Dracula Spectacular part 2 – Blood Vessel

If you missed my part 1 review the link is below. Just to remind everyone that I loved it.

Ominious mist is ominous

Part one ended with a snarling Dracula and everybody screaming. Including me but quietly as my babies were asleep.

So we open part 2 with an Indian Doctor and some men opening a sarcophagus. Inside there are scratches (fresh) on the lid and a ghoul type vampire jumps out and attacks them all. We then cut to Dracula and Sister Agatha talking in a room, with no explanation as to how they got there from the convent. Yet. She is still enquiring and inquisitive, but isn’t perplexed by the fact there has been a massive narrative jump. She and Dracula play a game of chess while he revels in telling her the story of how he came to the ‘new world’ of England. So far, structurally, very similar to part 1. Jump in and flashback.

Dracula begins his tale and warns us not to get attached to any of the players. They are all doomed.

A young sailor called Piotr dying, a very serious Orthadox priest and a weeping mother, while another young man (who we later learn is called Marius) sweeps the room. This young man is ushered out of the room so that the dead boy can be staked through the heart by his mother. Dracula has been here.

We then scan down to the boat, the Demeter, where all the passengers are getting on and we are introduced, briefly, to them. In my opinion, this is a great part of the story to tell. Why? Well, because it’s something new. Very few adaptations of the novel tell this story because in the novel, it is barely a handful of pages, and it is just a means to an end. Dracula eats everyone (not surprising) as he makes his way to England. For Stoker’s story, the Demeter is just a plot point to get his monster to England.

So we meet the people. A newly married couple, the Ruthvens (nice nod to Polidori) with their black male valet, the Indian doctor, Dr Sharma, and his deaf daughter from the start, a Countess, the cook, the crew and captain, and of course, silly Marius. His dead friend Piotr was supposed to be on the boat and Marius takes his place, thinking it’s his ticket out of a dead end town. Oh dear. We, of course, see Dracula and hear of an ill passenger in room 9 (a lovely nod to ‘Inside number 9’ another Gatiss masterpiece) who is not to be disturbed.

Once again, good characterisation is the driving force of the episode, which is difficult to do when there is a range of characters. There is a real sense of claustrophobia on this ship, that is enhanced by the supernatural fog Dracula wreathes the ship in. (So that he can walk around in the day.) We learn that the aging Grand Duchess had already had an encounter with Dracula in her youth, when her mother disappeared. We also see more of how Dracula’s feeding allows him to absorb knowledge.

In his conversation with the Grand Duchess, she slips into German and he struggles to understand, possibly because it’s a newer dialect? There are also no subtitles so I think we are supposed to feel confused along with him. He excuses himself and feeds on the stuttering German crewmate, returning to be fluent. This builds on the ideas of ‘blood is lives’ and the ‘friend of Dracula’ from part 1. Dracula absorbs knowledge from his victims and those he feeds on are able to understand each other. (E.g. Jonathan and the bride who asks for help in ep 1).

Dracula is unable to stop himself and coaxes the aging noblewoman under his spell. She remembers that he was at the party where her mother disappeared and that she danced with him. The scene then immediately cuts to her being bitten by Dracula.

Two people are missing and, understandably, the others are upset. Dracula, smug and hillarious, isn’t really hiding that he’s responsible but he isn’t suspected yet. The scene shifts back to Dracula and Agatha playing chess, where she gently scolds him for his gluttony. She is completely unafraid and unflappable BUT HOW THE HELL DID SHE GET THERE?!?!?

As I said earlier, good characterisation and amazing tiny subplots really make this episode. The next group of people the episode focuses on the newly-wed Ruthvens and the valet. The episode sets its stall out almost immediately: the young, white, husband and the young, black, valet are clearly in a relationship and the marriage is a sham to hide the inter-racial, homosexual realtionship.

And there is so. Much. Rage. Especially, as the husband is dropping lots of ‘we are having so much married sex’ hints.

It is delicious.

The young bride has NO IDEA and is deliriously happy because of course she is. Foolishly, she wanders around the ship at night and is fed on. He is seen by the doctor’s deaf daughter who is visibly afraid of him at the ship meeting about all the disappearances.

Dracula is glutting himself on these passengers and we are on tenterhooks, waiting for the passengers to clock on. At this point most of the crew has taken off with one of the lifeboats, preferring the dangers of the sea, over the dangers of the ship. The ship is searched again and the people decide it must be the person in room 9.

