George Anton offers up one of the most different variations on Dracula that we have seen to date. The idea of a modernised Dracula has been conducted before see Dracula (2002), which relocated the story to contemporary Europe. Anton takes the far more radical step of uprooting and locating the story in Hollywood. This leads to some interesting interpolations Lucy Westenra is recast from a society woman dangling multiple suitors to an E! Entertainment type reporter who is dating three guys at once; Dr Seward now becomes an investigating police detective; and Van Helsing a psychiatrist. This is also a version of Dracula that takes the challenging step of telling the story in full acknowledgement of the body of vampire films out there (which it should be pointed out all draw themselves from what Bram Stoker originally wrote down in Dracula). This is also a version of Dracula where Count Dracula never forms a particularly active threat or is on screen much. Indeed, instead of building Dracula into a nemesis, the film seems more interested in completely unrelated aspects such as its B-plot about the struggles of an aspiring Hollywood screenwriter (Dan Martino). Although you could argue that this is being faithful to Stoker who had Draculas appearances throughout the story relatively few (something that has been changed by almost all of the film versions).
The film features a cast of complete unknowns. Among these, there is some occasional amateur acting but everyone makes a more than reasonable effort and most of the performances come across at a generally professional level most of the cast would have no trouble being hired elsewhere on better budgeted films. Furthermore, George Anton writes with a reasonable roundedness and edge that gives the characters life. (Although it is somewhat disconcerting seeing many of Stokers familiar characters now cast with a standard line-up of self-absorbed Hollywood pretty boys and in ways that are often the complete opposite of how Stoker wrote them). Despite the concerted efforts made by all, the scenes with Gary Yousts Van Helsing getting inspiration by having conversations with an obelisk in a park cause the film to collapse into errant silliness. The (lack of) budget undeniably shows through, in particular when it comes to the variable sound quality (always the curse of no-budget shot-on-video films that cannot afford ADR).
The biggest drawback of the film for me was not so much the low-budget or anything associated with it but a confusing and hard to follow screenplay. It may seem that a film adapted from a well known, multiply adapted novel would have most of its story told for it all it has to do is buy into its audiences familiarity with the story but that is not so here as the film confusingly flips back and forward between parts of the story and tells them in a very non-linear fashion. This does lead to some odd aspects Jonathan Harkers flight from Draculas castle is a scene that seems to take up most of the film and we never see what happens to him once inside the castle, whereas Bram Stoker has all of this taking place in the first few four chapters of the book.
In between the elements of Dracula playing out, there is also a B plot about Matt, a young screenwriter (Dan Martino who one should also note is one of the writers of the film), and his struggles to sell a script. As we follow aspects of his everyday life, what is going on becomes confusing we suddenly go “wait a minute, isnt the actor playing Van Helsing (Gary Youst) also the one that plays the role of Matts father?” You follow the scene with the father closely, trying to work out how this possibly relates to Van Helsing and scratch your head figuring that maybe they cut on casting costs by having one actor play two roles or that we will find down the track that both characters are related. Similarly, Derek Baker, who plays Jonathan Harker, later doubles as the Hollywood producer that Dan Martino sells his script to. I must admit I failed to follow the ending that the film arrived at, where we get the impression that all of the modernised Dracula that we have seen playing out before us is in fact the script that Dan Martino is writing/pitching and that elements from his real-life have bled into the script.
Other versions of Dracula include:- the uncredited classic German silent Nosferatu (1922); Dracula (1931); the Spanish language version Dracula (1931) shot on the same sets as the Lugosi version starring Carlos Villarias; Hammers classic Dracula/The Horror of Dracula (1958) with Christopher Lee; Dracula in Pakistan (1967), an uncredited remake of the Hammer film; Count Dracula (1970), a cheap continental production that also featured Lee; Dracula (1974), a cinematically-released tv movie starring Jack Palance; Count Dracula (1977), a BBC tv mini-series featuring Louis Jourdan; Dracula (1979), a lush big-budget remake starring Frank Langella; Werner Herzogs Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979) with Klaus Kinski; Francis Ford Coppolas visually ravishing Bram Stokers Dracula (1992) featuring Gary Oldman; the modernised Italian-German Dracula (2002) starring Patrick Bergin; Guy Maddins silent ballet adaptation Dracula: Pages from a Virgins Diary (2002); the BBC tv movie Dracula (2006) with Marc Warren; Dario Argentos Dracula (2012) with Thomas Kretschmann as Dracula; and the tv series Dracula (2013-4) with Jonathan Rhys Meyers.
Full film available online here:-