THE BBC DRACULA. (2020) (LOOSELY) BASED ON THE NOVEL BY BRAM STOKER. STARRING CLAES BANG AND DOLLY WELLS. CO-CREATED AND WRITTEN BY MARK GATISS AND STEVEN MOFFAT.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
‘I’ve been just DYING to meet you.’
‘Food should never answer back.’
‘Always take the weather with you.’
‘I’m a five-hundred-year-old warlord.’
‘My God, I can’t wait to eat some atheists.’
‘One learns to keep a tidy slaughterhouse.’
‘Please avert your eyes- I have to murder a child.’
‘After four hundred years, it’s nice to be understood.’
‘This will be the most nuns I’ve ever had in one sitting.’
‘In the matter of blood, I am a connoisseur. Blood is lives.’
‘I’ve acquired some of your husband’s memories. You could say that I’ve downloaded them. Orally.’
‘There are many advantages to being a vampire, but it does make it hard to be a morning person.’
I don’t really know where to begin with this one, except to say that there’s something inherently wrong with the sight of Dracula texting on a smartphone. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adored Hammer Horror’s two attempts to place Count Dracula in the modern era, ie, DRACULA AD 1972 and DRACULA AND HIS VAMPIRE BRIDES. In fact, these are two of my favourite films in the whole Hammer Dracula canon. But the BBC DRACULA, first broadcast on the BBC over New Year’s in 2020, is kind of… well, a mess. Tons of gore but zero atmosphere.
The first episode was tolerable and at least kept more or less to the plot of Stoker’s marvellous book. Jonathan Harker arrives at the Count’s magnificent crumbling abode in the wilds of Transylvania to finalise with him the sale of a house, Carfax Abbey in England. He discovers there that the ancient Count is in fact a vampire, who replenishes himself each time he drinks from the blood of his captive-guest, Jonathan Harker.
Once the Count re-appears as a tall, dark and dashing Englishman, with the posh charming suavity of Hugh Grant and the sex appeal and comic timing of a James Bond, one kind of gets the feeling that we’re not in Kansas any more. In fact, the drama degenerates into farce as the handsome Dracula quips all around him with lines such as ‘You are what you eat,’ ‘One should never rush a nun’ and, to a victim, ‘I must say you’re looking a little drained.’
I must admit that I was unnerved by Jonathan’s accidental discovery of the living dead, incarcerated for all eternity in locked boxes, in the labyrinthine wilderness of the Count’s castle. It’s an idea that puts me very much in mind of the vampire movie THE HUNGER. Also, David Bowie’s accelerated ageing from that very film is reminiscent of what happens here to Jonathan Harker each time the Count drinks his blood.
A bald-headed Harker, covered in sores and (disgustingly!) missing his fingernails is relating his tale of terror and homosexual sex (yep, Dracula’s bi!) to a toothsome Dutch nun called Sr. Agatha Van Helsing. This ballsy dame is an intelligent and courageous woman who is determined not to flinch or to be found wanting when Dracula attacks her convent in Budapest where Jonathan Harker is hiding out.
She and the staunchly sensible Reverend Mother do very well indeed to bat no eyelids at the sight of a gloriously naked Count Dracula emerging outside their convent gates from the bloodied belly of a wolf. Magnificent butt, but no willies are observed, worse luck.
Episode Two sees Dracula spending the four weeks aboard the Demeter it takes to get to England engaged in, well, eating the passengers and selected crew members. He murders his old flame the Grand Duchess Valeria, Lord and Lady Ruthven (the name derived from Dr. Polidori’s story, The Vampyre, in which he based his aristocratic vampire on Lord Byron) and a couple of (male) sailors, proving yet again that he doesn’t discriminate on the grounds of sex.
I liked Olgaren, the gigantic, bald-headed and heavily bearded cook with a hook for a hand, and also the quip Dracula makes in this episode about having worked with ‘skeleton crews’ before. I bet he has, lol. And remember in Hammer’s DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS, in which Christopher Lee’s Dracula is drowned by a little bit of running water? Well, this Dracula can swim, so be warned…
I hated the last episode. The action moves to the present day, and there they lost me completely. Dracula’s main focus here is getting with Lucy Westenra, a cool and glamorous disco chick who glitters and sparkles (might fit in well in TWILIGHT, so!) and takes hundreds of selfies, is never off the phone and has a Gay Best Friend to discuss her many romantic dalliances with.
Lucy is a vain and shallow person who prizes her looks above all else. Dracula doesn’t hold this against her. Why do you always want to meet up in a graveyard, she asks her midnight lover at one point. I like to spend time with people my own age, immediately quips back this smart-ass Dracula…!
The ‘Bloofer Lady’ and cremation scenes were actually quite creepy and there’s no denying that this episode of the drama mini-series made use of some very cool special effects, but otherwise it was a mess, especially the bit involving the modern day descendant of Sr. Agatha, Dr. Zoe Van Helsing.
I liked Dracula’s witty reference to someones’s ‘bringing a bottle to the party,’ and the nod to the original Hammer Dracula from 1958, when Peter Cushing leaps up on to a table and pulls down the curtains, thereby letting in the sunlight that devastates the vampire and crumbles him to dust, but otherwise this episode was a wash-out.
The notion of some people’s still being sentient (feeling, or being aware) when they are buried or cremated was quite a terrifying one, especially for someone as impressionable as me. I can’t be cremated now (normally my first choice) after seeing what happened to wee Lucy, and I don’t just mean Robbie Williams’s Angels being played at the ceremony, lol.
On the other hand, neither do I fancy being one of those poor unfortunates ‘doomed to spend all eternity scratching at the inside of a coffin lid…’ What a genuinely disturbing thought. And those are our only two choices as well. Clearly, we need more options urgently in this area.
Anyway, if they hadn’t moved the action to the present day in the third episode, I might have quite enjoyed this three-parter, although I probably still would have considered it a little unorthodox. I genuinely don’t see why the Count couldn’t have had some perfectly adequate and even exciting adventures in Victorian England after the journey to Whitby, but alas, it wasn’t to be.
Also, in a drama mini-series so obviously intent on shocking the viewer, why wasn’t there any sex, especially seeing as their Dracula was so handsome and had such a fit body that he had no problem with appearing in the buff at the age of fifty-two? Alas, that wasn’t to be, either. Looks like it’s back to using my imagination for me. Good job I have one, eh…?
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
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