Is there room amid all the high toned Oscar bait movies of late December for another bite of cinema’s favorite vampire? Miramax’s Dimension Films sure hopes so, for the sake of ”Dracula 2000.” This is the studio, after all, that released ”Scream” and ”Scream 2” on the same pre- Christmas weekend — and had $100 million plus hits each time.
”Dracula 2000” — made under the cape of executive producer Wes Craven, who helmed all three ”Scream”s — is a hip, loving homage to the bloody, sexy Hammer films of the 1960s and ’70s. For first time director Patrick Lussier — best known as the editor of the ”Scream” movies — this was a plum assignment. ”Patrick was inspired by a really campy Hammer film called ‘Dracula A.D. 1972,”’ explains ”Dracula 2000” writer/ producer Patrick Soisson. ”He said, ‘Let’s do ours and see how the myth updates.”’
So instead of Christopher Lee vamping it up in Swinging London, the 2000 incarnation, played by Scottish actor Gerard Butler, awakens in sultry New Orleans. A band of thieves led by ”The Mod Squad”’s Omar Epps make the mistake of heisting Drac’s coffin — with him inside. Meanwhile, a veteran vampire slayer (Christopher Plummer) and a stalwart young couple (Jonny Lee Miller of ”Trainspotting” and Justine Waddell of ”Mansfield Park”) are hot on his trail. And assorted vampire babes, including Colleen Fitzpatrick, a.k.a. Vitamin C, are just plain hot.
Soisson points out that one of the movie’s details comes straight from the original Bram Stoker novel: A swarm of insects heralds the Count’s arrival. Fortunately for the production — and unfortunately for the actors, crew, and this reporter — the varmints are not generated by expensive digital wizardry, but provided gratis by a swamp outside of New Orleans.
”Whoever decided [shooting in] Louisiana at the end of August is a good idea should be shot,” actress Jeri Ryan tells EW.com. Ryan (”Star Trek: Voyager”) plays a vampire baiting TV news reporter. During filming, though, she spent much of her off camera time slapping away bugs as they coupled in midair (even though native Louisianan costar Shane West informed her that it’s bad luck to part these love bugs). Adds Butler of his tiny winged costars: ”It’s amazing. Louisiana’s all about sex, and even the bugs are f—ing!”
Of course, the bayou alligators floating nearby are another matter. A pistol packing ”gator wrangler” stood at water’s edge, making sure the beasts didn’t try for walk on roles. ”You’re supposed to zig zag,” a producer advised. ”They can’t follow you if you zig zag.”
But all this menace was a delight to Soisson, who sang the praises of giant flesh eating cockroaches and their favorite haunts, Delta cemeteries, where families are piled into crypts, corpse upon corpse, for generations. (Yes, you’ll be seeing some of that in the movie.) ”You start out on the top shelf, and then after you rot, they dump you into the bottom and bring the next one in. It’s kind of a mulch pile,” Soisson explains. ”Which is kind of like being a writer for Dimension. You’re on that top shelf for a while, trying to hang on when they start pouring the thing out.”