Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Bram Stoker's Dracula Is A Sexually Charged Piece of Cinema That Makes For A Delightful Watch

Bram Stoker's Dracula is one horny movie. It's so horny you might as well call it a crash of rhinos. It's so fixated on getting it on that one is surprised some James Brown tunes don't pepper the soundtrack. Director Francis Ford Coppola has assembled an A-list cast and some extraordinary production design, not to mention Bram Stoker's iconic source material, to create a vivid erotic fever dream about the one, the only, the vampire called Dracula. That description is meant to be a compliment, Bram Stoker's Dracula has refreshingly no inhibitions about what it wants to be is and fully embraces any opportunity to revel in both sex and hamminess, frequently at the same time.

Vlad the Impaler (Gary Oldman) was a good soldier for the country of Transylvania but his services as a fighter end up leading to the death of his one true love. Enraged, he curses the very name of God, which causes blood to gush out from a nearby cross and out of the walls. Oh, and Vlad also turns into the immortal bloodsucker Dracula. This gore-soaked opening sequence sets the stage for what kind of madness lies within Bram Stoker's Dracula, which primarily takes place in 1897. Mina Harker (Winona Ryder) and Johnathan Wick, er, Harker (Keanu Reeves) are set to be married, but first, Johnathan must visit the estate of Count Dracula, now a decrepit old man who keeps Johnathan trapped in his vast castle.

Dracula has to keep this guy locked up in a dungeon because he's got his eyes set on Mina. Dracula, transforming himself into a younger man, begins to woo Mina with his ability to calm down rampaging wolves. Now the question becomes whether or not Mina will be able to resist the charms of this iconic vampire. Such a query is the crux of a movie whose primary focus is on atmosphere, mood, and visuals rather than plot or character arcs. These parts of the production, as well as the lead performance by Gary Oldman, are predominately filtered through the intense amount of passion Dracula feels towards this lady he's never even met.

Centuries of pent-up romantic emotions are finally being provoked in Dracula's body and that sensation is reflected in how Dracula can't even lick the blood off of Johnathan's shaving razor without writhing in orgasmic pleasure. Everything is sex for this beast who has finally found the beauty that reminds him of his initial love and his passion is reflected in the camerawork and production design, which alternate between filtering Dracula's love affair as something cutesy (like when Dracula is dancing with Mina in a dark room surrounded by candles) and a far more macabre version of horniness. There is no middle ground for how romance manifests itself in the various visual assets of Bram Stoker's Dracula, it's either in Nicholas Sparks mode or, more frequently, it's in Dracula is the Warmest Vampire mode.

Such wild swings for the fence make Bram Stoker's Dracula an intoxicating experience to watch, especially since it features a whole bunch of esteemed actors engaging in all of this bloody horny madness. The juxtaposition of a performer like Oscar-winner Anthony Hopkins with story points revolving around gruesomely executing vampires is utterly delightful and nowhere is that more apparent than in the lead performance of Gary Oldman. Oldman never once winks to the camera in his turn as Dracula, he sinks his teeth into every one of his lines of dialogue, in the process lending shockingly effective gravitas to whatever gruesome mayhem Dracula is engaged in. Even when he's stuck romping around in a so-so wolfman suit, Oldman is able to communicate Dracula's tragic sense of longing.

Oldman gets adorned in some of the best costumes of the entire movie, including a red robe worn by his elderly form that's so expansive in size it practically occupies two rooms! Oldman's got the best outfits in the films, but he's not the only one wandering about with impressive costume work, there are oodles of exceptional-looking late-19th-century outfits to be found throughout the runtime. The assorted sets are similarly sublime to look at and it's impressive how well even the regal palaces in London are able to communicate a sense of creepy gothic horror. Aside from the final fifteen or so minutes that end up disappointingly relying too much on clunky voice-over dialogue and less imaginative visuals, Bram Stoker's Dracula, much like the earlier Francis Ford Coppola directorial effort, is a visually glorious descent into madness whose dedication to that madness is utterly impressive. The biggest difference between the two productions is that, of course, Bram Stoker's Dracula is a far hornier affair than Apocalypse Now. Nobody orgasmically licks blood off of a razor in Apocalypse Now...that I can recall (maybe that's in one of the many alternate cuts?)

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