Big Finish’s audio rendition of one of the best and most thrilling horror stories ever written, “Dracula,” is a peculiar release.
The majority of the tale is conveyed through letters, second-hand stories, log entries, and other sources, many of which are not actually witnessed or seen in the main storyline. Bram Stoker’s original story, written in 1897, does not lend itself well to a faithful audio drama translation.
However, this adaptation, directed by Scott Handcock and adapted by Jonathan Barnes, gives it a good shot, and the outcome is something recognisable, yet feels entirely fresh and new.
Of course, Barnes is no stranger to adapting famous horror stories for Big Finish, having recently released the critically praised ‘Frankenstein,’ so it’s no surprise that he boldly plays with the structure to retain the listener’s attention.
Over the course of three discs, the plot follows Jonathan Harker (Joseph Kloska) as he is sent to Transylvania to meet the infamous Count Dracula, played spectacularly by Mark Gatiss.
He is left behind as the Count and his entourage of female vampires migrate to England to prey on its people, including many of Jonathan’s friends and family.
In the meantime, a prisoner in Dr John Seward’s (Rupert Young) institution, Renfield (Ian Hallard) is seeing visions from his Master, a diabolical creature with crimson eyes.
Jonathan’s fiancée is Mina Murray, but it is her friend Lucy Westenra (Rosanna Miles) who feeds the Count as she fades away, much to the chagrin of her three suitors, Dr John Seward, Arthur Holmwood (Alex Jordan), and Quincy P Morris (David Menkin). The cast is rounded off, with Nigel Betts playing Professor Abraham van Helsing.
The action shifts from Whitby to London and back to Transylvania after all the parts are in place.
There are deaths, visions, blood-suckings, stakes, and every other detail that has become synonymous with Dracula lore.
The soundscape and direction are atmospheric and tense, the cast one of Big Finish’s best to date, and the scares subtle and well-crafted, which is a refreshing change from the excessive gore and jump scares that Hollywood has become so fond of.
This is a rich, impressive, and assured production of a classic Gothic tale, that should be consumed in one sitting for maximum chills and thrills.