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Dracula review

It's the Warren terror

BBC One • 26 December

Director: Bill Eagles

Starring: Marc Warren, Tom Burke, Stephanie
Leonidas, Sophia Myles, David Suchet


The world may need unlimited love,
eternal peace and a cure for the
common cold, but you’d be hard pushed
to argue that it needs another Dracula.
Bram Stoker’s blood-lusting icon may
well eclipse Sherlock Holmes as the
fictional character most often
committed to celluloid: Lugosi, Lee,
Leslie Nielsen (perish the thought) and
an entire undead legion of thesps have
added a vampiric notch to their résumés
over the decades.

Now comes Marc Warren, leading this
Christmas adaptation from the BBC.
Best known as a flash Cockney swindler
in Hustle, he’s a choice that’s not so
much leftfield as in a different sports
arena altogether. He’s a revelation: first
seen as a decrepit husk, he seems
burdened by the dark weight of
centuries, but arriving in England in
rejuvenated mode he offers us a Dracula
that feels startlingly new, a serial seducer
stripped of charm, loathsome and
libidinous, a horny little reptile who
murmurs, “I enjoy the women in this
house…” and makes it a switchblade
threat to the men. Yes, in daylight his
make-up leaves him looking
uncomfortably like an emo Munster, but
he’s a smart, unpredictable piece of
casting that justifies itself.

It’s a fine cast, actually. Sophia Myles
and Stephanie Leonidas bring real
emotion to Lucy and Mina, while David
Suchet’s broken Van Helsing lacks the
zeal of a Peter Cushing but somehow
feels all the more true: a good man
clearly scarred by unspeakable horrors.

The foundations of Stoker’s tale are
here, and there are some intriguing boltons,
including a cult of worshippers who
summon Dracula to England. The lurking
syphillitic metaphor in the novel is
teased out and foregrounded, upping
the body–horror quotient, and there’s a
genuinely erotic moment as Dracula
seduces Lucy in her marital bed.

But there’s something resolutely lowkey
about this adaptation. Too many
scenes feel like anaemic echoes of
Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and
while its stateliness slots it into the
Beeb’s Christmas ghost story heritage,
it also feels at odds with the creative
possibilities of the 21st century. It’s
decent, but it craves a touch more
imagination and – shoot me now – a
little more bite.

Nick Setchfield

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