Welcome to Pitch Meeting, a monthly column in which we suggest an IP ripe for adaptation, then assign the cast and crew of our dreams. In this entry, we’re hoping to see the bite of the vampire subgenre resurrected from the meat of the stylishly horrific graphic novel Dracula Motherf**ker.
It’s time to fall out of love with vampires. We must shake their spell and dissipate the fog they’ve draped over our imagination. After a parade of Lost Boys, Near Darks, and Twilights, we’ve forgotten that these beasties are proper monsters, not lovers to caress.
Immortality is a fool’s errand. The lesson we must pull from these bloodsucking tales of dread is the fragility and preciousness of life. No one should aspire to Renfield’s position, maintaining a chump’s fantasy of the blood of beetles and mice. That’s gross, dude.
Dracula, Motherf**ker cleverly disguises itself as a grindhouse mishmash of gothic horror and neo-noir sensibilities. By the time you reach the second act, it’s clear that the creators behind the crude title are attempting to reinvent our view of the big bad bat daddy. The new Image Comics graphic novel from writer Alex de Campi and artist Erica Henderson is a lavish dip into many tantalizing genres, but it never loses track of its central purpose.
Dracula is the bastard to end all bastards, and there’s no mystery to his presence. He’s a graveyard ghoul and should be treated as such.
Nearly two hundred years ago, the Brides of Dracula turn on their master. As Vlad returns to his Vienna crib, after a long night of plumping his belly on the red stuff, the vampire women pin him to his coffin with three enormous stakes. They close the lid on the beast and take solace in the fact that as long as he remains within, no harm can come to anyone else.
Cut to Los Angeles, 1974. Hollywood starlet Bebe Beauland opens the box under the delusion that the gargoyle inside can freeze her beauty before it fades. Her wish is granted, but his dreams become her dreams, and Dracula’s hunger supplants whatever freedom she hoped to gain from eternal youth.
Quincy Harker is a desperate tabloid stringer, not quite to the level of depravity exemplified by Nightcrawler‘s Jake Gyllenhaal, but left to his own devices, a moral descent is imminent. After he snaps a few photos of bloodless corpses, Harker tumbles into a universe of torment. In true film noir fashion, he fools himself, and us, into thinking he’s the hero of the story, but this gothic saga features three un-dead Femme Fatales. Brides always trump grooms.
As Dracula floats from panel to panel, he’s never given a definable visage. Mostly, the monster is a collection of swirling eyes forever glaring toward his next meal. When he speaks, his words dominate the art, refusing simple word balloon containment. The large, bold lettering reveals Dracula’s power and nature. He speaks, and you’re imprisoned to listen.
Henderson’s art is a stew of emotion. Adapting a noir sensibility in color sounds impossible. Noir is black and white, or more appropriately, it’s manipulating shadow to cast a visceral sensation. Adding color ruins the effect.
Henderson chases the noir experience by eradicating reality from her palate. No lamp or sun in the cosmos would produce the hues she does here on the page. She embraces theatricality to convey a soup of passion. Blues, reds, oranges, and blacks mix to form dark rainbows of feeling. You don’t question it cuz you get it.
The Dracula, Motherf**ker Adaptation
To achieve a satisfying translation from book to screen, the graphic novel Dracula, Motherf**ker calls for a savage and aggressive point of view. Rachel Talalay spent the last couple of decades directing a wide variety of television, but this year she helmed A Babysitter’s Guide to Monster Hunting for Netflix. It’s a cute little flick, and on the surface, not necessarily the beastly, hot-blooded horror you want for this adaptation.
However, the new film is appropriately stylish for its purposes, and if we look back to the start of Talalay’s filmography, we’ll spot the anger necessary for Dracula, Motherf**ker. Talalay directed Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, Ghost in the Machine, and Tank Girl. That’s a trilogy of weird-ass horror and sci-fi with bite, and each one dabbles happily in the surreal. Pair Talalay with The Neon Demon‘s cinematographer Natasha Braier, and we got a sweaty, steamy slick LA horror noir.
Dracula need not an actor with a face, but a voice. The creature should mostly be achieved through CGI and oppressive costuming. The count requires a sound that can fluctuate from sensuous to demonic in the space of a syllable. Get us The Guest star Dan Stevens.
Quincy Harker is a character that flirts the line between charismatic and pathetic. He’s a cool dude who has seen a lot and hardened a personality around those experiences, but that shell crumbles under the revelation of real-deal ghouls and goblins. You root for him, but you’re also not surprised when he stumbles.
Give us a Harker inhabited by Stephen James, the wrongfully convicted lover at the center of If Beale Street Could Talk and the feverish thief in 21 Bridges. He can slip a trip into Harker’s swagger without igniting judgment from the crowd. James is a still-waters-run-deep kind of actor, needing little flash to suggest complexity.
Bebe Beauland is the type of villain the audience delights in cheering against. Her concerns are skin deep, and her sociopathy frees her to rip into others’ flesh without much thought. It’s a kind of selfishness only matched by Dracula.
Paging Dakota Fanning. She’s been kicking butt these last couple of years as Sara Howard in The Alienist: Angel of Darkness. Having spent a lifetime navigating Hollywood, Fanning knows the pleasures and pain of LA better than anyone. As much as we love to knock on the Twilight movies (see only a few paragraphs above), Fanning sank her fangs deliciously into her evil lackey role of Jane. Dracula, Motherf**ker would let her peacock and vamp furiously, behaving unlike anything else we’ve seen her in before.
The Brides of Dracula are the final batch of crucial casting. They mostly hang on the sidelines until the climax calls, but they command as much attention as their former lord when they arrive. Marishka is the first to appear before Harker and operates like a mirror to Bebe Beauland. As such, let’s cast Fanning’s The Runaways co-star: Kristen Stewart.
Without spoiling the graphic novel, Brides number two (Aleera) and three (Verona) might have the least to do, but they are also responsible for two of the best sequences in Dracula, Motherf**ker. Could we convince Lupita Nyong’o to come out for Aleera? Maybe if we show her a panel so righteously badass and satisfying, it would be impossible to deny. Actors dream of and are rarely gifted such pounding bits of heroic punctuation.
Verona gets the last laugh, or, um, the last lick of Dracula, Motherf**ker. We gotta give that to Sofia Boutella. The Kingsman henchwoman unapologetically chews scenery, making every slice of film a meal. She’d devour the part.
The Dracula of Dracula, Motherf**ker offers no bosom of warmth. He’s a selfish creature who feeds only to see another sunset. The count holds you no higher on the food chain than Renfield does his vermin. Whatever sway he holds on pop culture is just that: a sway, a magic trick utilized to distract from his true persona.
The fangs, the capes, and the shapeshifting are window dressing. The real horror of Dracula rests in the veil he drapes upon your person, making his will your will. Dracula is a manipulator, and we’re ready to see his ass called out as a vicious letch. The era of the Brides begins today.