When I first saw the adverts for Dracula I was excited at what this new adaptation would bring. With a host of good English actors involved and a re-working of the classic text it looked like it had the potential to be a series worth watching. What it turned out to be was actually a chore to watch.
Dracula poses as ‘Alexander Grayson’, an American entrepreneur that arrives in a post Jack the Ripper London. Grayson (Jonathan Rhys Myers) is working on wireless-electric technology that will not only revolutionise England’s power industry but will bring financial ruin to members of a mysterious organisation – ‘The Order of the Dragon’ – who are invested heavily in oil. The Order of the Dragon are not merely oil investors though, they’re also vampire hunters that have killed many troublesome vampire in their time.
When Grayson holds a fancy-dress ball at his lavish mansion as a sort of ‘getting to know you’ mixer, he notices the beautiful Mina Murray (Jessica De Gouw) in the crowd, a brilliant medical student who resembles his long dead wife, so much so that he quickly becomes obsessed with the thought that she is in fact his wife reincarnated.
With these two plots cemented Dracula has two tasks whilst he’s in London:
1) Wreak vengeance on the Order that have caused him so much pain over the centuries.
2) Woo Miss Mina Murray and rekindle his long lost passion.
These are the only two plots within the series that are really given any time and oh what time they were given. One of the problems with this series as a whole was the pacing, with hour-long episodes that either rushed through storylines or stretched them out. A lot of the focus seemed to be more on producing a sexy steam punk aesthetic rather than centring on the characters or the plot itself. There is no denying that Dracula has a very attractive cast but even heaving breasts and smouldering glances got boring midway through the series and even the gore didn’t satisfy my horror cravings.
The problem was it didn’t seem to know if it was pulp or a dark period drama and flitting between the two styles made the characters confused and the plot muddled. Even Meyers started to become unwatchable by the last episode – he seemed to have given up on the character and instead of creating a likable, brooding Dracula he’d become a completely uninteresting one.
Of all the badly written characters though, Lady Jane (Victoria Smurfit) was the worst. It’s not Smurfit’s fault (she’s come a long way from Ballykissangel!) the character was just bafflingly badly written. The supposedly kick-ass vampire killer spent the whole series in a lusty affair with ‘Grayson’, never realising that he was in fact Dracula. The anticipated crescendo between her and Dracula ended in a splutter rather than a bang. When Dracula uttered, “You’ve always known…” there was nothing in her face – no sadness or shock – it was just flat and hugely disappointing as theirs was the most interesting relationship in the series.
It wasn’t all bad though. The characters of Lucy and Renfield had their own sub plots that at least brought a bit more to the story. Katie McGrath played Lucy with a sensitivity that was missing in the character of Mina. Renfield (Nonso Anozie), Draculas right had man, probably had the most interesting back story and it’s thanks to him that the character of Dracula had a sympathetic side at the beginning of the series.
Dracula suffered from style over substance and, with other horror titles like Hannibal out there, it just came across as lazy, clunky script writing and a lack of imagination when it came to dealing with the source material.