Director – Sam Deats
Cast – Richard Armitage, Alejandra Reynoso, James Callis, Graham McTavish, Tony Amendola, Matt Frewer, Emily Swallow
Release Year – 2017
Reviewed by John of the Dead
10 years after adapting the video game series into a full-length script, comic book / video game writer Warren Ellis has seen his story emerge from development hell and come to life as a TV series. Thanks to funding from Frederator Studios, Powerhouse Animation Studios, and Netflix – where the show debuted – we can now view what would have been Ellis’ film, told in four 23-minute episodes. When word about the series broke out we were promised the animated show would deliver some good gore and not be a show “aimed at children”. I am glad to say that not only did they deliver on their word, but Ellis also gave us a damn good experience as well.
Ellis’ story derives from the 1989 Konami game Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse. In this series, Dracula falls for aspiring scientist Lisa Tepes, and agrees to share his wisdom with her for the betterment of mankind. When the Catholic Church wrongly accuses her of witchcraft and has her burned at the stake, Dracula’s vengeance is unleashed on the nation of Wallachia. Every night the depths of hell awaken and heinous beasts slaughter the country-folk, forcing exiled vampire hunter Trevor Belmont to take up arms against Dracula and his beasts. Aided by magician Sypha Belnades and another unlikely ally, this unorthodox team is all that stands in the wrath of Dracula avenging his innocent wife.
If you enjoy revenge stories then you will love the material here. Dracula’s wrath over the unjustified death of his wife is incredible and I found myself wishing he would achieve his vengeance. Her death coming at the hands of the almighty Catholic Church, which was ordered by the local bishop, leaves the Church as a dual antagonist alongside Dracula. The innocents in this fight are the folks of the small town of Gresit, which is where Trevor finds himself facing the demons of the night. After the Church excommunicated his vampire-hunting family, Trevor was forced to wander the countryside while hiding the crest that bears his family’s name. These days he spends his time boozing up at the local pubs, unaware that he will be Gresit’s unsung hero. He could care less about saving the Bishop and his thugs, but to let the folks of this town be torn to pieces over the actions of overzealous clergymen living in the Dark Ages – he cannot sit idly by.
I cannot recall how Trevor was portrayed in Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse, but I love that they made him a boozing washout forced to unveil the good within himself. He is definitely annoyed in having to save a town that does not want saving, as it believes the Church will somehow keep them safe from Hell’s fiery flying beasts. Nonetheless, he is forced to put personal objections aside to save people drowning in their own naivety. Sypha Belnades is a character I enjoyed seeing, however it will take a while for her to hit the screen. I would expect that she will have a greatly expanded role in the second season (already greenlit for 8 episodes). There are a few other notable characters, but this season is greatly centered around Trevor. Voiced by Richard Armitage, I enjoyed his portrayal of this bumbling yet incredible character.
Director/animator/storyboard artist Sam Deats does an incredible job with this series. I am in awe that his filmography lists Castlevania: Season 1 as his only effort so far. The look and atmosphere was great, and I enjoyed the color schemes. The action is solid and he did not shy away from the gore/violence. We are treated to some ghastly demons, with my favorite being the hybrid wolf. This excelled as an animated series but if there were to ever be a live-action film I’d hope to see this wolf again. With the filmmakers delivering on their promise to deliver the goods, I cannot wait for the next installment and the insanity it will bring.
Overall, Castlevania: Season 1 is a fantastic animated horror experience that I recommend to all. It has a great story, awesome carnage, and at only four episodes you can view this in one sitting. Give it a shot!
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