Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Dracula II: It could have been worse

Sometimes, the best thing you can say about a bad movie is that it wasn't the worst movie you've seen lately — or even ever. No, that honor continues to belong to "Dylan Dog" and likely won't be overthrown any time soon.

But after several months of "Dracula II: The Ascension" hanging out in our Netflix Instant Queue, we were willing to give it it's shot at the crown.

It gave it it's best efforts.

If you haven't bothered to give this one a look yet, you've had plenty of opportunities. It's a frequenter in $5 bins since being released direct-to-video in 2003. The film is a sequel to "Dracula 2000," the "Wes Craven presents" semi-original plotline starring Gerard Butler as the first vampire, also Judas Iscariot. I rather liked it.

Director Patrick Lussier is back for the sequel, along with cowriter Joel Soisson — and that's it for repeats. Butler isn't back (can you blame him?), which leaves the films new stars (Jason Scott Lee as the vampire-hunting priest, Diane Neal as Drac's love interest, Jason London ("Out Cold") as the would-be hero and Stephen Billington as Dracula II — no shit, that's his actual credit) to try to weave in a convenient plot device to explain away Drac's new appearance. In this one, he's a tall, pale blonde. Turns out, each time Dracula dies, but not really, "his face changes." Neat.

Quick plot-line synopsis: In this take, Drac was cut down from hanging over the streets of New Orleans and dropped off at the morgue, where his body is stolen and he is brought back to life by a group of med students, lead by their crippled teacher, Lowell (Craig Sheffer). There's a British guy that knows all about vamps (of course), a priest crossing the world seeking to give Dracula his last rites so he can finally die and a whole host of also-rans who get killed at convenient moments in the film.

Really, it's pretty standard vampire flick fare.

What makes this movie worse than other bad blood-sucking movies is the lack of continuity. It meshes with the first one well-enough (except for the actors, and the fact that they totally forgot about Mary Van Helsing and how she was supposed to be watching over Drac's corpse), but the characters don't seem to be well-enough developed to know their own motivations. In only 85 minutes, each character takes turns wanting out of the whole mess, wanting to be a vampire themselves, wanting to harvest Drac's blood for more noble purposes and then just wanting out again. Sometimes they cycle through all of these emotions — quite unconvincingly — in a matter of moments.

Bad acting aside, this movie has some great lines. Lee's priest hunter starts out lame and confusing, but grows into his role with some real zingers, including "God can have your soul — I just want your head." And London is easily the best actor in the film, earning his upgrade to full-time vampire hunter in — you guessed it — "Dracula III: Legacy."

That's right — it's a TRILOGY! Lee and London are back chasing Drac and his girl across the world, trying to end it once and for all. Sadly, III isn't on Netflix Instant Watch, so I'll have to dig it out of the $5 bin. It might be worth it. "Ascension" started slow, but ended strong enough that I am willing to give Lee and London a shot at ending it.

Warning level: Yellow. It could have been worse. Some really bad acting, some funny lines, but if you weren't going to do anything with those 85 minutes, you might as well give them to Hollywood.

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