Quickie: Spring-Heeled Jack

Who doesn’t love a good cryptid that also serves as a paragon of the importance of Leg Day?

Philistines.

Luckily, I know that’s not what you are, dear reader so cheers for taking the time to read this exceptionally brief fluff piece about one of my favourite boogeymen, Spring-Heeled Jack.

A brief overview; Spring-Heeled Jack thrived in and haunted the nightmares of those who lived in Victorian era during the First Industrial Revolution in the form of folk tales and the ever so sensational realm of the penny dreadful. The First Industrial Revolution was a monumental time in history which saw the production of goods that had once been painstakingly crafted by hand come to be produced in mass quantities by steam-driven machines in factories, thanks to the introduction of new devices and techniques in textiles, iron making and other industries. In addition to this technology, the topic of worker’s rights, equitable wages and safety policies were being discussed, disputed and deployed into the industry giving those of low means a better work environment and better pay. Of course, this road was not a smooth one and rarely without some source of bloodshed as revolutions tend to be.

However, despite this, as with any season of change there came the inevitable human reaction of fear. Being afraid of change is absolutely nothing new as it has always been the opposing force to any progressive idea proposed throughout history and it continues to be a major aspect of every society. With the workers, seeing these new machines being brought in, they most likely felt threatened, perhaps deep down they felt existential horror; if these hot and metallic monstrosities were the future, did that mean they were the distant past? That they could cease to be once these contraptions had filled up the warehouses? Change is not only necessary, but it is always perceived as a monster of the unknown by those not willing to embrace it, which brings us to my man Jack.

We all know the concept of the boogeyman is the direct fruit which is the result of human paranoia and anxieties, regardless of the epoch. Fairytales once acted as allegories to enforce the obedience of children, Godzilla’s genesis was being the avatar of the indisputable  unharnessable power of nuclear destruction while Freddy Kruger represents not only the disparity of communication between the older generation with the new, but also how the sins of one dynasty will heavily impact the next. No matter where you look, the true boogeyman resides in you, me and everybody else.

In the case of Spring-Heeled Jack, he is a clear allegory for this anxiety brought on by the First Industrial Revolution in all of those who worked and/or profited during the time of strictly human-based labor. Spring-Heeled Jack was mostly described by people who claimed to have seen him as having a frightful appearance, with diabolical physiognomy, clawed hands, and eyes that “resembled red balls of fire”. One report claimed that, beneath a black cloak, he wore a horned helmet and a tight-fitting white garment which appeared to be an oilskin. (Note: Oilskin as you may probably know is used as a waterproof garment which was originally manufactured for the use of sailors in the 1700s.)

Many stories also mention a distinctly Christian Devil aspect. Other testimonies noted he was remarkably tall with a lean, sharp face, with the appearance and outward bearing of a typical Victorian gentleman while some even stated that the fiend liked to disguise himself in multitudes of garb so he could pass by the masses unnoticed on his way to his next victim. Several reports mention that he could breathe out burning hot blue and white flames and that he wore sharp metallic talons at his fingertips. At least two people claimed that he was able to speak comprehensible English.

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Although Jack liked to hassle many people, he tended to favor the low-level folk the most, with a particular predilection for women (because OF COURSE), with one of the most prevalent testimonies being that of Mary Stevens.

While Mary was walking to Lavender Hill after visiting her parents in Battersea, she was accosted as she crossed Clapham Common by a strange figure who leapt at her from a dark alley. After immobilising her with a tight grip of his arms, he began to kiss her face, as he ripped at her clothes and touched her with invasive iron claws, which were, according to her deposition, “cold and clammy as those of a corpse”.  Thankfully, the girl screamed loudly which caused her aggressor to rapidly flee the scene. The commotion brought several concerned residents who immediately launched a search for the aggressor, but he could not be found.

The following day, the fiend was reported to have selected a different victim near Mary Stevens’ home which inaugurated a method that would reappear in later reports: he jumped in the path of a passing horse-driven carriage, which caused the coachman (who was clearly scared shitless) to lose control, crash, and severely injure himself. Although he lived, he no longer drove a carriage after that event in fear of it happening again. Several witnesses to the incident claimed that the attacker had escaped by jumping over a nine foot (2.7 meters for those of you who use metric) high wall while cackling with a high-pitched, shearing and maddening laughter (shearing… like metal on metal?) which rang in the ears of everybody assembled for time to come.

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”Fiddle-dee-dee, you can’t catch meeeee!”

Firey eyes. Infernal breath. Metallic clawed hands. Cold, inhuman grip. Unnaturally high-pitched laughter. An unstoppable creature wearing the clothes of a man but with an inhuman counternance making a mockery of society without regard for law and decency.

