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Dracula review: Claes Bang paints it red

Envoy Score 3.5/5

Warning! Spoilers Ahead!

Coming from the original 1930’s film, Dracula has been revived many times. Sherlock’s writers Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat, along with BBC, have tried their best to give this age-old tale a new angle and have succeeded in some counts.

The three episodic mini-series stars Claes Bang as the infamous Count and Dolly Wells as the female version of the famed vampire slayer Abraham Van Helsing.

Story

Like a start befitting the original, the series begins in Eastern Europe somewhere in the Victorian era.

The series starts with Agatha Van Helsing; a nun, talking to one of Dracula’s victims in a convent. While initially skeptical of his story, she begins to believe him as the show goes into flashback.

We see Jonathan Harker; a lawyer visiting the count for some official business in his decrepit palace. The Count seems to want to leave his castle and move to England. Harker, while intending to stay just the night, ends up being trapped there for an entire month.

Towards the end, Harker uncovers corpses of Dracula’s previous victims who for some reason are still alive but dead at the same time. By the end of the episode, we see Dracula coming for Jonathan in the convent itself.

Various confrontations happen as Dracula comes for Jonathan. At the end of it all, Jonathan dies and Van Helsing is captured, her fate unknown.

After a team jump, the fight becomes vicious as we see Dracula fighting in the 21st century against humans with automatic rifles and a new nemesis; Agatha’s great descendent Zoe Van Helsing.

Performances

While the story of Dracula is something we have all come to love and admire, the real gem of this mini-series lies in outstanding performances. Claes Bang as the Count embodies the vicious vampire perfectly. From his facial expressions, which display false concern for his victims to his fangs out in all his glory, the actor stands out impeccably.

Dolly Wells serves as the perfect opposite to Dracula as we see a female Van Helsing starting out as a nun not having faith in God to gaining it later on. Her sheer love and care for everyone who is prey to Dracula is what makes this show even more personal. The fight between good versus evil is intensified as you find yourself rooting for the Helsing yet knowing she might die any second.

Supporting actors all play their part well. John Heffernan as Jonathan Harker acts with utmost sincerity taking care to transition between being a loving fiancee to a forgetful man as he withers away after being prey to the Count.

Positives

Dracula has always been a much-loved tale. From the 1931 film starring Bela Lugosi as the Count to the 1992 Francis Ford Coppola’s version, the story has been presented in many different lights.

Mark and Steven intended to make 2020’s Dracula a freer version of himself. Rather than being a villain certain heroes will overcome, he would be the hero of his own story. Watching the series through that light, I certainly saw that.

One of the biggest positives of this series is the tried and tested Sherlock style of the direction we have come to love. The clean-cut transitions along with a renewed story made for an enjoyable experience.

The plot was carried with grace by Claes and Dolly. The duo’s chemistry within the show was clearly very smooth and complimenting even if they were on the opposite sides.

I also tip my hat to their Art Director as their sets and props really impressed me.

Negatives

Despite being an amazing show, I did find one or two things that could have gone better.

To start a thing that really bothered me was the change in the source material. The iconic ‘Children of the night’ dialogue used to refer to wolves has been changed for the undead victims. The same goes for the infamous Dracula gaze which ended up feeling like a knock-off more than a humble nod to the original.

The plot behind Dracula’s victims turning to the undead was not explained clearly enough and was too confusing at one point. Do they die and still live? or are they vampires or his brides? It took some time for me to figure it out.

Pacing sometimes went too slow for my taste but that is understandable since there are only three episodes.

Worth it?

All in all, I would heartily recommend Dracula as something you should watch. The show, while being nothing extraordinarily new of the sort, still had its moments when I was left awe-struck.

This mini-series is definitely one to watch if you’re a Dracula buff or want to see something new by the beloved detective show writers.


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