Did we like it?
A spooky adaptation that often galloped far away from Bram Stoker’s original novel, which, however, triumphed because of an atmosphere of oppressive gloom, painstaking narrative and understated acting.
What was good about it?
• We’re not sure exactly how much acting Marc Warren was required to do in his role as Count Dracula. When first encountered he shambles about, croaking unintelligibly and it is only when he reaches England and tries to charm both Lucy and Mina that his diabolic appeal becomes apparent. But he nevertheless made a striking Dracula often appearing as a raven-haired albino who could spellbind women to do his devilish bidding.
• A fantastic supporting cast with Rafe Spall as the unfortunate Jonathan Harker who in this version provides the Count with a revitalizing dose of blood, and dying in his castle rather than returning to England to be the hero.
• The role of hero went to instead to John Seward (Tom Burke) who walked the emotional tightrope of loyalty to his friend Lord Holmwood (Dan Stevens) and his jealousy that his high born pal had snared the love of his life Lucy (Sophia Myles) as his bride.
• David Suchet also weighed in, given the chance to exercise his well-practised Benelux accent as vampire hunter Van Helsing.
• And Sophia Myles as the doomed Lucy and Stephanie Leonidas as Mina complemented the juicier male roles by displaying vulnerability and an endearing vivacity, although Mina did seem to get over the presumed death of her fiancé a bit too quickly.
• Although a huge switch from the novel, citing the motivation for Dracula’s relocation to England to help find a cure for Lord Holmwood’s syphilis was a masterstroke. Dan Stevens perfectly conveyed Holmwood’s frustration that he could not consummate his marriage to the voluptuous Lucy lest he infect her, and how he was prepared to go to any lengths to get his end away.
• The scenery was drenched in every dark shade of purple, blue and black from the Gothic decadence of Dracula’s castle to the crushing claustrophobia of Lord Holmwood’s country pile.
• The death of Lord Holmwood was both gruesome and delicious as the Count first snapped his neck and then twisted his head off. At that point we half-expected Christopher Lee and the ghost of Peter Cushing to burst in and serve them with writs for gross plagiarism such was its comical, but effective, resemblance to a Hammer film.
What was bad about it?
• It took until about half-way for the Count to actually arrive in England. Up until that point we had to be satisfied with much heaving bosom, repressed upper class emotions and the sporadic neck bite. This meant that the final ten minutes seemed a little rushed as Dracula was ostensibly despatched after a minor struggle in the cellar of his London abode.
• The rather aimless ending in which it was revealed that the Count hadn’t been staked through the heart but had instead dispersed into a gaseous cloud. If there’s to be a sequel next Christmas then great, but otherwise we couldn’t really see the point as it was implied that Dracula’s vision was to convert the whole of the British Empire into his vampire slaves, so we are to assume that by surviving he achieved his goal in the near future.