There was once a time when I had a thing for the vampire genre. It wasn’t long after my obsession for Buffy fully kicked in, with those fires being stoked by the likes of the first two Blade movies and Interview With A Vampire.
Those days are sadly behind me though, as Hollywood has done its best to over saturate the market and dilute the effectiveness of what was once the coolest of the undead.
So perhaps it was with this state of mind that I decided to skip the Dracula series when it first aired, but when the stars aligned recently and there was a gap in our TV schedule at the same time that the show became available for free download, we decided to try it out, especially as my fiancée is a big horror fan.
The show is set in Victorian England, where a mysterious American entrepreneur arrives to intrigue and astound the upper classes of London society. It soon becomes clear to the viewer that Mr Alexander Grayson (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) may also be a creature of the night, and none other than Dracula himself, seeking revenge for a wrong that was done to him years before.
The majority of the pilot was spent on setting up two things; the double-sided nature of Dracula/Grayson’s character and “The Order Of The Dragon”. Here, The Order is portrayed as an Illimunati-esque group of individuals that secretly controls the state, and it’s not long before the show reveals that the fate of Dracula and The Order are intertwined.
One of the first things noticeable about this new telling of the legend, is just how stylish it is. Little expense has been spared to create a beautiful vision of Victorian London, with the grandiose sets and CGI’d skyline being perfectly complimented by the work done by the wardrobe department.
It is a pity, then, that the same level of effort was not put into the dialogue, acting or storyline. Far too much emphasis has been put on style, but the lack of substance to back it up, left me empty towards the plight of poor Mr Grayson.
I find Rhys Meyers an interesting conundrum, for I have never seen him in anything where I have thought of him as a good actor, yet he continues to get work in high-profile projects such as this. Although Dracula is by no means his worst performance, it is still not one I particularly care for, as his style, which seems to range from wooden to melodramatic with very little in between, ruins any subtlety that this duplicitous character should have had.
The supporting cast does little wrong with the scraps they are given, but it feels like every character is introduced solely for the purpose of name checking the likes of Jonathan and Mina Harker, as well as Van Helsing himself, without really having much need for some of them. I appreciate that this is the Dracula show, but I would have prefered to see a smaller cast in the pilot, fleshing out one or two more of the characters, rather than throwing everyone at you in one episode.
But the shows failings are not entirely the actors’ fault. The show might have turned out to be watchable, and provided some interesting new take on the Dracula myth, but the show writers so easily and cheaply gave up the fact that Grayson is Dracula, that The Order Of The Dragon are the bad guys and that he is there for revenge.
Whilst I don’t doubt that the remainder of the season, and any future seasons, played out a number of ideas and concepts which may or may not have improved the show as a whole, the lack of any real mystery after 45 minutes destroyed any hope I had of this being something more than it was: eye candy for the Twilight generation.
Although Penny Dreadful and American Horror Story have their faults, they at least contain enough creativity to add something new and unique to the horror genre, and their respective pilots were good enough to make me want to come back for more.
Would I watch again? Not even if you put a stake to my heart.