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Dracula, BBC One review - horrific, and not in a good way | reviews, news & interviews

Dracula, BBC One review - horrific, and not in a good way

Dracula, BBC One review - horrific, and not in a good way

Superfluous remake of Bram Stoker's novel outstays its welcome

The grateful dead: 'the name's Bang... Claes Bang'

“Bela Lugosi’s dead,” as Bauhaus sang, in memory of the star of 1931’s Dracula. But of course death has never been an impediment to the career of the enfanged Transylvanian blood-sucker. Filmed and televisualised almost as frequently as Sherlock Holmes, Count Dracula would doubtless join the cockroaches as the only entities to survive a thermonuclear holocaust.

Whether we needed another new TV version is at least debatable, let alone this lumbering behemoth (for BBC One) from the conjoined brains of Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, comprising three 90-minute slabs over consecutive nights. Moffat and Gatiss hit big with their Conan Doyle overhaul Sherlock, which at its best was brilliantly inventive and quick-witted, while featuring a highly successful double act at its core. However, developing characterful relationships isn’t a priority in this new Dracula, with the Jonathan Harker/Mina Murray partnership, the motor of Bram Stoker’s novel, largely parked offscreen (at least for the first two episodes – I haven’t done three yet). Hogging centre stage for most of the time is the title character – it’s all about him, and he’s not going to let us forget it – so how you react to him will define your response to the series.

The job went to Danish actor Claes Bang (star of the 2017 art-world critique The Square), though whether it was sold to him as a comedy, a satire or a plain old gore fest isn’t clear. Elements of grand guignol and squirmy body horror are peppered through the action to make sure we’re still awake. For instance the opening scene zooms in on Harker after he’s escaped from Dracula’s teetering castle, and he looks like a Chernobyl survivor after a detour through Auschwitz. The moment when a fly crawls behind his eyeball is especially loathsome. Slo-mo sequences of blood-drenched artery-sucking are of course de rigueur, along with lurching semi-decomposed representatives of the “undead” and nightmarish shots of a leering skull, with tendons and blood vessels sticking out. Dracula’s gory emergence from the innards of a wolf chalks up another notch for the special effects unit.

Dolly Wells in Dracula, BBC OneBut Bang’s Dracula strolls through all this with a sort of James Bond-like insouciance, delivering facetious throwaway lines in a south London accent (there are a lot of vampire puns along the lines of “I don’t drink… wine”, or “I have a particular gift for eliminating suspects”). His qualifications as a harbinger of eternal horror are not enhanced by a puzzling resemblance to David Walliams, with perhaps just a dash of erstwhile Bond George Lazenby (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, 1969).

The upshot is that this Dracula feels slow and ponderous and not quite sure why it’s here, perhaps for the simple reason that there’s too much time to fill (it’s as if somebody in Commissioning said “we’ve got an extra hour going spare lads, if you want it?”). Episode two, which is mostly taken up by an expanded account of how Dracula sailed to England on the doomed ship Demeter, virtually grinds to a halt altogether as the Count stands around smirking and gossiping with the crew, before devouring them.

Gatiss and Moffat seem to have been at such pains to move things around and ensure that their Dracula is “different” that sustaining a compelling narrative line has taken a back seat. Professor Van Helsing, for instance, is now Sister Agatha, a nun in Bucharest (played by Dolly Wells, pictured above, with a thick Germanic accent), while making Harker one of the undead is like making Hamlet swap places with the Ghost. Was this journey really necessary?

Dracula’s gory emergence from the innards of a wolf chalks up another notch for the special effects unit


Editor Rating: 
Average: 2 (1 vote)

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Looks like Gatiss mixed up Stoker's Dracula with Dr.Who and the Sea Devils. This thing was Gatiss'd to death. What a mess.

