Workshop Wednesday

Dracula

For a while now I've had a Dracula script in my head. As those who have visited Castlevania: The Inverted Dungeon know, I have spent a good part of my life talking about Dracula, vampires, monsters, and just about everything else that goes bump in the night. While I'm sure there are people that can lay a better claim to being a "Dracula Expert" than I ever could, I do have a fair bit of casual knowledge. Enough that, over time I had this idea for a Dracula script that I just couldn't shake.

With other projects finally cleared off my plate, I can now sit down and try to get this story out (if, for no other reason, so that it doesn't continue to plague my brain). So let's begin with the first part (of what will likely be eight or nine sections, at least) of Dracula:

Dracula: Part 1

FADE IN.

EXT: WALLACHIAN COUNTRYSIDE, DAY

We slowly come down from the sky, moving towards the countryside, before focusing on a set of railroad rails. As the focus swoops down, the camera tilting up, a train comes into view. We move along the train as it rolls past before catching sight of MINA and cutting to her.

INT: TRAIN TO WALLACHIA, PRIVATE CAR, DAY.

MINA watches the rolling of the countryside before opening up a leather-bound journal on her lap. She pulls from it a set of letters, each from her fiance, JONATHAN HARKER. Across from MINA sits ELDERY WOMAN, an older lady who has been quietly knitting. Seeing MINA move, she looks up and talks (revealing a thicker, Eastern European accent).

ELDERY WOMAN:

I know it's not customarily accepted, but I do so love traveling the rails by myself. My sister always gives me grief, but since my husband died I've loved to just travel by train, to see the country as the sound of the rails rolls beneath. It's peaceful.

MINA smiles.

ELDERY WOMAN:

It is surprising, though, to see a young woman, such as yourself, traveling alone, dear. Where are you headed?

MINA:

To my fiance. He traveled across the continent on business and, in his most recent letter, invited me to meet with him. His job is over and he wants the two of us to travel together, a bit of fun before we return home.

ELDERY WOMAN:

Oh, that's sweet. Where is he working?

MINA:

Here in Wallachia. He's a lawyer and has been assisting a local lord. A... (looks down at her letters) Count Dracula.

The ELDERLY WOMAN's knitting clacks and she misses a stitch. She looks horrified.

ELDERLY WOMAN:

Oh no. You musn't go there, dear.

MINA:

But I must. JONATHAN is there.

ELDERLY WOMAN:

The count... that... castle... No, a fine girl like you should stay away from there.

SFX: Train braking.

The passengers shift around as the countryside slows out the window. The train is clearly reaching a station.

MINA:

I appreciate your concern, ma'am, truly I do, but I really am quite committed. It may not be proper for a single woman to stay with her fiance at a remote place such as this, but I've been away from him for months and I simply must see him.

The train comes to a stop.

ELDERY WOMAN:

No, no, dear, that wasn't-

MINA stands and grabs her bags.

MINA:

I know you only mean well, but I am quite sure about what I am doing. Thank you all the same.

MINA smiles and leaves the train car while the ELDERY WOMAN looks on, afraid. She crosses herself and then just watches the passengers leave the train.

EXT: WALLACHIA, TRAIN PLATFORM, DAY.

We see MINA carry her bags over to a coach as narration starts.

JONATHAN (V.O.)

My dearest MINA. I have arrived at Castle Dracula late in the night after enduring a long and arduous coach ride.

EXT: CASTLE DRACULA, FRONT GATES, NIGHT.

Jonathan gets out of a dark, black coach, stumbling with his bag as the coach rudely drives off into the castle grounds. The castle stands forbidding, a hulking edifice scratching at the night.

JONATHAN (V.O.):

At night the castle is a dreadful place from the outside, creepy and imposing. It reminds me of the ruins across England, the old castles that dot our homeland's countryside, but also darker.

JONATHAN goes to the looming front door and reaches for the knocker, only to find the door easily opens at his touch.

JONATHAN (V.O.):

Of course, I'm sure any run down castle could be described the same way.

INT: CASTLE DRACULA, MAIN HALL, NIGHT.

