BBC’s Dracula: A Strong Reimagining That Didn’t Quite Stick The Landing
BBC’s Dracula had everything going for it from the off, with a 9 pm New Year’s Day premiere, the creative talents behind Sherlock, and a promise to make Dracula the hero in his own story.
A new smash-hit show that reimagines perhaps the most classic of horror characters looked to be on the horizon: one that would integrate itself as yet another new version of vampires into a pop-culture which has an endearing obsession with the supernatural beings.
Consisting of three episodes of 90 minutes, Dracula certainly started well, but it struggled to stick the landing to enable it to integrate itself as a high-class, new addition to popular vampiric lore.
A superb start to a new Dracula story
In an age of pop-culture when several renditions of vampires have established themselves, exploring every hint of genre outside of horror that the tale hinted to, seeing the horrifying nature of a being that drinks peoples’ blood was welcoming.
The set-up worked well, with the character of Dracula (Claes Bang) being wonderfully clever and funny through his intellect and whit, but while also harbouring a sadistic side which kept viewers on edge throughout his encounters – bolstered by some incredible practical effects.
New but familiar
The writers offer sufficient tweaks and reworkings on the classic tale that BBC’s Dracula felt familiar in its homage to the character and setting, yet new enough that it remained exciting and intriguing to watch.
The wild card in the pack was undoubtedly Sister Agatha (Dolly Wells), whose presence helped solidify the set-up to then take over as the hero in the second episode. However, the biggest twist of them all left the show in a tricky predicament which could be seen as the root of it ultimately struggling to stick the landing.
The big twist just wasn’t that thrilling
The story of BBC’s Dracula does follow many of the main beats of the tale, but the big twist came when it turns out that it took Dracula over 100 years to reach London, teeing up the finale in the present day. This immediately retracts perhaps the most endearing aspect of the series, the horror.
In the modern-day, there’s too much technology and free access to information for a creature such as Dracula to be horrifying. In a dark, candle-lit and gothic setting of over 100 years ago in Europe, viewers can immerse themselves is suspenseful horror where supernatural beings could run amok, but not so much nowadays.
Bringing old school Dracula into a modern vampiric space
The contemporary vampire has evolved a great deal through pop-culture to be nearly unrecognisable against the likes of Count Dracula, which subtly sullies the way in which BBC’s Dracula can be viewed in the modern setting.
Inspired by the money-making bonanza of the Twilight book and film series, modern Vampires have broken into the romantic genre, with several of the most popular renditions being in this vein. The series True Blood brought the romantic aspects into a more adult arena, which worked well, while one of the most popular free online slots in the world, Immortal Romance, also leans into stories of ancient beings becoming entangled with modern humans.
Creators have also leaned more into the supernatural side of Draculas and the vampiric society. Often depicted as differed humans, in the Skyrim expansion Dawnguard, the vampires do have a human form and are intelligent, but can transform into a ghastly and powerful humanoid bat-like creature. The television series The Strain, which was pretty good aside from the universally hated character, Zach, also invoked more supernatural aspects, with the Strigoi (vampires), having a parasitic stinger which is projected from their mouths for ranged blood-sucking.
BBC’s Dracula was by no means a bad mini-series that utilised the classic tale, and is certainly held in higher regard than other recent renditions – see Dario Argento’s not-bad-enough-to-be-good Dracula 3D. However, its fluffed landing hinders it from revitalising Dracula as a horror icon in its more classic form within pop-culture.