Monday, February 14, 2011

Love Never Dies

"The luckiest man who walks on this Earth is the one who finds true love."

Realizing the hypocrisy inherent to an organized religion that would have him kill hundreds in its name but refuse to grant his beloved access to Heaven, our protagonist tears into the altar like a Medieval Elizabeth Berkley. Screaming himself raw, he renounces God and vows to return from the grave to avenge his beloved’s death with all the powers of Darkness. This all happens before the credits roll.  

In honor of this most sacred of holidays, I present you with one of the great romances of all time. 
Both deliciously campy and sumptuously sincere, this year’s best Valentine is Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992).

"I have crossed oceans of time to find you."

Four hundred and thirty five years go by in a flash and Winona Ryder finds herself engaged to be married to Keanu Reeves.  She is absolutely desperate to consummate their relationship, but he’s having a hard time concentrating on his made up dialect.  He can't be expected to focus on acting as someone from abroad and Winona's vagina. So frosty Keanu goes off to Carpathia and leaves Nona in the care of her best friend, Sadie Frost.  Slutty Sadie is empowered by her wealth to choose her own suitor, whereas Nona is saddled with Keanu, miles away. Just when we think all hope is lost for poor Winona, bound to girded loins for all eternity, Gary Oldman comes to town.

At first, Mr. Oldman is just a shriveled old queen in a dressing gown - holding Keanu at bay in his hilltop castle like a latter-years Tab Hunter.  But what a difference an ocean liner and a handful of sailors can make! By the time Gary makes his way to jolly-olde London, he looks great. Young and fresh.   Desperate to shed any lingering homoeroticism, he absolutely goes to town on Sadie Frost, dressing himself up like a wolf monster and tearing into her on top of a stone sarcophagus.  Naturally, Winona watches all of this like a seasoned voyeur - but the moment Gary sees her watching him plow into her best friend, he realized he's inside the wrong girl. It's love at first sight.  

If that isn't romance, I don't know what is.

While it's obvious that Gary is up for the task of reaping Winona's lady parts to full blossom, he still goes through the motions of seducing her - taking her to the movies, getting her drunk on absinthe, etc.  Romantic. To indicate sexual awakening, Nona starts wearing her hair down and lowers her bust line. Finally feeling a connection to a man that she could never have imagined possible with Keanu, she begins to weep.  Gary turns her tears into diamonds.  

This is the only love story to ever talk about.

Naturally, once Winona starts feeling good about herself, Keanu is off in a convent in Romania suffering from a violent brain fever and insists that she leave London at once and marry him there.  How rude. Meanwhile, even though Sadie has infected a nasty blood virus from her cemetery romp with the Wolfman, that doesn't stop her from giving Nona a gigantic diamond ring - what a good friend!  Unfortunately, generous or not, 1897 wasn't the best time to be a slut and poor Sadie winds up getting her head chopped off.

Seeing what becomes of the sexually liberated, Winona runs back to Keanu.  
In a traditional marriage, she’s miserable - now keenly aware of what she shared with Gary and what’s missing with Keanu - that love without carnality is not complete.  Gary senses her deep unrest and, accordingly, he transforms himself into green mist, sneaks into her bedroom and finally consummates their forbidden love.  

Despite his protestations,Winona gives herself freely and, in the most glamorous love scene ever captured in a horror film, Winona drinks blood from his bare chest.  She is baptized in his blood. Now that's a Valentine's Day to write home about!

"I want to be what you are - see what you see - love what you love... you are my love and my life always."

"Take me away from all this death."

Of course, Keanu eventually gets wind of her infidelity and wrangles all his stoner buddies away from the Chateau Marmont long enough to go after Gary Oldman.  Poor Winona is left tearing at her bosom in the snow with nothing left to live for but the latest Black Friday sale at Saks and the odd bit part alongside pasty, gay-hating fatsos.

Beyond the legendary costumes, the antique lamps, lavish sets and all the peacock feathers, is Bram Stoker's Dracula a gay film?  Absolutely. 

Dracula is about deep and forbidden love in the face of an oppressive patriarchal society.  In 1992, vampire movies were still dangerous.  AIDS was everywhere.  To consummate a gay relationship was, in a way, flirting with mortality.  AIDS is an infection of the blood, to be a vampire was to be infected.  Sexuality equaled death.  It still does in some parts of the country.

"Our love is stronger than death."

1992 was glorious.  It was a time when Winona had the power to bring this script to Frances Ford Coppola, despite having just dropped out of The Godfather III.  It was a time when Anthony Hopkins was capable of giving an interesting performance.  It was a time when a smartly done, intellectual horror, love story made with practical effects in the old Hollywood tradition could be a blockbuster.  Sadly, this is a time long gone by.  But that doesn't mean we can't have a happy Valentine's Day, dolls.  Let's have a good one for Winona.