Dracula is the most famous vampire in history, and the creators of Sherlock try to put a modern spin on another classic piece of British literature. The 3-part miniseries starts strong, filled with gruesome horror and witty humor.
However, the big twist and the change in setting for the final episode, and the unsatisfactory ending tarnish the show’s legacy. Read on for a complete review.
1. Article Summary
Each episode can be watched as a separate story in itself. While the first two feature a modern twist on the classic story, the third episode destroys all the past work and character development.
Great performances coupled with witty writing, authentic set design, and visual effects make for an entertaining and gruesome show which revisits the classic Dracula.
2. Is It Worth Watching?
Dracula reinterprets the classic novel by Bram Stoker across a wider canvas. Moffat and Gatiss are well-versed in producing a stylish modern re-telling of classic literature trying to produce a Sherlock-like Dracula.
The miniseries, divided into three 90-minute episodes, also tries to make Dracula ‘The Smartest Man in The Room’ a premise that takes the charm and fear of the character away.
The story unfolds in two time frames- the Now and the Then. In the Now, a deformed and scared man recants how he was kept prisoner and by a man named Count Dracula and how he managed to escape. The man is Jonathan Harker and we flashback to the 19th century and see how he was sent to Transylvania to broker Count Dracula’s purchase of his castle.
Dracula, a frail old man with a British accent, tricks Harker into staying, and he becomes his unwitting prey. As the days go by, Dracula grows stronger and younger while Harker wastes away.
Sister Agatha van Helsing recognizes the dangers that Dracula poses and prepares to confront him, and the first episode gives us a bloody standoff between the two.
In the final episode, the story skips forward to the present day, where Dracula washes up on a beach and is brought to Agatha’s great grand-niece Zoe after 123 years. This episode, with its weak writing and half-baked plot idea, just manages to toss Dracula in a modern setting and leave him to strive for himself with no particular plot or theme.
II. Cast & Performances
Claes Bang is suave, sophisticated and scary as Dracula. He commits to the role and the close-up shots in the castle, as well as his face-off with Sister Agatha, are the best moments of the show. The tension with which these two sizes each other up is palpable. He plays the part of a smug, witty Dracula to perfection.
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However, it is Dolly Wells as Sister Agatha van Helsing who steals the show is perhaps the best depiction of a nun in mainstream cinema. She is a stone-cold killer and is unafraid of the original Prince of Darkness and is set on destroying him.
John Heffernan plays Jonathan Harker, the tormented escapee who recounts his ordeals with genuine pain and fear in his eyes. The makeup and costume departments transform him into a deformed, bald and white mutated being. The first episode where he is stuck in Transylvania and slowly descends into madness brings out the best in him.
III. Visuals & Music
The design of Dracula’s castle and the horrors that lurk in the dim-lit passageways radiate a genuine grotesque vibe. The severed heads and bats that lurk in Dracula’s den and the constantly thumping score make it a good horror show, which keeps the viewers hooked.
The sounds of babies wailing and the face-off on the steps of a covenant between Agatha and Dracula are chilling moments. There is plenty of gruesome imagery like fingernails peeling off and flies crawling across eye sockets. For a TV-show budget, the effects are awesome.
IV. Detailed Review
The first two episodes are full of humor and horror elements that give a breath of fresh air to an old story. As the second episode winds up with Dracula’s coffin going overboard and submerging in the ocean, the show takes a similar dive.
In a concluding episode that features none of the horror and wit of the first and focuses more on Dracula adjusting to modern life, the show forgets what it set out to do. Trying too hard to be Sherlock, the lack of a general storyline in the modern world and the introduction of various side characters completely change the tone of the show.
The tragic-romantic ending comes out of nowhere, and the show tries to give Dracula a soul when he has none. They try to make one of the most iconic villainous monsters in history and turn him into an antihero in the space of an hour!
3. Final Thoughts
If the series had maintained the humor, gore and grotesque tone of the first episode throughout, this might have been one of the best adaptations of Dracula ever.
Even fans of the lore will be left bewildered by the ending and the change in his character. A blessing in disguise is that each episode can be viewed as a stand-alone story, so if one skips the finale entirely, the series gives you brilliant acting and witty writing, which makes it worth your time.