Spring-Heeled Jack is arguably the personification of the fear which rode in with the First Industrial Revolution with not only his lurid appearance, but also his behavior; powerful and unpredictable, just like the unusual apparatuses which had begun to dominate the workforce. Spring-Heeled Jack was the exaggerated response to the immortal human terror of change which makes him so compelling to me.

Speaking of which, although there have been a few films which have featured the cheeky son of a bitch, none of them have been worth a damn which makes me tempted to do something about that because the possibilities for the character are endless.

Ya reckon I should?

 

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Dracula Untold: A Defense You Never Asked For

**** Disclaimer: I originally intended to write this at the tippity-top of 2019 but I got waylaid due to a combination of being a lazy c-star-star-t and something called work, but hey, better late than never, right?***

Forgive me for commencing this article in such an unorthodox way, but I feel a little awkward composing this article in the form of a critical defense that was not requested or broached by anybody else. Essentially, I guess one could say I am arguing against sock puppets, but permit me to state for the record that I am a fan of Gary Shore’s underrated Dracula Untold which was supposed be the official start of Universal’s Dark Universe.

Let me start with this question; can it and should it be measured against the likes of Citizen Kane? The answer is a is a colossal NO.

You see, when it comes to ranking and appreciating films, some people tend to match them all on equal footing without taking into account each products’ own aesthetics and demographics. Is it acceptable to directly compare the likes of Batman Returns against The Crow? Apart from the Gothic tones both features hold, no, because they are very different stories with their own diverse themes told by two different directors who had their own personal visions. Is Dracula Untold on the same level as Bram Stoker’s Dracula by Francis Ford Coppola? On a surface level perhaps, but there is only so much blood we can draw from that stone before we come up snake-eyes.

In the situation which surrounds Untold, it is completely unfair to compare it to any given popular and well-loved classic because that is not the movies’ aspiration. Dracula Untold is a comic book film through and through with kind regard given to the bygone era of the Universal classics with a generous splash of speculative obfuscous fantasy. 

It was originally intended to be an origin story for a character who has been re-purposed to be an anti-hero of sorts in the form of Vlad Dracula using elements from the real life figure of Vlad The Impaler as well as the fictional equivalent birthed by Bram Stoker. In short, this movie makes no pretenses about being a factual historical drama or a conventional Dracula yarn and opts for something a little different. While one may argue its’ success, Dracula Untold never lied about what it was, right down to the trailer which tells you exactly what sort of film you are in for. Unlike other theatrical trailers, Untold is perfectly straight forward and those who went into the film were expecting anything different, well, that was their problem.

So, let me plead my case by saying that Dracula Untold is not the unforgivable dearth people have made it out to be and has more clout than it is given credit for.

Exhibit A: Luke Evans (and others)

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Okay, yes, let’s get it out of the way now; the man is beautiful.

It goes without saying that Shore wanted a sexy Dracula with a mortal soul and he got it by casting the Welshman Who Could. Evans has the ability to look smoldering, soulful, sinister and seductive (all at once in some cases, THAT takes talent) but also you can buy him as a regal, dignified warrior king who ultimately just wants to protect his family and his people.

We first see Prince Vlad of Wallachia comfortably stationed as the ruler of the people, a reputable strategist and most importantly, a loving family man to his beautiful wife Mirena (the luminous Sarah Gadon who provides additional heart to the story) and young son. While he has come to terms with his dark past serving in the court of the sultanate in the Ottoman Empire as a Jannisary, he nevertheless vows to right the savagery he committed by being a better, temperate man of power. He is not one to approach conflict readily or eagerly and is more inclined to utilize intellectual measures to get what he wants. It is only through necessity that he chooses to fight and even then, he does not see it as a pleasure, but as a duty.

(Note: If you feel so inclined, read up on the Jannisaries and be astounded by their badassery.)

When faced with inevitable war against the Sultan Mehmed II (Dominic Cooper, all snide and cocksure) and with all of his peaceful options exhausted, he takes on the burden of finding an alternative means to protecting all he holds dear, even if it means sacrificing his principles. When he meets Charles Dances’ decrepit Vampire Master (or Caligula, as it is revealed in the credits) and is offered the opportunity to save his people and his family, he takes it as his cross to bear, knowing it will cause him to suffer… a lot. After consuming Caligula’s blood, it reinvigorates and enhances Vlads’ capabilities, but it also reawakens the ruthless beast he once was and it is these two aspects of his identity which fight for his very soul throughout the rest of the film. Not once are we given the opportunity to objectify Vlad as a straight forward malevolent bloodlusting demon with no regard for life, but a man with principles in conflict with himself who ends up paying a heavy price.

