Get sucked into fun, twisted classics

Get sucked into fun, twisted classics

Dracula (Jonathan Rhys Meyers from The Tudors) is a wealthy American entrepreneur who descends upon the snooty high society in Victorian England of the late 1800s to wreak personal vengeance.

Helping him in his exceedingly patient and plodding grand plan is Abraham Van Helsing (German actor Thomas Kretschmann) who, in Bram Stoker's classic 1897 novel, is the famed vampire hunter hell-bent on destroying old Drac.

In this Anglo-American series reboot, Van Helsing is a university professor, similarly obsessed with revenge, who rescues the fanged man from eternal incarceration in a coffin and regularly injects a serum to try to make him impervious to deadly sunlight.

"You leave me just enough time to have a cup of tea before I burst into flames," complains the testy vamp.

It is a rare moment of comic levity which makes you wish that if the canon were to be so freely changed like this, would it not be more kicking to turn these two erstwhile bitter enemies into a new vaudeville double act called Vamp And Van?

The target of the two Vs is something right out of our conspiratorial times.

Dracula, re-introduced as the Yank tycoon Alexander Grayson, plots to bring down a secret organisation of ruthless, powerful men called the Order Of The Dragon.

He is a Howard Hughes/Bill Gates- type inventor of "geo-magnetic" wireless power that seeks to destroy the cabal's supreme domination of oil.

Down the dark ages, you learn, this Masonic-like group of wicked, self- righteous zealots brutally killed his great love, Ilona, and also wiped out Van Helsing's entire family, thus setting off their rabid allied thirst for payback.

Except for little details, you would expect the moody old Dracula story to be one where rules are overturned, blood spurts, necks get bitten on foggy streets and women are ravaged on sumptuous beds, amid the most flowery of English manners, chit chat and cordiality.

It means that kids brought up on Twilight and the vampire as a brooding hottie would be bored infernally out of their skulls here.

For older, marginalised viewers, this old-school set-up - a sort of Downton Abbey with fangs - might be the perfect tonic against that invasion of upstarts.

Old fogeys do not need teeth to bite all the time; they want mouths to talk.

In this, this Dracula delivers.

Because British production company Carnival Films (Downton Abbey, Whitechapel) is behind this, the characters do yak before they break out into occasional fits of violence.

They are not all pinpoint stabs of masterful irony as in Downton, but the lines do get a requisite air of princely succinctness from Rhys Meyers, previously King Henry VIII in The Tudors.

The man is not exactly sexy here (oddly, nobody is), but he is vital in delivering modernised lines with the terse classiness of a half-bored English bard just awoken from a deep sleep.

His lusty lover, Lady Jayne Wetherby (Victoria Smurfit), tells him: "As an American, you might not know the meaning of discreet."

"I had to look it up," he replies in somnambulistic witty repartee.

You may find the pace in the opening episodes slow, but this series does pick up when the noose tightens for the still hidden vamp and Rhys Meyers gets into his stride as a somewhat conflicted sympathetic monster. He is supreme in private moments of longing when the sun comes up and he needs to end his distant gaze.

He gets us on his side when he shows compassion - tears well up as he sees a tortured vampire locked up in a basement - but shocks us when he displays cruelty towards his most loyal minions.

Meanwhile, a more fun reboot of an old classic novel is Sleepy Hollow.

Fans will know that that tale is based on the 1820 short story about a headless horseman by American author Washington Irving.

The limited, provincial tale set after the American War Of Independence is expanded rather creatively into a much bigger plot and battle involving, well, the Apocalypse itself.

The first imaginative idea here is to transplant the novel's central character, Ichabod Crane, professor of history and former British Army officer-turned- revolutionary patriot, to our modern time via some mystical happening in the woods.

The second is to make him a dashing, gloriously archaic British gentleman- soldier-accidental comedian and such a fish out of water still wearing his old grossly out-of-date clothes.

The man (Brit actor Tom Mison from Salmon Fishing In The Yemen, 2011) is shocked that the old stables in his time in small-town Sleepy Hollow have turned into a Starbucks, that guns can fire more than one bullet at one time, and that the tour guide in a museum gets everything infuriatingly wrong about George Washington and Paul Revere - other notable figures he knew personally.

And as the original dude who instigated the Boston Tea Party, he is aghast that people pay taxes on food and drinks circa 2013. "How is the public not flocking to the streets in outrage?" he says.

Another good decision is to pair him, platonically, with a sassy female cop partner, Lieutenant Abbie Mills (Shame's Nicole Beharie), whose own back story suggests a greater destiny - she saw a demon in the forest as a young girl.

And for the ultimate masterstroke, the Headless Horseman himself is one of the Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse.

Everything here has been dumped into a freely mixed bag of preposterousness - cop show, witch series, mystical spirits, rubbish history, leftover demons from Buffy The Vampire Slayer, axe psycho from Halloween - and luckily, the pieces fall out quite enjoyably.

Sleepy Hollow has been renewed for Season Two.

The pacing is good and the mystery unfolds entertainingly as the secrets of the town spill out.

Mostly, though, you just have to hand it really to the perfect combo here of Brit dry humour and American cool sass.

Mison and Beharie are such a likeable twosome, you might just lose your head over them.

View it


Diva Universal (StarHub TV Channel 522), Mondays, 8.55pm



Fox (StarHub TV Channel 505/ SingTel mio TV Channel 330), Premieres next Wednesday, 9.50pm


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