The White Shoe Irregular:
It was fun while it lasted.

In the Dark: Dracula 2000

Eric D. Snider

Most movies with years in their titles are no good. "1941" is considered to be Steven Spielberg's worst film. "Godzilla 2000" and "Pokemon 2000" both speak for themselves, as did "Godzilla 1985" and the film version of George Orwell's "1984." "2001: A Space Odyssey" is one of the dullest, most overrated movies ever made, and Stanley Kubrick was a pompous freak.

Why anyone thought "Dracula 2000" would be any different is beyond me. One must bear in mind, however, that the people who decided what the world really needed was another Dracula movie are the same ones who thought they should attach the year "2000" to the title — even though it wasn't released until 22 December, making it obsolete nine days after it hit theaters (and eight days after people quit seeing it).

Or maybe they meant "2000" as a model number, like the Nimbus2000 or the Mystery Science Theater 3000. Maybe "Dracula 2000" just means it's a newer, sleeker version of the old Dracula we're familiar with, so much nicer than those drab '99 models. Maybe it has dual-side airbags.

The whole thing reeks of desperation. Because not only did they put the cool-sounding "2000" in the title, but they also officially called the film "Wes Craven Presents Dracula 2000" (so as to avoid confusion with "William Shakespeare's Dracula 2000" or "Jane Austen's Dracula 2000"). Wes Craven directed the "Scream" movies, which were very good, and the original "Nightmare on Elm Street," which was not good but which was pretty successful anyway. (If you think the first "Nightmare" was a good movie, you are laboring under false pretenses, no doubt due to having watched the film when you were an easily frightened child. Watch it now and you'll see: It's crap!) So surely if Wes Craven puts his hand to the vampire genre, we'll come up with something that is truly, honestly, defecatingly scary.

Except that Wes Craven didn't write or direct "Dracula 2000." He is an executive producer — one of five people given that credit. (Why not call it "Harvey Weinstein Presents Dracula 2000"? At least that wouldn't give audiences any false impressions, and it might result in a hilariously Jewish Dracula, who won't suck blood after sundown on Friday.) He obviously had very little to do with the finished product, since he's a talented filmmaker and "Dracula 2000" stinks like yesterday's bathwater.

We meet Dr. Van Helsing, a man who lives in London but was born and raised — you can tell by his accent — in the country of Europe. You know, "Europe." That country where all action-movie villains are from, where the accent isn't distinctly German or Russian, but is somewhere in between, like what would happen if Hitler and Stalin both taught a child how to talk. Van Helsing is an antiques collector, but he especially has a thing for vampires.

One night, some bumbling crooks bust into Van Helsing's vault and find a coffin. They figure it must have some jewels in it or something, what with all the security around it and all. As they're trying to steal it, two of their guys get killed by booby traps. You'd think this would tip them off that maybe there's something dangerous about this particular coffin, but you'd frankly make a pretty bad bumbling crook if that's your attitude. They steal it anyway, leaving a trail of dead bad guys in their wake.

While on a plane headed for the Cayman Islands, one of the numbskulls manages to get the coffin open. Inside is…nothing. Kidding. It contains one (1) Dracula, a handsome, youthful fellow with stylish hair and a come-hither smile who proceeds to vampirize everyone on the plane, which crashes in a swamp near New Orleans. Dracula escapes unharmed, thank goodness.

Meanwhile, Van Helsing has also flown to New Orleans, flanked by his do-gooder assistant Simon. Van Helsing is looking for his daughter, who has been having weird psychic premonitions lately and doesn't know why.

Well, here's why. Turns out Van Helsing is actually well over 100 years old. A century ago, he captured Dracula but couldn't kill him because the traditional vampire-killing methods don't work on him. (Why? Because the movie said so.) Van Helsing apparently didn't try cutting off Dracula's head, which might not kill him but which would certainly keep him from biting anyone.

So since he couldn't kill him, Van Helsing decided he would live as long as necessary to keep Dracula away from the world. To effect his immortality, he's been injecting Dracula's blood into himself, the result of which is that his daughter (who I guess never asked her dad's birthday or anything like that) has the Count's blood running through her veins and thus has a supernatural connection to him.

The movie is just sort of harmlessly stupid for a while, and then it pulls out all the stops to produce a whopper of a finale. I know I am wont to make jokes in this column, so I understand your skepticism, but please realize that what I am about to tell you is 100 percent straight from the movie.

OK, You know how Dracula has an aversion to crosses and silver? Well, the reason, we're told, is that Dracula is actually Judas Iscariot. After he betrayed Jesus (in exchange for thirty pieces of silver, you'll recall), he hanged himself. That much is in the Bible. But what that left-wing, liberal Bible chose to omit is that before he could die, God cursed him to become Dracula, God apparently figuring that instead of just letting the weasel die, he should force him to wander the earth and kill others for a living.

In the end, Count Judas apologizes to an electric Jesus statue in New Orleans in the middle of Mardi Gras, and Jesus forgives him and lets him die. Jesus is cool like that.

I like to think of myself as an open-minded person, religiously speaking. For example, I think many world religions are absurd and their members hell-bound, but I don't say so publicly. But I don't know that there's any place in my theology for a God who curses people by turning them into vampires. For one thing, it doesn't seem to have been much of a punishment: As far as I can tell, Dracula is always livin' la vida loca, especially during Mardi Gras, with so many necks and breasts to bite.

So there's your movie. Personally, I'm waiting for "Dracula 2001: The Second Coming."