DRACULA II: ASCENSION
Directed by Patrick Lussier
Produced by W.K. Border & Joel Soisson
Written by Joel Soisson & Patrick Lussier
Director of Photography Doug Milsome
Music by Kevin Kliesch
Cast: Jason London, Craig Sheffer, Jason Scott Lee & Diane Neal
2003/85 mins/Color/5.1 DD
2.35:1 anamorphic/English/USA/NTSC Region 1
Review from the Buena Vista Home Entertainment DVD
In MALLRATS, actor Jeremy London starred with Jason Lee. In DRACULA II: ASCENSION, Jeremy's twin brother Jason stars with Jason Scott Lee. It sure is a small world.
DRACULA II: ASCENSION is the sequel to 2000's aptly titled DRACULA 2000. As that film ended, Dracula (here played by Stephen Billingtion, replacing Gerard Butler) was last seen engulfed in flames and dangling from a cross. As DRACULA II opens, Dracula's corpse is brought into the morgue by EMT Luke (Jason London). After examining the body, Luke and coroner Elizabeth (Diane Neal) realize that the body is that of a vampire. Suddenly, Luke is contacted by an investor, Eric (John Light), who wants to purchase the corpse. Elizabeth checks with her boyfriend, college professor Lowell (NIGHTBREED's Craig Sheffer), who arranges a location for the vampire to be held. Meanwhile, a strange priest named Uffizi (Jason Scott Lee), who enjoys using a barbed whip and a scythe, is on the trail of Dracula.
Being scientists, Lowell and Elizabeth, along with assistants, Kenny (Khary Payton) and Tanya (Brande Roderick), decide that they must experiment on the vampire, and of course, this revives him. However, they are able to keep Dracula incapicitated so that they can study him. However, the vampire still has power, and he begins to work his will over his captors. As the group begins to disintegrate, and Dracula gains power, Uffizi races to find the undead and stop him.
DRACULA II: ASCENSION is remarkable in two ways. Firstly, the film manages to be horror-film savvy without wandering into fanboy territory. It's incredibly refreshing when Luke realizes that the smouldering corpse is a vampire. We always watch horror movies and think "Why don't they realize what's going on?" Well, for once, these characters do. And Luke takes the time to educate himself about vampires and how they should be handled.
Secondly, for a direct-to-video sequel to a film that should have gone directly to video, it's pretty good. The idea of Dracula being a prisoner for the bulk of the movie may sound dull, but it forces co-writers Joel Soisson and Patrick Lussier to bring in other vampires and also to focus on the tension between the humans. And within those characters, there are some surprises as each confronts moral issues and makes their choices. (However, there's nothing in the script here that matches the creativity of the origin of Dracula in DRACULA 2000.) Lussier, who also serves as director, keeps the film moving along at an OK pace, and it never gets boring. However, the film isn't really groundbreaking, and at times, it's quite silly. And, while the film is enjoyable on a certain level, it's never scary and not all that gory. The biggest drawback to DRACULA II is that it is the second part of a planned trilogy (Actually, DRACULA III was filmed simultaneously.), and because of that, it just ends -- just ends in the sense that it's almost unclear what becomes of Luke. And this lame ending almost ruins the film. Other than the fact that we now have to wait for DRACULA III to learn what becomes of the great vampire, DRACULA II is a very servicable film, and is certainly much better than most of the direct-to-video horror crap that's out there.
The DVD of DRACULA II: ASCENSION features an anamorphic widescreen transfer, which has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 (unusual for a direct-to-video film). The image is sharp, but does show a slight amount of grain at times. Despite the film's dark content, DRACULA II was shot with a very naturalistic lighting style. Thus, the dark scenes look fine, but much of the action takes place in daylight. Artifacting and some slight video noise does occur at times, but certainly isn't visible throughout the film. The DVD boasts a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio mix, which provides clear dialogue, music, and effects. The track offers some very nice surround sound effects and a creative use of bass, but these typically only come during the "scare" sequences. Otherwise the bulk of the audio comes through in more of a 3-channel stereo format.
The disc provides a few extras. First, we have an audio commentary with director/co-writer Patrick Lussier, co-writer Joel Soisson, and special makeup effects supervisor Gary Tunnicliffe. This is a fun chat as the trio discusses the making of not only this film, but DRACULA III as well. They relate some good anecdotes about how certain scenes were shot and have nothing but nice things to say about their cast. The other two extras aren't quite as impressive. There are audition tapes for five of the cast members, which are more embarrassing than entertaining. Finally, we have four deleted "scenes", which are made up of only seconds of footage.
This Film Features:
Review by Mike Long. All Right Reserved. 2003. ©