And man, does Evans look marvelous in the Order of the Dragon armor.

Exhibit B: Vampire Lore

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While I will readily admit the whole ‘Three Days’ narrative trope is as well done as Charles Manson’s corpse in the Seventh Circle of Hell, if the story is consistent, I do not see it as a negative so long as the execution is sincere. In the case of Dracula Untold, the catch this time is that if Dracula does not give in to the thirst for blood in three days, he will retain his powers and his humanity. Easy, right?

LOLNOPE!

Given Vlad has taken up arms against Mehmed and is staring bloodshed square in the face, the base desire to cut loose and throw all to the wind is constantly there. One of the key elements of the concept of vampirism is that of temptation, the id, and in times of upheaval and disorder such as war, there are few sensations more potent than to tear through one’s enemies and bathe in their blood with no regard for their humanity. Untold plays with this relatable angle by applying it logically to not only Vlads’ plight, but also, though not as directly, to Caligula’s. Given Caligula is obviously the infamous Roman Emperor who positively thrived on excess and various gluttonies, seeing this filthy, vile and degenerate creature existing (not living) in his cave can be interpreted as further commentary as to what vampirism does to it’s victims. It turns you, isolates you, breaks you down and when it is done, you are but a husk. Ultimately, there is nothing worthwhile or glamorous about being undead; it’s an incomplete death sentence.

Secondly, I fully enjoyed how Dracula’s traditionally portrayed ‘evil’ abilities are portrayed in a more charitable light for a change, but never losing it’s potential as a threat. His mastery over the manipulation of nature was wonderful to watch, especially when it came to facing off against Mehmeds’ horde during the finale, one such moment being below when he literally BECOMES a bat man.

So. COOL.

 

Exhibit C: Aesthetics

While the film can hardly boast a wholly original artistic and flawless vision on the same level as say Frank Herbert’s Dune, in addition to having a very good looking cast, Dracula Untold is still a very good looking film which manages to balance the expected Gothic romance one commonly associates with Dracula and maintaining its comic book and fantasy-based integrity without becoming too steeped in an excess of style or the over-used Grim/Dark formula. On top of that, you are given the opportunity to fully take in every significant moment without having to worry about squinting or contracting whiplash from frenzied camera movements because it understands the importance of permitting the audience to breathe and soak in all of what they are witnessing on screen.

Exhibit D: That Ending

While it is tragic the cliffhanger the film ends on may never see a continuation given the current affairs of the Dark Universe, I nevertheless loved the set up of Dracula living in contemporary society and seeing the physical reincarnation of Mirena who is, of course, named ‘Mina’.

Rather than turning into a predator as one may expect however (with a nice little fake out to suggest this would be his approach), he pleasantly chats with her and draws her in with his own natural charm as opposed to his supernatural abilities. There is a sincere sensation of romance during this exchange rather that predator luring in prey.

They walk away, engaged in conversation… only to be followed by a far more vital-looking Caligula who oozes as only Charles Dance can “Let the games begin.”.

 

Exhibit E: This Trailer

As I mentioned at the top of this article, the trailer for Dracula Untold is unpretentious and direct. You gotta admire that, and I still get chills from the use of Lorde’s incredible rendition of Everybody Wants To Rule The World. In fact, I find it is absolutely mandatory to watch this trailer before you sit down to watch the film itself.

 

So, what were your thoughts on Dracula Untold? Liked it? Hated it? On the fence?

Netflix’s Dracula: Death and Toxic Masculinity

There were plenty of things about Netflix’s Dracula as a whole I thoroughly enjoyed critically, despite short-comings I am not blind to, yet the final scene held particular resonance with me which is being dismissed as a cop out though for what reason I do not quite comprehend why.

Let me explain.

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For my part, Dracula being shown to himself by Agatha/Zoe (who we shall refer to as Zogatha for distinction) was a good deal more satisfying than a stake-in-the-heart finale. As with much to do with this last installment, there wasn’t enough leg work undertaken that allowed the fullest and, therefore, proper execution of the matter, but it seemed to me that the idea itself was intuitive enough to permit the viewer to pick up the slack, although, one rather wishes that that wasn’t necessary.

