When I went to see Bram Stoker’s Dracula in 1992 with my High School girlfriend, I remember leaving the drive-in and she complained that it wasn’t scary at all. Of course not, I said. At the heart of it, Dracula is a love story. Sure, it’s about a blood-sucking monster who murders people, but when you boil it down to its roots it’s about a cursed man seeking the reincarnation of the woman he lost many decades ago. Dracula is one of my favorite books, and despite California valley-boy Harker, the 1992 movie is probably the most spot-on adaptation I’ve seen.
That’s what almost sold me on Netflix’s recent adaptation. For the first half, of the first episode, they were hitting all the right notes. Then the zombies, then the bride, and it was all downhill from there. Even the gender swap of Van Helsing made more sense than what they did with the Dark Prince himself. It’s almost as if the writers saw the worst Dracula movies, the real cheesy ones, and only read the book for plot points. Someone forgot to tell them it’s a love story.
The fist half was so promising. Jonathan Harker tells the story of his stay in Dracula’s castle, which is a bit of a deviation from the book but done well enough that I didn’t mind. Agatha Van Helsing is good, a straight-shooting nun who isn’t entirely sold on her faith. Their conversation, and the related flashbacks at Castle Dracula gave me hopes for the show. Those hopes didn’t last.
The second half of the first episode is a cheesy bloodbath, where Dracula is nothing more than a third-rate horror film monster delivering corny modern quips. He’s a beast rather than a sophisticated hunter. It’s a blood-bath of a horror show that started to make me think that they were mocking the source material more than adapting it. At one point Dracula turns toward the camera, covered in blood, slavering and hissing like some 1970’s vampire flick. I swear I even heard him hissing off camera and it felt like watching a Scary Movie type spoof of it all.
Ultimately, someone might tell me they got the story more correct in later episodes, or that the cheesiness is intentional and what makes the show great. It doesn’t matter. Like a book, whose first chapter is painful to get through, I can’t bring myself to care to watch the rest. It is laughable in its treatment of the source material and the time period in which it takes place. They missed the point of Bram Stoker’s work and it’s not worth the time it took to get through the first episode.