No, it doesn't suck. Injected with new life, Bram Stoker's celebrity vampire draws some fresh blood in this fun and surprisingly solid offering.
Billed as "Wes Craven Presents: Dracula 2000," Miramax distribution vein Dimension Films is no doubt trying to milk its holiday box-office counter-programming strategy, banking on the "Scream" director's marquee value to suck willing victims into this genre flick. Ironically, Craven had little to do with this latest chapter of Stoker's legacy. Combined with no pre-release screenings -- never a good sign - this film turned out to be quite a tasty surprise. Picking up in present day London, the descendant of Van Helsing (Christopher Plummer) has the dark prince's corpse under high-tech lock and key. When a group of thieves (led by Omar Epps) unwittingly steals Drac's coffin and transports it overseas, the Count (Gerard Butler) rises again to wreak havoc in New Orleans and capture the soul of Van Helsing's daughter (Justine Waddell).
Approaching his role with the sexuality of a rock god, Butler stalks the attractive cast like an undead Jim Morrison looking for fresh peyote. No real threat to Bela Lugosi or Gary Oldman, Butler's Dracula still earns his stripes by slaying the ladies. An astutely contemporary interpretation, Butler's confidence and sensuality is most similar to that of Frank Langella's Count from John Badham's underrated 1979 entry. As Van Helsing, Plummer is straight-faced and familiar, like a welcome throwback to the Hammer Horror days. As V.H.'s young assistant, Jonny Lee Miller ("Trainspotting") is likeable though underdeveloped. An inspired casting find, the raven-haired Waddell is attractive and serious as the troubled Mary, but her implied virginity is a serious suspension of disbelief. Colleen Ann Fitzpatrick (a.k.a. pop star Vitamin C) is fresh-faced and alluring as Mary's friend Lucy, and as a sexy news reporter-cum-vampire, "Star Trek: Voyager's" Jeri Ryan has little to do beyond vamping up her small screen image.
Not without its structural flaws and frequent slips into conventional horror genre trappings, co-writer and director Patrick Lussier's film still has lots of bite. A Craven protégé, Lussier makes a creative effort to reveal the true origins of Stoker's vampire (his hatred of religious icons, his weakness from silver) and make him somewhat sympathetic. Paying good attention to the narrative, his solid story (co-written with producer Joel Soisson) is a clever spin on the original tale -- displaying comic wit, fresh insight and an alternately modern/retro feel. If this film had had a bigger budget and not been rushed into production, who knows what could have been.
Great stakes for vampire hunters but a bit undercooked for non-genre dwellers, this creature of the night makes for a clever and entertaining addition to Stoker's legend.