This weekend, Dracula sets forth on a bold new adventure in The Last Voyage of the Demeter, the story of that time when the king of all vampires took a ride on a boat for a while. Long trips are never fun, especially when everyone around you keeps endlessly complaining about how you’re always exsanguinating their loved ones in the night. People are real babies about that stuff.
If Dracula is anything like I was back when I used to take Amtrak a lot, he’ll be spending the majority of his travel time wondering where his life went wrong. To that end, let’s take a look at the life and deaths of Count Dracula, draw a circle around the problem areas, and see if we can nail down a few of the poor guy’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad nights.
1: That time when he got Shia Labeouf’ed by German expressionists
You know how it is. You spend years perfecting your personal aesthetic. You craft a public persona. Then some pasty weirdo with oversized press-on nails for teeth comes sauntering along and steals your whole deal, trying to pull off your look and copy-pasting your social media posts and pretending they’re his.
That’s the absolute nightmare that Dracula experienced in 1922 when F.W. Murnau released Nosferatu, the unauthorized story of a guy who definitely isn’t named Dracula and a guy who, in equal parts, isn’t named Jonathan Harker, doing everything that Dracula and Jonathan Harker did.
Imagine being Dracula and seeing your whole un-life played out by a man who looks like an albino hot dog cosplaying as a Keebler elf. Furthermore, consider how it must have felt to watch the whole ordeal getting progressively more fawning reviews over the next century. Getting your identity stolen is bad enough, but to see it become part of the Criterion Collection? Ouch.
2: That time Dracula lived in the year 2000 or thereabouts
It can’t be easy, having to re-acclimate to society after sleeping for centuries at a time, but to wake up and realize that you’re future P.S. I Love You star Gerard Butler?
In Bram Stoker’s novel, Dracula’s origins are left pretty vague. “Good enough,” said the writers of Dracula 2000, and like the aunt you try not to get stuck talking to at the holidays, they made everything about Jesus.
It’s not that there aren’t some fun goofs here. Connecting the dots between Judas and vampires’ fear of silver and crosses makes for some darned fine tabletop roleplaying backstory, even if “for God so hated his son’s betrayer that he gave him totally sick immortal bat monster superpowers” doesn’t really scan. Building a very early-2000s movie around it, however, never quite worked. Neither did Gerard Butler, with the exception of a three-year period around 2007.
3: That time he fought Wesley Snipes’ stand-in
There’s an organic sense of heightened stakes that comes with the third part in a trilogy. The first load of Star Wars movies topped out with a bigger Death Star. Return of the King took what started as a nature walk with friends and amped it up into a ghosts-versus-elephants simulator.
So Dracula probably felt pretty pumped when he got called up to bat as the final boss in Blade Trinity. He was about to fight Blade, after all, the guy who had redefined audiences’ expectations of movies about guys in trench coats beating up vampires.
So it must have come as a personal blow when Dracula showed up to set and realized that Blade wouldn’t leave his trailer, and that Dracula would actually be fighting Blade’s stunt double whenever it wasn’t like, 110% necessary for Blade to be on set. You can learn more about what Blade allegedly put Dracula, Patton Oswalt, and the movie’s effects crew through by listening to the interviews in the DVD extras.
4: That time he somehow made it boring to have lots of girlfriends and fight Wolverine
For a monster movie fan, watching Van Helsing is sort of akin to seeing your nephew almost remember his lines in the school play. You’re rooting for success, and you can see that there’s effort being put in, but at the end of the night, you just wind up shaking your head in disappointment and reassessing what is and isn’t worthy of your love.
The Dracula of Van Helsing is played with “nobody-pays-to-see-underacting” enthusiasm by never-not-fun actor Richard Roxburgh. He should have made for a great day at the movies, what with The Mummy director Stephen Sommers helming and Wolverine using a gatling crossbow to go Space Invaders on the Universal catalog of monsters. Sadly, the good Count winds up overshadowed by bad effects, worse writing, and a denouement wherein Kate Beckinsale reenacts that scene from The Lion King in which Mufasa shows up as a cloud. Not a great day to be anyone, but an especially bad couple of hours for the Count.
