Dracula II: Ascension (2003)
Director: Patrick Lussier
Jason Scott Lee/Ufizzi
Following the finale of “Dracula 2000”, a group of medical students find Dracula’s BBQ'd corpse dropped on their slab. Upon finding out that they have a vampire's table-scraps on their hands, they steal the body and bring it to a remote location in order to study it. The Prince of Darkness eventually rises again and can somebody tell me who that trench-coat badass kicking that fanged derriere is? THE MAN ROCKS!
I enjoyed the original "Dracula 2000". I actually grew to love the film and its blood-sucking lead (Gerard Butler) more through multiple viewings. This straight-to-video sequel, brought to us by the same gentlemen who gave us the first one (writer/director Patrick Lussier and writer Joel Soisson), didn’t top the original in my book, but was a kool sit-down in its own right.
Dracula II (should’ve called it Dracula 2003) moved along at an even pace while sporting impressive production values for a film of its budget. This movie is a "looker" and the style never stopped wooing me. I also got hooked by the intimate story quickly, dug its character-driven nature, got taken aback by the motivational twists and enjoyed the clever use of more obscure vampire rules (all about the seed count…nice!). Toss in there a couple of tight gore howlers, some gnarly visual effects (all about the building jumping), a strong cast (gotta love Sheffer) and a hyper polished directorial coating courtesy of slow motion madman Patrick Lussier and you get a strong straight-to-video offering.
The groovier element for me this time around though was definitely the ultimate badass priest, self flagellator and vampire hunter Ufizzi played by the shamelessly under-appreciated Jason Scoot Lee. The sight of him walking in slow motion, long black coat floating about, with vamp kicking on the fritz was a sight to behold. His slew of "money" weapons also appealed to me big-time. You can’t go wrong with a spiked whip doing damage...trust me, my ex-girlfriend knows all about that and still thanks me to this day for it. Ufuizzi really cranked my dial to the point of wanting the duder to have his own franchise! It’s written all over him! Get to it Dimension Films...instead of that abominable "Suspiria" remake idea (shudders).
I did have some peeves with the film though, the first being the lack of hardcore action. The film never entirely fulfilled the promise of the snazzy Ufuizzi character through the "pow-wow" that should’ve came with his no-bull presence. Apart from the taut opening chase sequence, Ubizzy’s fighting bits were either too seldom, ended too quickly and in one case, happened off-screen (that one pissed me off). I guess budget had something to do with the film not always going "all out" with the action scenarios which it set up. The annoying angry black man character (Kenny played by Khary Payron) also grated me. You know the type...he has his mind on his money and his money on his mind and he’s always pissed for some reason. Somebody should’ve smoked their “endo” instead of always thinking “for da love of da money” in furious anger.
Lastly, although I appreciated that this sequel took a different approach to the fanged one, I was bummed that Drac wound up being tied down for 65 percent of the running time. I wanted to see the man on the loose whopping that human ass...it took way too long for it to happen. At least Stephen Bellington, although no Gerard Butler, gave a charismatic and menacing turn with trendy bleached blonde hair to back him up. In lesser hands, the role could’ve been a bore to watch. Good work tiger!
In the end, Dracula II wound up being a flawed but satisfying watch helped by the immense talent behind and in front of the camera. It also acted as a great set up for the upcoming Part III. It’s looking promising guys...I’m there with garlic balls on!
We get a slew of decapitations, rolling heads, a graphic autopsy, burnt bodies, a face bit off (nice one!), barbed whip cutting throats, dart in throat, lots of plasma and more. The red Kool-Aid flowed.
Jason Scott Lee (Ufizzi) was the shite and put out an infectious aura of mystery. I loved his role! It's only too bad that he wasn’t in more of the film. Jason London (Luke) gave a natural show as the med student with Vampire Killer potential. Craig Sheffer (Lowell) had me transfixed to the screen-- "Hellraiser: Inferno" made me a fan of the man and now he can’t do any wrong. Growl Craig…GROWL! Diane Neal (Elizabeth) was very credible as the lead female student. She was also quite easy on the eyes. John Light (Eric) hit all the right levels and had a Ray Liotta vibe to him. Stephen Bellington (Dracula) had the juice as Dracula...too bad the flick didn’t let him run with it enough. Roy Schneider had a cameo playing a blind priest whose eyes dart left and right like a speed freak. It’s called paycheck acting.
T & A
Brande Nicole Roderick in her undies and bathed in blood goes a long way...a veeery long way, if you know what I mean. We also get cleavage galore from that cutie in her apartment. The ladies get Jason Scott Lee shirtless and yes, the taco still hits the gym fervently and it showed.
Lussier does it again, delivering striking style via creative shots, crazy angles, mucho use of slow motion (I’m a sucker for that stuff) and a couple of trippy quick cut jamborees. The flick looked good and the atmospheric visuals upped my enjoyment of the whole big-time.
Kevin Kliesch served up a gripping score that added to the feel of the film. I was also pleased to hear Marco Beltrami’s effective “Dracula 2000” theme song.
IMAGE: We get a beautiful 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen image with solid colors and a clean print.
SOUND: The Dolby Digital 5.1 sound came through big-time with the score, in particular, invading my living room hardcore.
Cast Auditions (3-12 minutes each): This feature showcases the audition tapes of Brando Roderick (Tanya) / Khary Payron (Kenny) / Diane Neal (Elizabeth) / John Light (Eric) / Daniela Nane (Young Woman). I enjoy features like this, always a hoot to see the actors do their shite to gain that part.
Feature commentary: Writer/Director Patrick Lussier, writer Joel Soisson and effect supervisor Gary Tunnicliffe all come in to partake in this insightful commentary that addressed the crew behind the flick, the locations, the casting, specific shots and much more! An interesting listen.
We also get 4 deleted scenes and trailers featuring "Kill Bill", "Dracula 2000" and "Tangled and Asunder".
Although this sequel was a good watch, I boogied to the original more. I still remember specific scenes from "Dracula 2000" fondly and I got to appreciate Gerard Butler’s show more through each viewing. This sequel, on the other hand, didn’t have the same impact on me. Having said that, it was still a quality genre bomb, with a strong cast, a polished look, some tasty gore, a tight pace, Craig Sheffer owning with his growls and Jason Scott Lee at his koolest. Sink your teeth into it and suck it dry!
Rutger Hauer is credited here as playing Dracula-- it seems he’s in one of the future premonitions. I didn’t see the dude because yes, I’m human and I blink on occasions! I hear he plays Dracula in the next sequel as well: "Dracula III: Legacy".
Fangoria.com had this to say about the next sequel: “DRACULA III: LEGACY follows two characters from ASCENSION who hook up and become vampire hunters,” Tunnicliffe continues. “They’re played by Jason Scott Lee, who’s a priest who becomes infected with the vampire virus, and Jason London. The story basically becomes HEART OF DARKNESS as they hunt down Dracula (Rutger Hauer), who has become a recluse". Lee and London are both fantastic; Lee is obviously very physical, and London is just hilarious. In the first film, he’s just an opportunist, and in the second he gets pulled into the world of vampire hunters.