MARCH 11, 2010
Once I realized To Die For (onscreen title: Bram Stoker's Dracula The Love Story To Die For - I'm not joking) was more of a romance film (one I didn’t care for at that), I tried to think of romantic films I DID like, in order to see if I could determine what this one was lacking. Notting Hill, for example (p.s. shut up) is funny, largely believable (at least until the finale), but most importantly it has a character I can identify with. I myself am a small book store owner who often beds famous actresses, so I found a kinship with Hugh Grant’s character, something I couldn’t feel with a single character in this movie, whether they were male, female, vampire, human, or anything in between.
And maybe I could if the movie had bothered to develop the characters at all before the plot kicked in. The movie begins at some party, attended by nearly all of the characters we will care about in the movie. No one gets introduced, we’re just THERE, as if the first reel of the movie had been lopped off. It’s kind of hard to buy into the “woman falls for the romantic vampire” plot when she was only introduced roughly three minutes before meeting him. Even Twilight, with its own botched romantic depictions, at least gave us a sense of who Bella was prior to her world becoming turned upside down by meeting Edward. Worse, she has a boyfriend already, so the first real thing we learn about her is that she’s a harlot (oh, side note - “harlot” will take the place of “whore” in all reviews now, as I got called out for using “whore” too much in an older review. Probably by some whore), which isn’t the best way to earn sympathy.
The vampire stuff is also fairly underdeveloped. Props for going back to the real story of Vlad and all that, but it doesn’t make the film any more compelling than the dozens of other (usually better) romantic vampire movies that make shit up whenever they feel like it. The backstory involves two vampires who are mortal enemies, but they barely even share a scene together, let alone fight. The good vampire practically becomes a subplot after awhile, because there are more scenes about real estate (sigh), the bad vampire killing folks (via a typically John Buechler-ian (read: cheap looking) monster makeup that’s never quite explained - since when do vampires become trolls?), various party scenes, etc. The whole thing feels like a season’s worth of some soap opera episodes crushed into one movie, with a few vampires sort of hanging out as extras.
Oh, and don’t be swayed by the promise of Duane Jones (in his final film role, from what I understand) - he’s in a single scene of little consequence. Had his role been played by anyone else, it wouldn’t even have merited billing in the opening titles (which are really annoying, for the record).
I was also baffled by the plot synopsis pointing out that the story was set in Los Angeles, because it was a total non-factor in the movie, and in fact I don’t even recall any specific Los Angeles locales or suburbs being named. Of all the “Ancient Vampire in Modern World” movies I’ve seen in the past couple years, I can’t recall any being in Los Angeles, and I was looking forward to seeing the city’s history/backdrop become part of the narrative (or even dialogue - no one makes a bloodsucker/Hollywood joke!). If anything, it makes part of the plot a bit more ridiculous - apart from the Magic variety and such, there are few Castles in the LA area, let alone ones that are as isolated as the one in the movie.
The lack of action and/or “fun” also baffled me since it was directed by Deran Sarafian, who helmed two of 1994’s most enjoyable action films - Gunmen and Terminal Velocity. I don’t think there’s a single moment of actual humor in the movie (maybe the final line from the vampire); the only time I had an expression other than boredom is when our heroine put a whole muffin in a bowl and then poured milk and sugar on it like it was Rice Krispies or something. I polled my twitter followers and 2 of them claimed to have seen such behavior before, so I guess it’s a real thing and not a character quirk (tho this movie is 21 years old, so it’s possible that the people in question saw it in this movie and tried it for themselves). And the action is usually quick and/or botched; even the film’s best setpiece (an attempted staking in a hospital) is capped off with a major gaffe, as the vamp disintegrates and yet doesn’t leave as much as a drop of blood or ash on the bed.
But apparently it spawned a sequel or two, and it certainly has its fans (most of the IMDb user reviews are quite positive), so I guess it’s just not for me. If I want a romantic vampire movie I will watch Let The Right One In. Hell, even Dracula 2000 had a better romance than this, AND it was fun. Plus Gerard Butler could wipe the floor with the little European dude in this movie.
What say you?