Netflix and BBC have brought Dracula back, and the story feels familiar but brings just enough difference to make this the first can’t miss new series of 2020.
This is a review of the first episode of Dracula, provided in advance of the series premiere by Netflix.
Dracula has been done over and over again, so there doesn’t seem much left to explore. Bela Lugosi might be the most iconic Dracula from his 1930 Universal Horror film.
In 1958, Hammer Films brought back Dracula with Christopher Lee as the Count, and then in the ’90s, Francis Ford Coppola cast Gary Oldman in a more gothic romance version of the legend.
In the new Dracula that BBC and Netflix are bringing to the world, Claes Bang bears such an uncanny resemblance to Christopher Lee’s portrayal that it is disturbing — in the best way possible.
This should come as no surprise since this is a Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat production. For the duo that made a splash with Sherlock, it comes as no surprise that they created something like Dracula.
Sherlock was based on the most famous classic literary detective. Dracula is based on the most famous literary monster. Both are masterpieces.
The premiere is one of only three first season episodes, but all are feature-length, with the first episode checking in at 80 minutes. If this sounds familiar, that’s because it is similar to what Gatiss and Moffat did with Sherlock.
John Heffernan portrays Jonathan Harker, and the episode starts with him interviewed in a monastery by a nun named Sister Agatha, while another nun sits by her side as a “witness.”
He tells the story of his visit to the castle of Count Dracula. This tale is familiar; many lines are pulled directly from Bram Stoker’s source material. Viewers who watched any version of Dracula’s story can almost quote the dialogue along with Dracula.
However, despite the similarities, this version of Dracula adds twists and turns along the way. Jonathan knows he is not alone with Dracula in the castle, but what he finds is surprising for viewers expecting the same old-same old.
There are also twists and turns in the monastery, but we won’t spoil them here. Just know that Netflix’s Dracula does not go in the direction you might expect.
The acting in this is excellent, with Bang destroying it as Count Dracula. From the start, when he is older and weak, to the moment where he is strong and vital again, he is exactly what Dracula needs to be in a movie. Heffernan was also solid in his role as Harker.
Dolly Wells was also sarcastically brilliant as Sister Agatha, and she looks to be a great rival to Dracula through the next two episodes of the season.
What makes this new Dracula series great is only partially because of the acting. Honestly, it is the set design and practical effects that rise this Netflix series far above many representations of the vampire prince.
The castle, the dungeons, and the monastery look amazing. The lighting, shadows, and cinematography create a beautiful and haunting look at the familiar legend.
Dracula also doesn’t hold back with the blood, the gore, and the creatures — all masterfully done. Honestly, if the next two episodes keep up this quality of effects and design work, this could end up as one of the best looking versions of Dracula ever made.
By the end of the premiere, Dracula proved to be another successful production from Moffat and Gatiss after Sherlock and set the bar high for the rest of the first season.
Dracula is currently streaming on Netflix.