I’m just going to admit this up front: I love Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula. I love it deeply, abidingly, and unironically. I love the cinematography, I love the costumes, I love the sets, and not even the occasional dubious casting decision can shake my devotion. So when I saw that Coppola had written and directed a film billed as gothic horror, I was pretty pleased.
Then I saw that Val Kilmer stars in it, and I made a sort of “Eeeeennnnngh” sound.
Let’s face it: Val Kilmer was never that amazing an actor to begin with, and now he makes his money as a sort of paid mourner at the mausoleum of his own career – his job is to show up every so often, remind us that he was in some pretty good movies back in the ’80s, collect his paycheck, and go home. Nonetheless, I queued up the film in Netflix anyway, hoping for a movie that, if it couldn’t wrest the thick red blood of a good performance out of the turnip that is Kilmer’s acting skills, was at least good enough to carry him instead of the other way around.
Looking at IMDB, I do not see that this movie had any US release outside of the San Francisco International Film Festival. I am sorry, Coppola, but that is because it sucks out loud.
There isn’t much of a plot. Kilmer plays a washed-up writer named Hall Baltimore, a name that miraculously will become even stupider as the movie wears on. He’s at a book signing in Rural Bumfuckistan, where nobody buys any books; his agent is mad at him, and his wife is threatening to sell his first edition of Leaves of Grass if he doesn’t man up and get an advance on a book. So he’s under the gun and needs to come up with a story fast.
So the faintly creepy sheriff takes him to the morgue, where there’s a body with a stake through its heart. He says it’s the work of a serial killer. Kilmer is weirdly uninterested, until he goes back to his motel, falls asleep, and starts dreaming about a strange little girl (Elle Fanning).
And Edgar Allan Poe (Ben Chaplin). No, I’m not joking. Poe is the ostentatiously pallid Virgil to Kilmer’s Dante, serving as the font of all exposition for what frankly silly plot there is.
See, there’s a group of Goth Caricatures living across the lake. They’re vampires. There’s also a creepy priest who for some reason ran some sort of orphanage or something, and killed all the kids because he didn’t want them to become vampires. He almost killed Elle Fanning too, but she ran off and became a vampire. And… well, that’s pretty much it. Nothing gets resolved. The ghost kids are, I assume, still ghost kids. Elle Fanning is still a vampire. Kilmer gets his book advance. I can’t figure out if he’s supposed to be a vampire or not, since in the scene before Elle Fanning was gnawing on his carotid artery. Seriously, the movie ends like somebody realized at the eleventh hour that you can’t tie up plot threads when there’s pretty much no plot except “Val Kilmer keeps falling asleep.”
So what’s the verdict? It hurts me, but one star. There is no plot. There is no acting. The special effects look like somebody did them in Microsoft Paint at three in the morning. This movie avoided the coveted zero-star rating only because Coppola has earned the right to produce the occasional stinker, but I don’t recommend watching it anyway. It’s so bad that its badness is actually confusing, like it’s secretly a brilliant parody and I’m just not getting the joke.
Dear Francis Ford Coppola: if this is really supposed to be funny then I take it all back. Except that it wasn’t actually funny either. So until someone explains to me where the brilliance is hiding, this is a one-star movie.