Monday, October 05, 2020

31 Days of Halloween - Day 5 - Movie

In a very loose riff on the Dracula story, Jonathan Harker escapes from Dracula's castle where he is interrogated by Sister Agatha about what happened in the castle, Dracula arrives at the convent to face his greatest nemesis, sets sail for England aboard the Demeter, and find an unexpected welcoming party when he reaches shore, find a new bride and an unexpected finish.

This sounds like the plot of the novel by Bram Stoker, (and some of the movies), but it's really a spoiler free outline of the 2020 BBC miniseries Dracula, which plays very fast and loose with the plot's details. Broken into three parts, episode one is outstanding, especially in the character of Sister Agatha (Dolly Wells) who dominates this series, and the portrayal of Jonathan Harker by John Heffernan. Full of atmosphere, attitude, and rich writing as well as a menacing and charming Dracula (Claes Bang), had the remaining two episodes maintained this degree of quality this series would have been an instant classic. Instead creators Mark Gatiss and Stephen Moffat, who are no strangers to updating and invigorating overly familiar properties, lose their way in the second episode set aboard the Demeter. We learn that Dracula is an exceptional vampire, intelligent, long-lived, and maintaining some of his human qualities, which he does by carefully choosing his victims, looking for those who have some aspect that he needs. Whether its speaking German, or understanding the customs of polite British society, if he drinks someone's blood he absorbs that person, too. This aspect of Dracula has a big payoff in episode three, which takes place in England. Unfortunately this last episode, which really should have been two episodes, is a bit all over the place. Story elements are introduced that go nowhere, and there's a well funded organization that exists solely to deal with Dracula, but he easily slips their grasp, and not by being particularly smarter than them, then just goes about his business without those hunting him really making much effort to stop him.

It's a frustrating series because there is so much good in it and it's ambitions are well intentioned, yet it still fails in the end to deliver the goods. Episode one is absolutely worth watching, especially for Sister Agatha. The second and third episodes are leaps forward in diminishing returns.

This series can be found on Netflix.

1 comment:

immaterial said...

Your review is bang on. What happened there...?