Karyn Kusama Says Her Dracula Adaptation Will Capture Some of the Mystery of the Original Novel

Karyn Kusama in 2018.
Karyn Kusama in 2018.
Photo: Araya Diaz (Getty Images)

Despite being the originator of the most popular vampire story of the past 100 or so years, Bram Stoker’s Dracula is incredibly restrained with its vampire nastiness. Dracula, in the novel, is a specter, a mystery, an intriguing incitement to delve deeper into dark horrors that unfold slowly.


Karyn Kusama, who is taking on a new film adaptation of the book, hopes to bring some of that mystique back to the film, according to an interview with the Stephen King podcast The Kingcast (h/t to Syfy Wire). Leaning on the book’s more broad structure, which incorporates multiple voices and perspectives, Kusama’s adaptation will, hopefully, stand apart from the rest.

“Something that gets overlooked in adaptations of Dracula in the past is the idea of multiple voices,” Kusama said. “In fact, the book is filled with different points of view, and the one point of view we don’t get access to, and most adaptations give access to, is Dracula himself. So I would just say, in some respect, this is going to be an adaptation called Dracula, but it’s perhaps not the same kind of romantic hero that we’ve seen in past interpretations of Dracula.”

We know Dracula. We see him all the time. We even get flashbacks to how he raised his kid. And known quantities aren’t nearly as interesting as unknown ones, especially in horror. Kusama’s Dracula might be one we see much less of, and who we end up not fully understanding. Which could, frankly, make for a much better film.

Kusama, who also directed Jennifer’s Body and The Invitation to horror perfection, is working on Dracula with The Invitation writers Matt Manfredi and Phil Hay. It doesn’t have a release date yet.

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io9 Weekend Editor. Videogame writer at other places. Queer nerd girl.



Dracula is one of those books which has seeped so far into cultural memory that a lot of people just assume they know everything about it, when most of what they know comes from Todd Browning’s adaptation and later adaptations. Like Kusama stated, the original book was much more of a Gothic mystery/thriller told in bits and pieces — it’s an epistolary novel, much like Stephen King’s Carrie — where the horror is in the unknown, rather than “ooh scary vampires.” (Hell, the second part of the novel — the log of the ship Demeter — is all about how the crew are slowly dying, but Dracula almost never appears.)

This is similar to how other novels at the time which survived in the public consciousness, like The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde. You wouldn’t know it from all the adaptations now, but the original book is a mystery — you aren’t supposed to know that Jekyll and Hyde are the same person until the very end.