A Stoker Sequel – “Dracula: The Un-Dead” by Dacre Stoker and Ian Holt
Hear me out.
When you’re watching “Halloween 2,” which is a perfectly fine sequel that picks up where the original classic left off and features most of the characters who survived said original, you realize you’re in the middle of a pretty good movie. Then, when it’s done and you think back on it, you realize that maybe just re-watching “Halloween” would have been a better use of your time.
I’m a bit of a “Dracula” nerd. Not enough of one to argue with film adaptations that have Lucy or Mina as a blonde (when the book clearly states they are a redhead and a brunette respectively) or people who call Dracula’s castle “Carfax Abbey” (when in fact Carfax Abbey is totally an invention of the film, and its actually Whitby Abbey in the original novel.) Whatever. I frequently re-read Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” and each time am riveted and terrifically entertained.
Bram Stoker’s great-grandnephew, Dacre Stoker, takes his relative’s work very seriously. As does Ian Holt, a Dracula historian and co-writer of “Dracula: The Un-Dead.”
These writers have grand plans. They try to place the events of the story into actual world history by including Jack the Ripper and The Titanic, among other historical references. Everyone who survived at the end of “Dracula” appears here – Jack Seward, Arthur Holmwood, Dr. Van Helsing, Mina and Johnathan Harker – and most of them meet unhappy endings in this book. Even Bram Stoker himself is a character in this story – though its mentioned several times how he got a lot of things in his novel wrong. (In “Dracula: The Un-Dead” Stoker has written “Dracula,” but it’s a flop so he’s trying desperately to turn it into a successful play. Legendary real-life actor John Barrymore shows up, wasted, for a hot second before he gets fired.)
Here, Mina and Johnathan Harker are still married and middle-aged, though Mina (having taken Dracula’s blood) hasn’t aged. The Harkers have a grown son, Quincey, who butts heads with his father because he truly wants to become an actor. Into town comes a famous Romanian actor – Basarab – who soon takes Quincey under his wing, and it’s Quincey who decides that Basarab would be the perfect person to save Bram Stoker’s legacy by playing the role of Dracula. Meanwhile, outside the theater world, the survivors of the original encounter with Dracula are being hunted by something dastardly that’s killing them off one by one.
Is that something Dracula himself? Did he survive? Or is the evil force hell-bent on revenge another famous historical figure with a royal title and a tendency to bathe in the blood of virgins? (I refuse to name names. That’s spoiling one of the great joys of this book, as this characters inclusion is a really good idea.)
Stoker and Holt clearly love their material, and know their way around it. However, the final effect is more like reading good fanfiction than reading a serious sequel to the original “Dracula.” I applaud their massive ambition, but I didn’t love the book, and that’s not entirely their fault. Very few attempts to write sequels for classic literature really work out spectacularly. (Think of the sheer number of sequels/prequels/spin-offs to “Pride and Prejudice.” Now think of one that’s acclaimed. Go.)