JONATHAN walks into this main hall, which is a run down and creepy affair. Torches are lit, but the place is in a bit of shambles, with cobwebs everywhere and a bit of rubble here and there, scattered around as the building has slowly crumbled in places. He clutches his bag to him like a shield.

JONATHAN (V.O.):

When I arrived my host was nowhere to be found. I must admit the state of the foyer left we quite uncomfortable. It was a dreadful sight and were it not for the substantial amount of money the Count had already paid my firm I would have doubted if he were little more than a squatter in these ruins.

DRACULA:

Good evening, Mr. HARKER.

JONATHAN jumps and whips around, totally scared, only to find DRACULA standing behind him. DRACULA, looking very old and haggard, dressed it older (but once regal) robes stands there, giving out a chuckle.

DRACULA:

Do forgive me but you seemed so absorbed in the surroundings I couldn't help myself.

JONATHAN:

Y-yes... well... (cough) The castle really is quite, uhm...

DRACULA:

Run down?

JONATHAN:

No, no! I was going to say-

DRACULA:

It is fine, Mr. HARKER. I do know the state of many sections of this castle. Why else do you think I would like to... what is word... relocate?

DRACULA picks up a candelabra and beckons HARKER deeper into the castle.

DRACULA:

My castle has been around for ages and has long since seen better years. All the care in the world could not restore some portions to their former glory I'm afraid. Oh, it once was quite the sight, I'm sure you can imagine, back when this country was a seat of power for the region.

JONATHAN:

I'm sure it would have been impressive when your ancestors lived here.

DRACULA:

...Quite.

DRACULA opens a large door deeper into the castle and motions JONATHAN to enter. The two move through and, after a pause, the door closes on its own behind them.

INT: WALLACHIA, COACH, DAY.

MINA sits on the coach, a letter open before her, reading it as the other passengers watch her warily.

WOMAN ON COACH:

Are you... on the right coach, miss?

MINA:

Oh, yes.

WOMAN ON COACH:

You have business at the village?

MINA:

At the castle.

The WOMAN ON COACH and MAN ON COACH have a hurried bit of conversation in Romanian and then both look at MINA like she's crazy. MINA is already reading the letter again.

JONATHAN (V.O.):

My first impressions of the castle gave way, though, as I saw the noble splendor of a proper castle deeper within.

INT: CASTLE DRACULA, FORMAL STUDY, NIGHT.

Another door opens and we hear part of a conversation between DRACULA and JOHNATHAN. The room is much nicer than the one we saw before, with fine furnishings, art, and draperies. A fire roars in the corner, while a table laden with food sits to another side.

DRACULA:

-and by the mid-1500s the Turks had ravaged many of the towns around the castle. My people were scattered to the winds and, well, it's been in a... you would say “sorry state” since.

JONATHAN:

You're quite the history buff, sir.

DRACULA:

When it comes to my homeland I do have... extensive knowledge. But please, where are my manners. You have me talking about past glories when you look absolutely famished. Please, sit and have a bite.

JONATHAN:

Yes, thank you. It has been a long journey.

JONATHAN sits and begins getting a plate of food together.

JONATHAN:

This study really is remarkable in comparison to the foyer, if you don't mind my saying.

DRACULA:

I do try to have my... servants tend to the rooms worth saving. Even at my age one should not deny oneself a... bit of indulgence.

JONATHAN is pouring wine at this point.

JONATHAN:

May I pour you a goblet?

DRACULA waves him away.

DRACULA:

No, but thank you. I do not drink... wine.

JONATHAN begins to eat.

DRACULA:

Now that you have settled, shall we discuss the paperwork for my new estate?

JONATHAN swallows and nods. He starts fishing in his briefcase for the papers.

JONATHAN:

Of course. You must be eager to have this paperwork and make it official. All the deeds, I can assure you are in order and as soon as you sign here and I witness it, Carfax Abbey will be yours, Count.

JONATHAN hands the paperwork over.

DRACULA:

Wonderful. This will be intriguing, oh yes. I have not had to sign anything to own it before.

JONATHAN:

Really? Not even when you inherited this castle?

DRACULA:

We do things... differently in Wallachia. The castle has been in the DRACULA name for so long paperwork is... not needed.

