Movie Review: Dracula 3000

by Zenicurean

Some of you may know that I'm an atheist. I was an atheist. I have recently changed my mind. I now believe that there is a god. I also believe that this god is, in fact, a magnificent dancing butt which blasphemes and bubbles aimlessly at the center of all infinity to the thin and monotonous whine of accursed Bee Gees. Around this otherworldly callipygian butt god dance and sway forever the nameless and mindless Lesser Outer Butts.

Why this theological sea change, you ask? Because that is the only reality in which this fucking film gets made.

Darrell Roodt is a South African writer, director, and producer. By all accounts he's made legitimately good films in his time. In 2004 he directed "Yesterday", which has won awards and was even nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 77th Academy Awards.

Sadly, that is not all he directed in 2004.

Dracula 3000 is a mind-bogglingly stupid direct-to-TV horror movie Roodt wrote with one Ivan Milborrow. Filmed on a shoe-string budget and featuring an eclectic crew of bored actors who visibly don't give a rat's ass, it tells the story of salvage ship captain Abraham Van Helsing (Casper Van Dien) and his crew of bickering, unlikeable nitwits. Together they must explore the derelict spaceship Demeter, which just happens to be loaded with a suspicious cargo of coffins. Yeah, this movie doesn't do "subtle."

You'd think Roodt has managed to puke out nothing more than a formulaic "explore space ship, find out its horrible secret, run away from monster" movie, and in a lot of ways that's true. He hasn't, though. Not quite. Don't get me wrong, there is a vampire on board, they do run away from it, and it's all very formulaic. What I mean is that it also doesn't do "movie" very well. This film is no mere expression of formula. This film takes the formula and mashes it into an unrecognisable grey goo. It is a glorious paean to utter film-making incompetence.

We kick off with Udo Kier grasping a wooden cross and talking to the camera about something evil being on board. His entire shtick is that he sometimes appears in order to cough out backstory, as the digitised diary of Captain Varna (ugh), the Demeter's deceased skipper. Kier contributes nothing of value to this film, which is sad, because I really liked him in Riget and in Shadow of the Vampire. Hilariously, the credits indicate that Kier is making a "special appearance". I don't know what that means. I think it's a little like some movies used to have "special guest stars."

He makes creepier faces than the actual vampire, though.

We're then introduced to the mission and the crew through the ingenious vehicle of Casper Van Dien talking to himself... because, you know, Roodt understands that force-feeding us exposition is more exciting than showing things. There are five other so-called protagonists on board. Mina Murry (Alexandra Kamp) is an "intern from the Academy of Intergalactic Navigation". The fact that she "works for free" offsets "the fact that we spend half our time lost in space". Her personality trait is that she's constantly terrified of everything. Given whom she works with, this makes her character borderline sane. The Professor (Grant Swanby) is the ship's wheelchair-bound tech guy. His personality trait is that he's haughty. In fact, everyone in this film gets a shtick: Deckhand Humvee (Tommy Lister Jr.) is a sociopathic douchebag who likes to sexually harass people, cargo specialist Fransisco "187" Brett (Coolio) is a relentlessly annoying pothead, and "vice-captain" Aurora Ash (Erika Eleniak) is just sort of really high-strung.

Long story short, the Demeter has been found floating in "the Carpathian system". Mind you, Kier's character later insists on calling it the "Carpathian galaxy", because screw making sense, but either way Van Helsing's get-up is there to sweep the ship clean.

Say, remember all that cool banter from Aliens? Y'know, where Vasquez and Hudson traded barbs, and that set the mood, and gave us insight into their characters? Much of the dialogue in this movie was written by someone who saw that scene, fell in love with it, but didn't understand why that scene was there to begin with. Much of the rest of the dialogue is either awkward exposition, or weird dadaist gems like Tommy Lister Jr.'s otherwise surprisingly astute observation that "All that bloodsuckin', that's some white people shit".

This jibes well with the basic plot of this movie, which was clearly written by somebody who likes the first Alien, but doesn't comprehend how any goddamned thing in Alien actually works. The combination is lethal: It means that the first thirty-forty minutes of Dracula 3000 are broadly about the crew walking around the ship, dysfunctionally insulting each other like a pack of passive-aggressive kindergarteners, while Count Orlock (yes) very occasionally whooshes back and forth in the background like the fucking Roadrunner, presumably trying to figure out where he left his dime-store Bela Lugosi opera cloak.

One, two, three! Three victims! Ah ah ah ah ah!

A better film might use the time to establish the characters and their relationships, and, through that process, make us care about what happens to them. This movie really... doesn't. Actually, let's rephrase that. It certainly establishes something that in extremely poor lighting might pass off as character. But since every crew member -- except Van Helsing, who had to sell his personality for parts or something -- only gets a single trait, and since all them seem explicitly designed to make us loathe these people on a very deep and visceral level, the only sense of attachment we're going to be feeling for the rest of the movie is an overpowering desire to personally stab all the characters to death.

