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Friday, 1 November 2013

Dracula: Haven't we seen it all before?


It’s the done thing for broadcasters to pepper their TV schedules with lots of spooky goodies at Halloween, and none sparkled quite so brightly as sexy new series Dracula, brought to us by the good folk at Sky Living. Along with just about every other TV magazine and website in existence, I had spent most of October working myself into a bit of a frenzy at the notion of this glossy-looking show. So, now the credits have rolled on episode one, what’s the verdict?

Honestly? I’m not quite sure… The story opens with a tomb raider who brings the dusty skeleton of Meyers back to life, thanks to an unfortunate accomplice /convenient sacrifice. Before you can say “where’s the garlic?”, we’re promptly whisked to the heart of Victorian London society.

There, the toothy one reinvents himself as dapper American inventor Alexander Grayson, complete with ever-so-slightly ropey US accent, a spot of facial furniture and a nifty line in wide-eyed stares. He throws the mother of all parties for the cream of society, but we all know what else floats to the top of any given liquid - and it’s not always good. Sure enough, beneath the endless lines of waxed moustaches, bristling brows and immaculate tuxedos beat the hearts of corrupt and dastardly businessmen - many of whom are part of the Order of the Dragon - an organisation that Grayson (courtesy of some wide-eyed exposition) is hell-bent on destroying.

It turns out this bunch of rich men (and women) are cruel, ruthless villains who, in the dim and distant past, liked nothing more of an evening than burning people at the stake - including Drac’s wife (who turns out to be a dead ringer for one of the guests at his swanky bash - a certain Mina Murray). By now, I was cocking a brow, thinking it had borrowed an awful lot from Francis Ford Coppola’s sumptuous but entirely daft version of Bram Stoker’s tale, but there was a twist to come. Van Helsing, at least in this series, is no longer Dracula’s enemy - instead he is revealed as the one who sprang the vampire from his coffin in the opening sequence and it turns out the pair are working together to bring down the aforementioned Order. So there you go.

Rather like The Tudors, Meyer’s other big TV project, Dracula looks amazing - there’s opulence and gorgeousness everywhere you look, but my goodness it’s hammy stuff. Irish stars Katie McGrath and Victoria Smurfit are all posh vowel sounds and plunging cleavages, and - if you’ll pardon the pun - vamp it up like good ‘uns, while Meyers (who also produces) seems to think glaring into the middle distance makes him look mean, moody and a bit sexy. Sadly, more often than not he just looks like he needs to put his lenses in after a rough night out.

There’s a lot to like about Dracula, if you can forgive the acting shortcomings, and it will be interesting to see whether all the heaving bosoms, arterial sprays and long, lingering looks will translate into something as rich and rewarding as this series could be. I, for one, will be giving it at least another couple of episodes before deciding if it’s worth sticking with - or if it needs putting out of its misery.

Contributed by Scheenagh Harrington

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