When it comes to vampire movies, there is a lot of really horrible material out there with very few diamonds in the rough, but when it comes down to it, Francis Ford Coppola quite frankly nailed it with the best vampire movie ever created- Dracula. Many have tried to make their take on Dracula reach the genius status of Coppola’s adaptation and have failed miserably. All it takes is a flick through your channel listings, browsing your television provider’s On Demand selections, or cutting to the chase with this huge list of vampire movies, to see that vampire cinema has taken a beating in recent years (looking at you Twilight). Coppola’s Dracula is simply the most visually, aurally, sensually, and emotionally engaging version of any vampire story that has ever been put on the screen.
Sure, people will say that there are other masterpieces out there when it comes to vampire flicks, but this one really takes the cake. Starting out in 1462, Count Dracula, played by the incomparable Gary Oldman, falls in love with a beautiful woman named Elisabeta. When he returns from a conquest of the Turks to find that Elisabeta has hurled herself out the castle window because she received a false report that her love had died while at war. He is completely inconsolable with the fact that she is forever damned due to committing suicide and vows to return from the dead to avenge her death with all the powers of Hell behind him. This entire scene is rife with beautiful imagery, bright colors, a very realistic scene where Dracula is in the worst emotional pain imaginable, and it truly makes the viewer feel sad for this usually loathed character.
Most vampire movies these days are quite bland, sugarcoating most of the meat of the story and over sexualizing it so that viewers are just scared enough, yet titillated enough to keep watching. Dracula is truly a work of art, showing true emotional connection between characters, even when they aren’t particularly fond of one another. For instance, though Harker (played by Keanu Reeves) is sent to stay with the Count in 1897, he knows instantly that something sinister is amiss, and we all know that as viewers. No true emotion comes from most other vampire movies which just show gore or a dainty story where some girl falls for the evil guy who turns out to be a vampire.
When Renfield shows his adoration for Dracula, we really feel his passion for serving his master. He lives solely to serve until the very end. When Dracula finds out that Harker’s fiance is identical in appearance to his lost love Elisabeta, he becomes entranced with her from afar and Coppola did a perfect job at indicating the degree of his desire for her with words and with facial expressions via Gary Oldman. This movie is truly able to make you feel, hear, smell, and live what is going on in the story. The love that the Count feels, his blood lust, and the entire story is just completely believable. Dracula is based on some elements of reality such as Vlad Tepes’ and Elizabeth Bathory’s historically bloody past. Even Anthony Hopkins’ portrayal of Dr. Van Helsing treating vampire bite victim Lucy and the vision of the wolves during that scene is amazing in comparison to most other vampire movies that try to do such elements of the story in complete vain. True fans of this movie idolize these characters for reasons far surpassing those who idolize Bela Lugosi’s characters in movies of which they can’t even remember the names.
Coppola’s Dracula is quite simply one of the most visually and emotionally appealing stories of its kind, if there is even anything to compare to it. The costuming, elaborate sets, special effects, and acting was really very much ahead of its time and nothing will ever override that. Dracula is truly one of the world’s greatest masterpieces, and is the best vampire movie of all time without comparison.
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