Why are bad movies so good?
There is little more jarring, yet oddly satisfying, than an actor giving their all in a truly confused and terrible film. And nowhere is this more true than in the cult classic Dracula (1992). This is the movie that spawned a thousand goths and a fashion for dark mauve lipstick. Oh, nineties.
I love camp melodrama. Ridiculous scores, absurd costumes and weird uneven dialogue that you could only write as a lovesick teenager. And Dracula, for all of these sins, comes off all the better for not taking itself very seriously. Whether that was intentional or not is hard to say.
Nothing in this glues together. Some bits are beyond perfect (Gary Oldman as Dracula, hell yes) and other bits are hysterically bad (Keanu Reeves ‘English’ accent, or that giant bat version of Dracula). It’s like a collage made of Picasso and a four year old’s drawing of Daddy experiencing road rage. I love it. It’s so confused, so lopsided and so dreadfully cut that I wouldn’t change a thing.
There are few films you’ll cry laughing at in one scene and entranced by in the next. There are moments in this where poor Keanu’s accent is so stilted that you’ll find yourself shrieking. At other times you’ll be wondering why the hell Gary Oldman is so believable as a demonic spirit in a top hat. It’s that kind of film. Keanu’s Jonathan graciously excludes himself for much of the film and when he returns, you’re immediately greeted with jarring, stumbling acting. Very refreshing after intense, gothic (and actually believable) performances.
Dracula, as Orwell pointed out in the 1940s, is a silly story. It wasn’t very well written, the topic was a bit gauche and even at the time people felt the ending was a bit “eh”. Ask anyone in the street and they’ll know who Dracula is. What happens in the final act is, happily, widely unknown. That’s probably for the best. And this classic character in a lumpy story can make a director’s job a bit of a challenge.
Do you go full dark gothic romance (Oldman) full blown camp (Reeves) or actual horror (lol, watch yourself)? This film shrugged at that and did all three. And it’s a beautiful hot mess. A trifle if you will. Nothing you’d confess to loving at a Knightsbridge dinner party.
I adore it. It’s terrible, unashamedly bad and tacky, but it’s so much fun to watch. You are gripped to the only two good actors in the film (Oldman and Ryder) struggle through the school play going on around them.
Imagine if Baz Luhrmann had attempted to do Frankenstein, but the studio had insisted he edited it while extremely hungover. That’s the level of weird this is.
So why is it so good?
Simple. It does what films are too scared to do nowadays.