Today is the release of Dracula Untold, the latest installment in the what has become a somewhat cliched subject area (just search for images of Dracula and you’ll see what I mean) and though it looks to be a slightly more interesting take on the classic tale, it also raises an interesting question: is the original story actually that good?
Now, quite often things go over my head, for better or worse. It took me years to finally catch up with Game of Thrones, which is one of the best things on, and certainly not just a “craze.” It is probably the most unpredictable show I have seen, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it finally ended by literally everyone being torched to death by Dragons. Yes there are Dragons, and no, unfortunately none of them are voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch.
But some crazes I miss out on completely, and for all intents and purposes, do not quite understand. This is most likely because I am not the intended audience. The Hunger Games for example, is an entertaining film, but I still don’t know why it’s such a big deal. And this is the issue I’ve always had with the Vampire-phase(s), which has just been given a new lease of life, again.
Other than Blade, which is tripe, I had never really been exposed to the Vampire phenomenon; the classic Christopher Lee films never took my interest, and to a modern viewer come across as a bit cheesy and outdated. Subsequently due to my ignorance, I am at a loss as to how Vampires became sexy and then teen heart-throbs in things like Twilight, especially as they started off as ghoulish monsters. This did mean however, that I could read Dracula with very little prior knowledge and other than the real clichés which it spawned, I had no idea what to expect.
I like Gothic horror. I love its sense of atmosphere and foreboding: the Victorians were of course particularly good at this, probably as they were such a serious and miserable bunch. So by all means, I was quite looking forward to my next escapade. My reaction however, was mixed.
I really enjoyed the first chapter, and wasn’t expecting to come into contact with Dracula so soon. It has everything I want from this style of book. Similarly I really enjoyed the scene on the boat, and in the graveyard. It is these moments where you can step back and say ok I get it.
However, and this is a big however, it does have its drawbacks. Now, what we must remember is that Dracula is a product of its time, so perhaps I’m being a bit overly critical, but blimey Bram Stoker had no issue with laying it on thick. The first time there is a blood transfusion and everyone’s getting emotional and weepy, fine, this is great. But Dr Van Helsing has to be one of the most annoying characters I can think of. He just keeps on making speeches about purity, and beauty, then he weeps… and then weeps some more. Which left me thinking: ok I get it
I have no problem with emotion and I am not the Sheldon Cooper of literary reviews; I simply don’t like things being rammed constantly down my throat. We know there is a damsel-in-distress: you don’t need to keep blabbering on about it. For me what this book needs is shortening and a dosage of stiff-upper-lip. As the book goes on I just wanted to shout, for Gods’ sake, just get on with it!
Personally I believe that any story should be told in as many pages as is necessary: I gain just as much satisfaction from short-stories and novellas than I do out of epics. But Dracula is too long for what it is: for me, the moments of brilliance are too sporadic and I came away frustrated rather than satisfied. Consequently if I was to ever pick it up again, I would satisfy myself by reading the chapters I do like as if they were a set of short-stories and leave the rest.
I would urge caution when recommending this book: as I say, parts of it are fantastic, and you can’t just skip to the others if you haven’t already read it. I’m not sure how much I liked it, I’m not sure I understand the Vampire obsession anymore than when I started, and I’m not sure how to end. I’m just not sure…