Dracula Reclaims the Night

The arrival of “Dracula Untold” in the theaters this week marks a chance for the classic vampire to reclaim the night – and the twilight.

DraculaUntold
Universal

If five “Twilight” flicks weren’t enough, news arrived last week that we’re in for more, via made-for-Facebook mini-movies based on the series’ characters. That’s a victory for fans of both Team Jacob and Team Edward.

But what about Team Dracula?

The “Twilight” announcement could be seen as an attempt, intended or otherwise, to overshadow – or capitalize on – Friday’s release of the new film, “Dracula Untold.” Either way, the movie’s advent marks an opportunity for the classic vampire to reclaim the night – and the twilight.

The bloodsucker boomlet of recent years – from “The Twilight Saga” to “True Blood” to “The Vampire Diaries” – owes a big-time debt to Dracula and his creator, Bram Stoker. But the most famous member of the sanguinary set has been largely neglected as of late, save for last year’s promising, but short-lived NBC drama “Dracula,” which reinvented Transylvania’s most famous citizen as a supposed American inventor in Victorian England.  

The new film, billed as old Vlad’s new “origin story,” appears to tap into the trend of reimagining movie heroes (and anti-heroes) for modern audiences, a strategy that’s worked wonders for the likes of Dracula’s Victorian literary contemporary, Sherlock Holmes, and Bruce Wayne, a very different kind of bat man.

That’s all in keeping with Dracula’s penchant for metamorphosis, in his inherent character and in various cinematic retellings over the past 90 or so years – from Max Schreck (the creepiest vampire depiction of them all in the silent “Nosferatu”) to Bela Lugosi to Christopher Lee to Frank Langella. Even comic portrayals – like George Hamilton in “Love at First Bite” and Leslie Nielsen in Mel Brooks’ “Dracula: Dead and Loving It” – resonate years later, a reflection of the power of a character without a reflection.

The appeal of Dracula, in his various incarnations, as we’ve noted previously, stems in great part from his living damnation and constant temptation. Even if he lacks surface relatabilty, his damned if you do, damned if you don't plight makes for an allure that outdoes the “Twilight” crew’s team mix of the gooey and the gory.

The new film, judging from the previews, leans more toward the gory – a made-for-Imax epic, with fight scenes that could have come out of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy (star Luke Evans, incidentally, was in the second “Hobbit” installments and appears in December’s finale). It looks like we’re getting a Dracula who bites back.

Jere Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multimedia NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is also the author of "Raising a Beatle Baby: How John, Paul, George and Ringo Helped us Come Together as a Family." Follow him on Twitter.

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