Zogatha finally caught Dracula out when she identified his inadequacies (as he perceives them) not as monster, but as a man: raised in a cultural milieu that valorised the performance of manhood through martial violence and meaningful death on the battlefield (“you were a warrior”), he has been unable to satisfactorily follow this trajectory because of (what was, presumably, unlooked for) immortality.
He had effectively internalised this shame with such conviction and severity, that a full and meaningful death had become to him an abject fear of mortal demise in any form that is neither useful to him nor, literally, to his taste.

As we have come to realise, internalised controls become beliefs become externalised behaviours: Dracula found he could not disobey the legendary interdictions because he thought, believed, he could not. It was the weaknesses which added to his self-perception of legend. 

In other words,  I found this to be a rather direct metaphor for fragile and toxic masculinity.

Zogatha, at long last, broke that cycle of destruction for him but he was incapable of fully embracing it for he, like Zoe’s health, was too far gone.

A traditional story which possesses a romantically inclined woman to be the source of a male character’s unearned self-development and/or “rescue” is cliché, trite and hangs everything on shifting emotional labor onto the shoulders of the woman. However, I don’t think this was the case Dracula was making,  in fact, I believe it was the antithesis, despite how problematic Moffat’s writing has a tendency to be.

Firstly, it didn’t seem to me that Dracula was rescued or redeemed: he remained ultimately selfish, taking what he wanted from another person in order to serve himself. He used Zogatha’s body to commit suicide, even though she effectively saved him and in all honesty, it required very little further effort on his part. On the surface, this may seem like a one-sided victory but truthfully, Zogatha was the one who prevailed due to the fact she forced Dracula to come to terms with his weaknesses and folly, but at a heavy and unavoidable price.

Contrariwise, the writing team really needed to sort out the rules and regulations of vampire lore: an insistence on the inability to commit suicide was overturned here as one might infer that all rules are null, including that of self-destruction, but this doesn’t quite hold up. For example, there was no adequate explanation as to why Lucy should have been trapped in her burnt state. Why could she not feed and regenerate, as Dracula had done, when both age and injury caused damage to his body?

This is one of the messy technical elements that required greater consistency, I won’t deny.

Secondly, their relationship wasn’t romantic in the slightest, at least, not in the way we ordinarily perceive romance.

Neither Zoe nor Agatha were friends to him, nor were they lovers. They were/she was a nemesis about whom he came to experience some sensation of care through his intellectual intrigue about her. His observation about her being in pain and the lingering gaze of the Dracula-focalised camerawork on her person in the last scene were signposts that he had come to think (somewhat, at least for him) conscientiously about her. His conversation with the abused housewife at the top of the episode was also, I’d conjecture, a demonstration that Dracula was, or was at least becoming, capable of articulating a potential connection between violent action and altruistic outcomes – even if at that stage, altruism had no authentic purpose for him. His glimmers of self-reflection (pardon the pun) were vague glimmers of change in him. Were they enough to change the course of his and Zogatha’s fate? Absolutely not, but a cautionary tale doesn’t need to be completely bleak.

Zoe, notably, was less contemptuous, less confrontational, and more desirous of seeing humanity in him than Agatha, and this was what made Zoe necessary. His submerged but increasingly apparent form of care for her/them, however, was, as many things, rushed. He was ready to kick the bucket from beneath Agatha’s feet and watch her choke in the second episode; his turnaround in the final installment is explicable but rather precipitate.

In any case, it is for the first time that Dracula engages in a transaction that isn’t entirely a one-way deal. He uses the erotic dream-state one last time, not as a weapon, but as a salve. Zogatha was dying with or without his intervention, and so he called a halt to her pain. Eroticism is characteristically a misdirection, and, crucially, in this situation, an anaesthetic.

Remember when Dracula told Agatha that the vampires’ kiss was an opiate? Opiates are used for patients in palliative care where comfort is key, no longer the cure.

This is also the only scene in which Dracula had literally been naked since the extremely memorable convent gate spectacle: he had been stripped/had willingly permitted himself to be stripped, and only Zogatha could have done it.

She taught him to meet death with the calm acceptance she had long held before he; the implication of her accusation of him showing cowardice was that he had been unconsciously self-governing through an outdated form of masculinity.
To my self-admitted dismay, this scene didn’t chase that down, and a conversation about change, about his relationship to time, his understanding of himself could have occurred, given that as he asserted on the liminal Beach of Blood, somewhat ironically, as it turns out, that his age means he is used to the ebb and flow of alteration. Given his self-aware fin-de-siecle campiness in the first episode particularly, he has not, presumably, always been thus.

All discrepancies aside, the true essence of the story turned out to have been about Dracula and Agatha (and latterly with Zogatha) all along and fittingly, it ended where it truly began; an infinite of complexities between two minds. 

