For your viewing pleasure, Miramax brings to Blu-ray Dracula 2000, Dracula II: Ascension, Dracula III: Legacy, and They, four films presented by Wes Craven.
Of course, in this instance, “Wes Craven presents” should have been immediately followed by “aims” and then “fires directly into your face.”
I will cop to the fact that there’s an intriguing premise here. The great vampire hunter of yore, Van Helsing, remains alive in modern day by leeching blood from Dracula’s desiccated corpse. A group of high-tech thieves steal said corpse in the hopes that it’s of some value, thereby unleashing Dracula on an unsuspecting world. There’s another big reveal regarding Dracula’s history that I won’t spoil, but suffice it to say, it’s clever.
However, plot is where the clever stops. Most of the actors seem to have been on a day pass from their respective television shows or they owed the Weinsteins a favor. The dialogue is cornball, and none of the deaths are particularly original. (Yes, I know that’s what you’re looking for.) Christopher Plummer turns in a nice performance, but it’s so out of place it made me wish the rest of the production could have risen to his level.
The female lead is an unknown whose entire character is defined by her relationship with Dracula, who is played by Gerard Butler with minimal dialogue but all the mush-mouthed delivery you’ve come to expect from him. His best scene occurs alongside a priest (Nathan Fillion, preparing for his part in the final season of Buffy), where he dons the priest’s collar and—combined with his modified mullet—looks almost exactly like Jesse Custer from Garth Ennis’s comic book series, Preacher.
If the guy could talk, he’d be a shoe-in for the role in a feature film adaptation.
DRACULA II: ASCENSION
Let’s take a brief look to see who returned for some direct-to-video sequel fun. The writer and the director. That’s it. Everyone else had caller ID.
Where the first film in the series dealt with religion, movie numero dos is all about medicine and the morality that goes along with it. It seems that Dracula’s blood is capable of curing even the worst disease. Doesn’t have any effect on a shitty script, but look out, Craig Sheffer. One drop of this stuff will get your gnarled body up out of your wheelchair and have the effects of three thousand throat lozenges on your Clint Eastwood-style rasp.
The breakout stars here are Jason London (Wonder Twin powers, not so great!) and Jason Scott Lee, who believes he is still on the set of Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story. His character seems to have been borne out of condensing five other roles when the budget got cut. He’s a vampire-hunting priest/martial artist employed by the Vatican who also happens to be a vampire himself. How does this guy stay alive in direct sunlight, you ask? He is badder than the fucking sun. That’s how. Plus, all of his lines are performed by an uncredited vein in his neck.
Winning the Christopher Plummer “Get my agent on the phone” award this time around is Roy Scheider, who also makes a cameo in part three. The entire time he was on screen, I kept waiting for him to turn to the camera and ask, “Why don’t you come down here and chum some of this shit?”
DRACULA III: LEGACY
I would say that the Dracula trilogy has a legacy in the same way herpes does, subjecting audiences to the occasional flare-up. Believe it or not, the final installment is a buddy picture.
London and Lee take their show on the road to Eastern Europe to track down Dracula and once and for all stake this franchise. Given the fact that Part 2 didn’t really have an ending to speak of, it’s amazing anyone waited 2 years to find out how this would all end.
Christopher Plummer award? Rutger Hauer as Dracula. He’s sporting the same Cesar Romero as The Joker mustache he wore in the Buffy feature film, only this time no one bothered to tell him there’s some wicked scabbing around his lips that does not appear to be the doings of any makeup artist. I kid you not. Watch it for yourself. Or better yet, don’t.
Big anti-climactic finish.
Continuing in the long tradition of pronouns as villains—It, Them, Us Weekly—, now comes They, and it is immediately forgettable.
There’s yet another unknown actress who could have perished during filming and no one would have noticed or cared. However, the film is buoyed by the raw energy and magnetism of Marc Blucas (Riley from Buffy’s Season 4), who has so much charisma that—
I’m totally kidding. I’m told he auditioned against a 2X4 for the role and would have lost it if the board hadn’t gotten an offer to do Broadway.
As far as I can tell, They only has half a story, as if the screenwriter became disinterested in his own work near the midpoint. It seems that a group of children who experienced night terrors were actually abducted by some kind of supernatural boogeymen from a hell-like dimension and then returned. Years later, “they” have come back to recapture the same kids as adults. Maybe the movie said why. I don’t remember. All I do remember is wishing I could be abducted.
THE VIDEO AND THE AUDIO
There is nothing here that would require high-definition, though none of the movies seemed to suffer from having been placed on a single disc. That’s right, kids. Four movies, one disc. Audio is in living stereo for Dracula 2000 and Dracula II, while the final two flicks sport 5.1.
Nada. Zip. Zilch.
THE ULTIMATE WORD