So. I hated this movie. I’m really sorry if anyone who loves it chances upon this. I’m not going to go into all the details of why I hated it. I’ll mostly touch on why it was a completely unfaithful adaptation, in my opinion, of the classic novel and why it failed. If you love the movie and have read the novel and feel they’re amazing companion pieces you should likely read something else.
I’ll start with the book. I read 90% of Dracula on audio, with a full cast, then finished the last 10% on my own. It was one of the best audio book experiences I’ve ever had. I typically dislike audio books because they simply don’t hold my attention. This one was great however, I highly recommend it. Especially if you are at all interested in classics. I’ll even give you a handy link!
Even as I listened I would later flip through the sections I’d heard to mark my favorite bits and just relive some of the moments of the book in written format. I really enjoyed this book. I love epistolary novels I’ve discovered, classic or recent. The depth of view you got from the different views, the different opinions and feelings conveyed throughout this style really added something for me. I will admit it does get repetitive but honestly I could deal with that for the extra depth we got.
I was honestly attached to everyone and found the characters unique and varied. Lucy was, as I feel she was meant to be, the golden child. The one that dies and we feel her loss. She’s sweet and kind, and the trigger for this man hunt. Mina was a stalwart and loyal fiance/wife. Doctor van Helsing was over the top but the wise leader. All four men were different and I felt important. I just enjoyed it greatly. Doctor Seward was probably my favorite of all of them.
The movie… was all shades of ‘No’. I’m going to chalk my intense dislike up to high expectations because I so enjoyed the novel. I get that that it was a 90’s movie (1992 in fact). I understand that there was a ‘style’ to it. I still disliked it, in fact there were parts where I quietly face-palmed and other times I stared in horror.
For those that have seen the 1992 movie I’m just going to put some of the key take-aways here in why it was a terribly unfaithful adaptation (again, my opinion):
- The Count’s design was completely off. He’s described:
“…tall old man, clean shaven, save for a long white mustache and clad in black from head to foot, without a single speck of color about him anywhere.”
Additionally he is described as having a thick bushy Victorian mustache, with curly thick hair, and sharp white teeth. This is nothing like the creepy guy from the movie
- That back story did not exist. Unless I missed a HUGE section. Yes, Dracula does talk about the battles of old on the soil of his land but there is no long lost love.
- Renfield is just crazy. He’s a bloke that is under Dracula’s sway, not Harker’s predecessor to Dracula’s affairs (that was the old man who sent Harker on the job, who later recovers from his normal illness only to pass on).
- Lucy is not… generous with her favors. Instead I understood her to be a kind and naive girl of 19.
- There were no sex scenes. Wtf guys.
- Helsing did not have super powers (as was hinted in the novel), nor was it indicated he was anything other than a very clever, very old and experienced doctor.
- I’m going to say it again. THERE WAS NO REINCARNATION LOVE STORY HERE.
- Mina was an excellent, strong, and capable character. Not one to loose her shit over some ‘Prince’. She fights the pull of the Nosferatu, the taint throughout the whole portion she’s tainted. She’s an excellent character.
- Dracula is a monster. Not a man, but more a monster in the guise of a man. He is described as a childlike monster who learns.
The novel is a classic horror. It’s dense, it’s wordy, and it tells a story of a monster. The movie, I feel, tried to give Dracula depth and humanization he shouldn’t have had. By giving him this ‘reason’ for existing they made him someone ‘real’. He’s not child-like monster of the novel. But by making him more ‘human’ they made the women of the story nothing but fodder.
The quiet strength of Mina is completely gone. She’s turned into nothing but a lapdog for Dracula. Lucy is someone completely different. In the movie she’s seen as a free spirit, she’s generous in her favors, and clearly a sexual woman. This makes her easy pickings for the Count. In the novel it’s simply her sleepwalking and close proximity to Mina.
Our men folk suffer similar fates. Johnathon Harker never was the strongest character. He is probably one of the closest to the book that I can see. Doctor Seward in the movie is a weird, morphine addicted man who lives in a REALLY bizarre asylum. Quincy and Arthur are just fillers. Surprisingly Helsing suffers the least of everyone, perhaps because he was so eccentric to begin with.
The movie tries so hard to focus on Dracula when it shouldn’t have. The book did better, only showing him a very few times on the page. Instead it’s his threat, and his presence that made him frightening and a monster. Our characters were the ones that told the story. The best modern equivalent was the mystery behind It Follows. We only saw that monster occasionally but it was there and it was coming. That’s what it should have been like, in my opinion.
Did I like anything from the movie? Gary Oldman and Anthony Hopkins. Story and butchery of the characters aside I really enjoyed those two actors. Particularly ‘Young Dracula’ Gary Oldman. He brought depth to that role, there was emotion there. Granted had nooooo basis in the book but his acting was great. Anthony Hopkins was a similar situation. His character was the closest to the original, and he did it flawlessly. I’m also not ashamed of saying a part of me loves Anthony Hopkins in anything he does.
So ultimate verdict is pretty clear. I say read the book. If you want to experience Dracula correctly please read the book. The movie is best seen as a weird fan-fiction that is strangely fixated on Dracula. Once you’ve read the book then watch the movie. But go in with low expectations.
Edit (approximately 10 mins after writing this): Holy shit, I didn’t realize Gary Oldman was Sirius Black in the third HP movie. No wonder I loved him as Young Dracula. Young Sarah had such crush on movie Sirius.