Luckily, once the crew stumbles on the coffins, each character gains two brand-new personality traits. (It's a sort of plot flag: They immediately decide to loot the coffins for the dead guy treasure inside -- as you do -- and shit starts hitting the fan.) These two personality traits are 1) utter bone-headed stupidity and 2) callous disregard for their fellow crew members. The movie then slowly degenerates into a meaningless pile of useless plot revelations, even lazier writing, and various characters getting picked off individually by the least scariest vampire in the history of Sci-fi.

Oh, one thing. As they find the coffins, we learn a piquant detail: Religion is obsolete in The Year X Thousand. Only our resident asshole, Humvee, seems to have any inkling of what God means... though Van Helsing seems to harbour some hidden religious affiliation as well, as he later spits out a very surprised "Sweet Jesus!". This never goes anywhere or pays off in any way.

"Let's poorly simulate loathing at each other and fail at everything!"

Then the salvage ship... just sort of flies off, leaving the crew stranded aboard Demeter. This is strongly implied to be Orlock's doing. Why he wouldn't want to leave the Demeter and stow away on the space ship that's actually functional is never really explained. Orlock then attacks Coolio. The idiot brigade tries its best to save his life, but cryptical tooth marks soon appear on him, and he succumbs to Obvious Movie Vampire Syndrome. ("Someone... bit him?" "Some thing.")

Vampire!Coolio then runs amok ("Radical!") like a cartoon character. Apparently more bemused than terrified, the rest of the crew tries to smoke him into the open. They suck at it, though, and Vampire!Coolio kills Mina. Meanwhile, Count Chocula attacks "vice-captain" Aurora ("You are the most beautiful creature I've ever seen!"), but fails to kill her: Later it turns out she's a police gynoid who has infiltrated Van Helsing's ship for reasons of LOL NEVER EXPLAINED. She is, in fact, a "pleasure bot" repurposed for that role, again for reasons of LOL NEVER EXPLAINED.

Aurora melodramatically tells Professor, Humvee and Van Helsing that she saw "HIM". After a bit of awkward coaxing, she deigns to explain that Orlock is from planet Transylvania "in the remote Carpathian system". You know, that place where they currently are. She exposits that Transylvania is a planet of vampires... except, that being a bit of a crappy business model, Transylvania's kinda dead and gone. Count Orlock hired the Demeter because he wants to flee to Earth in hopes of fresh prey. Being the radiant fucking genius he is, Orlock then apparently ate his own crew and left himself adrift in space. Huh. At least Dracula had the decency to wait a full five minutes before going Pac-Man on his sailors.

Consumed by paranoia, they tie robot woman to a sofa that she is apparently incapable of escaping. Guess they don't make gynoids like they used to. Then the Professor decides to dig up all the information on vampires that he possibly can. It looks like this:

I want to wreak hovok too.

They figure out the Van Helsing connection. Now, that never really pays off in any significant way that isn't completely idiotic, but the good captain starts figuring out ways to kill Orlock anyway. Meanwhile, Vampire!Coolio incompetently tricks Humvee into incompetently letting him inside! Vampire!Coolio then incompetently attacks Humvee; Van Helsing incompetently staggers to rescue, and... you know, let's make this a little easier. Whenever I've described or will describe any character action in this review, assume that incompetence is implied.

Anyhoo, Vampire!Coolio gets staked, they untie Aurora, and the rest of the movie is a prolonged, confused fight against Orlock and his occasional minions. Probably the greatest single moment in all of Dracula 3000 follows when Aurora and Humvee find the Professor slouched over in the computer room. Aurora, the police robot, signals Humvee to be quiet, sneaks up to the Professor, and stabs him about ten billion times with a wooden stake. The Professor, revealed to be vampire, dies horribly. Humvee then asks Aurora how she knew the Professor had been turned. "I didn't," she says, and Humvee casually lets it slide. I love that scene. It's as rife with possibility as it is with stupidity. It encapsulates how these characters work. It encapsulates how the writers think. It's the pure intellectual essence of Dracula 3000 in all its moronic glory.

I won't spoil the ending, just in case you're gluttons for mental punishment and somehow want to see this monument to human witlessness. Suffice to say, everyone that I hate in this movie dies. That may, in fact, be the sole good thing I can say about it. (It does have a major character in a wheelchair, in all fairness... but the movie sort of wastes the concept, as the Professor being in a wheelchair is constantly shown to be a massive impediment to him actually doing his job. That, in turn, almost but not quite graduates into a real plot point. Again, Dracula 3000 is almost allergic to any sort of pay-off.)

So, to sum it up: This movie is 82 minutes of Darrell Roodt assaulting your brain with a grindstone. Everything the characters say and do is silly. The actors are terrible, the dialogue is terrible, and you could herd a thousand nerfs through the plot holes in what this thing tries to pass off as a story. You can visibly see the actors struggle as they go through the motions. Some films achieve a sort of grandeur about their own stupidity, but even in this Dracula 3000 fails: There's a weird sense of detachment hovering over every scene that seems to suck the fun out of MST3K:ing this pile of crap. It's like Dracula 3000 is aware of being nothing but an elaborate kindergarten play, something we're supposed to... sort of endure through rather than enjoy.

Don't watch this film. There are plenty of enjoyably bad vampire movies out there. This is not one of them.