“Listen to them, the children of the night. What music they make!”
Although legends of the bloodsucking, darkness-loving undead have existed since time immemorial everywhere from Ancient Greece to Mesopotamia, it was Bram Stoker who codified the myth of the vampire in his classic 1897 novel Dracula. This landmark piece of Gothic literature catapulted the children of the night into pop culture superstardom, and with this rise of popularity an interesting thing has happened: Our vampires have gotten nicer, sexier, and more heroic. It’s hard to remember that these fictional demons were once the absolute epitome of evil when one stops to admire the hunkiness of an Edward (Twilight), the sensitive brooding of an Angel (the Buffy the Vampire Slayer universe), or the silliness of a Leith Evergreen (yes, this is a shameless plug for my own novel, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Apocalypse, which is available on Amazon). The latest adaptation of the big daddy vampire himself, however, Netflix’s Dracula, effectively brings the menace back to the legend in a brilliantly acted four-and-a-half-hour roller coaster ride of playfully subverted expectations.
Developed by Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat–names you might recognize if you are a fan of either Doctor Who or Sherlock–Dracula is a thoroughly British experience in the sense that it is performed by actors who you might not have heard of, but who can act circles around 90 percent of Hollywood’s talent. The clear MVP here is the brilliant Claes Bang, who plays a Count who can, at the drop of a hat, shift from silently sinister to chewing up the scenery with such gusto that I’m surprised he had any room in his stomach for blood. It is also British in the sense that it is very short: just three episodes long with each episode being an hour-and-a-half.
This format may cause the story to lag a bit at times, particularly in the third episode, which I must say isn’t nearly as good as the first two. To talk about the third episode in any detail beyond this would be dangerous spoiler alert territory, however, as Dracula does what BBC’s Sherlock does with great delight: starting off with territory that is familiar to those who know the source material and then changing it up in increasingly bigger ways until you’re in a completely unfamiliar place without quite knowing how you got there. As a fan of Stoker’s original novel, I was thrilled with the ways this series surprised me throughout, even if the story itself lagged occasionally. Again, this is mostly a third episode problem, as the first and second episodes are brilliant.
An additional word of caution- Netflix may say that this series is TV-14, but I can’t see how this is possible. Dracula is not afraid to get TV-MA gory when it wants to, particularly in the first episode, which involves, among other horrors, a man wearing the face of another man and the beheading of a nun. Maybe don’t watch this one with the kids. If you can stomach it, however, Dracula is a bloody brilliant time that not only doesn’t suck (again, see my book if you want even more vampire puns!), but also effectively returns the vampire to its rightful place: our darkest nightmares.
Dracula is now available on Netflix.