In a moment of delicious realisation, we click who is in that room. Agatha and Dracula are still playing their game of chess, but suddenly, she is losing. And then she also realises.

She is the person in room 9, exhausted and dying, her body beginning to fall apart in the same way that Jonathan’s was. (Think loose finger nails).

This face! Look at the shock as she works it out!

Of course, Dracula has planted items from the missing people inside the room, and Agatha is declared as the monster. In reality, he was keeping her trapped in a dream, the place where they were playing chess and chatting. In reality, Sister Agatha sacrificed herself to Dracula in the convent to save Mina.

Having seen what happened to Jonathan, Agatha knows that her time is limited. As the crew prepare to hang her, Agatha ‘admits’ that she is a vampire but she bites her lip, which makes it bleed. Dracula can’t help it and reveals himself for what he is. Panic ensues as he disappears into the fog and the crew have no idea where he is.

Dr Sharma takes his daughter back to his cabin, where he prepares her for the inevitable by giving her a bottle of poison. Of course, Dracula is in his room because the Doctor is a brilliant mind that Dracula wants to absorb. Lord Ruthven is also in the room and we discover that he is now in Dracula’s thrall. It wasn’t that surprising; throughout the episode there were lots of stolen glances and meaningful silences between them, building on the homoeroticism that has always followed the Dracula mythos.

Sharma’s daughter takes her own life and Ruthven shoots the Doctor. Dracula isn’t angry or upset but just kind of goes ‘Well, boo’ before turning on Ruthven. Which I shouted ‘Huzzah!’ at. He deserved it.

The others build a circle from the pages of a Bible to protect themselves but Piotr (Marius) is late getting there and they make him jump out of the circle and cross back over to proove he isn’t Dracula. I was on the edge of my seat, fully and rightfully expecting Drac to pop up and go for the poor boy. Luckily, he gets back in time but Lord Ruthven’s valet and lover, Adisi, realising he is dead, and unable to believe the Dracula is really a vampire, challenges Dracula to a duel and is quickly dispatched. Despite everyone in the circle, and me and hubs at home, screaming for him not to leave the circle.

The remaining people on the boat go for Dracula and set him on fire. He plunges into the water. Agatha, knowing that she is doomed to the same fate as Jonathan says that the boat must never reach England. Piotr and the chef are allowed to leave with a lifeboat, while the Captain and Agatha stay behind to destroy Dracula’s boxes of soil, so that he cannot use them to rest in in England, and blow up the ship.

An odd sense of quiet has descended on the Demeter as Agatha sets up her explosives to sink the ship. It is unnerving, especially as any background music is now gone and all there is is the sound of a ship. We lean in. Surely there is another twist.

Of course there is.

Agatha visits Dracula’s cabin and realises that the bed she is sitting on is filled with soil. And Dracula has already used it to restore himself after the fire. The Captain is leapt upon and wounded, but Dracula is arrogant enough to assume he is dead when he beckons Agatha for one last conversation. The Captain tells her to keep him busy while he blows up the ship.

And she does it beautifully, continuing to psycho-analyse him, distracting him long enough for the Captain to light the fuse. We are plunged into the water with Dracula as the ship shatters into millions of pieces.

There are of course the obligatory going through water shots as Dracula simply walks through the water and onto the beach at Whitby. He laughs as he catches sight of the ruined abbey on the hill before a flood light snaps on and he is surrounded by armed guards and helicopters.

Hubby and I went ‘Huh?’ in Scooby do fashion as Sister Agatha reappeared, with a very English accent, in a very much 21st C England.

And it’s here where it begins to get a bit Moffaty but that’s for the next review.

Part 1: https://ellencroshainofficialblog.wordpress.com/2020/01/19/dracula-spectacular-part-1/

Until next time

Ellen xoxo

Homeward bound!

I promise my review of ‘Dracula’ part 2 will go up soon. I have thoughts. Many of them.

At this moment, I am sitting in Bristol Airport, waiting for a plane to Belfast. I have a busy weekend ahead with the folks from home.

I have the honour of being the godmother to my best friend’s youngest daughter. I am already her eldest’s godmother and I am thrilled to be asked to do it again.

As I was over anyway, my little sister has arranged her baby shower for today, so that I could be a part of it, which is wonderful.

It’s odd, and so hard, being away from my children for the weekend but their daddy will take amazing care of them.

