HBO Special - "Bram Stoker's Dracula"

A supposedly-accurate retelling of the literary classic, "Dracula" begins with the creation of the great vampire (Gary Oldman) himself and the events which led to his decision. Some years later, a young law clerk named Jonathan Harker (Keanu Reeves) is sent to Dracula's Translyvanian estate to investigate the man who has bough up a chunk of property in London. Dracula soon realizes that Harker's fiance, Mina, is the reincarnation of his lost love. Imprisoning Harker, Dracula makes haste to London where he first bites and enslaves Mina's best friend, Lucy (Sadie Frost), drawing upon her life and making himself appear young again, a trait which allows him to seduce Mina. All of these strange events draw the attention of Doctor Van Helsing (Anthony Hopkins), who soon realizes that the king of all vampires is on the loose and setting the stage for a dramatic battle between good and evil.

I found "Dracula" to be a bit of a roller coaster. There are some truly inspired moments and then some that completely fall flat. The very idea of Gary Oldman as a classic villain is, of course, magnificent and Oldman holds up his end of the bargain. If there's a better actor than Oldman, I don't know who it is. His Dracula is menacing but alluring, a perfect balance for the role. Likewise, director Francis Ford Coppola creates a dark, tension-filled atmosphere for his characters to work within and that suits "Dracula" well. The shot selection and scene setting is excellent, even if the scenes don't always flow together brilliantly. There's also a natural vein of fear that runs through this movie and I imagine some of the scenes would be quite scary if I was viewing in a dark theater instead of my home TV during the middle of the day. And I, for one, felt the film's open ended conclusion is glorious and fitting, a point I know other viewers might dispute.

On the down side, "Dracula" suffers from 80s hangover wherein it occasionally falls into unnecessary moments of over-the-top absurdity. Some of the more "frightening" moments are hindered by ridiculous, cliche dialogue and some of the special effects seem like they belong in a Stephen King made-for-TV movie, not a $50 million dollar horror epic. There's also a scene or two that I understand are based upon the novel but probably should have been left on the book stand. And then we come to Keanu Reeves. Good gracious. What an incredible drain he is on this movie. Every time he spoke I felt myself slip closer and closer to a coma and was only revived by Oldman ripping the place apart with awesomeness. Reeves has a place in Hollywood (see: "Matrix" and "Bill and Ted's") but this isn't it. He is horribly miscast and the only saving grace concerning this decision is that his role is fairly limited; otherwise, I'm not sure I could have made it through. Just...I mean...what were you thinking, FFC?! Painful. These missteps don't completely overshadow an excellent performance from Oldman or the glorious, appealingly dark overtones of "Dracula" as a whole but they do take away from the overall impact and left me wanting more.

Grade: B