Castlevania Season 1 (REVIEW)
As I have stated in other reviews, I'm not a gamer really, Castlevania is one I have heard of but never played or really knew what it was about so I had no expectations on what the show should be. That said what we got was pretty darn cool, if incredibly brief.
That is my main complaint about the show is that it barely gets anywhere in it's first "season" it feels like the first arc of a story that should be at least another 4 episodes. It starts off with a truly incredible introduction to Dracula, you feel his menace and his power, but also his soft side in his wife Lisa. However when the church does something that completely upends Dracula's life, it unleashes the full fury of Dracula. The results are terrifying in no small part to Graham McTavish's intimidating voice work.
What I loved about the show is that it wasn't afraid to take dark Gothic themes and just play them up to their most extreme. Not in a cheesy way but in the most heightened levels of emotion with a score that went heavy on organ, choral music that really brought the images of religious dealings to life and how it equally presented the antithesis of that in Dracula's hatred of the priests. Dracula makes it his mission to rain down upon mankind as the scum they are by unleashing his army of creatures that fall from the sky in a rainstorm of blood. It's dramatic and breathtaking to watch.
That was just episode one and it was a hell of an introduction to a character we don't get to see in the remaining 3 episodes. We are then introduced to Trevor Belmont, a man excommunicated from the church along with the rest of his now deceased family for hunting the supernatural. We follow him as he leads a nomadic life trying to find refuge in one of the towns that has been beseiged by Dracula's army of creatures. He is a sort of scoundrel who really doesn't seem to care too much about the people living in the town, however he comes across a group that seem to be in the wrong place and are just too stubborn to leave. He offers to help them out when one of their own goes looking for the supposed savior that will take on Dracula and free them from his terror, but in return they have to leave the town. That leads to a pretty cool fight scene and we get to learn about Trevor's strength as a fighter and how he could be of use to the people he has now befriended in defending them against Dracula's army.
The show also very much believes that Dracula while evil is no worse that religion in it's treatment of people. It is clear that some of the evils of the world don't come in the form of these hell creatures terrorizing cities but the men of the cloth being just as diabolical and barbaric. I like that it is a condemnation of the church but at the same time doesn't give credence to Dracula's ways either allowing Trevor Belmont to be the middle ground fed up with both sides of the argument and left to be the mediator between the two sides in a way.
The art style and direction are the stars of the show. The cinematography is gorgeous to look at. Everything has a sort of blood soaked hue to it. Borrowing heavily from anime and not shying away from gore it creates some truly stunning images with kinetic action sequences that have a visceral quality to them. Each brutal death goes off like a gun with its ferocity and yet still manages to work as you would expect that level of violence at that time with these characters.
This season felt like a preview to test the waters. This would have scored higher if there was more to see. It is a part of a greater story yet to be told and that makes it a bit underwhelming in terms of any real story beats. It starts insanely strong and finishes on a high note as well with the two episodes in the middle being a bit more meandering. Hopefully this show increases it's output to something that feels a bit more complete in it's story telling and keeps up the high level of quality and artistry as it is something to really commend for bringing forth such a strong theme and doing it with style.