingly enough, in 1897 with dark and moody shots of a rat-infested ship off the coast of England. Peter Pau, the award-winning cinematographer of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” brings similar style to the action on this film. Production credits all around are top-notch; what makes the film less than it might have been is the over-the-top, decibel-busting direction and a bloodless script. “Eddie gets impaled – what the hell is going on?” is the sort of dialogue Omar Epps and the rest of the cast members must say with straight faces.
Patrick Lussier, a Craven protege, directs with his eye toward his target teen audience. Forget doddering Christopher Plummer as Dracula’s longtime nemesis Van Helsing. The film is full of the modern horror-genre silliness spoofed by the “Scream” films: terrorized girls willingly enter dark rooms; a self-centered TV-news Twinkie gets her comeuppance, on camera, of course; a gruesome finale has the frightened heroine running alone into a New Orleans cemetery, the ideal place to elude the Prince of Darkness.
There are sequences of tacky high camp, most notably a trio of female vampires bearing come-hither fangs and gyrating like lap dancers in “Showgirls.” The film’s bizarre twist to the entire Dracula legend, connecting it directly to Christianity, will leave fans of the myth scratching their heads and Catholics running for the exits.
What few enjoyable moments there are come courtesy of the slick production design, cinematography, and some nifty, if unoriginal, special effects such as bodies hurtling, “Matrix”-style, through the air. The use of Virgin record superstores – it is where Dracula finds two of his nubile young victims – may be crafty product placement, but the sight of the logo as Dracula describes his conquest as “unbitten but born” provides a chuckle to counter the heavy-handed mayhem. “Dracula 2000” is silly but harmless; the immortal Count will easily survive this lightweight updating.
Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company