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Casting Call: The Dark Universe

Although I am more of a fan of Hammer Horror at heart, I am genuinely dismayed that Universal’s Dark Universe is now a shame-faced Sasquatchian wet fart of a joke more than anything else. Any high-concept project has a strong scent of potential, but also as we have seen, the scent of unimaginative business opportunity and vanity thanks to the Solomon Grundy pulled by Tom Cruise’s The Mummy (more like Tom Cruise With A Mummy In The Background, I Guess, HEY, WATCH HIM RUN AND JUMP OVER EXPLODING SHIT!)

However, that being said, and call me naive if it so pleases, but I like to hold out hope that the Dark Universe can still be salvaged by the right people who wish to do the right thing by the iconic characters, their stories and the audiences who flock to the theatres to consume them.

So, allow me this indulgence, temporary and completely unfounded in the realm of fact, to present to you a recast of all of the headlining Universals in a completely idealised fashion.

 

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Sofia Boutella as The Mummy

She’s great. Keep her.

 

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Mads Mikkelsen as Count Dracula

For those who have been playing the home game on Goodness Bea, you have no right to act surprised by this point, to those of you who are new, hello, happy birthday, you’re gorgeous and this is the man who simply MUST play the Vampire King.

The man has carved a considerable reputation of playing malevolently sexy European monsters in man’s garb throughout his career that by this point he’s doing the Amy Yip Tease when it comes to donning the fangs.

]That being said, Luke Evans returning would be welcome of course because I softly stan Dracula Untold AND, in the light of recent events, thanks to Netflix’s Dracula, more Claes Bang as the Count would be superb. Yes, I’m still obsessed with that show, CAN YA TELL?! 😉

 

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Jason Clarke as Doctor Victor Frankenstein

The guy is a *fine* actor if working in the correct company with the most suitable writing for his talent. He would be given the dual opportunity to play a classic horror character AND stretch his range that he is almost never given the opportunity to express thanks to Hollywood having not a dinkly-doo clue how to use him.

 

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Dave Bautista as The Creature

I sincerely believe he can believably convey the Creature’s strength as well as its’ emotionally intelligent side based on his work as Drax from Marvel’s House of Mouse.

 

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Stephanie Beatriz as The Bride

That gorgeous, unique and expressive face of hers would be as striking as that iconic hair. If she is given more to do and her very own narrative, so much the better; we are building a universe here.

 

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Kevin Bacon as The Invisible Man/Jack Griffin

He was a case of perfect casting in the imperfect Hollow Man, so tell me, what reason would present itself that he wouldn’t be able to have another bash at the O.G. or at least some variant of the character?
The man has outstanding physical AND vocal presence that can be exceedingly snarky and menacing while also nailing the traces of regret and humanity Griffin maintains, even when after he goes over the edge.

 

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 Javier Botet as Gill Man/The Creature From The Black Lagoon

Give professional creature performer Doug Jones a breather, folks. Botet is equally sublime with his physical performances and has been earning the appropriate accolades for his hard work.

 

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 Javier Bardem as The Wolfman

I know he was initially slated to play The Creature, but Bardem has such a dark, prowling comportment in addition to his appearance that can straddle the line between pathos and predatory that this role would play far more to his strengths.

 

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Glenn Close as The Phantom(ESS) of the Opera/Erika

No, really, think about it; women’s achievements were undermined, overshadowed and downright stolen by men throughout the course of history and we are only now shedding light on the work done by these women who have previously been faceless if not completely non-existent. Think of this unfortunate reality, the Phantom’s narrative plight and how it would influence her motivations and feelings.

 

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Jim Carrey as Doctor Henry Jekyll/Mister Edward Hyde

For both.
He has proven time and again he is capable of tragedy and being genuinely disturbing. The man can literally manipulate his features and body in front of your very eyes without make up, just think of what he could be capable of with it. When you think about it, his film Me, Myself and Irene is a contemporary if simplistic (and insulting) version of Robert Louis Stevensons’ The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Additionally, Stevensons’ story was meant to be as lurid as it was cerebral due to its strong ties to the penny dreadful, and that movie thrived on that very same lewdness those nasty little books of yore possessed.

 

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Daniel Radcliffe as Dorian Gray

                                                               SURPRISE VILLAIN!

Daniel Radcliffe doesn’t know the meaning of fear or resting on one’s laurels given his considerable resume at this point post-Harry Potter. He has worked confidently, consistently,  and has proved himself one of the strongest actors of his generation. 

In my little headcannon, I would make Dorian a distant but consistent threat to begin with (perhaps being stuck inside of his own portrait) and then as each installment occurs, have him become more and more prevalent. Maybe the presence of the monsters are making him stronger?

