Monday, February 18, 2013
Let’s start with the characters. After all, we get such gems as Humvee, who I guess is supposed to be a truck. He is alternately called “Humvee” and “Hummer” which is either supposed to be some kind of joke, or simply an innocent nickname written by a writer with half a clue. The reason I say “half a clue” should become apparent shortly. Humvee, played by Tommy Lister of “Friday”, is essentially the big, dumb black muscle that the NAACP would likely prefer to be abolished from film and whom a good number of rappers would still like the world to see them as. Humvee’s purpose is to yell, break things, and be sensible by comparison next to his friend 187.
You can get your groans out of the way now.
The only small, very, very small bit of redemption to this character is that, despite his name, he’s not some sort of trigger-happy gangster. Rather, Coolio (yes, that Coolio) plays an addict constantly looking for his next fix. This character makes Tyrone Biggums of the Chappelle Show look subtle. Oh sure, the stereotypical skinny black man whose only goal is his next fix might seem subtle enough, but wait until you see what happens when he becomes a vampire- the only human that is transformed into a vampire in this film. Everything about this character is over the top and ridiculous, and it would be hilariously cheesy if I didn’t find this character so offensive.
Next comes Abraham Van Helsing, whom I suppose at times is expected to be the main character. If his name isn’t a dead giveaway, this character is the descendant of the famed vampire slayer. He discovers this after the resident intellectual (the movie can’t be bothered to make him interesting, so I can’t be bothered to figure out his name) runs a Google search on “Vampires” and discovers that information about them is fairly widespread.
Next we get Dracula. Er, Count Orlock. Well, I guess that’s one thing for this film- it canonically links Nosferatu and Dracula by making Orlock an alias of Dracula’s. If this has been done before, I stand corrected, but as stands I find this the most positive and creative thing about this film. Less positive and creative is the fact that Dracula turns exactly one human into a vampire, and that person in each of his forms has more screen time than Dracula/Orlock. At least if this film was titled “Blacula 3000” it would have been more transparent as to what it was really going for.
Our final character is just as big of a mess as the others. Aurora is initially presented as a red herring, an attractive female offering to Dracula in the traditional sense. She disappears offscreen with Dracula the first time he appears, and returns with a wealth of knowledge about the Count and his origins- all of the information he would want his victims to know. After a long, drawn out bit of half-assed interrogation, it is revealed that Aurora is an android- an undercover officer investigating the crew, in fact. Naturally, Humvee wants to kill her for this, but Van Helsing is intelligent enough to realize that a superhuman machine who can not be turned into a Vampire is a pretty useful asset when vampire killing is essential to your immediate survival. Ignoring for the time being the fact that the film ends with her announcing herself a retired pleasure bot and offering herself to Humvee, in my opinion the use of Aurora is a major misstep in setting up any kind of menace in Dracula.
Let me go into more detail about what happened. As I said, Aurora disappeared with Dracula and returned, spouting facts about Dracula’s past. She is interrogated, the men around her (the only other female cast member having been killed shortly after 187 became a vampire) outraged at the possibility of her consorting with a vampire or becoming one. Van Helsing goes as far as to roughly grab her and examine her neck, looking for bite marks, of which there is none. Clearly conflicted, Aurora pauses before revealing her true identity as an android and undercover agent. Helsing is scornful; apparently, there has been a romance brewing between the two of them, although that in itself is only very scarcely examined. The two go on to a room filled with coffins, opening each one with the intention of killing any surviving vampires. They reveal one, despite the fact that Dracula needed blood to be able to regain physical form (most of the coffins are filled with sand) and the fact that he told Aurora that he was the last of his kind. Aurora hesitates with her stake, clearly struggling with brutally killing even such an enemy as this, before Van Helsing takes it from her hand and drives it through the female Vampire’s heart (perhaps of note, this is only the second living female we’ve met in this film, and the third individual in the film to be killed).
Now imagine this: after opening the last coffin, Van Helsing realizes that Dracula is hidden somewhere aboard the ship, and they split up, armed to find him. Van Helsing meets up with the man who is doing the research, while Aurora meets up with Humvee in order to search another section of the ship. Once Aurora and Humvee are isolated from Van Helsing by both sound and sight, however, their dynamic changes entirely. Aurora reveals herself to be Dracula, famous for his ability to shift his form even in terrible films, which is the true reason why she returned to the group unscathed. She reveals this to Humvee, but it is already too late- he is already in Dracula’s grip, and will soon be a far more fearsome vampire than the one he killed earlier.
It’s that kind of critical thought and truly examined mythology that this film lacks. Sure, there are connections to classical Dracula lore- the names I mentioned being obvious ones, but every name barring only Humvee and 187 is borrowed from the original novel. Unfortunately, to someone inclined to do the research, these are the only connections to Bram Stoker to be found here, and to someone watching the film casually on TV, there is even less connection to be seen. Based on the plot and the character personalities, I find it most likely that these connections appeared in the script for the sole reason of someone saying “I don’t know what to name this character- let’s try looking up ‘Dracula’ for ideas”.
The setting of this world is equally… I’d call it unimaginative, but I’m not exactly sure whether or not imagination is involved in introducing planets named “Transylvania” and “Comptonia”- the first being the home of vampires, despite their having been to Earth before, the latter being a planet where marijuana and easy women can be found in massive quantities. Perhaps one of 187′s favorite mind-altering substances wrote the script?
I find the most interesting social statement of this film, intentional or not, to be the fact that none of the characters have ever met a living person who believed in any sort of religion. It’s unlikely to find that kind of detail in a film unless the writers truly believe religion to be a foolish, outdated concept themselves, yet I find no other elements of recognizable Atheist ideology (the most recognizable and expected being Communism) in this film, nor do I find the kind of critical thought that would imply the author to be in the Stephen Hawking school of “too smart for God” Atheism. Perhaps I am merely reading too far into this, but I was rather surprised when such a point was made of this (“I supposedly had a Grand-uncle who believed in God”) not to continue on with any sort of spiritual, scientific or political follow-up.
I’m really not sure who the target audience was. By having some fairly known actors in this film, it almost seems to have some attempt at mainstream appeal, or even to be an urban comedy. At the same time, the characters Humvee and 187 are, if not necessarily racist, still such blatant and offensive stereotypes that I could hardly imagine any black actor in the 2000s being willing to play them. This film just seems to be an attempt to use up a budget as quickly as possible in a manner that is neither Sci-Fi, horror, nor entirely truly film. I can’t say I recommend anybody go out of their way to watch this film, which leaves it firmly in the category of 1/10.
Posted by William Silvia at 2/18/2013