Three 90-minute episode/movies on Netflix, each in a very different style.
The undead makeup is pretty good, there’s not a lot of crazy special effects or fights, but lots of latex gags. There’s a wolf transformation scene using some latex and raspberry jam, and some mannequin head gags. Fun practical effects, not too much CGI bullshit. The sets are great, the castle’s a maze of twisty passages, like the Winchester house built in stone.
E1 is much like the first part of the novel, with interrogation instead of letters. Johnny Harker (John Heffernan) awakes in a convent, looking like the walking dead. Sister Agatha Van Helsing (Dolly Wells) interrogates him about his improbable escape from Dracula’s (Claes Bang) castle. Dracula’s a charming middle-aged monster, Van Helsing’s a bad nun, but an excellent monster hunter, Johnny’s the same wanker he is in the book. This gets progressively more horrifying, with one of the best vampire confrontations I’ve ever seen.
E2, Dracula goes on a boat ride, with a murder mystery aboard the Demeter. Fun, drawn out in a way I’ve never seen in a vampire film, but the other actors and characters aren’t great; the one-handed quartermaster(?) and the captain are just stereotypes but competent. They were clearly trying to make Dr Sharma into a new protagonist, but we don’t get enough of his backstory except unpleasant flashbacks, and he doesn’t accomplish as much as Van Helsing. Agatha is conspicuously missing for most of it, which is a shame. The end of E2 genuinely surprised me a couple of times, which happens rarely enough in anything I need to call it out. I get all the “twists” in everything, I know every genre convention, and this one was smarter than I am.
Alas, E3 was an incredible disappointment, don’t watch it. SPOILERS ahead:
It’s not a vampire Agatha who greets Dracula on a modern beach, but a descendent working for a Johnathan Harker Foundation. Then a lawyer Renfield gets the mass murderer released, and immediately helps plan more murders; the Foundation could at least have fried Dracula then and there. Then there’s a lot of Kids Today™️ including this Lucy Westenra (100 years apart from her girlfriend Mina), night-clubbing and fucking around. Dracula immediately adapts to Tinder/Grindr/Postmates delivering victims to him, but the writers are unaware that police could track missing persons thru contacts in the apps. Lucy’s fate should be a warning, if you’re engaged, don’t let someone who’s not your fiancé suck you.
In the first ep, and somewhat in the second, there’s a deeper question about the undead, vampires, and what Dracula is. Why do so many of the myths seem to work on him?
Are they going metaphysical? Reveal a shocking truth behind Christianity, such as Jesus was a vampire (I’ve used that along with the Merovingian conspiracy in RPGs before)? Or do science & reason win and it’s a virus, like Ultraviolet? No such luck. E3 has the most vapid excuse for an answer I’ve ever heard, everyone involved in writing that irrational twaddle should die of shame.
The first 2 eps are two of the best vampire movies in years. Absolutely nothing of value happens in E3.
★★★★½ for E1-2, ☆☆☆☆☆ for E3.