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Dracula II: Ascension
Reviewed by Jason Myers, © 2003

Format: Movie
By:   Patrick Lussier and Joel Soisson
Genre:   Horror
Released:   June 17, 2003 (DVD release)
Review Date:   June 27, 2003
Audience Rating:   R
RevSF Rating:   3/10 (What Is This?)
I began watching Dracula II: Ascension with restrained optimism. It was a good sign that the writer (Joel Soisson) and director (Patrick Lussier) from the original were returning. I enjoyed Dracula 2000, even the second time I watched it. Also, Soisson and Lussier were the team who made Prophecy III: The Ascent, a movie which, while not even close to quality of the original Prophecy, still managed to pull the Prophecy movies out of the nose-dive begun by the dramedy-of-errors Prophecy II.

Dracula II starts out well enough, with an interesting "stalking the cobblestone streets of Europe" sequence that introduces Uffizi (played by Jason Scott Lee from Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story), whom one of the characters describes as "A priest . . . . Priest from Hell." Later, a guy named Luke wheels a burnt-out corpse into the morgue, and discovers that the corpse is a vampire. Before you know it, several med students have hijacked the corpse so they can discover the secret of eternal life. At which time, said med students do perhaps the dumbest thing in the long and colorful history of dumb things done by characters in horror movies: They immerse Dracula's burnt-out husk in a bathtub full of blood. And what happens next is as uninteresting as it is inevitable.

Why is Dracula II so disappointing?

Firstly, I think people who enjoyed Dracula 2000 will be less likely to enjoy the sequel. The best death in Dracula II steers into silly Beetlejuice territory that doesn't jibe well with the sensibility of Dracula 2000. The revisionist storyline turns the survivors of the last movie into rubes who wind up guarding the ashes of the victim of an apartment-fire for the rest of their lives. This in itself is sort of funny, but the sequel also ruins the nicely ambiguous (SPOILERS for Dracula 2000) "Did he or didn't he ask for forgiveness?" ending of the original.

Then there's the quality of the actors. Dracula 2000 had Christopher Plummer. Dracula II does not. Dracula 2000 had a good actor playing Dracula. Dracula II's Dracula is the type of bland one-note Euro-trash (complete with well-moussed Dolph Lundgren hair) villain that skulks through faux-erotic vamp pics where breasts are bared more often than fangs. With the exception of Jason Scott Lee and Jason London, all the actors are either bland or bad. And Roy Scheider (falling somewhere between bland and bad) makes a brief appearance to deliver the filmmakers' excuse for switching Draculas on us: "His face may change with each regeneration, but the evil remains the same."

Most damaging is that Dracula II lacks the wit of the original. The jokes often fall flat, and the whole production bears a low-budget claustrophobia. It's supposed to be the story of how this group of people implode, but mostly it's a story where nothing happens. After the first 30 minutes, I drifted into a mildly comatose state, which was broken occasionally when there were scenes that featured Uffizi or Luke. Uffizi has some nice fight sequences, and Jason London, as Luke, brings the fun in, stealing holy water from the local church and turning into a fledging vampire hunter (Mild praise, by the way, to Soisson and Lussier for incorporating the lore about how vampires are obsessive counters of seeds and untiers of knots). Still, the life that the two Jasons inject into the film is not quite enough to lift the stench of decay from Dracula II. To top it off, Dracula II doesn't even have a real ending. It's all just a prolonged teaser for Dracula III: Legacy.

DVDetails

The commentary track (featuring Lussier, Soisson, and Special Makeup Effects Supervisor Gary Tunnicliffe) is pretty entertaining. It's easy to like Lussier and Soisson, who joke with Tunnicliffe about the countless severed heads he's made for their movies, until Tunnicliffe one-ups them by revealing that he's got a severed head card like Starbucks' frequest customer card. Buy a severed head, and get a hole punched in your card. After the first five, the sixth one's free!

The actor audition clips, a feature which was vaguely boring in the Dracula 2000 DVD, has now morphed into full-on torture, as the actors read through their audition scenes not once, but twice.

Also, deleted scenes, and some previews for upcoming movies. But why no preview for Dracula III?

The Movie Itself: 3 out of 10
The DVD Features: 4 out of 10
Does Film/DVD Editor Jason Myers like Jason London and Jason Scott Lee for their actorly talents, or just because their names are Jason? It's a question that will, sadly, haunt Jason's friend Jason Nichols for the rest of his life.

 
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