Review: Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)

By Heather Nichols, Tawfik Zone Contributor

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Did you all know Francis Ford Coppola produced and directed a Dracula adaptation? Yeah, neither did I. I knew of this 1992 version of the film but I didn’t realize he was in charge. My surprise comes twofold: one Coppola directing a film in the horror genre and the other being how despite having a really good cast and keeping details close to the source material, this film comes off as pure garbage. Like on par with Twilight bad acting, over the top sequences and a feeling that this just isn’t Coppola’s style.

If you’re not familiar, Bram Stoker’s Dracula follows a young lawyer, played by Keanu Reeves with baby powder in his hair, who is captured and imprisoned by Dracula who then goes to London to pursue his betrothed, played by Winona Rider… more on her later. She bears a resemblance to the count’s dead wife, drama, drama, you know where this is going.

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Despite a cast that slates Gary Oldman as Dracula and Anthony Hopkins as Van Helsing, the acting is embarrassingly over the top. The film as comes off more as soft core pornography (not to be confused with hard core pornography like anything else and it’s so bizarre the plot becomes convoluted and hard to watch.

It’s not that I am against exploring the sexuality that goes hand in hand with the vampire genre; it makes a lot of sense, there’s the sharing of blood, the idea of the first bite being juxtaposed with the loss of virginity. The set up works. Dracula is a monster, a King Kong looking one, and when he bites his first victim it is filmed as if he’s a sexual predator, luring the woman to him and ravaging her. But then it goes downhill from there. She moans like a porn star and the men interacting with her act like a group of middle schooler’s attempt to put on a production of Romeo and Juliet, but the idea of kissing a girl is still icky to them.

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As for Winona Rider, it feels like she showed up on the wrong set. I hate to make this comparison but I’m wondering if Kristen Stewart studied this performance as inspiration for Bella Swan. She seems like she doesn’t want to be there in half the scenes, and not in the sense the character wants to leave but more like she’s bored. Also her interactions with Oldman, just awkward, so much so I’m having trouble finding words to describe it, check out this clip on YouTube. There’s a scene where she’s just been married and Dracula comes to her and she begs him to take her but almost instantaneously changes her mind. It’s weird, it awkward and it’s unwatchable.

Oh and I love Anthony Hopkins- I am even going to defend his work in Meet Joe Black which everybody else hated- but he was just awful in this one. I felt the kind of embarrassment you get when your dad starts singing Kelly Clarkson in the car while he’s driving you and all your friends to the mall. All in all this is not Coppola’s or any of the cast’s best work but if you’re morbidly curious, give it a whirl.

One thought on “Review: Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)

  1. Candace

    Hello Heather.
    A good review of a kitchen sink film.

    Not only do I remember this but it was HUGE news in 92 and everyone waited for it the way kids wait for Santa. Not his best for sure, but if nothing else, it’s a beautiful costume drama with bits of “history” thrown in, i.e., Victorian London as well as the showing of a motion picture which wreaked havoc in the audience. Unfortunately, the throw-ins can’t save what is a mash up which Coppola probably thought was more like the “original novel”.

    Winona Ryder was called in at the last moment as a favour since Sofia Coppola had sat in for her on The Godfather Part III. Yeah… doomed from the beginning. Can you imagine Coppola as Mina? But I digress. Coppola is a fine director and cannot be faulted for stepping away from this during her salad days.

    Winona’s attempts to show her wanton behaviour by screeching, sort of, and simply pulling at the top of her clothing rather than ripping it off like she was probably supposed to do was one of the reasons I turned against her as an actress. What’s good as a kid doesn’t always translate to adulthood… I think this was one of the first times I had seen the luscious Monica Belluci.

    I found Sadie Frost irritating and talentless, although that’s very likely how young “virginal” women acted then.
    Hopkins…. UGH. It was like they couldn’t decide whether he should be comedic or — whatever. The guys were laughable, especially Billy Campbell. Richard Grant’s character was confusing and confused. Tom Waits was wasted, alas. I enjoy his spins on other characters but they gave him nothing to work with here. And the star of our show, Gary Oldman. What the — ?

    However, I do occasionally watch bits and pieces of it “Francis Ford Coppola’s Film of Bram Stoker’s Dracula” when I find it late at night during Halloween or Christmas. The visual production is worth the scripted train wreck that takes me to it and the soundtrack has a couple of very lush complex pieces that work well, with or without the movie. Plus I saw it when a young pup with friends that are no longer among the Living so there’s that … I only hope they walk alongside better denizens than the ones shown here.

    Again, it’s nice to see a thoughtful review of this difficult movie.


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