by Steve Habrat
I’m sick of vampires. They are everywhere we turn anymore. They glare from their airbrushed movie posters and the covers of the latest tween romance novel. They have their hair perfectly sculpted on top of their pale domes and they brood while offering just the right amount of sexuality to make the girls wild. To make them more interesting, we’ve had to include werewolves just so they have a story to work with. Damn you, Twilight. To make matters worse, they are about as scary as a male model donning some wax Halloween fangs and whispering boo with all the lights on while standing in the middle of a room. Bela Lugosi is rolling in his grave. Not to fear, boys and ghouls, as I have the remedy for those who want a scary vampire movie. Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu the Vampyre is an eerie, earthy, and otherworldly tale that is part remake, part re-envisioning of the Dracula legend. On the surface, this film is supposedly a nod to F.W. Murnau’s legendary 1920’s silent film creep out, but Herzog makes a film that raises the hairs on the back of your neck and overwhelms you with gliding, wide-eyed beauty. Take the rolling shots of shrieking corpses at the beginning of this film. It’s entrancing and grotesque. A true splendor of life and death. I’m also convinced that they are real corpses. Then a swooping shot of a bat, presented in slow motion, so that we may drink in the grace of this barreling predator of the sky. This film is a true work of art in the first five minutes of it’s run time.
To explain the plot would be a waste of time. Most are familiar with the story of Dracula. The eccentric Klaus Kinski plays the bloodsucking demon, a bald, mouth-breathing terror that is spiderlike and pitiful. He’s a lonely soul that relishes hearing the faint howls of “the children of the night”. He creeps about his ruined castle, which may or may not be real, and terrorizes the rational Jonathan (Played by Bruno Ganz). The whole stay at the castle feels like a cloudy nightmare, an aesthetic approach that is used in Herzog’s foggy camerawork and Twilight Zone music. The entire film seems to suggest legend, a myth that comes from nature and is passed from the lips of superstitious peasants. When the film ventures to Varna, it sheds it’s trance like feel and becomes an epidemic terror.
Nosferatu the Vampyre refuses to become supernatural, grounding Dracula in the real world. What if this ghoul existed and he came from the seclusion of the mountains? He is an anti-social fiend that is not suave, sexy, or confidant. He runs about Varna, hiding his coffins in abandoned buildings and hissing at crucifixes. He lurks in the industrial ruins and peers out of windows down on his prey. His cape and coat dancing in the wind. His long claws wrapping around each other like constricting snakes. He speaks slowly and cautiously, choosing his words as carefully as he chooses where to hide his coffins. His eyes dart about his skull, always aware of his surroundings and what his next move will be. Piecing his plans together to spread his plague and bring about the apocalypse.
Herzog makes a melodramatic soap opera; complete with overacting that shows traces of Shakespeare, a trait that was rampant in Universal’s 1931 classic Dracula. Dracula longs for Lucy, who is becoming aware of what the plague truly is. Dracula visits her one evening in her room, a scene that lingers in my head and is one of my favorite sequences in a film in all the history of cinema. He is chivalrous, menacing, and volatile. We see him in the corner of the room, the very edge of the frame, but not visible in Lucy’s mirror. She stares in disbelief, as she resists his advances and subtly vowing that she will destroy him, even if it means death. The shot says so much while lacking copious amounts of dialogue. Jonathan desperately tries to reach Lucy, a man who has fallen ill under the vampiric germ. By the end, he is an evil descendant who is ready to finish what the master has started. Nosferatu the Vampyre is a tragedy, one that ends in the death of Dracula, who dies at the hand of love and infatuation. Lucy sacrifices herself for love and it strangely feels like suicide as well. Who wants to live and love in a world that has gone to Hell? Lucy takes a final walk through the plague riddled street as people dance the dance of death, have their final meals, and celebrate their final moments of joyous life, all while rats scurry about the streets.
