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‘Sherlock’ Team Returns With ‘Dracula’

Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss are returning to their roots with Bram Stoker’s seminal classic.
Dracula Movie Bela Lugosi
Universal Pictures
By  · Published on October 16th, 2018

The popularity of a monster is cyclical and typically likes to wear out it’s welcome before it vanishes into the cultural ether, waiting patiently to make its triumphant return, typically bigger and badder than before. And it’s a cycle almost as old as moving pictures themselves. When Universal made it’s classic monster movies, they weren’t just one and done with the original Frankenstein, Dracula, The Mummy, and The Invisible Man. We also had Son of Frankenstein, Dracula’s Daughter, The Mummy’s Ghost, and The Invisible Man’s Revenge.

Fifty years later, a similar cycle appeared with modern monoliths of the macabre like Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, and Freddy Krueger, the latter two going head to head as the sequels flirted with double-digit installments. And if you look around at our modern horror landscape, you’ll see a genre in flux, navigating through what’s next as the zombie boom shows hints of finally burning out.

But like the dead walking the earth, everything comes back eventually. It was only four years ago that True Blood, HBO’s hit vampire rom-dram, finally left the airwaves after a whopping seven seasons. The CW stalwart The Vampire Diaries, which premiered in 2009, the year after True Blood, concluded just last year. And while the, ahem, twilight years of the modern vampire show may be a decade behind us, in this current zombie oversaturation, the bloodsuckers may see a serious comeback thanks to Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, the crack team behind the monumental hit Sherlock.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Netflix and BBC One are teaming up to produce a three-part Dracula miniseries, co-created by Moffat and Gatiss. Each part will be feature-length, aping the structure they employed for their modern retelling of Arthur Conan Doyle’s dashing detective stories. “There have always been stories about great evil. What’s special about Dracula is that Bram Stoker gave evil its own hero,” the duo said in a joint statement.

There is no word on the plot, casting, or anything beyond “this is a show that will happen!” But we can glean a few interesting little clues that may illustrate what Moffat and Gatiss will be attempting to achieve in their retelling of Stoker’s timeless vampiric tale.

First, it’s the word hero, meaning that we will most likely be rooting for this version of Dracula. The character has always been a bit of an antihero, even back in Stoker’s original novel. The count was an upstanding good man before vampirism cursed him with a neverending death. Dracula is inherently a tragic figure that we should feel empathy for, especially as our society emotionally matures. But that doesn’t mean he should be the hero and buddy up with Van Helsing as seen in 2013’s short-lived Dracula series starring Jonathan Rhys-Meyers. On the contrary, Dracula should retain its bite and, perhaps taking a page from the recent Venom film, not shy away from the violence that comes from his condition.

We also have the phrase “made evil sexy,” which appears like a makeshift series tagline. While the last decade’s cycle of vampire fiction relied heavily on the inherent eroticism of the monster, it appears that Moffat and Gatiss will be doubling down on that for this revival. And as well it should be! Dracula as Daddy is bound to be in the cards for anything Moffat’s Tumblr fanbase will latch on to, but the Count and sexuality have always been integral to Stoker’s original novel. Dracula has never not been a creature of the night, in more ways than one, and coming on the heels of a cultural cycle that embraced the romanticism of vampires it makes sense to continue that exploration.

But that doesn’t mean that Dracula is set to be another series of sparkling vamps with perfectly chiseled six-packs. Moffat, for the uninitiated, is not a newbie when it comes to horror. He rose to acclaim thanks to some key episodes he wrote for the revival of Doctor Who. Most notably he gave us some of the Doctor’s newest, and perhaps most terrifying, monsters from The Weeping Angels to The Silence to the Vashta Nerada, a shadow-like swarm of energy that literally eats people until they are nothing but skeletons in space suits. Remember: this is the guy who once said Doctor Who was a show strictly for children.

But furthermore, he has already adapted a famous Victorian-era novel for the small screen with 2007’s Jekyll. Based on the classic tale of good against evil, Moffat set his series in modern times, expanding on the underlying psychiatric subtext in Robert Louis Stevenson’s original writing of Jekyll and Hyde. Moffat was able to take a property that had been endlessly adapted, from films to Broadway musicals, and make it feel wholly fresh. With Jekyll, he not only honored the versions that had come before but also created his own wholly original story, combining horror and mystery without losing a shred of its watchability.

Which is perhaps Moffat’s greatest strength of all: no matter the complexity of his narrative hooks, what he produces is extremely accessible. Just look at the earth-shattering success of Sherlock, catapulting someone with the real name Benedict Cumberbatch into global stardom. Doctor Who was a hit when Russell T. Davies revived the show in 2005, but it wouldn’t be the global phenomenon it is today if it wasn’t for Moffat’s guiding hand as showrunner. He’s able to take high, occasionally frightening, concepts and make them easily digestible for audiences who might not be accustomed to horror on television.

The biggest clue, though, could be Gatiss’ involvement. He wrote Sherlock’s “The Hounds of Baskerville” episode and created Crooked House, an anthology series influenced by the works of M.R. James and Amicus’ omnibus films like Asylum. But most notably he’s a huge fan of Hammer Horror films, especially Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing’s 1958 Horror of Dracula. When it comes to adapting classic tales anew, having reverence for the material is of the utmost importance. And by having this new version be written by fans, it’s a safe assumption it must also be for fans too.

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Jacob Trussell is a writer based in New York City. His editorial work has been featured on the BBC, NPR, Rue Morgue Magazine, Film School Rejects, and One Perfect Shot. He's also the author of 'The Binge Watcher's Guide to The Twilight Zone' (Riverdale Avenue Books). Available to host your next spooky public access show. Find him on Twitter here: @JE_TRUSSELL (He/Him)