What a 'bloody' mess of a production! Did Dracula really ask the nuns if they like a 'bit of fur?'And why was Dracula being played by Ronnie 'O' Sullivan? Couldn't believe the paper's 'rave reviews'. Despite media support looks like viewers switched off in their droves -including me -after the first episode. For a subtler, more intelligent and funnier re-imagination of the Dracula theme I suugest Count Duckula - or a good old Hammer Horror..

I could have fallen in love with Claes Bang as Dracula if he had not opened his mouth. What a let down. I am a huge purist for the Bram Stoker story, but I could have accepted this take had it not been for the seeming necessity for gore that held no terror. The storyline was very weak but the acting was, in general, good. The trouble is it was a bit of a mish mash, and most of the episodes were full of time-filling nonsense. I nearly groaned as much as I did through Dracula Dead and Loving It. Claes Bang as a nice bit of eye candy kept me going to the end, but I did turn down the sound when he spoke at times.

Dracula ..was loving it till last seemed to me to be a analyse on dracula and belief and the ending was crap .. He could have killed van helsing anytime and to suddenly decide to kill himself was stupid ... It was dracula goes to a therapist .. I just realsed therapist spells the rapist ..a mind f@#t. Very disapointed ....

Enjoyed the series.

worst adaption I have ever seen!Please no more!

One episode down, and I can't see what all the hate is about. Yes, it's too joky for my taste but on the plus side, Van Helsing as a nun seems inspired to me - and the actor is very good. It may be downhill from now on, but I'm entertained enough to continue, if not chilled. For that the old BBC version with Louis Jourdain is infinitely superior.

PS - this may sound disrespectful to the country, but it's a funny thing when Danish actors break into English. It felt very peculiar even in Borgen. So I'm not even sure Claes Bang MEANT to sound like Essex man (at the risk of offending Essex men too).

Dolly Wells's accent is (very authentic) Dutch, not German. Van Helsing is Dutch. And Wells is superb.

I have to say, third episode was rather rushed and I might need to rewatch the last 10 min as I really didn’t understand what the hell was going on. Apart from that, I really enjoyed it.

I am.puzzled why people in this echo chamber of disappointment, would even both watching it before writing their obviously pre written complaints. It's a TV drama / adaptation, why does it have to be "faithful" who cares if it's camp funny sexy or gorey. It's entertainment. At least the echo chamber of this little corner of the internet will provide the back slapping you so desperately crave.. A review of the most pompous bollocks I have read in a long while. The fact you opened with "do we even need another adaptation" pretty gives the nail in the coffin (pun intended) before you even started

As usual a great classic horror story completely ruined. Stick with the classic tale chaps, and leave the adaptations to people who actually know what they are doing. Turning the Count into a blubbering fool destroyed it for me. In fact it was the moment the helicopter, with search lights flooding the beach, made it's appearance, that I and my wife were totally turned off. Keep our classics classical.

The leap forward in time was where it really began to work for me. Thought the third episode much superior to the first two, though the creation of Agatha von Helsing and Dolly Wells's flawless characterisation kept me watching. Everyone knows the Bram Stoker, don't they? And there's a classic BBC version if you really want to play safe.

It's simply rubbish. No further analysis is required.

I enjoyed the series. I thought the casting was excellent. No idea why people are complaining . If you want to only see the original, don't watch remakes.

I just watched today on Netflix. This movie is a mess. It's like Dracula being performed by the SCTV troupe. The highlight of the movie is Agatha the nun with the great sense of humor. She plays it like Edith Prickly from SCTV. I began to belive the Rodger Corman was the director. It starts off pretty good, but the campyness emerges and movie no longer can be taken seriously.

I welcome the revision of the classic Dracula. Like a coffin to strictly follow the story would restrict the re-telling and re-imagining of a tale now embedded in folklore. Episodes 1 and 2 were both complelling, entertaining and had me hooked. Unfortunately the ending of Episode 2 and timeshift to modern England destroyed it for me though I understand the creative choices this afforded. Was this due to budget? Whatever this new series started with a bite, kept you hooked and then sagged badly like a drained corpse.


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