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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Dracula is a TV adaptation of Bram Stoker's classic 1897 gothic horror novel. Created by Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat, the duo behind the Sherlock and Doctor Who television reboots, the 3-episode series is set in Transylvania and Budapest at the end of the 19th century and tells the story of a British lawyer John Harker who is imprisoned by Count Dracula in his labyrinthian castle. Harker escapes and ends up in a Hungarian convent, tended to a nun named Sister Agatha Van Helsing, and relives his days of terror. There's a lot of violent imagery and action in this classic vampire story; corpses rise from wooden coffins, a woman is decapitated, there are stakes driven into hearts, a group of women are torn apart by wolves. There is ripping flesh, gaping open wounds, oozing blood -- but much of the violence happens offscreen. It's more philosophically and psychologically terrifying for its religious, good verses evil, symbolism. Both Sister Agatha and Harker are strong, compelling characters who act with courage and selflessness. There are a few fleeting shots of a fully-clothed sexual act between an engaged couple, interrogations about whether or not Dracula preyed on Harker sexually, and a scene in which Dracula emerges naked from the skin of a wolf, although there is only a dimly lit shot of his buttocks. Horror fans will likely enjoy this well-done interpretation of a classic tale, but the violent imagery and mature themes makes this best for teens and up.
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- Kids say
What's the story?
DRACULA begins in Hungary in 1897 at a convent where John Harker (John Heffernan) a traumatized British lawyer, is recounting his torturous experience at Count Dracula's (Claes Bang) Transylvanian castle to a nun named Sister Agatha Van Helsing (Dorothy Wells). What was supposed to be a quick, one-night visit to drop off paperwork for Dracula's recent purchase of property in England turned into weeks when Dracula wouldn't let him leave, claiming he wanted to absorb Harker's English language and British ways before he himself emigrated there. Absorb he did; Harker soon begins to deteriorate while the old, enfeebled Dracula becomes drastically younger and stronger. As Harker recounts the horror to Sister Agatha, she comes to understand they are dealing with the devil himself and must learn how to destroy him.
Is it any good?
This series brings to light one of the most enduring horror stories of all time and delivers it in a fresh, albeit gruesome, way. It's reminiscent of classic horror films with eerie monochromatic lighting, richly designed sets, and the charismatic horror villain quality of Claes Bang. Bang's Dracula is oozing with seduction and makes a very striking villain, and the gender-swap spin of the Van Helsing role (based on Professor Abraham Van Helsing, the original vampire hunter) is refreshing and makes a perfect adversary to the devil himself.
The graphic, obvious sensationalism -- shots of Dracula's mouth dripping in thick, dark blood; a group of nuns facing down a literally naked devil; the painfully overt metaphor of Sister Agatha and Dracula's chess game -- feels like a campy homage to the horror genre's history rather than a heavy-handed misstep. There's a lot of satisfying bits to unpack here for horror and classic literature fans, and Dracula ultimately does a fine job of honoring both Bram Stocker's original story and the horror genre as a whole.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the characters of Sister Agatha and John Harker. What makes them so compelling? How do they show their courage and selflessness?
Bram Stoker's Dracula is one of the most enduring stories of all time. Where else have you seen the Dracula character? There have been many retellings over the decades, and some, like Hotel Transylvania and Sesame Street's Count von Count, introduce the legend in a kid-friendly way. What are some other enduring characters that you can think of?
What does this story say about good verses evil? How does religious symbolism come into play? Can you think of any other stories that represent the good verses evil showdown?
Our editors recommend
For kids who love to be scared
Themes & Topics
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