The BBC’s awakening of Dracula appeared on our screens in time for the New Year. This timeless gothic horror about the ruthless Count Dracula brought along with it its fair share of hair-raising drama.
Dracula has been interpreted on TV screens and in theatres multiple times throughout the years after Bram Stoker’s original novel was published in 1897.
Brought to audiences by the creators of Sherlock, Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat, the mini three-part series promises all the necessary tension and then some. Interestingly, Dracula’s timeless nature seems to place him perfectly in any century, slightly eery when you consider we have just seen in the start of a new decade.
Played by Danish actor Claes Bang, the modern-day Dracula brings more seductiveness than ever before. Starting off this mini-series in an imposing castle, audiences first meet Dracula as the withered, blood-thirsty old man the novel establishes. Old gothic buildings imprisoned by fog foreshadow the events to come.
The first episode is told from the perspective of Jonathan Harker, an English lawyer sent on a one-way trip to Count Dracula’s estate.
It becomes clear that Harker’s time at the estate was draining as he struggles to piece together how he ended up at the convent sat opposite Sister Agatha, an unconventional nun played by Dolly Wells.
As Harker recalls his tale, the audience is put in his position. Therefore, we all learn from Sister Agatha who informs us about the newly awakened Dracula. Perhaps one of the most striking scenes is Harker’s realisation that he is undead and his battle to recognise his fiancé, Mina (played by Morfydd Clark) becomes clear towards the climatic scenes of episode one.
Without giving too much away about the narrative, note has to be made of the incredible cinematography and make-up in the scene outside the convent where Dracula appears in the form of a wolf. As you can imagine, the sight of Dracula emerging from the body of a wolf is pretty horrific, but Moffat & Gatiss go the extra mile. Aside the lighting, mechanics of the wolf and copious amounts of gunge and blood, Dracula’s line “I don’t know about you girls, but I do love a bit of fur” perfectly encapsulates his demonic charm and humour.
This scene is particularly memorable for two reasons. Firstly, it places audiences alongside the sisters behind the gates in the convent. It allows audiences to resonate with the struggle the sisters feel as they resist the devilish allure of Dracula. Secondly, it signifies Moffat’s statement that “you’re not supposed to be attracted to evil” which he said in the spin-off documentary ‘In search of Dracula with Mark Gatiss’.
The second episode tells the tale of the Demeter – a ship bound for Whitby, England.
It just so happens that one of the passengers on board is Dracula, a seemingly ordinary Count at first glance: but as the journey hits deep water, so does the drama.
One by one, passengers on the ship go missing, prompting the remaining people on board to question if there is a murderer among them. As you can image, the suspense of this episode is almost too much to bear as audiences are all too familiar with the wicked intentions of Dracula.
Striking a similarity to Sherlock’s ‘mind palace’, Dracula entwines Sister Agatha in his web of deceit as the mystery of Cabin 9 takes centre stage. Full of plot twists and extraordinary revelations, episode two perfectly illustrates Dracula’s cruelty.
What is particularly striking about this episode is the well calculated stubbornness of Sister Agatha. Unlike other characters who have transpired onto screens from Stoker’s novel, Sister Agatha exhibits no fear towards Count Dracula. It could be said that her interest into the legends about vampires seems to mirror Dracula’s curiosity and interest in her.
This connection between the two main protagonists carries on into the third and final episode of this mini-series. Audiences are introduced to many more characters, including Zoe. All I will say is that there is a deep connection between her and Sister Agatha – one which puzzles both Dracula and audiences at the beginning of the episode.
Alongside Zoe, audiences are introduced to yet another female heroin, Lucy Westenra, a fun loving 22-year old. However, it would be safe to say that her story reaches burning point. Those of you who have watched Doctor Who might see some resemblance in Lucy’s ending to the Dark Water scene which aired a few years ago.
Played by Lydia West, it can be argued that the introduction of Lucy sparks the ideology that Dracula has seen the new decade in with us. The clubs, mobile phones and dating apps signify the modern day; subsequently placing Dracula in the present day…
Yet again, Moffat and Gatiss go one step further. Afterall, what gothic tale is complete without a love story?
In comes Jack, played by Matthew Beard. It’s fair to say that Jack’s adoration of Lucy is undeniable, even at the end of this episode… all that can be said about that is: eww…
Lucy meets a gory end, one which will certainly leave you in sweats of nervous energy. The detail and thought process behind her final scene truly does embody the narrative conventions of a gripping gothic tale. Not only this, but it seems to include a cautionary message about the well-known phase: “beauty is only skin deep.”
The climax of this episode builds from the first moment and continues throughout on a rollercoaster of emotions right up to the last second.
Ultimately, this adaptation of Dracula has all the ingredients of a perfect gothic tale. The cinematography and visual effects are stunning, and any use of computer-generated images (CGI) is seamless. Furthermore, the casting of this mini-series is second to none. Bringing the seductive allure to Dracula, Claes Bang’s performance can only be described as spectacular. Dolly Wells’ confidence in her role as Sister Agatha makes her all the more iconic and favourable.
In addition, the costumes of this series clearly establish the change in centuries. Starting from 1897 in Hungary to what is presumably the modern-day, the costumes act visual signposts for this timeline. Of course, this series includes the iconic Dracula cape. Not only does the classic red lining of this cape signify blood and danger, but it most prominently reinforces the seductive appeal that Bang’s Dracula has.
One of the best examples as to how costumes are used effectively in this series is back in the first episode. At first, the audience is presented with Harker as a sophisticated lawyer, who is wearing a long coat and a perfectly put together suit to show his professionalism. However, as he becomes more emaciated, his outfits begin to become scruffier, looser and broken. This mirrors his growing weakness and dishevelled state of mind.
Overall, this mini-series has the perfect ratio of drama, suspense and plot twists that undoubtedly leaves you thirsty for more…