Apparently seductive vampires, malignant superpowers and evil vs. good aren't sufficiently chilling enough anymore. We need STDs, satanic cults and a loopy hermit.
Because those are only a few of the mutilations made to Bram Stoker's classic "Dracula," which the BBC has raped in just about every way a plot can be. Wretched direction, appalling acting, and a plot with barely a shred of Stoker's original story -- we're left with a third-rate vampire flick that thinks it's first-rate.
Arthur Holmwood (Dan Stevens) is apalled when he finds that his father is dying of syphilis -- and he was infected at birth. To save his life and sanity -- and marry the beautiful Lucy (Sophia Myles) -- he involves himself in a strange cult that promises to cure him. Meanwhile, young solicitor Jonathan Harker (Rafe Spall) is sent to Transylvania to sell a house to the decrepit Count Dracula... only to meet a gruesome fate when he sees Dracula's true nature.
Arthur and Lucy have married, but the wedding is not consummated, so Lucy spends most of her time with her pal Mina (Stephanie Leonidas), who is worrying about her fiancee Jonathan. Then one night a ship crashes on the rocks nearby, and it seems that Arthur and the cult have unleashed Count Dracula on England's shores. The only way to stop him -- and save Mina -- is to trust in a strange man who already knows too much of vampires...
It's pretty difficult to find the shreds of Stoker's original story in this adaptation -- apparently the BBC writers were under the impression that they could do better than the greatest vampire story ever written. So they tack in syphilis, a murder mystery, a satanic cult, a mysterious disappearance, and Van Helsing being a crazy old man locked in a basement.
It might not have been as wretched as it is, had it not been for the woefully bad direction. Lots of seizure-inducing quick cuts and repetitive close-ups of fangs, and plot holes you could drive a truck through, such as Dracula's sporadic immunity to sunlight. Moreover, the first three-fourths of the movie are miserably slow and dull, only to tumble rapidly to an unsatisfying, inconclusive ending.
And the whole "erotic vampire-blood-sex" undertone, which has been around since Victorian times, is handled with hilarious consequences. Whose idea was it to have Dracula orgasm every time he drinks blood?
Ultimately any "Dracula" movie is only as good as its Dracula. Marc Warren is no fiery, sweeping, intense Boyar prince with a deep thirst for women -- he looks like a Neanderthal goth frat boy with too much makeup, and he's apparently too stupid to get to England without someone sending him a ticket. He's no Bela Lugosi or Christopher Lee -- he looks (and acts) more like Jack White with a severe head injury.
The rest of the cast is about as impressive. The talented Suchet does as well as he can with a loopy, fearful Van Helsing, and Myles does a solid job as Dracula's first girl. But the other actors are mediocre at best -- Leonidas is particularly awful when she's feigning hysterics, and Stevens is an embarrassment as a bad parody of Arthur.
The latest adaptation of "Dracula" falls below the worst of Hammer Horror and lame TV movies -- a bastardized disaster of syphilitic writing, miserable direction and a Dracula who's as intimidating as a wet sponge.