Some of the most compelling parts of Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula are the brief quotes from the log of the ship Demeter. As it carries the stowaway vampire to England the crew disappear mysteriously leaving none but the captain aboard, lashed to the wheel. This story expands on this brief but terrifying outline to detail the whole voyage.
It begins abruptly with a sex scene, which, although has a twist and serves to illustrate the nature of two of the characters, is a very jarring beginning. Names and back stories are invented for crew and we see what happens as they are picked off Ten Little Indians style. There isn’t really much of a plot and we know the ending so all we can rely on is characterisation and atmosphere.
Dracula is an incredible piece of writing and unless Stoker was going to write this book then whoever ended up doing it wouldn’t be as good. You are taking a couple of paragraphs and spinning them out to four chapters after all. It does feel shallow and you do see the monster almost straight away. If this was a standalone tale then it wouldn’t be too bad but coming from such a rich legacy we can’t help but feel let down.
The art is very subdued indeed with fog, storm and ship interior providing very little daylight. A good effort is made with the lighting and shadows and there are some good dramatic poses every so often. The sailors’ faces are intentionally caricatured, as if the artist was one of their crew, incorporating their personalities into the drawing. There is an awful lot of dark blue and mud brown but with the odd flashback and ghostly apparition colour does make an occasional appearance.
Our villain is a very psychological vampire. With the power to read the crew’s minds he uses guilt as well as fear to drive the sailors to madness. This unusual approach, coupled with the fleshing out of the sailors’ pasts, tries really hard to win you over. This is definitely an uphill struggle but for the most part it succeeds.
There is an extensive self-critique by the writer that sheds light into his themes and objectives. There is also a brief history of the Demeter on screen throughout Dracula’s film career. There is also a cover gallery featuring some truly quirky styles. Thumbs Up!
Tomorrow: 45 – Andi Ewington