Just a few weeks before Halloween, the producers of the British Tv series Sherlock have announced that a mini-series on Dracula will see the light in the near future. The unforgettable literary villain and his creepy misdeeds will be the protagonists of three episodes, which will be aired on BBC 1 and on Netflix.
Some of you will say: “Dracula, again? Really? Aren’t we tired of all the vampire stories we see on TV or Netflix all the time?”. Well, apparently not. Moreover, the character of Dracula is fascinating because it represents all the “otherness” we are afraid of: apparently polite and friendly, he is in fact a monster who kills people almost without them even noticing.
But let us proceed in an orderly fashion. The character of Dracula as we know him saw the light in 1897 in a novel by the same name written by Bram Stoker. The novel did not become a best seller immediately, but the critics from the very beginning praised Stoker’s style and ability to create suspense. The novel talks about Dracula, an old Romanian earl who buys an old, abandoned house in London. After his arrival, strange things begin to happen: people sleepwalking and dying for an unexplained lack of blood, crazy people in an asylum behaving crazier than usual, mysterious dogs killing the crew of a ship. It will take the extraordinary acumen of the Dutch doctor Van Helsing to discover the truth behind these facts and save the life of the British girl Mina.
The reason why the novel became a classic, apart from the above-mentioned style and eerie atmosphere, is the fact that Dracula is so ordinary at first sight. He is an old gentleman wanting to move to London because he feels lonely in his castle, and he’s almost sweet when he apologises to Harker for his non-perfect pronunciation of English. The scenes where he invents all sorts of excuses not to have Harker notice that he doesn’t have servants and it’s him, Dracula himself, cooking and making his bed, are downright funny.
Dracula is evil but at the same time charming, characteristics represented perfectly by the Hungarian actor Bela Lugosi in the 1931 film Dracula. Lugosi played the character so convincingly that people started joking about him actually being a vampire. This is why, when he died in 1956, the expression “Bela Lugosi’s dead” came to mean “it really happens to everyone” (and is the title of a song by Bauhaus). In case you’re wondering, Lugosi was buried in his Dracula’s cape costume, but he didn’t really want that: it was his wife and son’s decision.
Coming back to us, if you haven’t seen this Dracula movie, go see it now (it’s on YouTube): if anything, you can fully appreciate Leslie Nielsen’s parody Dead and Lovin’ It, which came out in 1995.
From the first Dracula movies until now several things have happened: there were remakes of the movie or other films based on vampires – one for all the Interview with the Vampire, with Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt – but the mysterious “creatures of the night” became really fashionable again in the early 2000s, with the Twilight saga. I know what you’re thinking: these infamous novels – and movies – deprived vampires of their creepiness, turning them into moody teenagers who sparkle, walk about in broad daylight and spend more time entangled in domestic drama than killing people. Well, you’re probably right, but Bella’s adventures opened the way to a sea of movies and TV shows where everyone seemed to have their own interpretation of the figure of the vampire. Worth mentioning is the HBO TV show True Blood, set in Louisiana, where the undead have synthetic blood at their disposal, allowing them to be considered harmless and therefore to join the human society. Ironically, most vampires in the series don’t like this beverage, preferring to slaughter people and to do it as violently as possible. In conflict with them, others fight for inclusion and acceptance.
As it’s evident from this example, this kind of shows came to touch various themes, as the figure of the vampire is in itself a metaphor for the foreign and unknown. The vampire is nothing if not an outcast, living on the margins of society. Not by chance, Stoker’s Dracula was an immigrant. More than one century after this novel, people begin to tell the story of the monster from his point of view, questioning the biases and injustices of the contemporary society. This is also apparent in Only Lovers Left Alive, the 2013 movie by Jim Jarmusch. In this suggestive film, Adam and Eve are very old vampires, who seem surrounded by, as they call them, zombies. The couple appear respectful of nature and extremely knowledgeable, while almost all the humans are materialistic creatures in the process of destroying the planet with their greed. So, who’s the monster after all?
So, already thought of a costume for this Halloween? You can go for Dracula, or, if you are still thinking of your cosplay, you can dress up as Alucard, his version in the Japanese manga Hellsing – in any case, happy Halloween from Victoria!
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