 

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Brendan Fraser as Russell Crowe’s role (only not)

Note: Crowe was actually one of the better aspects of that OTHER film, but in the name of fairness, allow me to proffer this alternative which would delight me to no end.

Fraser is making a respectable return (quite the well-deserved one at that) and it would be so nice to see him back in an action/horror franchise with his special breed of charm the big screen has sorely missed.

I envision him keeping Dorian Gray’s portrait in his sanctuary along with the numerous other artifacts he is curating/guarding in addition to keeping tabs on the deadly-spoopy and occasionally ghastly goings-on. Of course, the role would need to be reworked given Carey holds the position of Jekyll and Hyde, but this easily remedied in capable hands.

Netflix’s Dracula: Here Come The Brides

While Netflix’s Dracula departs from Stoker’s prose in no small amount at immediate surface value, many of the core elements have remained faithfully the same, one such example being the inclusion of Dracula’s Brides.

The trifecta of lethal beauties who almost claim Jonathan Harker have seen countless iterations through almost every adaptation and suffice to say, here is no different, it is but the execution which is so.

While we can definitely accept the Count has had countless concubines throughout his damned existence prior to the beginning of the show’s narrative, I want to focus on four particular characters and how they play into the Bride of Dracula persona.

As one may expect, a heavy spoiler alert is in effect. You have been formally warned.

 

Jonathan Harker: The Marked Bride

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Poor, poor Jonathan Harker.

If nothing else, one could only feel extreme pity for what became of the ambitious solicitor sent to do business with Count Dracula. What began as a genial if awkward cultural exchange between the Englishman and the undead demon became a toxic abusive relationship.

Over time, Dracula fed on and violated Harker in order to regain his youth and vigor after so long without, but rather than give Harker the dignity of a quick death, he condemned the man to a carnal existence of pain and subjugation as an abusive partner would by effectively transforming him into a decrepit undead husk. 

Cruel and mercurial Dracula was in his treatment of Harker; one moment he would torment the man one moment only to make him swoon and pathetically prostrate himself before his undead master the next. In a sense, Harker functioned as a test subject for the Count as he steadily regained his powers the way a prospective serial killer would establish their demented methods and aesthetics upon their cardinal victim. In other words, the mark.  

Harker functioned as a means of Dracula to get what he needed in the immediate period, a spouse of convenience to be used and discarded when he is no longer useful.

When the time came, what a horrendous discardment it was.

 

Lord Ruthven: The Wannabe But Was Never Gonnabe Bride

 

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Lord Ruthven prided himself on his wealth of confidence, station, money and marvelously pretty looks as he was utterly devoid of common decency and thus believed himself utterly untouchable.

I can’t say I felt entirely sorry for him.

The entire second episode Blood Vessel played like a claret-soaked Agatha Christie or Nero Wolfe parlor room yarn with a touch of John Carpenter’s The Thing thrown in for good measure (okay, more like an impish butt pinch) but set on the doomed ship Demeter bound for London with the Count in the middle of it as he played every passenger against each other all for his amusement as Sister Agatha Van Helsing attempted to put an end to his assault.

On the surface, Ruthven is travelling with his daisy new wife, the beauteous Dorabella who also happened to be worth quite a lot of money, but it is quickly apparent it is a marriage of money and cold-blooded opportunism as opposed to a mutual and equitable relationship based on anything resembling love or at least respect.

Essentially, Ruthven did to Dorabella EXACTLY what Dracula did to Harker, and that was what the vampire recognised the moment he lay eyes on the deviant young groom. Although the Count turned his charms on the young couple individually, he took measured focus to woo Ruthven into his malevolently Machiavellian Pimp arms through flirtation, flattery and appeal to the greedy fledgling lord’s own dark desires under the masquerade of kinship between predators.

This was never the case however, as Ruthven was just another variety of prey.

Ruthven felt he was the Count’s equal as he enacted his older mentors’ sinful will but it was not until all of his fellow passengers were dead that he realised that the Count never saw him as anything more than a delicious plaything and it was far too little and far too late to make any amends to his conscience.

 

Lucy Westenra: The Failed Bride

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Oh you darling fool; you were way out of your depth.

Lucy ‘The Bloofer Lady’ Westenra was a masterfully vain manipulator; charismatic, magnetic and possessed a bombastic vibe to that could best be described as that of a maenad from Greek mythology. A savvy and saucy sorceress of technology and the digital age, she built an empire of ego and personality everywhere she went both in reality and on social media because she knew her tempting combination of glamour and Devil May Care antics was guaranteed to earn her the admiration of all around her while at the same time did not behold her to commitment.