A favorite horror film of mine, one that scared me to death the first time I saw it and left me flabbergasted in the wake of it’s beauty, Nosferatu the Vampyre is a blood curdling opera that is the work of an auteur who respects and deeply loves the legend. It offers a fresh take and is worth seeing for it’s artful approach alone. It could and should play in museums while visitors gape at its splendor. It’s slow moving and may repel a few who like their horror fast and bloody. There is very little blood throughout it’s run time. It was released in 1979, though it has aged remarkably well through the years. I’d give anything for this to be released on Blu-ray. I know I’d rush out the day it’s released just to see it in crystal clear high definition. This film is scary, folks. It will creep you out, question what is real and imaginary, and will make you uncomfortable to be by yourself for a while after watching it. Your skin will crawl when you first lay eyes on Kinski’s Dracula and, for my money, he is the best Dracula ever. Lugosi takes a back seat at number two. A must-see for anyone who loves cinema, Nosferatu the Vampyre will make you afraid of vampires again. Just like you should be. Grade: A+
by Steve Habrat
Over the course of the next few days, I will be listing off the 25 films that have scared the hell out of me. This is not a definitive list of the scariest films ever made but rather recommendations of films that I think will spook you. Feel free to comment on this and let me know which films scare you. Let the terror begin!
25.) The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
In the opening moments of this silent film chiller, a man explores the underground tunnels of a Paris opera house. He is alone in the dark and armed with nothing but a lantern. The camera remains stationary in front of him so we only get to see his reactions. Keep in mind there is absolutely no sound. All of a sudden, he sees someone or something. Not anything or anyone he recognizes. We the audience are not permitted to catch a glimpse. Judging by his reaction, I do not think we want to. This is the magic of the crown jewel of the Universal Movie Monsters heap. We are not assisted by the luxury of sound effects. Our brain fills in the horrors for us and sometimes that can be the most effective way to send an icy chill down your spine. While many of you probably are familiar with Lon Chaney’s legendary hellish phantom and you do not even realize it, he plays the phantom like he may never have had the chance to star in anything ever again. And it also features a breathtaking sequence in color (gasp!). This is a truly unforgettable epic that mesmerizes and horrifies.
24.) The Hills Have Eyes (2006)
Many have expressed their disapproval at this remake of the 1977 Wes Craven classic of the same title. But in a rare case, French director Alexandre Aja actually improves upon it. And it refuses to play nice. Vile, upsetting, disgusting and downright repulsive, it hits the ground running and barrels at you without slowing down. The opening sequence and credits are enough to give you nightmares for a week and all it consists of is a few scientists in HAZMAT suits testing radiation who meet a grisly end. This is followed closely by lots of stock footage of atomic bomb tests. Following a family who ends up getting trapped in the hills of New Mexico and who begin getting terrorized by colony of mutant miners who were subjected to radiation from bombs set of by the US government may not sound all the brutal, but trust me, do not enter lightly. It’s an unapologetic and unflinching little movie. About half way through the film explodes like a ticking time bomb and it’s incredible to me that this avoided an NC-17 rating. Oh, and I should tell you that the family has a newborn baby with them. And the mutants kidnap the child and plan on eating it. Start covering your eyes and chewing off your fingernails now. Not for the faint of heart.
23.) Inland Empire (2006)
What’s it about? I couldn’t tell you. What’s the underlying message? Beats me. What’s the point? The point is that it scares the living hell out of you and it’s impossible to know why. David Lynch’s three-hour grainy epic that appears to be about a remake of a film that was cursed blurs the lines of what is real and what is a nightmare. Half way through you will give up trying to follow it but you will not be able to avoid it’s icy glare. The trailer alone will have goose bumps running up and down your arms. What elevates it is Lynch’s use of surreal imagery. There truthfully should not be anything particularly scary about it, but there is. Through his use of close ups, every single character takes on the look of a deformed specter that is staring right into your soul. And wait for one particular image of a deformed face that, in my opinion, is one of the most disturbing images I have ever seen on film. I understand that the film may frustrate you on what is actually happening and what isn’t, but I can assure you that that is exactly what Lynch is going for. To drive you mad.
