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DRACULA (S1) gets 7.5/10 Sink your teeth into it


Season 1

Created by Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat
Starring Claes Bang, Dolly Wells, John Heffernan
Network: Netflix

7.5/10

This horror series follows Dracula (Claes Bang), the hero of his own story, from his origins in Eastern Europe to his battles with Van Helsing’s descendants – who may be closer to the Count than he realises. Netflix describes the series as “the legend transformed with new tales that flesh out the vampire’s gory crimes.”

Much like their adaption of Sherlock, creators Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat aimed to make their version of Dracula both faithful and faithless to the source material – adding a lot of “new stuff” and ignoring some passages altogether. It’s uncommon to see gothic elements in films and television these days, without it being labelled dark fantasy, but Dracula truly reawakens the genre in this thrilling reimagining. It should be noted that traditional gothic elements border on the taboo; the series features the death and undeath of babies and children, along with homosexual scenes, and brutality – which may be distressing for some viewers.

Danish actor Claes Bang brings life to the titular character, both full of archaic wisdom, and childish wonder – at times presenting flamboyantly, as themes of sexuality present throughout the series. The series combines horror and humour in such a way that they don’t threaten to outweigh each other, brought forward by Sister Agatha (Dolly Wells), whose wit and tenacity – at times facetiousness – shines through during her investigation of Johnathan Harker (John Heffernan) – mirroring Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire.

The first episode is noticeably hard to get into, opening like a papercut that persists. However, as the series is only three episodes long (also like Sherlock), it does pick up in the last quarter. At times the dialogue teeters on the absurd, but overall the writing is engaging, and insatiable – easily magnifying the chemistry between Agatha and Dracula.

Episode 2 follows Dracula as he sets sail for England and introduces Lord Ruthven – originally from John William Polidori’s The Vampyre (1819), building upon Dracula’s shared mythos. His mind games continue, as he taunts the lives of those around him, “sweetening the drink”. The final episode transports the audience 123 years into the future, with Dracula enthralled by modern technology. His search for a bride continues, regardless of gender, and he continues to face off against Van Helsing’s and Harker’s descendants – who have now formed an organisation tasked with keeping Dracula contained, and introduces old-school Stoker characters such as Jack Seward and Lucy Westenra.

Dracula combines and builds upon many traditional vampire themes of immortality, love, sin, obsession, and legacy. The creative team behind the series have woven a rich tapestry around Stoker’s original material, exploring bonds of humanity through collected mythologies, set design, locations, casting; and in its wake provides a sliver of a soul in the old Count.

All these elements come together for a mouth-watering series set to get your blood pumping.

JOSHUA HALL HAINES

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