Spooktober Day 12: Bram Stoker’s Dracula

For most of us cinephiles, we remember the first time we saw a movie, whether it be in the theater, or at home. If the film shakes you, positively or negatively, there’s a residue left that seeps into your memory and makes it challenging to let go. Well, I don’t want to- so I’m going to highlight some Kristy horror history for this wonderful, special, month of October.

I have no qualms admitting my love for Francis Ford Coppola’s adaptation of the classic vampire tale. I watched it as a youngin (shocker!) and loved it. At first it was eerie to me, and though it wasn’t my first or last entry to Dracula, it left an impression. (Much like Nosferatu did). It continued my appreciation for the many splendors of visual storytelling.

source: Columbia Pictures

A lot of words come to mind when I think of Bram Stoker’s Dracula but one that comes ripe with punctuation is indulgent. In many ways, and in ways that I quite appreciate, the film is excess, over the top. It takes the subject matter we know, and many love, and emphasizes it with new flourishes.

I love the use of shadows, of colors, and the unyielding score (by Wojciech Kilar). Some of those beautifully haunting shots are unforgettable: the horse pulled carriage thrusted into the darkness with a fervent pace, or the train as it whistles loudly, headed into the ominous Carpathian Mountains. It’s rich with these moments, and you can be smitten with the gothic visuals alone.

“Do you believe in destiny? That even the powers of time can be altered for a single purpose? That the luckiest man who walks on this earth is the one who finds… true love?”

It attempts to romanticize Dracula in a way, which, honestly, I don’t mind. Love never dies. Even for blood sucking vampires. It’s like a fairy tale/gothic romance, mixed with some camp and the threat of eternal damnation. There’s more to this Dracula than other iterations, because even when his actions are those we’ve seen before, and he’s the “monster” (chefs kiss by the way with the makeup, costumes and effects). There’s also the occasional glimpse of a burgeoning heart of “man” before, a reminder that he was once human.

I also adore the occasional silliness, Anthony Hopkins and Keanu Reeves (as do others) play it up and succeed. Meanwhile, one of my favorite heroines as a kid, Winona Ryder adds more emotional resonance to a film that isn’t always selling that point. Meanwhile, Gary Oldman (talk about star power) nails the performance of Dracula, giving us a reminding reason, yet again, of how versatile the actor is. He’s as haunted as the character has ever been, in his moments of reflection and pain. Dracula transforms a lot throughout the movie, not just physically, but shifts from guilt-stricken, to furious, brooding and then maniacal.

source: Columbia Pictures

It’s decadent, blood-soaked, eye-catching candy. Albeit, not one that’s for everyone, especially those relishing the older Dracula feel. That’s why I like it. James V. Hart’s screenplay takes Stoker’s tale and makes it feel modern, and yet still… ancient. But, it’s Coppola’s vision and Michael Ballhaus‘s cinematography that stands out most, and makes this a lasting feature.

Luscious to look at, and looming with a variety of delights for your senses to revel on, Dracula is spellbinding entertainment.

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