'Dracula the Un-Dead': The Prince of Darkness just keeps rolling along
"Dracula the Un-Dead" by Dacre Stoker is a rapid-fire update of the 1912 novel "Dracula," full of nightmares, orgies, nighttime chases and ominous red fog, as Jonathan and Mina Harker continue to suffer at the hands of you-know-who.
Special to The Seattle Times
"Dracula the Un-Dead"
by Dacre Stoker and Ian Holt
Dutton, 424 pp., $26.95
When reviewing a vampire novel, it's probably overkill to hint at somebody rolling in his grave. Fans of the "Dracula" story know that the dead who are just tossing and turning, as opposed to being stabbed with wooden stakes and stuffed with garlic, are the fortunate ones.
Nonetheless, I can't help imagining what Bram Stoker, whose novel "Dracula" was published in 1897 and who met his presumably final rest in 1912, might make of the busy, bloody new sequel "Dracula the Un-Dead."
Written by Dacre Stoker (Bram's great-grandnephew) and Ian Holt, it's an odd piece of work, bearing about as much resemblance to the original as Bela Lugosi does to Robert "Twilight" Pattinson.
Set in 1912 (mainly, as explained in an author's note, to tie in the sailing of the "Titanic" — guess who's aboard?), "Dracula the Un-Dead" unites the vampire hunters from the original novel, their lives still intertwined.
Mina and Jonathan Harker are still married, though unhappily; their now-grown son Quincey has been bitten not by a vampire but by the theater bug, and becomes involved in a production of the play "Dracula," directed by none other than Bram Stoker.
When former asylum psychiatrist Dr. Seward meets an early, terrible demise at the hands of a wicked female vampire, an elderly Professor Van Helsing (now mysteriously without his accent) is called in, as is a reluctant Arthur Holmwood, former fiancé of the doomed Lucy Westenra.
The book unfolds in a series of rapid-fire sequences, some of which seem designed for an eventual movie: grisly nightmares, sexually charged blood orgies, nighttime chases, public impalements, disastrous fires, ominous red fogs. (To the latter, one character notes sagely: "Something's not right. Have you ever seen red fog?")
Stoker and Holt keep the action racing along, filling their story with references for all levels of "Dracula" fandom: details of Stoker's real life and his connection with the actor Henry Irving flit through the book, and names such as "Dr. Langella" pop up, to remind us of great Draculas past.
All of this activity tries vainly to distract from the book's biggest problem: its plodding and often awkward prose.
There are passages in the original "Dracula" (which was written, unlike the sequel, as a selection of letters and diary excerpts) that sear into the reader's consciousness.
Jonathan Harker notes that the last he saw of Count Dracula before escaping his castle was him "kissing a hand to me, with a red light of triumph in his eyes, and with a smile that Judas in hell might be proud of." Brr.
The new authors settle for overly dramatic prose ("She was about to bite off his manhood!" or the italicized "Was that a threat?"), unintentionally funny metaphors ("Like a bad meal, the images came up again and again"), and sexual goings-on I dare not quote in this paper.
Asked recently why the sequel didn't imitate the form of the original, Dacre Stoker said, "We just said, 'We're going to make it an exciting book because that's what people want these days.' Kind of like a Dan Brown thriller. ... We felt if we didn't make it juicy, people would go, 'Oh, this is boring.' "
Whatever you might say about "Dracula the Un-Dead," boring it's not. Roll gently, Bram.
Moira Macdonald is The Seattle Times movie critic.