A very contemporary take on Dracula, which not only updates Bram Stoker’s journal entries and recorded case notes into vlog postings but gives heroine Mina (Rosie Holt) an even more central role. Here, she’s the estate agent who takes a trip to Transylvania – expecting a four-star Bucharest hotel with spa and pool – to hand-deliver contracts to Count Dracula, while boyfriend John Harker (Liam Dryden) stays home and frets about what perils she encounters abroad.
The bite-sized episodes mostly feature Mina talking to camera, though her flat-mate Lucy (Kate Soulsby) and Lucy’s medical student admirer Jack Seward (Matt Hargreaves) start their own vlogs and chip in with concern for their friend and updates on the ravings of voluntarily committed mental Renfield, who eats insects and rants about the coming of ‘the Master’.
Billed as ‘Season One’, this covers only the first section of the novel – and is a post-modern enough adaptation to get laughs from the fact that every viewer knows this story and is well ahead of Mina in picking up on what’s wrong, though the series punchline reveals that she’s canny enough to get past her own inclination to explain rationally and admit ‘they totally are vampires’.
The tone is generally sweet and witty, indulging the attractive, self-involved Mina – who is bisexual, but doesn’t notice that Lucy has a crush on her – as she chatters unaware of the gathering shadows, or the bat-thing lurking in the background. However, the story does eventually darken and there are moments of proper chill. Dracula never appears on camera, though his ‘brides’ (Sara Parker, Sophie Parker, Steve Fitzgerald) do barge into Mina’s room in the castle, their vampire presence disrupting the image in such a way that it’s possible they can’t fully show up on video. It has a tonal and structural precedent in the multi-season youtube series update of Carmilla, but writer-director James Moran (Severance, Cockneys vs Zombies) gives it a distinctive, dryly British character.
An oddity it shares with other contemporary updates of classic horror tales is that it has to take place in an alternate universe where there really is a vampire called Count Dracula but Stoker’s novel and all the pop cultural derivatives of it don’t exist – in this world, do Lord Ruthven or Varney the Vampyre loom larger as horror film franchise foundations, with retellings of their stories popularising the vampire legend to the point where characters called Mina and Lucy know basic lore about stakes, garlic and mirrors?