Big Finish: DRACULA'S WAR Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

Home Top Ad

Post Top Ad

Big Finish: DRACULA'S WAR Review

Matthew Kresal enlists in Dracula's War...

There is no more famous vampire in all of popular culture than Dracula. Bram Stoker's creation, and its many screen variations, has reigned as king of the vampires for over a century, seeing life on stage, screen, and audio. In 2016, Big Finish produced their take on the count and Stoker's novel with Mark Gatiss in the title role. Now, four years later, they've given listeners both a prequel and a sequel to that classic tale. The latter, released this month, takes the story into the midst of the First World War and an intriguing take on an old idea.

The old idea, in case it wasn't obvious, being to do a sequel to Stoker's novel. It's something that countless authors and filmmakers have taken a crack at over the years, from Kim Newman's Anno Dracula series of alternate history/pop culture crossover stories in prose and onscreen ranging from Universal in the 1930s, Hammer in the sixties and seventies, to the Dracula 2000 trilogy of films. Even Stoker's great grand-nephew had a go with a novel back in 2009. So, it's safe to say Jonathan Barnes (who previously scripted Big Finish's other two Dracula audios) had a challenge ahead of him.

One this reviewer is happy to say, he more than rose to meet. Setting his tale among the darkest times of the First World War, Barnes wraps elements of a race against time thriller around the inherent horror of Dracula. There's an old saying that desperate times call for desperate measures, and it's clear that one Mr. Skinsale has taken that to heart with a plan for victory, whose means the reader can likely guess. Opposing him are returning characters from Stoker's novel (and previous audios), more often than not worse for wear by the passage of time. Can they stop an act of unholy action in the name of desperation, though, and at what cost?

In a way, Barnes' script manages to have its cake and eat it too. On the one hand, it pastiches the epistolary format in which Stoker wrote his novel as it draws in part from the recollections of several characters in relating events. In another way, especially in its concluding episode, it's an immensely cinematic piece of work with setpieces that would not be out of place if he was writing for the screen. That the two approaches sit side by side, complementing rather than hindering one another, speaks to both Barnes as a writer but also Scott Hancock as the director. It's helped by being welcoming to those, such as myself, who haven't heard the previous Big Finish Dracula releases, something which is further in its favor even as it makes one want to seek them out.

It's also blessed by those aspects that have made Big Finish's work stand out: the first-rate cast and the equally strong production around them. Gatiss proves to be an ideal King of the Undead in his appearances here, playing up the tension and going for a "less is more" approach that makes him all the more threatening. Silas Carson, the voice of Doctor Who's Ood, brings that same sense of soothing, even calm menace to this role and is all the more compelling for it. Deirdre Mullins and Glen McCready reprise their roles as Mina Harker and Van Helsing, respectively, from previous releases, proving just how strong the original casting was. Rounding off the cast is Ronald Pickup, who once again proves himself a reliable figure of authority as King George V. Combined with sound design and music worthy of Hollywood from Joe Meiners and Robert Harvey, and you have a thrilling listen, indeed.

In the end, Dracula's War is far better than it has any right to be. Big Finish has crafted a sequel that manages to draw both on the original and its many variations. Yet, all the while maintains an identity of its own. It's what so many Dracula sequels have tried to be, but few have failed to succeed in being, which is more than enough reason to give it a listen.

Dracula's War is exclusively available to buy from the Big Finish website until October 31st 2020, and on general sale after this date.

Matthew lives in North Alabama where he's a nerd, doesn't have a southern accent and isn't a Republican. He's a host of both the Big Finish centric Stories From The Vortex podcast and the 20mb Doctor Who Podcast. You can read more of his writing at his blog and at The Terrible Zodin fanzine, amongst other places. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Post Top Ad