5: That time when he realized he could’ve been sunning in Cabo all along
Remember back in 2020, how we all had that friend who was constantly trying out for the Suffering Olympics? Even though everyone around them was going through objectively worse stuff? “Sorry your dad’s in the hospital, but raising my miniature greyhound puppy while I work from home part time comes with its own challenges,” that sort of thing?
Well that’s who Dracula was by the end of his self-titled 2020 Netflix/BBC outing. In the final moments of Dracula, the world’s most famous vampire stands awestruck in the sunlight while his buddy – dying of cancer, by the way, not that he cares – explains that all of the classic Dracula weaknesses like sun aversion and garlic allergies were, in truth, psychosomatic. That Dracula’s real problem was not being able to love Dracula.
And then he expects us to, what, feel sorry for him? It’s 2020, bud. We all have stuff going on. You want us to feel connected to your terrible plight? Why don’t you homeschool a couple of baby Draculas with behavior problems while you try to work remotely on a laptop with a screen that turns off if you type too fast? Insufferable, that’s what you are. The whole world doesn’t revolve around you, Dracula. Or you, Kevin.
6: That time when people re-appropriated his Transylvania Twist while he was asleep
There’s an argument to be made that Dracula’s real Achilles heel is his love of naps. Every time he wakes up, there’s this interminable couple of scenes where he has to readjust to the new world and say something in the ballpark of “Vhat is this magnificent contraption vhich you call the LV-1901 Betamax player?” It’s hard to watch, but you get the feeling it’s even harder for Dracula.
And it was probably never harder than in 1962. Picture it: You go to your slumber, presumably some time in the late-19th century. You’re not at the height of your power, but you’re still a Count, and people put respect on your name. What’s more, they love you for your cultural contributions, and particularly the dance move that you pioneered, the Transylvania Twist.
Then you wake up in the swinging ‘60s, already crabby from only getting half a century of shut-eye. You shake your fist. You’re troubled. You ask what happened to your beloved Transylvania Twist, because you felt like it was really getting some traction when you left. “It’s now the Monster Mash,” somebody replies, and that’s as much explanation as you get. What started as an expression of your creativity has been snatched up by Bobby Picket and the Crypt-Kickers, who spend the next 60 years eating lunch on your accomplishments. “It’s not a graveyard smash, it’s copyright infringement,” you shout, but it’s too late. The whole thing already caught on in a flash, and besides, nobody can hear you over the sound of bubbling beakers and Jacob’s ladder sound effects.
7: That time when he presumably got around to watching Sleepwalkers
One of the only real upsides of the inevitability of death is that you never have to see your legacy turn into applesauce. Bill Finger was dead before Batman got nipples. Walt Disney croaked before Disney Plus. Nikola Tesla had been gone for the better part of a century before a narcissist named a fleet of murder cars after him.
Unfortunately for Dracula, death doesn’t come easy for vampire royalty, and he had to stick it out while society did whatever they wanted with his whole vibe. Some of it panned out – What We Do In The Shadows is fun, and the world is an inarguably better place for the saxophone guy scene from Lost Boys — but a lot of vampire stuff got choppy. It must have been hard to watch coked-up writers go stream-of-consciousness on his descendants.
And it was, in all likelihood, never harder than when he saw Stephen King’s Sleepwalkers for the first time. That movie had so much vampire incest, they should’ve called it Drac to the Future.
Yes, I started with a punchline and worked backwards. Like you always try.
8: That time when he was untold
Dracula Untold hit theaters two years after Avengers, flirtatiously nibbling at the idea of being the start of Universal’s Dark Universe before pulling back and shouting “just kidding!” What an absolute gut punch to Dracula’s ego, being pumped up like that only to have everything fall apart. Like, it all worked out in the end, and the Tom Cruise Mummy served as a perfect, no-notes first entry in the franchise, which is still going strong to this day and has never once been synonymous with Hollywood’s hubris leading to abject, humiliating failure. Even still, Dracula got the short end of the show business stick, and you hate to see it.