One Of The Scariest Scenes In Bram Stoker's Dracula Goes Vampire Hunting

(Welcome to Scariest Scene Ever, a column dedicated to the most pulse-pounding moments in horror with your tour guides, horror experts Chris Evangelista and Matt Donato. In this edition, Chris sinks his teeth into "Bram Stoker's Dracula.").

In 1992, Francis Ford Coppola turned to Bram Stoker's immortal vampire novel to create a wild, stylish, erotic fever-dream of a movie. It was unlike any Dracula adaptation before and stuck closer to the book than the iconic Bela Lugosi adaptation. Bloody, operatic, and unapologetically over-the-top, Coppola's "Bram Stoker's Dracula" was a huge hit (which was good for Coppola, who had been creating a series of flops for years).

Coppola's film is big, loud, and loaded with plasma. It also might be the last studio film to use only practical effects — everything, even the dream-like imagery, was created in camera. Critics were mixed at the time of release, but in the years since, it's become accepted by those who know what they're talking about that Coppola's "Dracula" rules.

The setup

Dracula (Gary Oldman), a warrior from the 1400s, spends his days impaling people and pining for his wife (Winona Ryder). However, after erroneously hearing her beloved Drac is dead, Mrs. Dracula throws herself off the tallest tower imaginable. Furious, Dracula renounces God and becomes a vampire (somehow, it's not entirely clear). Hundreds of years later, Dracula comes to the U.K. and starts sucking necks.

The story so far

After Dracula arrives in the UK, he falls for Mina, the reincarnation of his dead wife (also played by Ryder). He also keeps sucking blood and killing people, including Mina's best friend, Lucy (Sadie Frost). After Lucy dies, vampire hunter Van Helsing (Anthony Hopkins, having the time of his life in this movie) tells Lucy's fiance (Cary Elwes) and two of her old boyfriends (Richard E. Grant and Billy Campbell) that she's going to turn into a vampire.

They understandably don't believe this crazy old man, but they follow him into Lucy's crypt late at night anyway, vampire-hunting tools in hand.

The scene

Over-the-top is the name of the game in "Bram Stoker's Dracula," and this scene goes particularly hard. Sure enough, Van Helsing is right, and Lucy is a vampire now. Sporting a wedding-like dress, with a face as white as snow, Lucy is about to have herself a child as a snack when she's caught in the act.

Using her vampire wiles, Lucy tries to seduce her fiance, but Van Helsing thankfully intervenes with a crucifix. Lucy turns nasty here and retreats into her coffin, popping back up to spit approximately ten billion gallons of blood into Van Helsing's face.

The religious elements and abundant vomiting are obviously callbacks to "The Exorcist," but it's the gorgeous, haunting staging — the cold crypt, the flickering candles, the heightened tension in the air — that makes this scene stand on its own.

Eventually, the vampire hunters get the upper hand and chop off Lucy's head, which goes flying across the room (because of course it does).

The impact (Matt's take)

As per Chris' evaluation above, it's good to hear I actually do know what I'm talking about because Coppola's "Dracula" rules so indescribably hard. It's a capital "M" movie that's gushing with vampiric set pieces few fanged horror films have been able to recreate. Coppola uses every inch of the camera's lens as he retains the magic of practical effects, along with a cast that's indulgently selling all the film's over-the-top wilds. You want entertainment, gothic dressings, and writhing eroticism? That's "Dracula," bay-be!

While the specific scene mentioned here isn't exactly a masterclass in fright, it is a picturesque slice of bygone horror. The cobwebby crypt, Lucy's flowing pure-white gown, the deep crimson blood vomited onto Anthony Hopkins — what luscious horror scene architecture. Lucy's decapitated head flies through the air before a smash-cut to Gary Oldman's Dracula lurching upward in distress, as a punctuation of vengeance to come. It's all so dramatic yet exaggerated, pinned between endless entertainment and dire consequences. You can't help but drink every last drop.

Truthfully, it took until this year — 2022 — before I beheld the calamitous kitchen-sink vampire film known as "Bram Stoker's Dracula." My interactions with vampire cinema prior to writing a "Best Of" vampire listicle for IGN didn't spark a love for the subgenre. Apparently, that's because I was watching all the wrong bloodsucker films. Coppola's "Dracula" landed at #1 on my list, which I'm sure is universally agreed upon. At least I know Chris has my back.