Cinema/TV, Dracula, Film Notes

Your Daily Dracula – Bram Stoker’s Van Helsing (2020)

Your Daily Dracula – James Hamer-Morton, Bram Stoker’s Van Helsing (2020)

This low-budget adaptation of a section of Dracula focuses as much on Lucy (Charlie Bond) and Arthur (Tom Hendryk) as Van Helsing (Mark Topping) – but Dudley Moore and Scarlett Johanssen have made films called Arthur and Lucy and the vampire’s savant nemesis is the only character here with real name recognition value (a possessory credit serves to demarcate it from the Hugh Jackman film).  Lucy Westenra is ailing after visits from a foggy shape whose face we never see (in the end credits, the Count is listed as being played by James Hamer-Morton).  John Seward (Joe Street), whose marriage proposal she turned down, calls in specialist Van Helsing to consult on the case, while Lord Arthur Holmwood, whose proposal she accepted, loiters about unhelpfully (‘it’s his house – well, one of them,’ Seward explains).  This furthers the tradition of Arthur being anything from an annoying idiot to an active villain in adaptations, and he gets some relatively fresh material later in the film as his attitude to undead Lucy isn’t quite one of unmitigated horror.

For the most part, it’s low-key to the point of seeming almost casual.   Director Steve Lawson – also listed as writer on the IMDb, though screen credit goes to Simon Patrick Avedon – reins in Stoker’s melodramatics and Topping plays Van Helsing with a slight Dutch accent but doesn’t have to deal with the novel’s strangled dialogue.  It’s a workable approach, but also means throwing away powerful material.  A few dramatic elements are stressed, like the class resentment Seward feels for the titled nob Lucy’s picked over him, but the film is relatively restrained in sex and gore.

Lawson cites The Exorcist as a parallel, using holy water instead of holy wafer as per William Peter Blatty – and this medical case history section of Dracula does suit that approach.  Bond, who previously played Lucy in a more conventional stage production of Dracula, goes full-on vampire hoyden when turned.  The film then diverges from Stoker – perhaps for budget reasons – by dropping the whole ‘bloofer lady’ sub-plot and having Lucy prey Jack the Ripper style on harlots who lurk in CGI Victorian London inserts.  The dread name is never spoken, but Mina (Helen Crevel) shows up at the end.  Under-the-radar auteur Lawson has managed fourteen features in the last two decades, including Nocturnal Activity (aka The Haunting of Annie Dyer), KillerSaurus, the cheekily-titled Hellriser, and the forthcoming Ripper Untold.


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