Jun. 25th, 2014

seriousfic: (Secret of the Kells)

This movie is so damn weird, you guys. I mean, it's trying to be both a straightforward faithful adaptation of the book (the title is Bram Stoker's Dracula) and at the same time a revisionist take where Dracula is the good guy and the vampire hunters are big meanies who just aren't cooooool, maaan. This results in a plot that could best be described as "a man is in love with a woman who is way too young for him; wants to rape her but it's okay because she looks like his dead wife."

-It's been said before, but I'll say it again. Keanu Reeves is almost entirely terrible in this. I've heard he was forced on Coppola, but honestly, that should've been a dealbreaker. Unless he was trying to gimmick the love triangle by casting likable block of wood Reeves on one side and Even-Good-In-Call-of-Duty:-Black-Ops Gary Oldman on the other. That still doesn't explain Winona Ryder, though.

-At least this movie is memorable, though. It's not good, by any means, but the visuals are so eclectic, almost iconic, that it at least leaves an impression. Probably it's best contributions to pop culture are the parodies that resulted from it; a Mel Brooks movie with Leslie Nielsen as Drac *and* a Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror segment. And it only seems fitting: the bits where Dracula's shadow is miming strangling Jonathan while he's unaware, and all this supernatural shit is happening right in front of Harker's nose and he's reacting as... err... Keanu Reeves... it makes Sam Raimi look like The Mist. The ending of The Mist.

-On the other hand, and I'm mostly sure this was unintentional, you could read all of Harker's time in Dracula's castle as a date rape scenario. He's trying to play along with this eccentric foreigner and do his job while the guy is creeping on him, getting in his personal space, making weird comments... finally, he sees Dracula literally feed a baby to his brides. In I think Reeves' only good acting moment, he finally lets out all the frustration and fear he's been feeling, screaming his lungs out as Dracula laughs. And then the brides do rape him; even if it is later referred to by Van Helsing as "infidelities" (I'm not sure how much the movie wants us to take Van Helsing at his word and how much it wants us to disagree with him as a sort of unreliable narrator. More on this later). However, I fear this would require way more self-awareness than the script otherwise shows.

-The main problem with the movie, I'd say, is that it wants to make Dracula sympathetic and more of a complex character. This is fine, in moderation. But it does so at the expense of every other character. Lucy becomes a slut, Seward becomes a drug addict, Van Helsing... God, they have him humping Quincey's leg while talking about how Lucy is the Devil's Concubine AND, when Vampy Mina tries to seduce him, he goes for it! Van Helsing even says, towards the end, "we have all become God's madmen." Yeah, what a bunch of assholes you were, trying to stop a vampire from raping and murdering his way through London! Shame! Shame!

-I'm serious, Mina even calls Van Helsing a murderous bastard for killing Lucy when THEY CAUGHT HER in the process of drinking a toddler's blood.

-She also gets mad at Dracula for killing Lucy first--yeah, you'd think--but after we cut away for a minute, we go back to the same scene and she's all "I love you, Dracula, you're my life, Dracula!" I didn't know Jared's sold diamonds that big. (Sisters before misters, Mina).

-Really, the whole movie has this weird dudebro sensibility. It's like Coppola wanted to make an erotic thriller about Dracula, then tried to reedit it into a legitimate movie on a dare. Dracula's the cool rock star sex god guy, so he's always right and awesome and everyone who doesn't like him is bad. Lucy is a one-woman show of Sex In The City; I think ninety percent of her lines are about sex. She even has a lesbian kiss with Mina.

-So get this [/Sam Winchester]. Initially, Dracula turns into a wolfman to rape-bite Lucy upon arriving in London (yeah, that's much scarier than a ghost ship full of vampire victims running around *rolls eyes*). It's played as a rape scene; Dracula even uses his psychic powers to roofie Lucy and an interrupting Mina into forgetting, though Lucy is still clearly traumatized. Then the rest of Lucy's storyline is almost played for laughs. She lies in bed and has orgasms (you know what's sexier than anemia and acute blood loss? NOTHING!) while all the guys stand around like "WOT WOT, SEX? BUT WE'RE BRITISH!"

