Part of it is being busy, part of it is having 2 small kids, part if it is utter laziness.
I got home at 3.30 today, after a long but ultimately fulfiling day on a course. I looked at my home, at the plates on the sofa, the crumbs on the floor, the cups in the sink, the laundry in the basket and went ‘Fuck this! I am not living like this.’ and spent the afternoon tidying and cleaning.
Is the whole house spotless? No. Is it much better than when I came in at 3.30? Yes. Will my children ruin it as soon as they come in? Absolutely but at least it was tidy for an hour.
So! It’s been a while. I have small children, a full time job, a 3rd novel to launch and 2 WIPs. I am a busy woman!
I am also a woman that follows through, so despite that it was on 8 weeks ago, here is my review of Dracula: The Dark Compass.
Blood Vessel ended in super ‘what a twist’ fashion, with Dracula being surrounded by helicopters, people with guns and (enter dramatic music of your choice here) Sister Agatha.
I won’t give so much of a synopsis of this one. Partly because spoilers but also because I feel this was the weakest of the three episodes. It was a bit Moffety, as one of my sixth formers called it.
Putting the second half of the Dracula in the 21st Century had the potential to be lots of fun. And it started off exactly like that.
At the start of the episode, Dracula is in a bit of a rundown farmhouse, having befriended the owner the night before while he was drunk. Predictably, the man has been fed on and Dracula is talking to the man’s wife about the palatial state of her home, which given where, and when, he’s come from, is funny and makes sense.
The man has been shoved into the fridge, the little white box as Dracula calls it, and starts to ghoul out which Dracula ignores, preferring to watch the TV and absorb more understanding of the world.
The roof of the house is taken off by the military types and Sister Agatha comes in. Only it’s not Sister Agatha, it’s a great, great neice, who bares the name Dr Van Helsing. Drac tries to eat her but her blood is poisonous to him because she is dying of cancer, which is important for the rest of the story.
Drac is taken in to the Harker institute that was set up by Mina after Jonathan’s death to be there to stop Dracula, should he ever reach England. He is placed in a glass prison, complete with a loo. Which does deliver the best line of the series: I’m a vampire, what do I need a toilet for?
I laughed. A lot.
We discover that Dracula climbed inside his last box of earth when the Demeter went down and had been in a coma of sorts until one of people from the Harker institute woke him up.
By sticking her fingers in his mouth.
Who does that?!?!?! ‘Oh, looks like the vampire we’ve been looking for. I’ll stick my fingers in his mouth.’ Stoopid.
So you might be thinking, where are the other cast members that we remember from the novel? Lucy, Arthur, Jack, Quincy, even Renfield?
Never fear, they have been transported to the 21st C too. Jack is a junior doctor, Lucy is the object of his affection and a party girl, Arthur is her gay best friend and Quincy, her loud, brash, American love interest. (I’ll explain about Renfield in a bit.)
Jack gets a call from the Harker institute when Dracula is found and he decides to join them for their clinical trials after Quincy proposes to Lucy and she accepts.
The trials never actually happen as Renfield appears, played by Mark Gatiss, as Dracula’s lawyer and stops them from doing it.
Dracula is released and gets ready in the same room Jack left all his possessions in when he changed into his clinical trial gear, including his phone. Which is currently been blown up by Lucy. Dracula answers her call and that connection is formed, drawing her into his clutches and eventually leading to him turning her into a vampire bride.
I don’t mean to sound dismissive here, there are some truly interesting idead and concepts in the 3rd episode but the whole thing feels rushed and under developed. It feels like it should have stopped at the end of ‘Blood Vessel’ and then had a 2 episode, second series later in the year.
I get why it’s only 3 episodes, especially as a holiday special but there was the potential for something better, especially in seeing Dracula adapt to the 21st C. I suppose the seeds for how quickly he is able to adapt is covered in the first 2 episodes, when he learns through drinking his victims’ blood and although it is funny to see him riding an exercise bike in an expensive apartment, while Renfield flicks through Tinder for victims, there was more to do.
Take the relationship with Lucy, for example. We just jump a couple of months into the future, where Dracula and Lucy are clearly involved (puncture wounds in her neck) but she is still planning on marrying Quincy. Ok, it was always going to go in that direction but why the rush? Show us that relationship developing. Lucy is a risk taker, shallow and self-absorbed, fearless and arrogant, all of which makes her interesting to the Count and us. Watching her fall into his clutches, seeing her ignore the danger time and time again, not just in the graveyard on the night of her hen do, would be interesting to see. Especially considering what actually happens to Lucy.
Her hubris is rewarded in the worst way possible. She ‘dies’ and a funeral is held, pretty bloody quickly by English standards, which made me think, how long does it take a bride of Dracula to transform? A few days? A week? A month? And why is Lucy the only one whose body is dead but whose soul is screaming in the mirror for help? The other brides in episode 1 seemed to be awake or maybe they did die and woke up vampires? I digress.
Lucy is cremated and wakes up while being cremated. Now, despite all my criticisms, this was a fantastic bit of smoke (sorry, sorry) and mirrors. In the crematorium, Lucy sees reflected a beautiful young woman but in reality, she is a scorched and melted flesh monstrosity. A fact only revealed to her when she gets to Dracula’s apartment and takes a selfie at Dr Van Helsing’s behest. She begs the insipid Jack to help her and he stakes her in the heart, leaving Dracula going ‘oh boo. She was the best bride I ever made. Nevermind, eh?’
This brings me on to other interesting (and sometimes rushed) concepts.
