Dracula II: Ascension
Starring:
Jason Scott Lee, Jason London, Roy Scheider, Brande Roderick
Directed By:
Patrick Lussier
Grade
D

As a straight-to-video sequel to Dracula 2000, Dracula II: Ascension immediately picks up the story after the end of the first film. But, since none of the original cast managed to come back, the obvious sequel direction that the original flick hinted at was abandoned. Instead, the story begins with a horribly burned corpse being brought into a morgue, where it's immediately, albeit conveniently, identified as a vampire. The body is then whisked away to be experimented upon by Professor Lowell (Craig Sheffer), his girlfriend and a few friends of theirs. Apparently, Lowell hopes to find a cure to his disabling terminal disease that has left him in a wheelchair. All the while, Uffizi (Jason Scott Lee), a superhuman vampire hunter for the Catholic Church, is sent to hunt down Dracula and kill him for good.

The story eventually takes a turn from the standard vampire flick when Dracula is revived and the scientists begin to try and figure out a way to use his blood as a curative element. Unfortunately, this part is so light in the actual science aspect that it merely serves as fodder to get to what the movie wants - people turning themselves into vampires by getting injected with vampire blood. Vampire traditionalists all around the world must cringe at the thought of a bastardization of the mythos, but even this variant concept isn't grounded well enough to be plausible and eventually feels ridiculously campy. It's like the screenwriter was looking for an easy out.

I would have to give credit to the screenwriter for throwing in at least a few bits of extremely obscure vampire lore (the compulsion to count seeds and untie knots), but ultimately, the story goes in a direction that eventually makes the whole experience laughable. The main story arc might have been adequate, but the inclusion of the supernatural vampire hunter (who never gets much in the way of depth) and the easy explanation that Dracula looks different every time he regenerates from a near-death experience just goes to making the whole story feel cheap.

The strongest aspect of the film is the cinematography, which delivers the film with a decent level of quality that keeps it from plummeting into ranks of B-movie horror flicks, not unlike the Hammer Films. The acting is okay, but considering the cast is composed of a bunch of also-rans and washed up one-hit wonders, don't expect anything too outstanding. Compared to the original flick, this film's cast performs at a fairly weak, puppet-like quality that does nothing to make you care for the any of the events that occur.

Special effects come rarely, as if to hide a small budget. Except for splashing everything in fake blood, using colored contacts and fake vampire teeth, there are only a few instances where special effects even turn up. For the most part, these small instances are handled well, even if conservatively done, but there are one or two times where they try to overextend either their budget or level of competence and it shows.

In the end, Dracula II: Ascension is a mediocre experience that only diehard fans of the genre might waste the money to rent. With little to no connection to the first film, don't feel obliged to see this if you enjoyed Wes Craven's first foray with Dracula. With a weak cast, flimsy script and some quality issues in production (there was at least one time where someone in editing goofed), I can't really recommend this to the average movie renter/buyer

- - Vane

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