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Today’s Netflix pick is a scary one, a tremendously imaginative film that features some astonishing practical effects as well as a great performance from Gary Oldman. While vampire movies have tamed a lot over the years, becoming fodder for young adult angsty love stories, some of the best have been those that deliver the frights as well as make us care about the characters beyond the prey versus hunted angle. With that in mind, here’s a film that is loaded with a great story, highly-engaging characters and a some of the best visuals ever made in the genre. It’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula and it’s what you’re watching tonight. Here’s why.
THE STORY: Directed by the legendary Francis Ford Coppola, it follows the nightmare of Jonathan Harker (Keanu Reeves), an English solicitor who takes the mysterious Count Dracula (Oldman) as a client after his colleague Renfield (Tom Waits) has gone insane. What we know and Harker doesn’t, is that Dracula is a vampire, cursed by God for renouncing him after he learns his beloved wife Elisabeta (Winona Ryder) has committed suicide while mourning a false report of his own demise. When Dracula sees Harkers own fiancé Mina (also Ryder), he believes she is the reincarnation of Elisabeta and sets out to win her back at any cost, in turn terrorizing London.
WHY YOU NEED TO WATCH: Agreeing that Oldman is sensational and Ryder is both erotic and beguiling, let’s get back to the production because Bram Stoker’s Dracula is a masterpiece of design and execution, done so well, you will believe what you see is all computer imagery, which Coppola flat out refused to have on the film. Done with nothing by very old school camera tricks and forced perspective, all the special effects were achieved by hand on set and you owe it to yourself to watch this with that in mind, realizing that everything you see is actually just as it was shot. It’s really something.
And once you get past that, soak in the sets and costumes, of which all are equally beautiful and grotesque. While the casting of Reeves drew criticism, and indeed, he is the weak link in the production, it is minor when compared to everything else. The mix of fantasy, erotica, and horror redefined the genre, winning three Oscars. It’s streaming on Netflix right now. Read more about a crucial moment in this film here.