Dracula sequel goes back to source

In an entertainment industry crowded with vampires, a great-grand nephew of Bram Stoker has set out to reclaim the legacy of the original Dracula.
Dacre Stoker, left, and Ian Holt, co-authors of Dracula: The Un-Dead, the sequel to Bram Stoker's classic novel. ((Jan Cobb/Viking Canada))
In an entertainment industry crowded with vampires, a great-grand nephew of Bram Stoker has set out to reclaim the legacy of the original Dracula.

Dacre Stoker worked with New York horror screenwriter and member of The Transylvanian Society of Dracula Ian Holt to create Dracula: The Undead, due for release on Thursday.

Stoker, born in Montreal and a former teacher at Appleby College in Oakville, Ont., coached the Canadian Olympic Pentathlon team at the 1988 games in Seoul. Now living in South Carolina, he is not an obvious choice to write what he considers the first legitimate sequel to Bram Stoker's Dracula.

In an interview with CBC's Q cultural affairs show, Stoker said Holt drew him into the creative realm.

"He wanted to do a movie, but thought he would do a book first. What better to have for the first time in 112 years, a Stoker involved in bringing some legacy back to Bram Stoker," he said.

Stoker wanted to restore some of the original spirit of his great grand-uncle's creation, one that has been diluted by scores of suave leading men playing the vampire, beginning with Bela Lugosi.

"Bram's Dracula was an gnarly old guy, hair on the hands, not attractive to females, he had to charm them or suck their blood — he was an animal. Through stage and screen adaptions if you look at the continuum of how that character arrived, they needed sexy leading men to sell tickets," Stoker said.

The Irish-born novelist who published Dracula in 1897 worked from old folk tales.

"Bram took the folklore and created the list, the definitive list of vampire qualities that stay with us today," Stoker said.

To create an official sequel to the book, Stoker tracked down 125 pages of handwritten notes by the author at the Rosenbach museum in Philadelphia.

(Viking Canada)
He discovered nuances of the original characters in those notes, and also characters that didn't make it into the final book, among them a police detective who is investigating a set of suspicious murders.

And through a 1901 edition of the book in Icelandic, with a preface by the author, Stoker learned that the Jack the Ripper murders had a great influence on his great grand-uncle as he was writing.

Both those elements make an appearance in Dracula: The Undead, set in London in 1912. The novel centres around Quincey, the son of Stoker's hero Jonathan Harker, who does not know his own parents' involvement with Dracula. Bram Stoker himself makes an appearance, directing a troubled production of his own story in London.

Stoker said he got approval from the rest of the family to write the sequel by agreeing to put Bram into the story.

"I said to family, give me a chance to do this and I'll put Bram into the story so all of us Stokers can speak to the world about what Bram was like as a real person," he said.

The Stoker family lost copyright control of Stoker's creation years ago, and it's a sore point, Stoker said.

After Bram Stoker died in 1912, his wife Florence sold the movie rights to Universal, though there were suspicions she was duped, he said.

"The question that arises among the family is did she really know she was selling them in perpetuity or just for one movie," he said.

Movies such as Twilight and more recently TV series such as True Blood have created versions of the vampire that have deviated far from Bram's original, becoming even more good-looking than Bela Lugosi in the original screen version. Stoker's heroic characters have been almost abandoned. That's why Stoker decided to go back to the source.

"Ian and I felt that we had to bring people in and centre them — let's look back at Bram's characters and the original story line," he said.

Stoker is currently doing readings in support of Dracula: The Undead, which will also be made into a movie. He reads at the Bathurst Street Theatre in Toronto on Wednesday.