JONATHAN:

Well England might seem foreign to you, then.

DRACULA:

Exciting, really. So many new people, ones who do not even know who I am. To be able to blend in among them will be... stimulating.

JONATHAN produces a pen and an ink pot, pulls the stopper, and hands the pen to DRACULA who then signs the page with a flourish. JONATHAN takes the pen back, signs as well, and folds everything up.

JONATHAN:

And the estate is yours.

He hands the finished papers to DRACULA.

DRACULA:

How delightfully modern.

JONATHAN takes a sip of wine and then stifles a yawn.

DRACULA:

You are indeed tired, Mr. HARKER. Please, allow me to show you to your... suite.

JONATHAN:

Yes, that would be (yawn) lovely.

INT: WALLACHIA, COACH, DUSK.

MINA looks out the countryside as the coach slows. It comes to a stop and she packs away her things. As she moves to exit the coach, the WOMAN ON COACH tries to press a crucifix into her hands.

WOMAN ON COACH:

These lands can be dangerous! Please, take this!

MINA smiles.

MINA:

That's so sweet of you but I have my own.

MINA then shows her own small, golden cross that she wears tucked into her blouse.

EXT: WALLACHIA, FORESTS OF THE BORGO PASS, DUSK.

MINA exits the coach as the COACHMAN unceremoniously drops her bags on the ground before quickly scampering up into the driver seat, whipping the horse to get the hell out of there as fast as possible. MINA stands there, looking around.

INT: CASTLE DRACULA, CASTLE HALLS, DAY.

JONATHAN walks the halls of the castle, looking at art and exploring old rooms.

JONATHAN (V.O.):

The days passed peacefully enough, MINA. The Count was frequently away on business during the day, making plans for his venture to a new land. I was given the run of the castle, allowed to explore any of the old rooms I wished. His only request was that I avoided the East Wing as that was a section of castle beyond repair, too dangerous to explore, a sensible request to be sure.

INT: CASTLE DRACULA, LIBRARY, NIGHT.

JONATHAN and DRACULA are hunched over a table, pointing at maps and papers.

JONATHAN (V.O.):

At night I assisted the Count with his plans, getting everything situated for him once he moved to England.

DRACULA:

I will eventually need to find a servant or two...

JONATHAN:

There are agencies to aid with that, of course.

DRACULA gives him a look.

DRACULA:

Quite... I believe dinner should be ready in the study if you would like to depart for some food.

JONATHAN:

Excellent. I can make a list of services you need while we dine.

DRACULA:

Oh, no. I already feasted earlier. I am well... sated. But do enjoy. You are looking a touch peaked.

JONATHAN nods and heads out of the room.

JONATHAN (V.O.):

The Count was right, of course. I have been feeling run down recently, although I chalk it up to all the travel and then the weather of this place. It's colder than our dear England. Makes me feel weak at times. Ill.

EXT: WALLACHIA, FORESTS OF THE BORGO PASS, NIGHT.

MINA looks up as a black coach rides up, its driver cloaked from head to toe. The coach stops on a dime next to MINA and the driver hops down, opening the door for the lady. She steps in as the driver takes her bag, moving away as the door closes on its own. Then the coach pulls away.

INT: CASTLE DRACULA, HARKER'S ROOM, NIGHT.

JONATHAN lays in bed, looking quite ill. The Count sits in a chair near him, reading a book while observing his sick guest. When JONATHAN motions, DRACULA comes over with some water, feeling his guest's pulse while JONATHAN drinks small sips from the glass.

JONATHAN:

Oh, MINA, I feel so ill. These last few days the sickness has gotten worse and worse. The Count tells me this kind of sickness is quite common in the region but that, soon, it will be over. I do hope so. At his recommendation I've written to ask for you to join me. Please, dear MINA, come to the castle and help me recover. Then we can both have a trip across country enjoying the sights together.

EXT: CASTLE DRACULA, FRONT GATES, NIGHT.

As before the coach pulls up, letting MINA out before it rides off deeper into the castle ground. MINA walks up to the door and, like before, when she tries to knock the doors open on their own, letting her into the castle beyond.

