Dracula 3000

Director: Darrell Roodt   
Casper Van Dien, Erika Eleniak, Coolio

I think just about all of us have obsessions of some kind. For me, it's pretty obvious that my obsessions include watching offbeat movies and reviewing a lot of them. These and other obsessions that I currently have started off when I was mature. The obsessions I had when I was much younger were a lot different. For example, when I was young, I was obsessed with The A-Team. I watched it every week and even wrote an essay on it when at school my class was assigned to write about our favorite TV show. But when the show became "uncool" to my classmates, I reluctantly stopped watching it, much to my later regret. That was one of the few conformist things I did as a child; my classmates' obsessions were much different than mine. When I was younger, my classmates were obsessed with Star Wars. I never saw it when it was in town, so I couldn't understand why they kept saying "Star Wars this!" and "Star Wars that!", so when no one was looking I would write on the chalkboard "Star Wars sucks!" and "Only nerds like Star Wars!" (I did eventually see it and liked it, but I never became obsessed by it.) Later, in my fifth grade class, most of the people in the class became obsessed by a joke they thought was funny. They were a noisy bunch of bastards, and I and the few other sane people in the class would often tell them to be quiet by exclaiming "Shh!". The noisy people in the class would respond by exclaiming "It!" in response to this command to be quiet.

Another way I wasn't obsessed like the other people in elementary school was the way how I felt about scary monsters, or monster-like creatures. I wasn't in awe or fear of them the way other kids seemed to be. I never could understand why the other kids were so obsessed about dinosaurs. Sure they were big, but so what? There are big animals living on earth right now. And all the dinosaurs died out, so how pathetic is that? (On a related note, I don't think I was very much interested in Godzilla and other Japanese giant monsters, mainly because none of the TV stations that we got ever bothered to show any of their movies. I had to wait until the video release of Godzilla 1985 to finally see an example.) But what about other monsters? Did I have a fear about them? How about the mummy? Pathetic. It had no eyes so it couldn't see you, it walked around so slowly that you could easily outrun it, and if you had a lighter you could easily set it aflame. Frankenstein's monster? (Notice I'm smart enough not to simply say "Frankenstein"?) I was also never scared of him. Dr. Frankenstein's method of putting together and reanimating his creation seemed so crude in the depictions of the story I observed that I couldn't believe that he was successful in creating life. The green skin of the monster that I also frequently observed in these depictions seemed phony and hard to believe. And like the mummy, the monster would stumble around at a very slow pace that you'd think anyone could outrun - though incredibly like the mummy, they would get victims.

What about vampires and Dracula? Well, I do admit that when I was small I was creeped out by Dracula - the real one, also known as Vlad The Impaler. One of the notorious incidents he was credited with was when he threw a party, not for his rich brethren, but for the people in his kingdom who were poor, sick, elderly, or handicapped. During their feast he reportedly asked all of them, "Do you want to be without cares, lacking nothing in this world?" When he got a positive response from his party guests, he had the building they were feasting in boarded up with the guests still inside, and had the building set aflame, which subsequently killed everybody. ("I did this so that no one would be poor in my realm," he explained.) As for the vampire Dracula - and other vampires of fiction - I was never too impressed by the idea of them. Drinking blood? Ugh, who would do that? And something like a shotgun blast to the head wouldn't harm them? Get real. So why did I pick up Dracula 3000? I think it was because of the sci-fi angle it had, promising to bring a fresh look to a monster that, in my opinion, had become old and tired. As you may have gathered, the movie takes place in the year 3000, in a galaxy far far away. Space captain Van Helsing (Van Dien, The Tracker) operates a salvage spaceship. He receives a tip on how to find the spaceship Demeter, which disappeared fifty years earlier in mysterious circumstances. Upon finding the ship, he and his crew find no signs of life - but they do find a bunch of sealed coffins. As you probably guessed, one of the crew opens one of them, and as you probably guessed as well, all hell breaks loose shortly afterwards.