22.) The Mothman Prophecies (2002)
Have you ever had someone tell you about his or her encounter with something paranormal? I would guess that while they are telling the story, your imagination was busy bringing their story to life. The story was creepy because you were not there but you believe this person is telling you the truth. Plus, your imagination has filled in what took place. Long after they have told you the story, it still plays in your brain like it was your own experience. That is kind of what The Mothman Prophecies is like. And it’s based on true events that happened in the late 60s. Through the strong performances by Richard Gere, Debra Messing, and Laura Linney, they make you feel every ounce of their confusion, frustration, horror, and weariness that is brought on from the events take place throughout the film. Centering on the sightings of an otherworldly winged creature with “two red eyes” in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, the film has an unshakeable sense of doom woven throughout. We are constantly left with some strange account that leaves us gripping our seats or a notion that something truly horrifying is lurking just around the corner. Pay close attention to the details in this one. It’s what doesn’t jump right out at you that is actually the creepiest. The Mothman is everywhere even if we never really get a good glimpse. But it’s like your reaction to your friend’s paranormal experience, you do not know, but you can imagine.
21.) Repulsion (1965)
Going mad has never been this unsettling. Roman Polanski’s portrait of a young woman (played by the gorgeous Catherine Denuve) who is seemingly losing her mind after her mother goes away for a weekend is all the more surreal because we cannot pin point the reason why. She is so normal! Turning an apartment into a claustrophobic living nightmare, the film makes exceptional use of space. Polanski makes the audience actually feel the walls closing in. And when someone knocks on her door, talk about tense! What truly makes Repulsion work is that it is a patient horror film. One that is all the more unsettling because this could be happening a few doors down in your apartment complex or just a few houses down. And to such a lovely woman at that! It’s a shame that Polanski’s other horror film, Rosemary’s Baby, overshadows that gem. Through it’s gritty scope and enclosed spaces, after seeing it you may want to evaluate your own sanity, go stand in an open field for a couple of hours, and you’ll never want to eat vegetables again.
Drop by tomorrow for more of the films that have scared the shit out of me. You know you’re intrigued and the terror has hypnotized you. And feel free to let us know what horror films scare you. Also, if you have not voted in our tiebreaker poll yet, Click Here to do so.
by Charles Beall
One must approach 1983’s Psycho II with an open mind. That is, there will never be a worthy follow-up to Psycho; that film exists and there is nothing that can top it. However, one can wonder what Norman Bates has been up to since his dirty little secret was discovered and that is precisely what Psycho II attempts to accomplish.
The film was released in 1983, a decade wrought with slasher films. Indeed, Psycho II arrives right at the tail end of the beginning of the gore decade and you can see it trying oh-so-hard not to be a slasher movie (but more on that later). What we have here is a film that respects its predecessor, but also tries to break out of its shadow by imitating the film it is trying so hard not to be (but really, really wants to).
The film starts off with the original shower scene, easing into the main titles while looking at the famous Bates mansion. Totally pointless, if I do say so- if you’re trying to break away from the original, you don’t start off your film with one of the most iconic scenes in film history. The shower sequence serves no purpose to the audience. What image comes to you immediately when you hear Psycho? A shower? Precisely. One must trust the audience.
As the catchy tagline so cleverly states, it has been 22 years since Norman Bates was incarcerated and we are witnessing his parole hearing as Psycho II truly opens. Bates (awkwardly played again by the legendary Anthony Perkins) has been deemed “restored to sanity” by the State of California and he is hereby released. “But what about his victims, don’t they have any say?” asks Lila Loomis (played by a deliciously bland Vera Miles), presenting a petition to the courts against his release. Her argument doesn’t hold up, and boy is she angry!
Norman is escorted back to his house on the hill by his psychiatrist (Robert Loggia), where he is immediately haunted by, you guessed it, Mama Bates. As part of his release, Norman is now employed at the diner down the road (the one Norman suggest Marion go to on that stormy night?) as a cook’s assistant. There he meets a waitress named Mary (an annoying Meg Tilly) whom he strikes up a friendship with. After a falling out with her boyfriend, Norman invites her to stay at his motel for the night, free of charge. She reluctantly agrees and walks home with Norman, eventually ending up spending the night in the house after Norman gets into a fight with the motel manager (an awesome Dennis Franz) that has been keeping an eye on the place.
