29 March 2004 | tjcclarke
Nice hair, shame about the plot
Being a poor hen-pecked loser who isn't allowed cable television, I found myself in the rather alien position of being spoilt for choice over which movie to watch last Sunday night. British terrestrial television rarely throws up such a dilemma, so I had to consider carefully which one to select. In the corner marked 'safe option' we had Mel Gibson's Ransom (seen it; dull; can't really remember what happened but am assuming they eventually get the kid back), second was Man on the Moon (seen it; vaguely remember being a bit disappointed), and third was Wes Craven's Dracula 2000 (never seen it; presumably a straight-to-video job). Almost without hesitation I plumped for that.
A maverick choice, you might say - but there was method to my madness. On more than one occasion, drunken and deluded girls have approached me in bars and accused me of looking like Jonny Lee Miller. They are wrong of course - those close to me have taken sadistic pleasure in assuring me I look more like a cross between Woody Harrelson and Kelsey Grammar - not particularly good for my sex-symbol status, but useful if I ever wanted work as a stunt double on the set of Cheers.
Anyway, it turns out I chose wisely - Dracula 2000 is a hoot. More Schlock than horror (as you might expect from the creator of the Scream franchise) it has the kind of kitschy charm of Buffy the Vampire Slayer only with worse dialogue and a sillier plot. Those purists who prefer a more classic Peter Cushing/Christopher Lee tussle between good and evil are unlikely to stay beyond the first reel, but there are rewards for those who stick it out.
Miller plays Simon Shepherd the protégé of the mysterious Matthew Van Helsing (Christopher Plummer). A gang of thieves infiltrate Van Helsing's secret stash of old relics and unwittingly release Dracula from his silver coffin. Big mistake. The dark lord makes a bee-line for New Orleans in search Van Helsing's daughter Mary. On his way, he creates merry hell crafting a few undead henchwomen (mostly blonde) and enjoying unspeakable depravity in the middle of the Mardi Gras carnival. Unsurprisingly, Miller and Plummer pack their crucifixes and silver bullets and hurry over to save the day.
This being a sexed-up modern-day version of Bram Stoker's classic, Dracula himself is far from the urbane older gentleman with the black cloak and the widow's peak - this one is young and spunky and has the kind of barnet you might find in a L'oreal commercial. Try to imagine a bastard hybrid of David Copperfield and Alan Partridge and you won't be far off. Dracula's hair is not the only highlight though: There are some brilliantly awful modern cultural references - Sweet and innocent Mary works in Virgin Megastore (geddit?) - and an audacious religious sub-plot which goes some way towards explaining Dracula's hatred of silver.
All in all it is great fun. It was inevitably mauled by the critics, but I guess they don't have a sense of humour. Poor old Jonny's been in some turkeys since he made Trainspotting, but I'm backing him to hilt on this one - it certainly beats watching Mel Gibson and Rene Russo blubbing for two and a half hours.