The premise of this sci-fi twist isn't exactly original. Science fiction aficionados (as well as horror fans) will recognize this basic plot from a number of other movies, the most famous one probably being Alien. But the unoriginality didn't automatically turn me off from this movie. I thought that Alien was a very effective movie, so I wouldn't mind seeing its basic story again if it was both done well and with a fresh angle. The space setting, combined with the vampire presence, certainly gives the movie a fresh angle. But as for the movie being done well, that's a different story. To begin with, Dracula 3000 is a cheap movie. In fairness, I should admit that the movie is not as cheap as it could have been in other hands; if the Roger Corman of recent years had been behind this, the look of the movie would have been hideous to view. It's not that cheap, but it still looks impoverished. From the first few minutes of the movie you know that it's going to be tacky. As the opening credits are displayed, the computer-generated title of the movie expands, twists, and pulses with graphics that look as primitive as those used in the '70s kids show The Electric Company when they would expand, twist and pulse words onscreen. (For those unfamiliar with The Electric Company, I would compare this sequence to a low-rent screensaver.) After the credits end, we almost immediately get to see computer-generated planets and spaceships, the look of which wouldn't pass the grade with the standards made with the Playstation One.

It's downhill from there. We are next introduced to the six protagonists on the salvage ship, but it is not done in the expected way of seeing them talk and interact with each other over the next few minutes. Instead, the movie takes the cheap route by having Van Dien's character narrating, telling us all about his crewmates while pictures of the characters appear onscreen. When this narration ends, we soon get to the sequence when the characters' spaceship finds the Demeter and docks with it. Sharp-eyed viewers will notice during this sequence that we never get a good look at the interior of the protagonists' spaceship; whenever the action cuts to inside their ship, the camera is right up to their faces so we can't see what's in the background. At least the movie doesn't cheap out like this when the characters enter the Demeter. Obviously shot in some industrial plant, the hallways at least look acceptable, though I did notice that a couple of the rooms seemed to have concrete floors, building material that I seriously doubt spaceships of the year 3000 would have. That made me laugh a little, as well as the fact that the Demeter's recreation room has a late 20th century boxy television set, and what appears to be a VCR on top of it. There are a few other unintended laughs in the movie as well. When one character has his leg broken (with the broken bone sticking out just below his knee), what do the characters do? One of them lifts him up, cradling him with one hand just under the knee near that broken bone. Then they take him to the recreation room and lie him on the pool table, since this large ship somehow doesn't have a medical room.

If Dracula 3000 had a lot more howlers like those, I possibly would have recommended it on that level. But there aren't that many more laughs than I have mentioned. Judging it as a straight horror movie, it fails as well, and not just because the production values are low. The movie is lacking a horror feeling to it. For example, when they are boarding the dark and empty Demeter, for example, there is no tension, no feeling that there is possibly something evil and deadly hiding in this ship. It feels like the protagonists are doing something routine. What's even more unbelievable are the vampire attack sequences... or should I say lack of them. At least half of the vampire attacks are not actually seen, instead cutting away just before they happen and forcing us to guess what actually happened before later showing us the aftermath. (The fact that there are only six protagonists should also give you a clue that there aren't that many vampire attacks.) It should come to no surprise that the character of Dracula (or is his name Count Orlock? The movie can't make up its mind) is pretty weak. He only appears once in the first sixty minutes, and makes maybe two or three appearances afterwards. It's not like the movie is saving him for a big and scary climax. Believe it or not, there is no climax - big or otherwise - in the movie. When the movie ends, Dracula is still alive and the survivors are in the middle of their plans to eliminate Dracula and his followers once and for all. Roger Corman may be cheaper than this movie, but at least he puts an ending to his movies and makes an attempt to deliver the goods.

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See also: Evil Of Dracula, Lake Of Dracula, The Tracker