In addition to her physical radiance, it was this shameless, aggressive and refreshing broadcasting of fearlessness which attracted Count in that he actively pursued a relationship with her, tapping in to her desire to live wild and free. During their ‘romance’, he took the opportunity to essentially overdose her with his vampiric venom. For a while, it gave her the ultimate rush she had until that point could only fantasize about and craved, but it was not long before she paid for it with her very soul. It was then as she lay dying a mortal death she revealed to Dracula that she was NOT fearless, that she did in fact very much fear her own mortality and all of her outward vivacity had concealed a terminally frightened young woman who didn’t want to be lonely and dearly wished to be adored.

This revelation could only merely disappoint Dracula and despite his best if middling efforts to comfort her, there was nothing else he could do.

Lucy’s suffering only compounded when she morphed into a hideously misshapen creature, no longer beautiful, utterly pathetic and bereft of hope. Stripped of everything she valued, everything she held dear, she was the Bride who failed.

(Note: Lucy will be getting her very own write up in due time because I have a lot more to say about this young lady.)

Zogatha: The True Bride 

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For the duration of the entire series, the characters of Sister Agatha and her descendant Zoe Van Helsing possessed their own set of temperaments and motivations, but in the final analysis of the fearless Zoe melding with the defiant Sister Agatha, we’ll just call her Zogatha.

(That sounds vaguely Lovecraftian, I’m so awesome.)

Throughout his numerous interactions with the indomitable Sister Agatha Van Helsing, Dracula became endlessly intrigued by this woman who had not only had the nerve to stand toe to toe with him without an ounce of cowardice or recreancy to her faith, but also had the gall to taunt him at every available opportunity despite her station in life.

Almost akin to a scientist, Dracula found more personal satisfaction when he tested his nemesis’ resolve when he coerced her into a compulsive perpetual game of cat (or bat) and mouse, despite the occasions of which he tried to kill her.

I guess you could say their relationship status was ‘It’s Complicated’.

The fact that Agatha was willing to place her very life on the tenuous line of certain death never ceased to astound the Count, so when he met her equally gutsy relative Zoe more than a century later after her death partly by his hand, he found he had another opportunity to resume his campaign of psychological warfare.

Zoe had been staring her own departure from this Earth square in the face long before she and Dracula met. She had gone through all stages of grief and had finally reached a sense of acceptance and peace that her death was imminent. We never saw her struggle prior to this, but we can only imagine through our own personal experiences what it must have been like to reconcile that she was going to shed her mortal coil prematurely. Death was nothing for her to fear.

Zoe, much to Dracula’s surprise was unafraid to confront him even after he gave her a cheeky bite, because her blood, her cancerous blood, was as poison to the vampire. She used this to her advantage every time she crosses paths with the damned, and her sangfroid demeanor in the face of death was one of the qualities that allowed her to perceive the world clearly in a way Dracula had thought unthinkable.

Throughout all their encounters, Dracula came to the revelation that even he had die at some point, something which had for most of his unlife had terrified him. Yet, because of Zoe’s bravery, he chose to end his existence when he drank Zoe’s blood which plunged the pair into an erotic dream so that their deaths would be mutual ecstasy.

(Yes, THAT scene also warrants it’s own post. Aren’t you lucky?)

Throughout the entirety of the series, it has been shown that Dracula acquired the knowledge and skills of the victims he drank from which gave further insight behind his mantra, “Blood Is Lives.”. However, when he fed, he also took something else — a fragment of the persons’ spirit, their soul, for lack of a better term. In the finale, Dracula gifted Zoe with a vial with his own tainted sacrament and when she consumed it, her spirit synchronized with whatever was left of Agatha, who then counseled her through the channels how to defeat the Count.

After Zoe drank the blood, Agatha’s soul effectively inhabited Zoe’s body to the point that Dracula intimately sensed that his ‘old flame’ had returned with more than a little delight. His dearest desire, his salvation, had appeared.

In the final scene, he directly addressed their connection across the centuries and noted that despite everything they had done to each other, every animosity they held, that he wouldn’t permit Death, he would permit her, to suffer.

For the longest time, he had tried to convince himself it was life he truly yearned for, but in actuality, what he desired, nay, NEEDED, was the solace of Death, pure and true.

Zogatha was the personification of Death, and ultimately, his True Bride.