INT: CASTLE DRACULA, MAIN HALL, NIGHT.

MINA stands in the hallways, dank and dirty as ever, fidgeting with her bag, occasionally looking around for a sign of life. And then, from behind her, DRACULA appears. When he speaks, MINA doesn't flinch.

DRACULA:

Ahhh, Miss MURRAY, so glad you could make it. I'm delighted you were able to make it.

MINA turns and we see her pull her hand out of her bag, clutching a small crossbow, something an assassin would use.

MINA:

Oh, I'm sure you were.

DRACULA pauses.

DRACULA:

Miss MURRAY, that is unnecessary.

MINA:

No, thank you, it is quite necessary. I've been reading JONATHAN's letters as they came to me and I saw how his penmanship became shaky, read how his sickness was progressing, witnessed how everyone in this region is afraid of this castle and of you. I suspected what you were and now I know!

DRACULA smiles.

DRACULA:

You seem to have me at a loss. You know me but, clearly, I do not know you.

MINA:

My family comes from a long line of professors and teachers, researchers in the occult. I'd heard stories from my uncle and, when I saw JONATHAN's letters, I knew those stories to be true. You are a vampire!

DRACULA:

Quite right. But I must ask, if you know what I am why talk? Why not just shoot me?

MINA pulls a vial of holy water out of her bag, letting the satchel fall by her side.

MINA:

WHERE IS JONATHAN?! Tell me now and I'll end you quickly. Otherwise...

Here MINA flicks the cap off the vial.

MINA:

I can make your pain last for hours.

DRACULA laughs.

DRACULA:

Oh, good sport! If only my brides had your fire.

MINA:

...Brides?

DRACULA smiles and motions behind MINA. She takes a glance over her shoulder to see three vampire brides coalesce, like smoke, out of the thick cobwebs along one wall. They come running at MINA and the vampire hunter has to fend them off, shooting one with her crossbow before whirling and smashing the vial of holy water into the face of a second bride. The first falls to the ground, stone dead from a bolt in her heart while the other screams and cries, her face melting as the rolls on the ground.

MINA turns back to the third just as the vampiress barrels into her, forcing both women down to the ground. MINA desperately tries to force the vampiress back as the bride opens her mouth wide revealing her sharp incisors. Just before the vampiress can bite down on MINA's neck the vampire hunter pulls her cross off, shoving it into the demon's mouth. There's a scream and a convulsion as the vampiress pulls back, but we watch as the cross's chain slides down he throat. Suddenly the vampiress is engulfed in flames before melting away, leaving only ashen bones.

MINA unsteadily gets up, picking up her crossbow as she rises. She looks around warily but doesn't see DRACULA. Reaching for her bag she grabs out another bolt and starts to wind her crossbow.

DRACULA:

I must say, dear woman, that was spectacular. You should be commended: this is the closest anyone has gotten to killing me in over a hundred years.

MINA looks up at DRACULA who is casually hanging out there, lounging as if it were just a daybed, his cloak spread out before him like wings.

DRACULA:

Oh the fun we'll have.

DRACULA descends from the ceiling, falling into the shot, pushing MINA's hands out of the way as she tries to raise her crossbow. He engulfs the frame, his black cloak covering everything (effectively fading us to black).

DRACULA:

As I said, you are a singular woman.

CUT TO BLACK.

And now the opening title comes up: DRACULA

End of Part 1:

This section went, more or less, how I originally envisioned it. I knew I wanted to play with the idea of the letters from the original book -- the whole novel is told as a collection of letters, news clippings, and journal entries, giving it a weird, impersonally distant vibe -- especially since the opening section of the novel are the letters from Johnathan to Mina. Obviously I switched some stuff up, having Mina come out earlier and making her a secret vampire hunter in the process. We'll get an explanation for all of that down the road, but I really just wanted to shift expectations. In the novel Mina is pretty passive, a find English lady who lets her menfolk do all the work (while, I dunno, she thinks about knitting). That had to go. Mina gets to try and be the hero this time around.

Sadly I can't just kill the vampire in the first ten minutes of his movie so Mina isn't successful. Fear not, we'll see more from her in the next section...