Wednesday, January 8, 2020
Dracula (2020) Netflix series by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss
This version of Dracula can be lauded for playing with all the tropes and original story elements in new and surprising ways. As a three part series, each 90 minutes, there is plenty of time to horrify, shock and surprise even someone like me who is sort of a fan of Vampire lore. What the show does best is it takes some barely touched on sections of the Stoker Novel and expands them into a new main story. The first past takes place in the convent where Johnathan Harker is recovering... well recovering is not the right word in this version. In the novel he just spends some time there and then goes home to his fiancé. In this version, he is basically dead and turning into a vampire after having been feasted non by Dracula and then "killing himself" but jumping off the castle tower and into the river below. The set up is very much like the original story and then takes this turn into batshit craziness. He does not survive the first episode. Sister Agatha, Agatha VanHelsing we find out is questioning him until Mina stakes him and Dracula arrives to collect Johnathan? It's not really clear why he is there but it works.
The second part starts with the good sister and Dracula playing chess and him explain to her how he survived on so few people while travelling from his home to Britain on the ship "The Demeter" which before a bloody game of "ten little Indians" as the passengers and crew are quickly used for food and become suspicious, not of Dracula, but of the mysterious guest in room 9 who no one sees. As it turns out, it's Agatha who's chess game with the count is in their minds as he uses her for a steady food source. She does get the better of him as they try and hang her killing the missing crew when she spit blood at the vampire and his true nature is exposed. The episode is not fast moving but I thought it was effective and again, it's turned a detail in the novel into a main story. It ends in the most crazy way possible. The ship is blown up, Agatha drowns and Dracula hides in a remaining coffin on the ocean floor until he walks to shore where he is met by a helicopter, military looking personnel and... Agatha?
So now in modern day the end of the series pits Dracula against the ancestor of VanHelsing who has him imprisoned in a high security vampire facility. Well not all that secure, and thesis where the series starts to fall apart, as Dracula is somehow allowed to go free because... the law? Plus Zowie the new VanHelsing manages to just take a vile of vampire blood and drink it for... reasons. She is dying of cancer, but it doesn't help with that. It does let her communicate with the count in some sort of dreamworld. Meanwhile the Count Dracula falls for an egotistical millennial chick who let him feed of her for the eventual gift of eternal life. She gets her wish in the worst way as when she dies and is laid to rest... she get cremated, something Dracula didn't know was a "thing" in this new era and she escape, but is quite the gory mess. Up to this point the story is getting messier but it is still interesting and it remains that way, mostly due the excellent performances of Claes Bang (Dracula) and Dolly Wells (VanHelsing). The ending, to me a least, was a big letdown. Dracula throughout has been an unfeeling monster. Cold, cruel, inhuman. Seriously, he deserved to go out with bang and be punished for his actions, but instead he drinks the blood of Zowie which is poisonous to him after she reveals he ashamed of his immortal existence and most of his mutation, including being burnt by the sun are mostly self imposed. It's a let down. When VanHelsing tears down the curtains in the vampires penthouse exposing him to the light he should have exploded in the rays of the sun, or suffered in some way that punished centuries of unforgivable behaviour. Nope, they lie in each other's dying arms in the light of the sun.... WTF?
Should you see it? I would say yes because it's pretty great until the last five minutes. there is much to recommend about the the majority of it. It is a shame the ending just doesn't live up to lead up.