Bram Stoker's Dracula is taking a bite out of the Halloween season this October. Francis Ford Coppola's luridly opulent vampire odyssey returns to the big screen in a vibrant new 4K restoration, all the better for showcasing its blood-hued cinematography, elaborate sets, dazzling costumes and churning score.
It's famously one of the best-looking horror movies of the 1990s, riding high on the input of acclaimed collaborators including the Oscar-winning costumer Eiko Ishioka. At the centre of the story is Gary Oldman's spectral take on Stoker's vampire creation, a wizened, haunted creature who is reinvigorated with purpose after glimpsing the reincarnation of his lost love.
Given that the movie is such a feast for the senses, how could one possibly resist its return to Cineworld? With spooky season just around the corner, here are five sequences from Bram Stoker's Dracula to experience again (or, if you're lucky, for the very first time) on the biggest screen you can find.
1. Vlad renounces God
Coppola and cinematographer Michael Balhaus take great relish in the opportunity for bold, operatic imagery. This is stated right from the film's opening prologue (narrated by Van Helsing actor Anthony Hopkins), in which wreaths of smoke and a ruby-red sky accompany the vicious rampage of Vlad the Impaler (Oldman), later to become Dracula.
Right at the start of the movie, the silhouette of a mosque spire becomes a curved shadow moving across a map, conveying the threat to Vlad Dracul's kingdom. Such peerless visual intuition is, naturally, what we'd expect from the director of The Godfather and The Conversation, but it's especially lurid and overwrought here.
2. The journey to Dracula's castle
Keanu Reeves' notorious accent aside, the opening of Bram Stoker's Dracula shows pleasing fidelity to the novel. Coppola is careful to translate the epistolary diary entry structure of the novel into the movie, conjuring a sense of intimacy with Reeves' character Jonathan. (Unfortunately, this does also foreground the narration to a greater degree.)
There are untold visual splendours in this one contextual scene alone, from the crimson sky overlaid with a pair of demonic eyes to the blue/black hue of Harker's hallucinatory ride to Dracula's ancient home. When Harker finally arrives and greets Dracula, Ishioka's costumes come to the fore, the blood-red cape extending over the cold slate cobbles of the castle to conjure a bold visual contrast.
3. Dracula arrives in London
Regenerated by the blood of the workers on board the ship the Demeter, a youthful Dracula arrives incognito in London. Gary Oldman's star power is evident, even at this early stage of his Hollywood career, as he lends a distinctly more seductive and insidious twist on vampire mythology.
Oldman reportedly only signed onto the role so that he could deliver the line, "I have crossed oceans of time to find you." The line certainly has sorcerous resonance when it's addressed to the unsuspecting Mina (Winona Ryder) whom Dracula perceives to be the resurrection of his deceased lover, Elisabeta.
Coppola's fin-de-siecle story even encompasses the early years of cinema as Dracula takes Mina to a moving picture performance, all the while resisting the urge to feast on her neck. The increasingly ecstatic yet bass-heavy strains of Wojciech Kilar's superbly Gothic score manage to strike a balance between tortured romance and impending catastrophe.
4. Lucy the vampire
Sadie Frost gives an underrated performance in the movie as the imperilled and tragic Lucy, who is transformed into a vampire by Dracula.
The disturbing and nightmarish sequence where Van Helsing, Doctor Seward (Richard E. Grant) and the rest of the vampire-hunting group confront the transformed Lucy emphasises the film's notable production achievements.
From Eiko Ishioka's deceptively innocent, flowing white gown to the power paint/lipstick contrast of Frost's features, the unsettling reverse motion of Lucy climbing into the crypt to the horrifically bloody climax, the scene encapsulates Coppola's ability to cast a surreal, uncanny spell.
5. Dracula's brides take revenge on Van Helsing
Never have Dracula's paramours been as scary as this. In fact, one of them is played by eventual James Bond and Matrix actor Monica Bellucci.
Once again, the collision of arcane costume, animalistic make-up and physical performance helps sell us on the danger of Dracula's acolytes. The scene towards the end of the movie where the brides slaughter Van Helsing's horse also allows Wojciech Kilar's discordant, yelping score to reach even more unnerving heights.
Has this got you convinced to return to Transylvania? Then click here to book your tickets for Bram Stoker's Dracula, releasing at Cineworld on October 10.
Looking for more Halloween goodness this October? Check out our Halloween horror movie preview.