CASTLEVANIA – Season One (Netflix Review)

All 4 episodes streaming from: Friday 7th July 2017

Written by: Warren Ellis

Based on the videogame franchise produced by: Konami

Directed by: Sam Deats


 

SYMPHONY OF THE NIGHT

In 15th century Wallachia, an aggrieved Vlad Dracula Tepes (Graham The Hobbit McTavish) sets his night hordes loose on the provinces of Romania after the Church burns his scientist wife, Lisa (Emily Swallow), at the stake for witchcraft. Giving the civilians one year to leave, Dracula unleashes his demonic creatures on a defiant and sceptical people. The hell-beasts tear through the land city-by-city, night-by-night, and the Wallachian’s only chance of redemption comes in the form of a disgraced drunkard.

Reluctant and out of practise, recluse Trevor Belmont (Richard Into The Storm Armitage) is the last in a line of the legendary Belmont clan, famed monster hunters who have battled vampires in centuries gone by. In Trevor’s favour, however, is a distrust of the corrupt Church and an affinity for Speakers, an underground sect of magic users, which might well hold him in good stead in his fight against Dracula’s vehemence…

Resurrecting a long-dead 80s videogame franchise in a new medium, Netflix have produced a four-episode Castlevania mini-series comprising snappy 23minute instalments which collectively total the average length of a terse movie. Released as it is, this first season feels incomplete and fragmented. The over-arching antagonist is only present in the premiere, while the protagonist isn’t even introduced until 1.2 – “Necropolis”. The narrative started in 1.1 – “Witchbottle” is nowhere near to being wrapped up by 1.4 – “Monument,” with the concluding part starting a new story thread and introducing a new character, feeling less like a cliffhanger than a mid-season juncture.

The tone and style is unquestionably mature; frequent violence, horror, bad language and a fair few pints of spilled blood. The animation – combining traditional 2D characters with 3D landscapes is stunning. Pause the show at any point on any frame and I guarantee it will look desktop wallpaper worthy; rich, gothic and macabre. The design work owes a great debt to Japanese anime, character movements are fluid yet short and stiff. I even sense that there may be a purposeful minute lag during more kinetic moments of action to give a slightly surreal and otherworldly atmosphere.

As it currently stands, Castlevania is not a mammoth undertaking (it has, however, already been renewed for an extended 8-part second season), so I wouldn’t dissuade people from investing in it. I would, however, add the caveat that season one will leave you unsatisfied and craving for more. Fans of Konami’s multi-game, multi-console series will get a retro thrill from seeing their beloved universe remade, but I must be honest and confess that I found it to be a frustratingly slight, flighty and disjointed – if gorgeous – affair.

CR@B’s Claw Score: 2 stars

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