Castlevania is an animated original Netflix series based on the classic horror platforming video game Castlevania 3: Dracula’s Curse. Those familiar with the franchise will recognise Trevor Belmont, Sypha Belnades and Alucard.
The series opens with a field of impaled skeletons followed by a rapid shot of a bat being cleaved by an axe. Finally, we have departed from shimmering, broody vampires and vapid female characters.
In Wallachia, we are introduced to Lisa, a strong but short –lived character who wins the cold heart of Vlad Dracula Tepes with her fearless thirst for knowledge in her quest to become a better doctor. He gives her science and her love shows him humanity. Their union comes to a brutal end orchestrated by the church.
This sets the scene for the thematic concept of a villainous, superstitious church which is explored in Castlevania.
Twenty years later in the town of Targoviste, Lisa gets burnt at the stake when her scientific equipment is mistaken for witchcraft. Dracula discovers the murder of his beloved wife and wracked with a broken heart, he vows to avenge her death. He issues the villagers of Targoviste an ultimatum, leave the country within the next year or face his murderous wrath. During this time he summons the hoards from hell and waits for the villagers to leave Wallachia.
Instead, the villagers and the bishop hold joyous celebrations on the anniversary of the murder of Dracula’s wife and, Dracula stays true to his promise and unleashes his hoards onto every village in Wallachia. What follows is the gruesome destruction of the village. Images of screaming villagers and a baby’s severed head make it hard to feel sympathetic for a broken-hearted Dracula on his murderous binge.
During a bar fight, we get introduced to the reluctant hero, Trevor Belmont, the ancestor to Simon Belmont and the last survivor of a vampire-hunting family excommunicated and exiled by the church.
In search of food, Trevor travels to Gresit a town besieged by Dracula’s evil hoards once darkness descends. Gresit is also a town plagued by an oppressive church who uses superstition to further their power over the town. The church blames the Speakers for the presence of the hoards and while not much is revealed about the Speakers, we can only hope that we learn more in the next season. Here Trevor encounters Sypha, the mage, another strong female character (dressed as a boy)
The build up to the introduction of Alucard in his elaborate labyrinth is visually appealing. The season ends with all the essential characters in one place ready to set off on their mission to Castlevania, Dracula’s lair.
A show that is based on Dracula being the villain sure spends a lot of time focusing on a villainous, superstitious church and not much time on Dracula. In fact, Dracula only appears in the first episode of this season.
The gratuitous use of violent imagery (bloody heads on stakes, a crib covered in blood, quite a bit of vomiting), thrilling fight scenes and dialogue peppered with occasional profanity will interest those unfamiliar with the franchise. With this being a short season (only four 23-minute episodes), one can only hope that Season 2 delivers on the suspenseful build-up of this season.