Tales, particularly beloved tales, generally tend to bleed previous their borders and escape their authentic our bodies. Bram Stoker’s Dracula is amongst many well-loved works which have lengthy since taken on new shapes, shifting varieties continually. The epistolary story of vampires has tons of upon tons of of diversifications, with one domineering throughline: Stoker’s lasting characterization of the elegant, verbose, vampiric rely himself.
Given the breadth and number of the panorama, it may be tough, at this level, to iterate on Dracula in a method that feels contemporary — which is why Dimension 20’s Coffin Run was, and continues to be, such a delight.
Coffin Run, a Dungeons & Dragons actual-play sequence, premiered in the summertime of 2022. The six-episode run, described on Dropout’s web site as “a story as outdated as many lifetimes,” was helmed by storyteller and recreation grasp Jasmine Bhullar and starred Zac Oyama, Erika Ishii, Isabella Roland, and Carlos Luna. Coffin Run emerged from Bhullar’s love of Stoker’s novel, she advised CBR in 2022, in addition to comedic supply materials like Younger Frankenstein and What We Do within the Shadows.
The forged of the sequence shines as archetypical members of Dracula’s retinue, introduced collectively to ferry the Depend (who sustains undeath-threatening accidents on the high of the sequence) residence to Fort Dracula in his coffin. Oyama performs Squing, a Nosferatu-like vampire who’s Dracula’s “firstborn,” turned as a baby and preserved without end. Roland performs Dr. Aleksandr Astrovsky, a brash, invigorated mad scientist determine. Luna performs Wetzel, a younger human who lives as Dracula’s plaything in hope of turning into a vampire himself. And Ishii performs Could Wong, one in every of Dracula’s vampire brides, who was an actress in New York.
Coffin Run unfolds as a love letter to Dracula, each the type of the novel and the vampire himself. The story roots itself in Stoker’s work from the beginning, anchoring the narrative within the epistolary kind. It’s letters all the way in which down, actually (and never simply inside Squing, who tends to eat them). The sequence opens on Dracula himself standing over a writing desk, penning a letter to Squing. The letter takes a journey throughout the ocean earlier than it arrives on the Gold Crona Inn — very like Jonathan Harker on the outset of Dracula. From there, letters information the narrative, arriving for the gamers at key moments.
Letters, as a type of supply system for the story, are adeptly wielded by Bhullar — due to the fickle nature of their creator, Dracula, when heartfelt sentiments are poured out within the letters there’s a lingering sense of unease, perpetuated by the arrival of letters that reveal that the Depend’s emotions for his coffin-bearing family and friends won’t be what they appear. Wetzel, for instance, turns into disillusioned with the Depend because the sequence goes on, slowly starting to mistrust him, whereas Could realizes that her personal adoration for Dracula could also be extra one-sided.
Materially, Coffin Run pays lovely homage to the Gothic lushness of Dracula. When gamers are handed letters, they obtain precise letters on the desk, handed together with a glowing candlestick. Within the remaining combat, Dracula’s vitality is measured by vials of “blood” poured right into a crystal goblet by Bhullar after which consumed because the vampire comes again to himself. Black-and-white movie diversifications get a nod within the grayscale miniatures and the monochromatic set. The particular results all come collectively to create a world that feels extremely acquainted to horror followers in addition to uniquely new — Rick Perry, manufacturing designer and artistic producer for Dropout, will get heaps of nods all through the sequence for his work on the units and miniatures, as do the crew in a talkback episode post-series.
From the Scooby-Doo-like title sequence to the performances, the crew and forged of Coffin Run completely hone in on the comedic influences Bhullar cited for the sequence, in addition to the inherent ironies of the supply materials. Could, the classically beautiful vampire bride, is performed by Ishii with a gleeful, over-the-top accent, as is Roland’s Dr. Astrovsky. Squing, as Dracula’s firstborn, is consistently baffled by fashionable know-how, referring to the practice that delivers Dracula’s coffin as a “metallic tube.” Seemingly, his lack of expertise stems from apathy, fairly than entry. Fort Dracula, when the story finally arrives there, is equally frozen in time, preserved by caretakers who finally find yourself ceding the fortress to antiquers and “Lairbnb” opportunists.
A lot of vampiric illustration in popular culture is rooted in Dracula’s explicit model of attract. Even Dungeons & Dragons has its personal storied distillation of Stoker’s Transylvania and the titular rely within the enigmatic Strahd von Zarovich and the land of Ravenloft. The forged and crew of Coffin Run do a unbelievable job of preserving the larger-than-life presence of Dracula within the story, from including a silhouetted batwing shadow over Bhullar when she speaks to characters as Dracula to character arcs that nod on the ubiquity of the Depend and his story. In discussing his place with Dracula on the finish of the story, Wetzel says, “It’s like everybody in [Castle Dracula], they’re simply gonna be in there for some time, you realize? It’s like the identical factor over and over. Identical stuff.”
No adaptation is ideal — with Dracula within the public area and vampires again within the zeitgeist (whats up, Interview with the Vampire, and the resurgence of Twilight, and one million different fanged choices), there’ll doubtless be tons of extra distillations sooner or later. Coffin Run takes a pile of well-known, over-offered components — Dracula, the timeless bogs of Transylvania, letters, a carriage trip by way of wolf-stalked bushes — and makes one thing splendidly new from them.
On the very least, it’s value sinking your enamel into.