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Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Review: Dracula (Netflix)

Director: Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat
Guion: Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat
Year: 2020

Netflix surprised the world of horror and fans of vampires after announcing that they will be reviving history’s most famous bloodsucker. It is even more surprising that they gave this task to Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat, a duo that has overseen series such as “Sherlock” and “Doctor Who”. “Dracula” arrives as a mini-series that seeks to modernize the mythic vampire without forgetting its roots in classic literature and cinema.

It is the year 1897 and Count Dracula plans his travel to England. For this, he has the help of Jonathan Harker, who acts as a real estate agent and is not aware of the bloody plans of Dracula. However, the vampire will find some obstacles in his journey, the most important in his archenemy Van Helsing.

The mini-series “Dracula” is divided into three chapters of 90 minutes for a total of approximately four and a half hours runtime. The length of the series is optimal for fleshing out the story without causing much fatigue in the viewer.

The first episode titled The Rules of the Beast introduces Dracula and its archrival Van Helsing, as well as establishing the gothic atmosphere that dominates throughout the series. The second episode, Blood Vessel, presents the voyage of Dracula in the Demeter ship in his way to England, which offers the most interesting turns and events in the series, as well as the clever wordplay in its title. The third and last episode is titled The Dark Compass and presents Dracula in modern times, adapting to what these new times offer and its fast development, as well as facing a new rival in the Van Helsing lineage. 

The series is based on Bram Stoker’s novel but grants itself plenty of liberties that those looking for a faithful adaptation can resent. Some important characters from the novel, such as Jonathan Harker, Mina, and the brides make an appearance but are not the focus of it. Similarly, characters and situations are introduced that have no place in the novel, especially in the third episode when Dracula finds himself in modern times.

The respect that creators Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat have for the classic vampire mythos, particularly the one concerning Dracula, is evident. The physical resemblance of the vampire is reminiscent of Christopher Lee when along Peter Cushing both interpreted Dracula and Dr. Van Helsing respectively at the end of the ‘60s and beginning of the ‘70s as part of the acclaimed Hammer Films production company. Claes Bang (“The Square”) gives the vampire that classic and aristocratic air that distinguishes him, emphasizing in his intelligence and presence, without putting aside his savage and blood-thirsty character.

What is emphasized the most during the whole series is the relationship between Dracula and Van Helsing, a dynamic that shines because of the excellent interpretation by Bang and Dolly Wells (“Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”) in their respective roles. The chemistry between both actors leads to create a palpable tension between them, but where the connection between them can also be felt. There are also many humorous moments between them, where the moments when they address the rules of the vampires, its origin, and its logic stand out, something that is kept relevant until the end.

Each episode has blood to spare, as expected, but it surprises by the number of horrific images and body horror presented. The undead, beyond the vampires, have an important place in the plot and are responsible for the horrific imagery thanks to the great makeup. The body horror scenes are unexpected but well-received, although some lose some impact by using a CGI that doesn’t look great; one of the series’ weaknesses.

Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat have specialized in creating mini-series for streaming platforms and with “Dracula” they show that this is what runs in their blood. In this instance, they do a great balance between the classic vampire and modern cinema and television, the horror and the humor, and a respect for the classics and originality. “Dracula” is an excellent series only hindered by some awful CGI moments and an ending that could have been better and puts itself as one of the series that every horror and especially vampire fans must watch.

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