Film Torments: Dracula 3000 (2004)

THIS TIME on Torments, Dan wanders where the sun don’t shine.

The direct-to-video market is dominated by horror. There’s a simple reason for this: Horror movies, by design, rarely require inflated budgets or star-studded casts or marketing blitzes to succeed. They’re usually confined to a handful of locations at most; the plotting is normally A to B, and the characters are largely archetypical ciphers designed to evoke the most simplistic of audience reactions. This is why horror, as a genre, is creatively bankrupt and populates the shelves of your local Poundland. (It’s also because film-makers are lazy and motivated by capital, and James Wan is not a counter-example.)

Dracula 3000 is something else. It’s a swashbuckingly amateur shitshow that clumsily grafts Bram Stoker’s seminal vampire lore onto a spaceship, wherein the good Count runs wild amongst a group of papier-mache fuckpumps with less character between them than Bo Derek’s raised eyebrow. Casper Van Dien from Starship Troopers stars, but the real standout is the endless lattices of steel pipework that the characters awkwardly traipse through, no doubt filmed in a South African factory.

I say South African because of the director, Darrell Roodt. Roodt is regarded as one of the country’s most prolific film-makers and boasts a very curious career, flittering from prestige, Oscar-nominated pics like Yesterday to nonsense creature features like Prey and gangland Ice Cube vehicles like Dangerous Ground. He’s also no stranger to controversy – his biopic on Winnie Mandela, simply titled Winnie, attracted strong criticism in his home nation for casting Jennifer Hudson and Terence Howard in the starring roles.

A very strange choice for a film called Dracula 3000, then. Even stranger is the fact it’s not a sequel to the Gerard Butler-lead genius of Dracula 2000, where a scenery-chewing Leonidas loudly wanders through neon-soaked New Orleans while waxing Biblical.  That’s a bad movie that’s entertaining in its cheesy non-commitment; Dracula 3000 is a laughably bad disaster that pummels you over the head with its slothful, paint-by-numbers approach to horror film-making on a budget that makes old Doctor Who episodes look blockbuster.

There’s no pace to be found, even when half the screen-time is taken up by characters jogging through the same six corridors. The editing will occasionally ratchet up the footage to imply super-speed, but the lack of visual variety and sheer whiplash of this effect do nothing to inject a sense of urgency to the film. Quick cuts, weird zooms and a predilection for close-ups dominate, serving to emphasise both visual incoherence and repetition.

If it wasn’t so hilarious, Dracula 3000 would be mind-numbing to sit through. A thoroughly grey colour palette notwithstanding, the sets all look exactly the same with washed out lighting that drains the film of any life or vibrancy. Orange and blue would be a godsend here, but colour is conspicuous by its absence, retreating into gun metal steeliness at every available opportunity. In space, no one can hear you yawn.

Fortunately, Dracula 3000 is funny. Very, very funny. Surprisingly funny, even. Its opening sets us up for a dour, humourless slog but its end is absurd, tactless and laughable all at the same time. Characters don’t even have enough depth to call them stereotypes, and the words they splurt out, badly, have even less substance. “I want to watch my anaconda spit all over your snow white ass,” is one such line, which actually might be a bad example because its levels of WTF are off the charts.

Said line is spoken by 187, played by the inimitable Coolio. His performance has to be seen to be believed, but it somewhat resembles Wesley Snipes’ Blade if he’d had a cattle prod rammed up his arse and some cornrow dreadlocks slapped on his skull. It is appalling and transfixing, all twitching limbs and spasmodic eyes, and it honestly defies explanation. It is impossible to believe that this man was directed at any point. (As an aside, as if it needs to be said, he is introduced smoking the weedz.)

Similarly directionless is Van Dien as Abraham Van Helsing (cute), who rocks a scintillating five o’ clock shadow but is otherwise theatrically immobile – not that he’s given much to work with opposite Erika Eleniak. Best known for appearing in Baywatch (which should give you some idea of her cinematic pedigree), Eleniak swans around in a tanktop and leather trousers, barking ineffective orders, looking sultry at all times. She is eye candy to be ogled by the other male denizens of their shared spaceship, the Mother III. (Localise the fucking thing, Nintendo.)

But oh, yes, Dracula. Vampire fans offended by the Count’s tepid showing in Dracula 2000 probably shouldn’t watch this iteration; his ineptitude is, frankly, stunning. He minces through corridors in a dime store cape, gets his arm hacked off and runs away crying. That’s it. That’s all he does. And here’s the kicker: Coolio is more effective than Count Dracula. Let that sink in.

Dracula 3000 wants to be Alien on a fraction of the budget, a percentage of its charisma and a hundredth of the talent. All involved are either thoroughly embarrassed or in on the joke (i.e., a bored Udo Kier), but no one escapes with their dignity intact. Though it languishes on the IMDB Bottom 100, it’s far too entertaining to deserve such ignominy, and I’d heartily recommend it to any shitslave scum-monkeys looking for a cheap laugh at bad art’s expense.

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