Somebody Ought to Make a Found Footage Adaptation of Dracula

A modern, found footage approach could be the most faithful version ever

I found myself thinking the other day that a fairly direct adaptation of Dracula (Bram Stoker, 1897), set in modern times, would be one of the best possible places to apply a found footage approach. Done with care and precision – and perhaps as a mini-series rather than a feature – this could make for one of the most genuinely faithful adaptations ever of Stoker’s novel.

The book’s epistolary style is used to give it both a sense of immediacy (a notion I’ll come back to further down) and a sense of documentary realism. It is meant to feel as though we are holding reproductions of genuine documents. Film adaptations have had to either ignore this aspect of the storytelling, or use voice-over, close-ups of text and montage techniques to give a hint of that structure. The former is in some ways actually preferable, as the latter tends to add an extra layer of artifice right when what the audience needs is naturalism.

Found footage is exactly the cinematic or televisual equivalent of the epistolary novel, and would return to Dracula that documentary sensibility.

“But wait!” I hear you cry, “the modern setting wouldn’t be faithful to a Victorian novel!”

Au contraire.

Most cinematic adaptations of Dracula make the story into something the novel quite explicitly was not: a period piece. In fact, one of the major criticisms of Stoker’s book at the time of publication was his decision to give it a contemporary, largely urban setting. To the Victorians – and especially to Victorian Londoners – theirs was an age of enlightened reason. Gas light had illuminated their streets at night for the better part of a century, and electric light was on its way in; these things had banished the shadows of the supernatural to a pre-industrial past, and it was there that tales of vampires belonged.

But a more remote period setting would have undercut Stoker’s whole point: to bring the supernatural into the enlightened age and strip away that comforting sense of safety from the dreadful things that haunted our remote – and even relatively recent – ancestors.

When we say that Dracula should not be modernized, we make the same mistake as Stoker’s Victorian critics. The truth is, the surest way to be faithful to Stoker is to embrace modernity, to bring the very latest technology into the mix, to cast off the now primitive Victorian trappings and make Dracula immediate again.

Of course Castle Dracula would have WiFi, but it would be unreliable WiFi; when Jonathan Harker loses the ability to Skype with Mina, he might not know at first if this is just the connection giving out again, or if this is the first step in his host becoming his captor. And why shouldn’t he use his iPhone’s video feature to record his explorations of the castle, and thus capture the scenes of horror he encounters?

And wouldn’t Lucy FaceTime with Mina to tell her about her romantic adventures, and maybe even surreptitiously leave the app running so that her friend can witness the drama of her interactions with her trio of suitors?

The video blog of Dr. John Seward is just a given, and naturally he’d record the behavior of the patients in his asylum.

And Professor Van Helsing would love nothing so much as to give the world evidence of the vampire’s existence by providing every member of the party a GoPro camera when they go to confront the vile Count.

I practically writes itself, folks.


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  • Anne B
    22 December 2014 at 10:34 pm - Reply

    This would be such a cool movie! Vampires are immortal, so why should Dracula be limited to the Victorian milieu?