Those readers who cannot stomach the syrupy sweetness and sparkle-skinness (is that a word?) of “Twilight,” proceed and learn some good news. Or bad. Depends on your point of view, really. Suffice to say the tale of Edward and Bella might have been much, much worse. Some debate exists in terms of ordinary cinema over the worst movie ever made. Did “Plan Nine From Outer Space” deserve that lowest of accolades? Or was “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” just too poor to ever suffer eclipse?
Among vampire films, one is hard pressed to even consider a second nominee. Worst by far was “Dracula 3000.”
Created (or perhaps spawned) in 2004, this South African production does boast a cover/poster worthy of merit. If anything it suggests H.R.Gieger, the artist whose work inspired the look of “Alien.” The premise isn’t half bad either. Not good exactly, but containing the basics of some schlocky fun. A thousand years in the future, the space freighter ‘Demeter’ is found floating in deep space, her crew gone and the only record a Captain’s log. Udo Kier of “Blade,” “Shadow of the Vampire” and “Blood of Dracula” plays the Captain. Not a difficult gig, one suspects, nor a lucrative one. He just read some lines looking into a camera.
It all goes downhill from there.
Former playmate (and “Bordello of Blood” alum) Erika Eleniak plays Aurora Ash, first officer of a salvage ship captained by Abraham Van Helsing (Casper Van Diem). Another crew member is named Mina Murray (Alexandra Kemp of the Belgian flick “Vampires”). Yes, another is named Holmwood. He’s in a wheelchair and called The Professor. Rapper Coolio is also in the cast, as is Langley Kirkwood. Never heard of him? No particular reason you should have, although he enjoys that rare position, a working actor. This was hardly the zenith of his career, more like a quasi-embarassing footnote (no reason to blame him–a gig is a gig). He is the title character. Sort of. He’s identified in the credits as Orlock, the sole survivor of the planet Transylvania (to be confused with Transsexual Transylvania, an entirely different fictional planet in another, much more coherent film). One has to wonder at the whole notion of a world filled with nothing but vampires. Upon whom were they supposed to feed?
Minor stuff, this. Like the obvious use of a storage facility as the interior of a space freighter, and the even more pathetic sets that make “Lost in Space” look like “2001: A Space Odyssey”. Count Orlock’s costume is another matter. Not only an upturned collar worthy of Count Chocula, but a scrap of lace at his throat for no good reason anyone can see. On top of that a makeup job that inspires memories of Marcel Marceau.
Again, that is not the worse of it. No, what gives “Dracula 3000” its rank (and in more than one meaning of that word) is first and foremost the writing. We’re talking about a script that surely enjoyed no second draft, one typed rather than composed. The raw illogic of it all is one thing, but the total lack of dramatic rhythm or suspense is a hallmark of someone who clearly hadn’t a clue. Two screenwriters are listed. One, Ivan Milborrow, has a whole bunch of credits as a sound editor but only three as a writer. Second listed is none other than director Darrell Roodt, whose career surprisingly survived this rancid motion picture. His IMDB page lists over two dozen movies. On the other hand, his foray into vampiric space opera is the only title this writer recognized. Given that he not only co-wrote this mess but actually directed it, methinks he deserves the lion’s share of blame.
Overestimating the quality of this film is very nearly inevitable. One keeps thinking No, it cannot be THAT bad. Sorry, it is. It never quite achieves the relentless, pulse-pounding excitement of “My Dinner With Andre” nor the sensual eroticism of “Bambi” nor even the spine-tingling horror of “Merry Christmas Charlie Brown.” Instead one gets a cast of actors who seem to realize this week’s work was for a small paycheck and nothing more. So they sleep walk through their parts, mugging when something exciting is supposed to happen while the director uses as few shots as possible. Give Coolio credit for at least chewing the scenery with abandon. Such silliness actually was the highlight.
The ending? Do you care? Our last two surviving heroes lock themselves into a room where Orlock cannot reach them. Then they pass the time before the Demeter falls into a nearby star by having sex. Off screen.
And Erika Eleniak remains clothed throughout. So does Casper Van Diem. No matter what your taste in cheesecake, consider yourself cheated.