At the Gutter: Dracula 2020 A.D.

I usually only write about work I unstintingly love at the Gutter and save my shits and niggles for here, or more likely, for my wonderful, long-suffering husband. “I am aware of your opinions!” is the running joke in our house. Which maybe I should reconsider because the niggle articles that slip through are occasionally pretty good! Like my big ‘ol Hellraiser series one. I mean, nearly every Hellraiser movie is breaded and fried trash, and yet, I love the series and want it to do better. That’s kind of where I was at with the BBC Netflix Dracula.

I mean, Bela Lugosi was legitimately my first crush. This story is important to me. #OldMovieWeirdo

Anyhoo, I started writing about Dracula for here, because I was disappointed, to put it mildly, and I needed to get it out, and I had neglected to put anything up about my various Self-sCare marathon viewings that were brilliant and I really wanted to tally up, like Train to Busan and One Cut of the Dead. Before I knew it, I had vented almost 3000 words about Dracula into my Chromebook, but in so doing, I realized that I didn’t really hate it after all. I wanted to celebrate its many good points more than I wanted to harp on Claes Bang’s Dracula being too Paul Lynde.

I love Steven Moffat’s work, and while I am wise enough not to fight with people on the internet about most things, if I hear/read claims that Moff is sexist/misogynist/homophobic — a frequent claim by Whovians who prefer the RTD years in the face of all evidence — I will absolutely all caps cut you. Gatiss is more hit or miss with me, although I do love his acting and appreciate very much what my Doctor, Peter Capaldi, said of him at their last big SDCC panel as a cast/crew, that he was a friend and advocate for the show during those years when it was not cool to be a Doctor Who fan. I’m not a fan of his writing so much. His recent adaptation of “Martin’s Close” was pretty good. But on the other, “Sleep No More,” a Doctor Who story that mangles the found footage technique and gives us eye boogers as a villain. I mean. AND HE WANTED TO DO A SEQUEL TO IT. [spits] …although there was some good Twelveclara in it, but I digress.

Their collaboration on the later episodes of Sherlock really seemed to enable each other’s worst excesses, and that is absolutely true here, especially on what I presume is the Moff side, the blight of Clever For Its Own Sake. The repurposing of the classic “listen to them, the children of the night” line, for example, here applied to the restless subterranean struggles of a cemetery full of hopeless undead, is Clever For Its Own Sake, and if you wanted me to get any kind of sympathy/empathy/attraction to Dracula, it actually works against that, entirely subverting the creepy romance of the line’s original purpose. If I read that and was in a room with Moff, I’d smack my hero on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper. (And if the trend of his usual heroines is any indication, he’d be into that.) But I can’t get over how much they thought about Dracula, thought about why things happen and why they should matter and how it could be updated with satisfying lore and intelligent revisions for this story everyone knows and few people have read.

And I also appreciated that they created so many, new well-textured characters, particularly during the Demeter sequence. Openly queer (to the audience, at least) characters and a pansexual Dracula is the exact right read on this material. Vampires have always been sex from the neck up monsters, with the effect of dramatizing congress and relationships that transgress social conventions from perfectly normal love between two men or two women or several people to whatever was going on between Lestat and his mom. It is a relief to have some of that made explicit, unmetaphored, and it does nothing to spoil the tension to have it that way. I mean, it’s not “Goblin Market.”

Also, black people in Victorian England! Lucy played by a black actress! Needed representation well done. But the darlings that needed the most killing live large in this thing, and they steal so much blood.

Anyway, here’s Wonderwall. I mean, my Dracula thing. Please enjoy!

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