This Canadian-backed, Luxembourg-shot one-season effort rethinks Bram Stoker for the GOOSEBUMPS audience. Mid-teen Christopher (GACY’s Joe Roncetti) and his ten-tear-old brother Max (JOSH AND S.A.M.’s Jacob Tierney) are parked by their executive mother (DEAD RINGERS’ Lynne Cormack) with an eccentric ‘European’ uncle Gustav Helsing (MOTHER NIGHT’s Bernard Behrens). The fussy vampire-hunter shares a secret with the boys and their live-in friend Sophie (THE CROW: CITY OF ANGELS’ Mia Kirshner)–urbane multi-billionaire Alexander Lucard (BIONIC EVER AFTER?’s Geordie Johnson), who lives in a nearby castle, is actually Dracula. Through twenty-one brisk, repetitive episodes, the kids and the old buffer tangle with Lucard, who descends from his corporate raider office to engage in a childish, petulant feud with enemies he becomes strangely attached to.
As the title suggests, the premise is hammered into a TV-friendly formula. Every week, guest characters show up and cause problems for both Lucard and the good guys, the heroes sneak into Lucard’s castle so often the script has to start making jokes about it, any final reckoning (or even biting) is forestalled by a cross-waving or cloak-swishing intervention and there’s a comedy B story about teenage (or geriatric) dating or self-image problems. There’s little room for complexity, but a few ongoing strands do emerge: Klaus (FOREVER KNIGHT’s Geraint Wyn Davies) is at once Gustav’s rebel son and Lucard’s rejected vampire protégé, and tries to harry both his fathers; the kids’ mother pops up occasionally to disturb the cosy bond they have with their uncle; almost everyone gets turned into a vampire at some stage and then cured; and other vampires show up to challenge Lucard for his title as king of the undead.
It has a catchily horrible vintage 1990 theme (‘Drac … Drac … Drac … Drac-u-laaah!’) and overworks its few effects shots (a cape-swirling transformation into a flock of bats), but the performances are generally amiable. It works as kid-level entertainment with the occasional whimsical or mature twinge: as when Max innocently treats Lucard like his (absent and rarely mentioned) father at the end of a brief truce and the vampire is surprised to find himself responding in kind (‘ride home safely’), or a further development of this sentimental reading of the Count in an episode (‘I Love Lucard’) constructed around homages to the climax of CASABLANCA pays off with unexpected if offscreen nastiness (Lucard nobly lets the girl get on the plane with the other man, but has sabotaged it so they both die in a crash).
Though careful from the first to keep its continuity and back-references straight, the series only becomes soap-like half-way through its season with cliffhanger (Sophie turned into a vampire) or slingshot (just as Chris declares he loves Sophie, his ex-girlfriend arrives) endings. This collection presents the episodes in production rather than transmission order. Though the season finishes with the twentieth episode ‘Klaus Encounters of the Interred Kind’, which builds up to a season-ending cliffhanger that could betoken a format or cast changes, the disc has another episode to go. ‘My Dinner With Lucard’ takes place before ‘Klaus Encounters’ and is a clip-show dependant on recycled footage and turns out to be a dream anyway.
First published in Video Watchdog.