Alice Oscura, Featured Writer
When one is revisiting a film after a long time has passed, the most popular question on everyone’s lips is “How well does it hold up?”, especially against modern cinematic counterparts. There have been many film adaptations over the years inspired by author Bram Stoker’s gothic horror novel Dracula (1897). But none have been able to stay as true to the original material as the 1992 film helmed by prominent director Francis Ford Coppola who was still basking in the achievements of movies like The Godfather films and Apocalypse Now (1979). Coppola was first presented with the script (written by James V. Hart) by actress Winona Ryder after she dropped out of The Godfather Part III (1990). Coincidentally Ryder would go on to star in Bram Stoker’s Dracula in the leading female role of Mina Murray Harker. The director felt that it was kismet since the story’s main focus was centered around his favourite movie monster, Dracula. Coppola surprised the public by taking charge of such a project since it was a film genre not particularly associated with him. The other hurdle to overcome was the fact that in the early 90s horror was not the most popular genre in cinema. Especially one set in the era of Victorian England.
Coppola’s gothic horror just celebrated its 30th Anniversary since its initial release on the 13th of November 1992. Bram Stoker’s Dracula ranks among the Top Vampire Movies of All Time in many surveys over the years and has quite the legacy for impacting the portrayal of the vampire mythos in the cinematic universe. One of the most significant marketing tools used to promote the film was the music video for the hauntingly beautiful soundtrack “Love Song for a Vampire” which was written and performed by popular Scottish singer Annie Lennox, whose voice was accompanied by several scenes from the film in the music video.
The cast selection was particularly solid (Gary Oldman as the titular vampire, Anthony Hopkins as vampire slayer Professor Abraham Van Helsing, Richard E. Grant as Dr Jack Seward) with the only misfit being poor Keanu Reeves as Jonathan Harker. He continues to receive many criticisms for his portrayal of an English accent to this day, which unfortunately becomes one of the factors that doesn’t hold up quite too well. The dialogue remains some of the cheesiest that we’ve heard but yet it still works because it lends power to the romanticism and sexuality of the story. The strongest performances of the film would always be the scenes between Ryder and Gary Oldman as Mina and Dracula respectively. The chemistry between them was disturbingly off the charts despite the significant real-life age difference between them, which is why I say disturbing. However, there was nothing that would make me take my eyes off the screen whenever he spoke to her in his calming tones with such a poetic dialogue that it would make any lady swoon. Especially when one discovers that he has the power to turn tears into diamonds! What do they always say about diamonds being a girl’s best friend? And who wouldn’t want to live for an eternity with the love of their love?
The choice of using Ryder to portray dual roles as Dracula’s deceased wife Elisabeta and Mina Harker to make the audience believe that Mina was the reincarnation of his dead wife was an absolute stroke of genius. It builds the foundation that would become Count Dracula’s obsession with Mina. The film captured two aspects of Count Dracula. In his effort to satisfy his blood thirst and control himself in Mina’s presence, he was savage and barbaric with his treatment of Lucy Westenra (Sadie Frost). Then he became extremely charming while trying to lure Mina away from her husband, Jonathan Harker (Keanu Reeves). No line wouldn’t be crossed for him to get what he wanted.
The unique way of using the cut scenes as the story is narrated by the main characters of the movie lets the audience experience the story from varying points of view, much like the journal entries in Bram Stoker’s original novel. Elaborate costumes and ingenious makeup design gave us a steampunk-inspired Victorian England. The film went on to win four Academy Award nominations and won three for Best Costume Design, Best Sound Editing, and Best Makeup.
In closing, Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula will remain to be an inspiration to the gothic horror genre and has proven time and time again to more than withstand the test of time due to strong lead performances, excellent story execution, and depiction of a timeless novel.
So, are you a fan of Bram Stoker’s Dracula? How well does it hold up for you 30 years later? And you can sink your teeth into more vampiric reviews below:
Dark Alice has an old soul and a curious mind. I believe that anyone can be a hero and that the good guys should always win! I dislike cruelty to animals and think that they have far superior qualities to humans. My motto is there is no future without the past. I also have a weird penchant for Paranormal TV shows even though the slightest sound makes me jump. I enjoy writing reviews and throwing in fun facts to pique the readers’ curiosity. My ultimate goal in life would be to become a published writer one day. Read More