Bram Stoker’s Dracula: Twenty-Five Years of Beauty, Tragedy, and Horror


Horror masterpiece, Bram Stoker’s Dracula celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary! We look back at this imperial story of terror, blood and beauty.

“I am the monster that breathing men would kill. I am Dracula.” – Vlad Tepes, Bram Stoker’s Dracula

In the Name of God, Dracula’s shadow fell across the ancient world bringing with its dire touch undiscovered wonders and fathomless terror, one precious few could escape from. In life, Dracula led his armies to malevolent victory against the invading Turkish hordes.  The fields of their conflict were sodden beneath the torrential flow of blood whilst the sickening maelstrom of calamitous voices cried in fear and misery beneath his merciless grip. With blood dripping from his chin his visage became the very face of Satan to all who dared oppose the Dragon!

Out of the blood-enriched soil of his homeland a macabre forest soon sprouted and littered the red horizon. Tall and grim they stood, deeply rooted into the earth and narrowly carved, the staves rose to the weeping heavens. It was a vicious woods of unparalleled human agonies. Their blunted ends were tipped with gore, and with the shattered jaws of many victims still embedded in the wood, the macabre forest stood as a bleeding victory under Dracula’s great dominion.  His victims were impaled and decorated the land as they helplessly choked and struggled upon the oaken staves he fashioned them.

It’s part of Stoker’s genius to have taken a figure so well established in the timelessness of historical horror and make him, Son of the Devil, the title character for what became the most beloved vampire epic of all time.

image via

In no less a stroke of brilliance, director Francis Ford Coppola (Godfather trilogy, Apocalypse Now) recognized the richness that History already provided for us pertaining to Vlad Dracula. Wisely, Coppola integrated the Impaler’s story into the movie’s thrilling prologue. Immediately we are introduced to a man pure in the Faith and devout to his God, and in that holy name, Vlad strikes down all enemies of the Church. His reward is to come home to a wife – whom he prized more than anything in life – dead by her own hand. Being told her soul is damned for the sin of self-murder, Dracula’s heart blackens beneath the burden of his shattered soul.

The movie offers us something new to the world’s most famous vampire story – a deeply human grace behind the legendary monster. Who among us has not sipped the vinegar of sorrow from that bitter cup of heartbreak? I’m sure some of my readers may know the pain of betrayal. When the ground beneath our feet suddenly breaks and we find ourselves falling into the terror of the unknown. Believe me, there’s nothing scarier than that.

Some of us fall into darkness. Even some angels fall hard, and in this movie Dracula is truly one such angel.

image via Fangoria

In another scene Dracula confronts his oppressors. Van Helsing (Anthony Hopkins) has led his men to finally thwart the monster, and he stands before them in bat-like form, truly he’s beautiful. “I, who served the Cross. I, who commanded nations, hundreds of years before you were born. I was betrayed. Look what your God has done to me!” Dracula’s words are haunting. He demands this man of faith to behold what could happen to him should his life also be cloven in two.

It’s a frightening idea. The darkness in us all should be scary. We know it’s out there. We also know it lurks silently in our hearts. It’s a warning to not let it consume us.

What I see in Bram Stoker’s Dracula is a story of triumph in spite of tragedy. The triumph is found in the passion of Dracula’s final moments. In poetic maliciousness the Vampire is clinging to life, being mortally wounded at the hands of his brave hunters. In those precious final moments he finds himself alone with the recovered love of his life. After four hundred years of pain and anger he finds peace in her arms. The angel takes flight again, if you will.

image via Fangoria

It’s a powerful story and it never fails to impress me. Every time I watch it I notice something new. It’s a timeless tale of romance and horror. It’s a cautionary tale to us as well. One that warns: ‘don’t get lost in the darkness.’ We have horror movies as a way to vent otherwise negative energies that would be locked inside of us. And in true vampire-like sovereignty, this movie drains us of some very bad blood (or vibes) that needs to get out.

It’s a film where each scene is a work of art. The sets and costumes are perfectly woven together as the haunting score draws us into its shadowy world.  Some have argued that it’s nothing like what they’re used to. That was the point! Coppola did not want to just redo something everyone already knew. He chose to base his film more heavily on the book. What he came up with was a genuine masterpiece of cinematic art. It is a five-star horror movie.

image via Fangoria

Gary Oldman (The Dark Knight Trilogy, Harry Potter) brings new life to the ancient role. His portrayal of Dracula is nothing short of majestic. There’s so much anger and so much pathos that he brings to the part. Oldman also takes on no less than five different forms throughout the movie, something none of the previously mentioned actors ever did while playing the Count. In this movie we get Vlad Tepes, the elderly Dracula, young Dracula, the Bat form as well as the Wolf form. It’s also worth noting that in this movie Dracula moves in a foul mist and transforms into a horde of rats.

Over time this has become my absolute favorite movie. I can’t believe it’s been twenty-five years since its release. I was a just kid when it first hit theaters. I still remember standing in hypnotized awe gazing up at its gothic banner at my local cinema.

Next: Dracula: Bram Stoker's Legacy of Gothic Horror

This has been Manic Exorcism. It’s been twenty-five years and I’m still under Dracula’s spell. Thank you for joining me on this excursion through the four immortal portrayals of everyone’s favorite vampire. The night beckons and my kind will be busy. Always be sure to check back here to stay informed to all things Horror. And I’ll be seeing you later, lovelies.