All throughout the series there has been the twist on perhaps the most famous line ‘The blood is the life.’ In this series, they’ve used ‘Blood is lives’ telling us that Dracula also absorbs the lives and knowledge, the essence of the people he feeds on. It makes sense.
It also sets us up quite nicely for what Dr Van Helsing does with the single vial of Dracula’s blood that they managed to draw; she drinks it.
It doesn’t magically heal her, it doesn’t turn her. It connects her with Sister Agatha, who immediately perks up and starts talking about working out Dracula’s motivation and why he must be stopped. Even in death, she is still obsessed by the myths that surround Dracula and why they don’t make sense.
On the surface I like this idea but it is a bit plot maguffany. Yes, I know that it’s because they are relatives but they didn’t have to connect straight away (although the Dr rejects it initially as her cancer progresses). She could have sifted through people until finding Sister Agatha.
It’s also not 100% clear if it is just Sister Agatha’s ghost or if she literally lives on in Dracula’s blood. It must be the second one, because she wouldn’t be able to take over Dr Van Helsing’s body (as she does towards the end) to finish working out her puzzle.
I do like that reemergance of Sister Agatha. In many ways, she is Lucy’s predecesor, challenging him and questioning him, peaking his interest. She also sees through him and the reason behind his behaviours. For example, he says his fear of the cross was learned by drinking from the blood of superstitious victims but she works out, in a glorious speech, what actually created the Dracula myths. I won’t tell you because it is spoilery and you should watch it as she breaks him down.
I will say the ending is gorgeous, visually and from a narrative standpoint. Although her blood is poisonous, he feeds from her and they ‘die’ in each others arms, angel and demon together.
I’ve put ‘die’ in inverted commas because I am cynical and it feels like they ended it in such a fashion to allow for another series, if it did well.
So overall, there were things I liked about this 3rd episode but there were areas where it was lacking. It all happened too quicky, feeling very much like they were forced to squeeze as much content as they could into one episode because a four episode mini-series would be madness. And the characterisation, which had been so good in episodes 1 and 2, went out the window for everyone apart from Dracula and Sister Agatha/Dr Van Helsing. Everyone else felt flat and insipid, even Lucy, to a degree.
It was just all a bit Moffety.
Is the series worth a watch? Yes, definitely but I feel episode 3 was the weakest.
If you’d like to read my reviews of episodes 1 and 2, links are below:
I’d love for you to join me for the launch of ‘Cruelty: Unbound’, the final part of the Cruelty trilogy. Heavily inspired by Irish mythology and slightly more epic in scale than parts 1&2, Unbound has been an utter labour of love and I am so excited to release it to the world.
I will be launching it at the Crêpe Escape in Penarth, where I will be doing a reading from ‘Unbound’, and copies of all three books will be available. I’m also in the process of sorting out catering options. I will keep you updated on that front.
If you’d like to check out books 1 and 2 beforehand, here’s the links:
Hopefully, I will see you there. For now, here’s the blurb for ‘Unbound’:
‘The Usurper is dead.
Áine and Caolán have been snatched into Faerië. Terrified and alone, Cornelius is forced to make a deal with the last person he can trust if he is to have any hope of saving them. But he cannot simply walk in and take them; trouble is brewing in Faerië…
The Queens of Faerië are determined to wage war on the mortal realm and need the blood of changelings to re-open the Veil. Áine and Caolán have been dragged into a scheme two hundred years in the making and must rely on their wits and each other if they are going to survive.
Will the MacCatháins survive the dark plans of Titania and the cruel NicNevan? Can they hope to escape the devestation the Queens’ war would bring? The fate of two worlds hangs in the balance and the MacCatháins have the power to tip the scale.’
It is currently 5.20am on a Saturday morning, and I am awake.
I think this is because I get up at 5 most days to work out (but not this week as I’ve had a hideous cold and I couldn’t summon the energy), so my body is like ‘Let’s get up now!’
Today, I woke in tears. Has that ever happened to you? It’s disconcerting and upsetting, especially if you can’t work out the reason why you were crying.
This gave the gremlins who live in the recesses of my mind some fuel this morning. Every anxiety I have, every upset I’ve had recently, every worry is being thrown at me by my brain.
This kind of inner monologe is exhausting. If someone else was telling me ‘Nobody likes you, they’re just nice to make life easier at work and church, they’re only nice to you for Adam’s sake, you don’t have any real friends, don’t even bother inviting them to your booklaunch or birthday, because they won’t show, because nobody likes you!’ (which is what my brain always decides to throw at me when I feel like this) I would tell them to shut up and go away. But how do you argue with yourself?
I know that none of these things that it throws at me are true (Well, I am overweight but I am not the disgusting, obscene slob that my gremlins like to tell me that I am) but it throws them at me with such viciousness that my breath catches and I feel like I’m going to cry.
I don’t know exactly where it comes from either but it has been part of my self narrative for as long as I can remember. I very often don’t like me so I don’t get how anyone else can like me. I don’t even think my husband likes me and we’ve been together since I was 18, so I know that thought is stupid.
I also know that if my friends knew that this is how I feel that would gather round me and reassure me and look after me, but I can’t bring myself to add my burdens to theirs. Hence today’s blog post. If I write it down, I have to face the gremlins. And if I face them, I can start to deal with them.
For now, I’m going to have a cuppa and enjoy a little quiet before my family gets up.
Until next time,
If you are struggling with your own mental health, here are some useful links:
If you missed my part 1 review the link is below. Just to remind everyone that I loved it.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.