Tuesday, October 15, 2013

My years in horror: 1992

This is a tough year to call. I mean it. 1992 was a down year for Stephen King movies: Pet Sematary II sucked; King sued and won to take his name off of The Lawnmower Man; and while it has some creepy moments and fun cameos, Sleepwalkers might have been the worst movie of the year. But didn't I say the year's best was a tough call? Damn right, I did.

There are two movies I love -- for very different reasons -- that I would like to give this honor to, but I can't. Army of Darkness is a great film and should be viewed as often as possible. Candyman is arguably the most atmospheric and esoteric slasher movie ever made (and the Philip Glass score is top-notch). But can I honestly say that either of those films are better than Bram Stoker's Dracula? No, I can't.

Who would have ever thought that someone would say "one of the best casts ever" and "starring Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder" and be talking about the same movie? Well, I just did. Not that they exactly shined but they did what they needed to do. Reeves played the repressed Victorian barely able to express his fear and desire as well as he could and Ryder, eventually, becomes the sexiest she ever was in any film. But the real stars here are Gary Oldman and Anthony Hopkins. Oldman can play anyone. Sid Vicious? Check. Jim Gordon? Check. Beethoven? Check. Old Count Dracula? Young Count Dracula? Warrior Dracula? Bat/wolf Dracula? Check, check, check, check. Oldman never lets the make-up take over. Instead he brings the make-up to life. He's seductive when he needs to be and fierce when that is called for. And Hopkins, fresh off of The Silence of the Lambs, matches him beat for beat. As Abraham Van Helsing, Hopkins is appropriately heroic and batshit (ha ha) crazy at the same time. He's deadpan funny but you never forget that he'll pound a stake through your heart if called for. Like his Hannibal Lecter, Hopkins's Van Helsing is that mad voice of authority that you can't help listening to even if it damns you.

Director Francis Ford Coppola used mostly old school in-camera effects for this movie and pulls it off magnificently. It has the feel of the old Universal monsters but with more experience. This was Coppola's follow-up to The Godfather Part III and he hasn't made a better movie since Dracula (which isn't saying much since he's only directed six movies in the 20 years since).

The costumes (Oscar winner), sets, and score all add to the reality and horror of Bram Stoker's Dracula. Plus, Tom Waites plays the mad solicitor Renfield and that's pretty damn cool.

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