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DVD REVIEW:  Dracula III: Legacy

I sigh. I put my head in my hands. Rutger Hauer, how could you disappoint me so? Ah, how far the mighty have fallen. Then again, I suppose there comes a time in every actor’s career, when they must accept a part that is, shall we say, beneath them. A part, which they cannot put their heart and soul into, a part they know, all too well, will be laughed at for its pure ridiculousness. 2005 appears to have been Hauer’s year for finding himself in this predicament and the role of Dracula, indeed the fateful part. Ever since I first saw him on the screen in 1982 as the replicant Roy Batty in BLADERUNNER I have been a loyal fan. Thus, it particularly pains me to see his tragically disinterested performance in Wes Craven’s DRACULA III: LEGACY.

In many respects, his awkward performance could be largely due to the bizarre, half-baked version of the great Count Joel Soisson and Patrick Lussier created for him. I could see it in Hauer’s face as he flailed in a cape and bad vampire makeup, about Dracula’s dungeon-esque lair, lined with walls of old televisions playing apocalyptic news reels, his expression one of disbelief and mortified amusement, a detachment which screamed: This is just a paycheck…get through it…I can’t believe I’m doing this? Of course, I could be wrong…I could be reading far too deeply into his bewildered expression. Perhaps it is just my internal longing for a justification for such a bad performance from one of my great acting heroes? Perhaps…But there is far more I found disagreeable with this movie than merely Hauer’s performances…

There are very few movie series which I find myself following after the second installment. Even the ALIENS movies became a bit overdone after the second film (and this is coming from someone who has seen ALIENS over 50 times so far), the plotline a bit worn thin, the writers searching to stretch the original concept out forever without end. However, if the second installment of a cinematic series is worth noting, I will invest the time to view the third. This is the case with the Wes Craven DRACULA trilogy. The first and second films were thoroughly enjoyable to watch, an excellent blend of Dracula myth and campy B-style humor. They weren’t vampire “classics” by any means, but they had a certain Buffy the Vampire Slayer quality to them that carved out a soft spot in my heart for them. I particularly loved their choice of Stephen Billington for the role of Dracula in DRACULA II: ASCENSION and was really hoping that they would cast him for the following movie. So, I attempted to beat back all of my jaded skepticism that the third installment, which is usually the worst in any series, would fail to impress me. However, even with an open mind and a glass of good cabernet, I was still utterly disappointed.

In DRACULA III: LEGACY, Father Uffizi (Jason Scott Lee) and Luke (Jason London) travel overseas to Romania in search of their great enemy, Dracula. When they arrive in the war-torn nation, they quickly realize that the vampires are terrorizing the towns and countryside and are even believed to have taken control of the government. Luke is determined to rescue his love Elizabeth (Diane Neal), though Dracula turned her into a vampire at the end of the second film. Along the way they meet up with a British television journalist, Julia Hughes (Alexandra Westcourt) who is stranded in Romania after attempting to cover the war for the BBC. Together they make their way to Dracula’s castle to end his existence once and for all…

First off, the opening sequence…Now, I realize that directors might feel the need to catch the audience up to speed a bit on the happenings of the previous movies in order to make sure they are hip to all of the references, etc., in the new one. After all, by the third film in a series, there’s quite a bit of back-story that’s been built surrounding the surviving characters. But a good ten minutes of it and in a spliced together scene montage that is more confusing than it is helpful? This opening sequence drug on for so long that I left the room to print something out on my computer before coming back to the film. And by then I was a bit irritated. Not a good way to snag a viewer, I’m afraid. But then the film began and I settled back into my chair, ready for another good campy vampire film.

Now, I’ve also mentioned in some of my other reviews about the thin line that writers walk when developing a humorous horror film. It is all too easy to rely too heavily on cheesy one-liners, especially when it is to fill in for a lack of storyline or good acting. This is exactly what appears to be the case with DRACULA III. From the moment the film begins it is one stale, regurgitated vampire joke after another. At first I chuckled only to have my under-the-breath mild amusement be replaced with sighs of boredom and rolling eyes. It became instantly apparent that Joel Soisson and Patrick Lussier had run out of good material for the third film and were filling gaps with whatever they could quickly come up with. The actors seemed to be aware of this fact as well as their deliveries of these lines at times seemed to pain them a bit, a strange look of “I can’t believe I have to say this” lurking behind their eyes. Ah, so sad. Well, at least most of them have rather stable careers in other films and television series to rely on, this film becoming merely another notch on their resumes.

On top of the inundation of cheesy, predictable dialog they just HAD to place this film in Romania and they just HAD to place Dracula in a decrepit castle up on a mountainside. I have one word for this: Yawn! Don’t get me wrong. I love the original tales of the true Count of Darkness. I have studied vampires and vampirology for fourteen years. But I would expect just a little more from Wes Craven and his Hollywood team. Even Dracula himself would expect a little more creativity I would imagine. I really wonder just how much input Craven actually had on this third film, come to think of it. Perhaps it was just a royalties check to him at this point in the game. Did he ever see the final cut? Something tells me, no. Either way, I highly recommend that vampire movie enthusiasts place their hard-earned money towards another rental and leave DRACULA III on the shelf to collect dust. My apologies Mr. Hauer, but I have a feeling you wouldn’t mind of people never saw this film.

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