Friday, October 3, 2014

Why I love Bram Stoker's Dracula

Why I love Bram Stoker's Dracula
1) The cinematography, costumes, and set design. Bram Stoker's Dracula is an absolutely gorgeous film. It's as highly-stylized and colorful as a European graphic novel.

2) The opening scenes in Dracula's castle. Shadows creep along the walls, cold stone drips with secrets, and torchlight illuminates shadowed corners.

3) Keanu Reeves' amazingly fallible British accent. "Music? Those animals?"

4) The vampire brides in general and Monica Bellucci in particular. They're all dripping with satin and repressed Victorian sexuality.

5) Winona Ryder. My go-to celebrity crush during my tween years was Winona Ryder, thanks in no small part to this movie and Beetlejuice. This movie made her into the perfect Victorian romantic lead; at once uptight and naive. Plus she made a really cute almost-vampire.

6) Gary Oldman as Dracula. As the years have gone by and I've taken the movie less seriously, I've come to appreciate the high camp in his performance.  He glowers, he cackles, he hisses, and he professes his love with operatic glee.

7) Anthony Hopkins as Van Helsing. Speaking of over-the-top performances, I've never seen Van Helsing performed with the same mix of dispassionate scholarship and lunatic enthusiasm. Sometimes it goes too broad, like when humps Quincey before they go hunting Lucy, but most of the time he makes for a fun over-the-top vampire hunter.

8) The final chase to Dracula's castle, with the gunfights and galloping horses and Mina flipping out and calling to her lover. It's the way I imagine most Ravenloft games ending.

9) The opening sequence, with all the shadow puppetry and fairy tale voice-overs. I like that Dracula's armor looks like a cross between a bat and bloody musculature, and the soaring music that roars when he drinks the blood from the stabbed crucifix sets up our expectation for a truly operatic take on the Dracula myth.

10) "Would you care for some hors d'oeuvres, Doctor Seward?"

11) Lucy's funeral ruff. Who knew Victorian death rituals involved so many ruffles?  

12) The soundtrack is the best vampire score of all time. 

Conclusion: My feelings towards Bram Stoker's Dracula have changed significantly over the years. When I was younger, I deeply believed in the love story between Dracula and Mina. Hell, I thought it was the most romantic thing in the world. Now I find that the campy performances and broad melodrama undercut the romantic moments too much for me to really take the heart of the movie seriously. Now I enjoy it mostly as an exercise in style, with added bonus of cringing at my past self's tastes in melodrama. 

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