Netflix’s Dracula: A Bloodlust For (Un)Life

*****WARNING: Substantial spoilers ahead. If you have not yet seen Episode One of Netflix’s Dracula and desire to do so, this article will ruin an awesome surprise for you and quite possibly some elements of the overall plot.*****

 

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In the cardinal episode of Dracula, The Rules Of The Beast, the sight of Claes Bang emerging confidently naked, dripping in gore from an unfortunate wolf and then graphically fellating a phallic and bloody knife is, to put it mildly, difficult to forget. One feels that that was precisely the intention – but it was, I think, more than about the transgressive decadence of the thrill in the way we as humans understand it, but at the core it is the only way for us to comprehend what Dracula himself is all about.

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Yeaaaaaah, you like that, don’t ya?

Dracula’s only desire, his only necessity, is blood. Blood isn’t just The Life, but in his words, “Blood IS Lives”, every and all, all for him, not a drop to be wasted. However, the reason why it’s executed in a very sexual manner is because sex is a universal language which we associate with simultaneous need and taboo. Without this intimate context, the concept is nebulous and aloof.

Throughout the entire series, Dracula uses a convincing facsimile of humanistic sex and desire to get what he wants, but it is apparent that it is not an aspiration or a contentment of his own, merely a parlor trick he instinctively utilizes in order to survive.

The virile and viscera-coated Count, grinning like a lascivious showman, makes a shameless display of his disconcerting tactility as he suggestively spreads his fingers through wolf hide and oozes that he “likes a bit fur”, an obvious and multi-layered innuendo if there ever was one before striding to the gate, bathed in blazing amber candlelight and shadow. He spreads his arms and legs, striking a perverse rendition of Jesus’s crucifixion, giving them no option but to look, to suffer, at the sight of at what they perceive as The Devil.

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The rudimentary concept of masculinity (understood as a secondary, and therefore external, sexual characteristic) is seemingly compelling to him and even a source of novelty, however fleeting it may be for his interests. It quite plainly reflects his own proud physicality in that moment as it winks and tickles at a sexual pecadillo, at least, a pecadillo by our rigid standards which to this day reviles sexuality.

However, as the scene continues, he is demeaned, mocked (“Come BOY, suckle”) and fed by a dominant woman in the form of the formidable Sister Agatha, played with masterful assurance by Dolly Wells in an exchange which closely resembles the kink of fem-dom.

He willingly receives what she bestows upon him, and with primitive gusto, takes the knife she has used to bleed herself as he haphazardly drops to his knees to lick it clean the way a famished mongrel would, groaning with greedy satisfaction in front of the nuns, almost as if it were a scene in a gang-bang pornographic film. In an explicit sense, he has objectified and prostrated himself in pursuit of his most essential need, the only force he truly worships.

Of course, while he likes to believe he is capable of reigning back control, he discovers Sister Agatha plays a sturdier game than what he is used to seeing from the human species he regards little more as cattle. Naturally, this piques an intellectual interest in the savvy Sister, but that discussion warrants an article of it’s own.

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I’ve rarely seen such an irresistible spectacle of outward pansexual coding in a scene that isn’t actually about sex in the slightest. It’s difficult to look away from, in truth because one wouldn’t wish to miss a second of it as we as humans are driven by sexuality as we are repelled by it. Dracula represents pure,  indiscriminate appetite, which is one of the countless reasons of the characters’ enduring appeal. But his appetitive self isn’t a sexual self, at least not as how we as humans are able to comprehend, it never has been; he’s only ever shown to be interested in blood.

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The human understanding of pansexual eroticism of outward appearances in the convent scene is admittedly boasting, but, at least to me, it’s clear Gatiss and Moffat are not making a shallow and baseless assumption or out of mere titillation.

Throughout the entire three part series, the Count targets old women, infants, young men, middle aged men, young women, middle aged women, as, crucially, food sources, that and nothing more…one might almost be tempted to say that he edged towards asexuality in his lack of genuine interest (until the final episode, but I’m getting ahead of myself). He is not bi or pan-homicidal: at core he’s homicidal. Simply put, Dracula is completely disinterested in human sexual activity.

All of what he doing, using his quasi-immortal trick bag of shock tactics, personalised flirtations and physical provocativeness, it’s all because he wants one thing from you; your sweet, lorelai-singing blood, even if he has to effectively whore himself in the human aspect out to obtain it.

 

 

Big Shit Incoming

HI!

Wow, it’s been a while between hickeys, has it not? Life, such as it is, has been demanding and at times quite difficult, but I am here now, and let me tell you, there is going to be a change in the weather here on Goodness Bea for a reason some of you may be quite well aware of.

Those of you who are not, well, brace yourselves; it’s gonna be big. #ThatsWhatSheSaid