I have just finished a coffee and I am reading Jonathan Van Ness’ autobiography. If you don’t know, he is one of the Fab Five from Netflix’s resurrection of ‘Queer Eye’, which I adore. It’s more about building people up and giving them confidence now than the bitch-fest of the original.

JVN’s autobiography is raw, powerful, beautiful, tragic and funny all in equal measure. Genuinely, he is an inspiration. He is a beautiful soul.

Y’all need to read this.

Until next time,

Ellen xoxo

Dracula Spectacular Part 1

Umm, you missed a spot

Like the series this will be in 3 parts. Because it is late and I am sleepy.

Christmas TV is usually quite hit and miss. Sometimes there is an absolute dirth of decent telly and other times there are some absolute gems.

This new adaptation of Dracula, for me, was a gem. Mostly. Some issues with episode 3, but we’ll get to that. If you haven’t seen it yet, it is still available on BBC iPlayer and on Netflix in the U.S. Also, if you haven’t seen it, read no further because spoilers come from this point on. Though the novel is 127 years old; you should know the basic premise.

First things first, ‘Dracula’ the novel is a crap vampire novel. Oh, don’t look at me like that! It is! It is essentially a load of white, middle-class, English people writing each other letters about what they are going to do about that horrible Eastern European man who has moved onto their patch. The best bits (Harker being fed on, Lucy eating children etc.) are over far too quickly and are all reported on, rather than seen by us. I know it holds massive sway over the public imagination, and will do so for generations, but I think this is more to do with it being a cracking adventure novel, with a supernatural foe as its antagonist, than the creature of the vampire. (Plus all the post-Colonial, late Victorian fear of the foreign which still resonates today.)

So now that I have enraged ‘Dracula’ fans everywhere, let us begin.

I often groan with irritation when I hear of another ‘Dracula’ adaptation. It has been done. From ‘Nosferatu’ to Copella, Hammer Horror to the Jonathan Rhys Meyers series, Dracula has been done. And done to death. So as much as I love Mark Gatiss, I didn’t see the point.

And then I watched the first episode.

*Happy Clapping*

The scene opened on an emaciated, haunted Jonathan Harker, in a convent. All right, an interesting place to begin, I mused. And then Sister Agatha Van Helsing walks in.

Nun on a mission

I twigged quite quickly what was going on, who she was, and why she was getting Harker to re-tell his story but I didn’t care. From her appearance, I knew straight away that this adaptation was going to do new and exciting things.

I think that what I loved most about this adaptation was the characterisation. Sister Agatha is a woman facing doubt and disappointment in her vocation, though she admits she is looking for God everywhere. She is caustic and sassy, questioning and practical, and has some of the best, and wittiest lines.

I loved that they made Dracula a bit of an arse. A charming arse but an arse nonetheless. He ruthlessly drains Jonathan and sort of absorbs him and his knowledge of the world to make it easier to fit the new world he is going to. He is so charming, revitalised and pleasant, that we are lured, like Jonathan into his web.

There are elements of the story we are familiar with, the brides, the baby being fed to them, but they are done in new ways. Dracula is looking to create something like him, and is experimenting with his kills. In the process, ghouls are often created, creatures who seek blood but have no real thought. Dracula keeps these poor souls, who are rotting and unable to switch off as they decompose. Shudder.

Another new thing is that Mina and Jonathan don’t make it past the first episode, not really. Jonathan dies and then comes back as a creature somewhat like Dracula, rather than a ghoul. And almost immediately too. In a most unlike-Jonathan fashion he throws himself off the castle and tumbles into the water below, where he washes up at the convent. The audience, and Jonathan, realise what he is at the same moment, as well as that his story that he wrote down is essentially just Dracula’s name over and over again.

At this point it is revealed that the second nun is Mina and she tries, and fails, to save him by trying to convince him that true love conquers all. She doesn’t win and Jonathan essentially stakes himself to save her from doing it.

While all of this is going on, Dracula in the skin of a wolf, is taunting the nuns, who have been trained to kill vampires by Sister Agatha, trying to convince one of them to invite him in. This was one of the scenes I hid under my duvet for (as well as for the vampire baby because I am a mum and I could not handle that.) That slow, bloody, cracking, visceral transformation will stay with me for a long time. And now thanks to this clip, it can haunt you too:

https://youtu.be/zABDt7Rjjak

They really had a lot of fun with it from this point onwards. Jonathan isn’t dead! He can’t kill himself so of course, he is the weak link who invites Dracula in, to end his suffering. Mother Superior is in the chapel, preaching to her sisters that in God, goodness will prevail and just as she finishes, Dracula takes her head.

