Wes Craven Presents: Dracula 2000 – By Sean O’Connell

Whether you’re excited or bored with “”Dracula 2000″” will depend solely on your reaction to the film’s simple, almost unnoticeable intro: “”Wes Craven Presents.”” Fans of the legendary horror filmmaker, though, might be disappointed by the end result, as they’re hero served predominantly as a producer and had no input to the film’s direction or script, two areas where this film needs serious guidance.

After a brief setup, “”Dracula 2000″” fast-forwards to (you guessed it) the year 2000. In London, Abraham Van Helsing (Christopher Plummer) presides over a fortune in historical relics that are attained through his partner, Simon Sheppard (Jonny Lee Miller). Van Helsing’s most prized possession is held in a safe in the basement of his headquarters,which is infiltrated by a band of thieves (led by Omar Epps) with the help of Van Helsing’s assistant, Solina (Jennifer Esposito). The only things they find, though, are bones, crucifixes and a silver coffin, which they make off with. Van Helsing, knowing what’s in the casket, pursues. It’s on a getaway flight to New Orleans that the criminals finally pry the coffin open, expecting jewels but instead unleashing the undead corpse of Count Dracula (Gerard Butler). The prince of darkness makes quick work of the thieves and continues on to the Big Easy, where he seeks out Van Helsing’s estranged daughter, Mary (Justine Waddell),who has vampire blood coursing through her veins. And on the streets on New Orleans, during Mardi Gras to boot, Van Helsing and his assistant, Simon, must confront Dracula and attempt to protect Mary from her gruesome fate.Director Patrick Lussier tries hard to drag the Dracula legend into the 21st century, injecting a techno soundtrack and flashy visuals to make it appealing to Generation X. But it’s like fitting a classical square peg into a trendy round hole. They don’t mesh. Lussier also has to overcome an insipid, lackluster screenplay, one that chooses to ignore everycliche that’s been addressed in horror films for ages. In this “”Dracula,”” characters are left alone with closed coffins and they never call for help when its opened. Mary escapes Dracula’s clutches, but she runs straight for a cemetery. And the most lethal weapon Simon can brandish is a Bible, which explodes when the pages are flipped open. Epps, Esposito and “”Star Trek”” sweetie Jeri Ryan, playing a local newswoman who’s bitten by the Count, have fun when they’re in vampire character, and the film features some killer fight sequences. But it’s just not enough to save this anemic horror shlock, which seems to have had its creativity sucked dry.GRADE: D+THE EXTRAS:As bad as the film is, the “”Dracula 2000″” DVD – released by Buena Vista Home Video – offers plenty of extras for fans to relish. There is a running feature-length commentary by Lussier, as well as deleted scenes with optional commentary. As we’ve seen recently(especially in Fox’s “”Monkeybone””), the deleted scenes improve on the final story, clearing up some misconceptions and rounding out the plot. There are also extended scenes on the DVD, which also come with commentary. Aside from the added scenes, “”Dracula 2000″” offers fans a “”Behind the Scenes”” look at the film, which interviews several members of the crew, storyboards, and audition reels for Butler, Waddell, and the young Colleen Fitzpatrick, known to pop enthusiasts as Vitamin C.GRADE: B+OVERALL EXPERIENCE:Why do the bad movies come with so much additional information? Do we need to know what makes them so bad? In “”Dracula,”” the deleted scenes add to the overall film experience, and they deserve your time. In fact, all of the extras improve the final film. Without them, you’re left with a tedious horror film, while with them, you’re left with a mediocre Saturday evening on the couch.FINAL GRADE: C