Updated: Nov 11, 2019
Nominee #3 - Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992)
A unique take on the famous vampire Count Dracula as he terrorises England in search of a supposed 'reincarnation' of his long lost love, Elisabeta.
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Writers: Bram Stoker (novel), James V. Hart (screenplay)
Stars: Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder, Anthony Hopkins
Starring Gary Oldman as Count Dracula, Anthony Hopkins as Professor Abraham Van Helsing, Keanu Reeves as Jonathan Harker and Winona Ryder as Mina Harker, Bram Stoker's Dracula – produced and directed by Francis Ford Coppola – is as gothic as you can get in horror.
In 1462, Vlad Dracula returns from battle to find that his wife, Elisabeta has committed suicide after false news of his death. When the church tells the grief-stricken warrior that his wife is destined for eternal damnation because she killed herself, he renounces the church and vows to avenge her with the forces of darkness.
Fast forward to 1897, and a young lawyer, Jonathan Harker takes on Count Dracula as his client to finalise a land deal. Dracula believes that Jonathan’s fiancée, Mina is his own wife, Elisabeta reincarnated and sets about using his ominous powers to find and win her. As Dracula wreaks havoc, Jonathan is aided by vampire hunter, Professor Van Helsing. They track him across land and sea till they return full circle for the climax to the chapel where Dracula had renounced God centuries ago.
Unlike some Dracula caricatures before, this 1992 adaptation – staying faithful to the plot of 1897 novel – provides a more empathetic portrayal of Count Dracula. Rather than veer to the side of spooky and scary, Coppola realises a unique vision of the Dracula saga as that of a great romantic tragedy.
Operatic, dark and sensual in tone, this movie benefited not only from Gary Oldman's intense performance, but also strikingly impactful cinematography, costumes, makeup and score. Through the film, Dracula, chameleon-like, shapeshifts into a wolf, a young and handsome man, a vampire, a cat, and of course, an ageing Count.
Rather than veer to the side of spooky and scary, Coppola realises a unique vision of the Dracula saga as that of a great romantic tragedy.
Winner of three Academy Awards for Best Costume Design, Best Sound Editing, and Best Makeup, this film was the only Dracula adaptation ever to win Oscars. Coppola seeks not to shock but to hypnotise and enthral with a rich palette, exceptional acting and a cinematic treatment that transcends time; much like the immortal love story it celebrates.
The 1992 TIME review of the film was headlined "A Vampire With Heart". With its visual power, dramatic intensity, and dizzyingly grand settings, Coppola does throw new light on what seemed a tired and tepid character at the time. Gorgeous. Sumptuous. Exuberant. It is not so much terror on film as it is a haunting, mesmerizing and poetic take on the undead vampire’s quest for lost love.