-Also, how am I supposed to take this "grand love story" between Dracula and Mina? He contrives to bump into her, starts in on his gentleman routine, she tells him that she's married and to piss off, so he stalks her until she gets upset with him. Then, when he acts contrite, she feels sorry for him and he guilts her into going to see a science expo with him (where a porno film is playing, because SEX. VAMPIRES. VICTORIAN TIMES. SUBTEXT.). Whereupon he drags her into a corner while she says "no, stop," and he tries to bite her before stopping at the last second. So, pretty much ninety nine percent date rape, but if you don't actually penetrate someone, doesn't count.

-Again, it's just so weird that I guess the movie is trying to criticize Victorian sexual mores (yes, I know, it's a courageous stand to take, saying that maybe the Victorians just didn't have a healthy attitude about sex), BUT AT THE SAME TIME, it's pretty much saying "you know what women like? Rape. Bitches love rape."

-Oh, and in the book, obviously there was a lot of focus on how Lucy is a victim and she doesn't want to be vamped and by staking her, they're freeing her soul and doing her a solid. In the movie, they have Van Helsing going on about how she's actually a 'willing discipline of Dracula' and such, so I guess she consented to sex with a wolfman and, later, Dracula turning into a wolf and bite-fucking her to death. So... I'm guessing they're trying to make this point where either Van Helsing is wrong and it's foolish for anyone to believe that someone would willing go in for Dracula's victimization (err, except for Mina, I guess), OR they're saying that Lucy chose to be a vampire and it's synonymous with... sexual liberation or something? In which case, feminist women eat babies? I don't know... man, this shit's confusing.

-Real dirty trick: they nod to Dracula being an epistolary novel by often having voiceover narration of people's diaries, letters, etc (usually with both Keanu Reeves or whoever saying "Dear Diary, it is the 27th of May" AND an onscreen caption reading "Jonathan Harker's diary, May 27". Yeah, got it, thanks). However, they don't use the lines from the book, but invent new ones about how Mina is SO IN LOVE WITH DRACULA, YOU GUYS. And what they do use from the book is often taken entirely out of context, like Van Helsing's "God's madmen" line. In the book, Mina at one point feels sorry for Dracula because, hey, he's like Lucy--he was turned into a vampire, he has no soul, and they need to release him from his suffering. In the movie, this is turned into her feeling sorry for him because he's "so hunted." Yes, for kILLING YOUR BEST FRIEND, IDIOT. REMEMBER HER? RAPED TO DEATH BY MONSTERS? But yeah, you're right, Dracula's cute, he should probably be allowed to do that.

-On a more pedantic note, they relate Renfield to Jonathan. A lot of Dracula movies do this; I think the Bela Lugosi one made it Renfield instead of Harker who went to Dracula's castle, but instead of escaping, he was driven insane, and so Jonathan is just Mina's boyfriend in that adaptation. Here, Renfield was the first solicitor Dracula had, but he went crazy, so now Jonathan has to finish the work. Except in the book, Dracula was really careful about hiding his true nature from Renfield/Jonathan and keeping him alive and intact long enough to finish the job so he could get to London, and Dracula could learn from him how to move through polite society undetected. Having him be so clumsy as to drive Renfield crazy and need a do-over on the solicitor diminishes Dracula a bit.

-I mean, I can see Dracula getting Jonathan alone and then so not giving a shit that he's just, yeah, I can climb walls, what are you gonna do about it, nerd? But it lacks in subtlety and it isn't really interesting. if Dracula is basically flinging scary shit in Jonathan's face every two minutes for no reason, there's no build-up, no tension. He might as well just bite the guy as soon as he comes through the door and have it over with.

-In case you were wondering where the one scary thing in American Horror Story--the music--came from, it's this movie.

-Another thing: In the book, there's a very brief scene where Dracula has some gypsies working for him, loading up cargo for his trip to London. Jonathan tries to sneak a letter to them, they show it to Dracula, that's it. It's not the most flattering portrayal, but okay, Dracula is paying some guys who happen to be Roma. In the movie, Dracula has full-on gypsy henchmen who get into a gunfight with the vampire hunters. It just seems weird, like saying... "Dr. Doom and his Jewish minions are here!" There doesn't seem like any reason they can't say "oh, Dracula has some random henchmen working for him, but they don't all belong to any particular ethnic group." And when the movie is making such a point of being critical of the source material, it makes it stand out a lot more when they let something else by.


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