DRACULA REVIEW (SPOILERS)
Every few years there is a reboot of a beloved story that has gone through the ringer when it comes to retelling tales that we have heard time and time again. The story of Dracula happens to be one of those unfortunate souls that has been rehashed and recycled so much that when I heard there was going to be a BBC/Netflix adaptation of the story, I thought, “Why, God?” Are people truly craving this? Am I so out of the loop that I have missed the resurgence of the most popular horror icon of the past century?
As it turns out, it seems that really no one was asking for this adaptation. It just sort of showed up. Kind of like a stray cat that you just accept lives at your house now. The cat shows up at the edge of your yard; you acknowledge each other and move on. The cat shows up on your porch the next day; you give it some attention and go on with your day. Before you know it, the cat is living in your house and you have no other choice but to pay attention to it.
That’s pretty much how it felt with the brand new adaptation of Dracula. I was aware of it, kinda ignored it for a little bit, and then one bored night it stared at me straight in the face while scrolling through Netflix. Next thing I know…. I had to give it attention. I watched all three 90 minute episodes in one night. The cat roped me in.
The first episode starts out a little bit off. It seems as though the first 20-30 minutes of the show can’t really seem to grasp what kind of tone they’re looking for within the narrative. Old Dracula is a little hokey, a little bit annoying, and Jonathan Harker (before his Post Transylvania Stress Disorder) is about as interesting as a rice cake. I was genuinely worried during the first half of the episode. However, I had no further plans for the night so I powered through. I’m very glad I stayed along for the ride because despite some of the tonal issues and rushed scenes throughout the show, I had a very enjoyable experience overall.
For the most part, the acting is fantastic, and there are some really great creepy moments that really bring you back into the story to remind you that this is a vampire tale that you are watching. Throughout the show, and largely throughout the very first episode, there are several great twists that really kept my attention. If it wasn’t for the twists in the first episode, I may have not continued with the show.
The stars of the show are without a doubt are Claes Bang as Dracula and Dolly West as Sister Agatha. Claes Bang brings a fun and refreshing humor to the character of Dracula while also still maintaining an underlying layer of being jaded and longing for something. Dolly West plays that fantastic character of Sister Agatha. I cannot begin to describe my love for Sister Agatha. The chemistry between these two characters are the anchor of the show and I couldn’t really imagine it with any other actors playing those two parts.
Another aspect I really enjoyed about the show was how different each episode felt while still remaining grounded in the story. Episode 1 takes place in Dracula’s castle, episode 2 takes place on The Demeter, and episode 3 takes a ballsy move and heads straight into the modern world. Between these 3 episode, episode 2 is arguably the strongest while episodes 1 and 3 have a little something lacking. Like I mentioned earlier, episode 1 feels a little off in tone during the first half hour. The main problem with episode 3 is that it ultimately feels rushed. The closing narrative would have probably felt more fleshed out if the last episode was split into two separate parts. An extra 4th episode could have allowed there to be more detail on subjects that feel slightly brushed over in episode 3.
Another issue with episode 3 is that we spent the past two episodes getting to know Agatha and Dracula. Episode 3 only gives the audience one episode to try and get to know the new characters who have just been introduced to us. If someone happens to not know the story of Dracula (because some people just live under a rock) they may not be able to appreciate the appearances of characters like Lucy Westenra and Jack Seward. However, this is just a little bit of nit-picking on my part. This adaptation really does a great job of modernizing Lucy’s character as a chaotic and unrepentant force which eventually leads to her own demise once she becomes undead. When Lucy’s new form is revealed to herself it’s gut-wrenching and slightly uncomfortable to watch.
Look, it’s not a perfect show. But it’s something new. It was a completely fresh take on something that has been retold over and over again. When there’s a billion different Dracula stories, it’s pretty difficult to bring something new to the table. However, I truly believe that this version stands out among most of the recent retellings. Must I remind you of the NBC version with Jonathan Rhys Meyers? No one needs that. It can be a little hokey, a little rushed, but it still kept my attention thanks to some great writing and performances. It’s just like the stray cat that finds its way living in your house. You didn’t really want the cat. Having a cat wasn’t part of your plan. But you know, you’re pretty glad the cat showed up.