What do you call a nun with no head? Dead.

And then it begins, a true blood bath, what all of us dark-souled little TV addicts tuned in for. The nuns are ripped to pieces by wolves and Dracula, and he just revels in it.

Mina and Sister Agatha have fled to the cellar, where the sister creates a threshold out of the Host (consecreated bread for Mass) and is desperately searching for some way to defeat Dracula. She remains stoic and accepts that hearing the screams of the other nuns is her punishment for her arrogance.

Then a shuffling Jonathan appears. He’s still not dead! Well, no more dead than he was. It’s clearly a trick. As my husband and I yelled with Agatha that Mina should not invite him over the threshold, she does anyway. He then pulls off his face to reveal Dracula (big shocker) and the first episode ends with everyone screaming. Us included.

I had genuine goosebumps, which I have never had when watching a Dracula film/series before.

I’ll stop there as my own little monsters have risen from their beds for hugs.

Tune in for episode 2!

Ellen xox

Belonging.

I am utterly convinced that I don’t really fit anywhere. I am a bit of an oddball: I am in equal measures sassy and timid. I have a smutty sense of humour and I find bizzare things hillarious. I know odd bits of trivia and have read everything Shakespeare ever wrote. I exercise, every day at 5am, and I am still chunky. In my classroom, I carry myself like I am the Queen but outside of that room, I am constantly terrified I am messing things up. I don’t really fit a category, other than misfit.

I know where this belief that I don’t fit comes from and it has followed me all my life. When my dad moved for work, it meant starting over again. Kids aren’t always kind to new kids and it became easier to be on my own than risk it and become the target of bullies again. (I’m not blaming my dad for that btw. It’s just how it was.)

That upset haunts me. I can’t shake it off.

It doesn’t help that I am an introvert. Or that I am an introvert that wants to have friends. Most of us do, we just find it difficult. Now, I have friends (albeit a smaller circle than some) and I am able to speak to people, be friendly and sociable, but this belief I don’t fit lingers.

I don’t often get invited to things. I also don’t have many people come to the things I organise. And sometimes, no one comes at all. I don’t get told people’s important news until I do something and put my foot in it. I am often left on my own at children’s birthday parties while other parents chatter on. I join in where I have something to say but am met with polite smiles rather than an invitation to contribute further.

I often ignore this feeling because hot on its heels is the notion that not only do I not belong but that I am a waste of space. Logically, I know this is not true. My husband does not think I am a waste of space, nor do my children. I know that my friends do not think this.

But I think it. And some days I believe it.

I think that is why I write. It allows me to work through what I’m going through before it gets on top of me. I belong in the world I create. It helps me focus when the ridiculous notion that people are only pretending to be nice to me because they have to rears up.

At this moment, I am lying in my eldest’s bed, holding her hand as she drifts off. It has not been an easy weekend for our relationship. She’s 4 and wants to do what she wants to do. Even if it’s dangerous or impossible. Despite numerous naughty spots, tears and shouting matches, at bedtime, she asked for me and I know this much is true. For now, this is where I belong.

Until next time,

Ellen xoxo

Feeling blue

Ugh. I am in the process of trying to sort out the launch for Cruelty 3 and have just been turned down by the local bookshop. I get that my style of fiction isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, though, and they have a USP to think of. They have offered to put up a poster when I get a launch space sorted, which is very nice. Still, I feel disappointed.

Sigh.

Well, hey-ho. Dust myself off and try again somewhere else. It isn’t easy being an Indie.

Ellen. Xoxo

Starting again

It’s funny. As a writer, you’d think I’d be able to write a semi-regular blog but as is obvious, I haven’t.

I am busy. I’ve had a second baby and I am still teaching as well as getting things ready for the launch of Book 3. There’s not a lot of time to get things done. And sometimes, I have nothing interesting to say.

However, I’ve decided to try and get a blog post out once a month, at the very least. I don’t know what I’ll write about (other than reviewing the latest BBC Dracula, which I LOVED!)

I suppose my biggest news is that, with the upcoming launch of Book 3, and the handful of novellas I’ve written, I am sort of finished with the Cruelty universe. At least for the time being. I’m working on a short piece, as a palate cleanser, before I move on to something I wrote a while ago that needs a thorough revision and polish.

There’s lots if other things I’ll be starting again, PiYo, running, WW and meditation as the new year is always a chance for a new start.