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Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Year: 1992
Production Co: Zoetrope
Studio: Columbia
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Producer: Michael Apted
Writer: James V Hart/Bram Stoker
Cast: Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder, Anthony Hopkins, Keanu Reeves, Richard E Grant, Monica Bellucci, Cary Elwes

The most famous vampire story of all time comes to the big screen in the vein of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. It was a wonder there weren't more of them after the brief craze for 'source material' horror.

As Stoker did, Coppola investigates the sexual aspects of the vampirism, how a vampire is irresistible to his victim and seduces her, rather than being a shambling, horrible automaton any sane person would run from (as the vampires from Eastern European legend from which Stoker got part of his inspiration indeed were – more like modern day zombies).

Coppola also goes for a very in-camera aesthetic when it comes to the special effects. The reasoning and the result are both good, such as when Dracula's shadow knocks over a pot of pencils, but can be a little overdone as it is in the blood-red sky over Carpathia as Jonathan Harker's train approaches.

The aspect that hasn't stood the test of time is the performances. history shows what a ham Anthony Hopkins can be but at the time everyone was still enamoured with his performance in Silence of the Lambs. Ryder as Mina is good apart from a bad stumble where she tries to turn nasty and seductive by showing her cleavage and trying to seduce Van Helsing by hissing 'you've been so good to me doctor'.

Much of the criticism at the time – entirely warranted – was levelled at Keanu Reeves as Harker, so stilted and constipated trying to play 'proper' it's almost laughable, and I understand Coppola's gone on record saying he was only cast to appeal to teenage girl audiences. It was undoubtedly a studio missive from on high.

The single stand out is Oldman as Dracula, giving the role such a distinctive mark and such a presence he carries the whole movie effortlessly. With an ominous soundtrack by masterful composer Wojciech Kilar (including the instantly recognisable six note riff) it's among the best modern vampire films before the YouTube generation took over Hollywood.

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