& & by Ed Symkus & & & &

Yeah, yeah, the name of the film is supposed to be Wes Craven Presents: Dracula 2000. But first, that title is too long; second, Craven is only listed as executive producer; and third, aside from the intrusive loud rock music, this doesn't have anything bearing Craven's stamp on it.

Besides, there are questions to be asked. Like, won't this one end the same way every other Dracula movie ends? Or why put the silly date in the title when there's already been one called Dracula A.D. 1972? And most important, in all the previous Dracula movies, when the fanged one is finally dispatched, is he actually put into a grave? Because if they all have been, then right now they're collectively spinning in them. There are a few scary moments in this new updating, taking place in London and New Orleans, but most of them are cheap, caused by either someone or something jumping into the frame or by some sound that's even louder than the soundtrack music, featuring the likes of Slayer and Saliva. And there are some pretty good special effects, such as people floating down from the sky or creepily walking along walls. But these are far from new ideas; they're almost at the point of being cliches these days.

Well, at least the filmmakers tried a few new ideas, not that they pulled them off with much aplomb. The film starts, as so many have before, in the late-1800s, aboard a ship heading for England. But the voyage is done, the crew is dead, and the caped creature is already walking the streets of London by the time the credits are over. Shooting up to present time, a bit of originality peeks through. Abraham Van Helsing (Christopher Plummer, with a weird accent) is the proprietor of Carfax Antiquities (Bela Lugosi's Dracula lived in Carfax Abbey) and a man with more than his share of secrets. When some very prepared, very high-tech crooks break past the massive security of his company's basement, and after they lose a couple of their minion via fast and bloody deaths, and after they steal the sealed silver coffin they find there, Van Helsing can only say, to himself, "God help us."

It's not hard to figure out who or what is in the coffin, and he-it eventually ends up in New Orleans -- in the film's most creative idea -- right in the middle of Mardi Gras, when the streets are teeming with people and there's an anything goes atmosphere. It's a perfect place for a vampire to make other vampires, and, in turn, for them to make even more vampires.

But rather than sticking with these kinds of refreshing plot devices and twists, the film keeps slipping back to staleness. The main motif seems to be keeping cameras and microphones on people who are gasping for breath either from running or being scared. Yet when the script finally tries to make different story ends meet, suggesting that Dracula (sleek, handsome, graceful Gerard Butler) is just out to get a girlfriend -- make that a soul mate -- and she happens to be Mary (Justine Waddell), the daughter of Van Helsing, the film comes up against a stone wall. Plenty of characters might as well have dropped dead from fright upon first seeing Dracula (here pronounced drakoolya). But Mary, plagued by nightmares for years, seems more miffed than frightened. Waddell isn't the least bit convincing in the part; she ends up being a casting mistake.

Even Plummer, a superb actor who's given great performances as recently as Twelve Monkeys and Dolores Claiborne, seems to be having some trouble here. When he finally gets around to revealing who he is and how he's come to live for a long, long while, his delivery is switched into high melodramatic gear.

The real problem with the film, though, is that most of it is much more laughable than scary. A case in point is a sequence in which Dracula turns into a wolf -- for no good reason -- then, just for the sake of another special effect, turns into a bunch of bats. The big climax, full of acrobatics and flashing lights and shattering glass and religious iconography, initially looks like it's going to be very cool, then turns into an exercise in absurdity. Let's face it, vampire movies are popular items. With over 100 of them listed on the Internet Movie Database, there will probably always be room for another good one. But there's just no more room for another one like this. F

& & Correction & & & &

& & & lt;i & In the Dec. 14, 2000, issue of The Inlander, we incorrectly attributed the review of What Women Want to Ed Symkus. It was actually written by Ray Pride. Ed Symkus would like to say, for the record, that he gave the movie a thumbs up. & lt;/i & & lt;/center &

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