Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Dracula 2: ascension – review

Director: Patrick Lussier

Release Date: 2003

Contains spoilers

Okay, this is a sequel almost in name only. The coda to Dracula 2001 is entirely forgotten, holy items now work to devastating effect (remember it depended on the faith of the vampire in the last movie) and Dracula (Stephen Billington) has utterly changed form – though new lore is added to take care of that. But before we get into how much this ignored the end of the first film let us look at the prologue.

A woman (Jennifer Kroll) runs through an Eastern European town and is pursued by a purposefully pacing man (Jason Scott Lee). As she attempts to make her escape a bell begins to ring and she clutches at her ears in agony. Yes, she is a vampire, her pursuer is a priest, Father Uffizi and we have new lore that bells cause a vampire pain – odd in that it isn’t used again in the film.

He unveils a scythe but she falls down the stairs (managing to hit a landing but then continuing to fall). He follows on and, was that a continuity error… we see her reflection in a window… No, she is a twin and the “reflection” is her sister who launches at the priest. In a nice referential moment they are credited as Twins of Evil. They grab him, bite him and then he manages to turn the tables and behead them both. He puts holy water on their bodies, which causes them to burn up and then wanders off with their heads.

It is actually a nice opening. The soundtrack is excellent, the setting has atmosphere and Uffizi has a sort of Blade kick-ass attitude going on. We then see him purging the infection (from his bite) in the sun. Later we hear that sunlight can purge the infection if enough of the human remains to survive the destruction of the vampiric. New lore, of course, and not entirely accurate as we also discover the Uffizi straddles the light and dark and, when we see him self flagellate, the wounds immediately heal.

We get a brief character moment when we see Lowell (Craig Sheffer) who is a lecturer for medical students and has a progressive syndrome (possibly MS). He is in a relationship with one of his students, Liz (Diane Neal), and hangs out with her friends Kenny (Khary Payton) and Tanya (Brande Rocerick). Liz, as well as being a student, also works in the morgue.

Then we hit the continuity problem. In the last film Dracula was hung and burnt in sunlight… this is repeated. But then we heard, in the last film, that Mary and Simon took the remains to guard. This has not happened and the crispy body of Dracula is taken to the morgue, by Liz’s friend Luke (Jason London). On examination they realise they have a vampire and Liz pricks her finger on a fang. She goes to ring Lowell but Luke gets a mysterious phone call offering them $30 million for the body. They nick off with the body just as Uffizi arrives.

The film then shows them experimenting with the body, Tanya getting killed, Eric (John Light) – the representative of the buyer – showing up and things going to Hell in a handbasket. Of course Uffizi is on their trail. The film moves to an old abandoned house and then an old abandoned swimming pool. Of course Liz is infected and that is spreading through her system, the infection is shown by a vein effect as it spreads - something not used previously.

There is plenty of lore. Unlike the first film, as I mentioned, holy items seem to effect vampires. Dracula is still Judas and the reason he did not die is because he must be given absolution. There is a rather nice eye mojo moment in the film and a scene, though we do not see the deed, reminiscent of the cat attack in Count Yorga, vampire. We discover that Dracula changes his face with each regeneration – useful that, if you can’t get the original actor.

More interesting was the use of traditional lore. The obsessive compulsive need to count seeds and to untie knots are not only mentioned but used (and abused) in fine ways. We discover that a vampire’s victim, who has their face bitten off, becomes a faceless maw of teeth. Turning is virtually instantaneous with a big infection. The head of the film explains that a vampire casts no reflection as its image is an affront to God.

There is a continuity error in that we see that the vampire cannot be captured on video and then observe its cells in the video imaging of a cellular microscope. That said there is a suggestion at this point that vampirism is like cancer without the chaos, quite a nice explanation.

Despite a much simpler story I think this actually works better than the first film. There is more atmosphere – though that is not to suggest that the film drips with atmosphere just that it has more. The acting was just a notch better than the first film and the whole thing hung together in a much better way. Not scary and not particularly original, it did have a certain something to it. Note here the cameo by Roy Scheider who was, unfortunately, woefully under-used.

Worth a watch, methinks. 5.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


Anonymous said...

Craig Sheffer = Angel's older brother.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

As I rewatched it for review I was thinking "he looks familiar" and now you mention tht he does look like Angel's older brother.

He was also in Berserker: Hell's Warrior

Taliesin_ttlg said...

RIP Roy Scheider, who I just discovered died on the 10th - he will be missed

Anonymous said...

agood movie

Anonymous said...

Sheffer's appearance was freaking me out when I watched this. Ironically, during Angel's first scene on "Buffy," I thought he was Sheffer.

Nightbreed forever \m/