Although it's packaged in a somewhat generic horror mold, Dracula 2000 actually has a clever and innovative story beneath its surface. When a group of thieves inadvertently release Dracula from the prison of his coffin, the most infamous vampire in history seeks out what he believes to be a kindred spirit: another being who was born a vampire, not transformed into one by a bite. His search leads him to Mary, the daughter of his old rival, vampire slayer Abraham Van Helsing. Thanks to the over-zealousness of her father, the young woman has vampire blood in her veins, and Dracula believes they are destined to be together.
Mary, of course, isn't thrilled with the idea of becoming the Princess of Darkness, so she sets out to destroy Dracula with the help of her father's assistant, Simon. But Dracula can't be killed by means that destroy other vampires: beheading and a stake through the heart don't do the job permanently. So Mary and Simon must delve into the very origins of Dracula in order to find a way to end his unholy existence once and for all.
While the idea of Dracula's and Van Helsing's personal war spanning centuries and entering a new millennium is interesting, it's the twist on Dracula's origin that is truly inventive and relatively fresh. Somewhat related to lesser known vampire legends from the Balkans, the origin of the bloodsucker here is not the same Bram Stoker story most of us are familiar with. However, it still cleverly incorporates explanations of why the first vampire is vulnerable to Christian icons and silver.
Unfortunately, the story only briefly touches upon the bitterness and hatred that is stored up in Dracula over the centuries of his immortality. A deeper examination of this would have been more interesting, and would have set this movie apart even more from its peers. But Dracula 2000's embracing of several conventional horror devices is not without its benefits: we are treated to a good deal of saucy vampire vixens whose sole purpose is to tempt men, then suck them dry.
Colleen Fitzpatrick (as the obviously named "Lucy") and Star Trek: Voyager's buxom blonde Jeri Ryan slink around in sizzling succubus style, while Jennifer Esposito, with her combination of foul-mouthed taunts and sinfully sexy seductions, burns up the screen as the single hottest evil siren of the year. (Jeri Ryan might have given the tempting Esposito a run for her money, but she simply doesn't have a major role in the movie.) In one scene, Esposito, Ryan, and Fitzpatrick descend upon a hapless Simon to suck him to death, and all one can think is, "Dude, there's worse ways to go."
Adding to the parade of luscious hourglass-shaped eye candy are some interesting special effects. Dracula's lack of a reflection and his ability to transform into animals make for some nice visuals.
On the downside, Dracula 2000 has a surprising lack of violence when compared to other horror flicks. That's not to say there isn't a good deal of blood and guts, just that there's not as much as you would expect from a movie of this nature. I was surprised Dracula didn't tear through more people. More obnoxious are the abundant advertisements for Virgin Music that litter this film. Mary is introduced wearing a T-shirt that bears the company's logo, and it is later revealed that she works at a Virgin Megastore. Several scenes, including one that demonstrates Dracula's power to seduce the ladies, are even set at the merchandising mecca.
Dracula 2000 lacks the big budget glamor of Interview with the Vampire and Bram Stoker's Dracula, and its conclusion is somewhat curt and simplistic. But its twist on a classic tale makes it watchable, and it's definitely worth a view for the horror enthusiast. Couple that with a hefty supply of sexy vampire chicks, and the only thing you are lacking is a cameo appearance from the greatest vampire slayer of them all: Buffy!
Rating: 7.5 out of 10 (0=Abysmal, 5=Average, 10=Excellent)