This is the basic setup of Psycho II and it is one of the reasons why it works- to an extent. We are focused on a core group of characters, and there are really only two for the bulk of the film, Norman and Mary. The premise is promising, as Norman begins to receive calls from Mother and he slowly feels that he is losing his grip on reality. Mary attempts to be his rock (or pretends to attempt to), which brings a more human aspect to Norman than we have ever seen before. Perkins is such a brilliant actor, and even though some of the dialogue written for him is weak, he tries his best to humanize Norman in a way that hasn’t been seen before. The slow pacing of the film allows the character to develop even more, drawing the audience into the conflicted mind of Norman Bates. Then, of course, there is the twist that is a bit obvious, yet still clever for a film such as this (a sequel to a classic horror film).
Unfortunately, the film begins to unravel in the final act and the bodies begin to pile up as demanded by the 80s “horror” genre. Then, something totally comes out of left field, something so absurd that it nearly brings down the entire film (but obviously sets it up for Part III).
Psycho II is indeed admirable. Its intentions are of the purest form; director Richard Franklin respects the source material and tries his best to make it a solid mystery/psychological thriller like its predecessor. However, the ending to the film seems tagged on at the last minute and brings down everything the film was so sincerely trying to attempt.
Psycho II is not a worthy follow-up to the original Psycho– there will never be a film that can accomplish that. However, if you throw all of your preconceived notions aside and give it an honest chance, you will be pleasantly surprised if not disappointed at what could have been.
Grade: C+ (but an “A” for effort!)
Tomorrow, Norman Bates is back to normal, but mother is off her rocker…again. Check in, relax, and take a shower with the directorial debut of Anthony Perkins, Psycho III.
Psycho: A Love Letter
by Charles Beall
How do you review Psycho?
If you are any kind of film lover, you have seen it. There isn’t any basis of film criticism, film admiration, or film anything where Psycho is not part of our subconscious. Psycho is as much American art as any painting from the hand of an American artist (yes, Hitchcock was British, but he was both a British and American filmmaker).
In his fantastic book, Alfred Hitchcock and the making of ‘Psycho’, author Stephen Rebello writes that the “working-stiffs milieu, two shocking murders, a twist finale peppered with transvestism, incest, and necrophilia [were] catnip to a man who fancied himself a connoisseur of abnormal psychology;” indeed, the plight of the characters is what drew Hitch to make Robert Bloch’s novel into a film. After all, isn’t it the characters that we remember most from this landmark film? Marion, Norman, “Mother,” and indeed, the Bates Motel and the house on the hill- these characters haunt our psyche (or at least mine).
Psycho is one of my all-time favorite films for many reasons. I remember my first time (don’t we all?) seeing this film. It was on AMC (when they actually showed good movies, but before they made the awesomeness that is Mad Men and Breaking Bad) and I was skeptical going into it. I was a budding Hitchcock fan, the only movies of his I had seen were The Birds and Vertigo (needless to say, at the time, I wasn’t a fan of the latter) and I had read that Psycho was his masterpiece. I sat down, eagerly awaiting the start of the film. Hitch had me at the titles.
We know how the story progresses, but to sum it all up, Psycho was originally Marion’s story, not Norman’s. The brilliance of the switcheroo is what has had me hooked for so many years. In a way, I became obsessed with Norman Bates- what an amazing character! But really, he is two characters warring inside the mind, and in the end, the “dominant” one prevails.
This war is brilliant portrayed by Anthony Perkins, who gives one of the greatest performances ever captured on celluloid. We see a sympathetic, fidgety young man who we feel pity for, even though we know he is a psychopath. But how did he get that way? Is he a good person corrupted by a force so overwhelmingly evil that there is nothing he can do to stop it? This week, I will be reviewing the Psycho film series while making a special emphasis on Norman Bates and his evolution to sanity (or insanity?).
The question I placed before you at the beginning is indeed rhetorical. How do you review Psycho? I know I can’t because it has all been said before. But this week you will find out my love and admiration for the Psycho series and this amazing character of both film and American folklore, Norman Bates.
Psycho grade: A+ (duh)
Tomorrow, it’s 22 years later, and Norman Bates is coming home…
by Corinne Rizzo
Boris Karloff, is quite the king of stiff and mechanical movie monsters. I don’t know who’s idea it was to do something like this, but not unlike George Lucas as the model for Wookies everywhere, I think maybe Karloff saw these things in himself. No research on it quite yet because Movie Monster Week must go on and there are no moments to spare. Regardless, Karloff is almost scarier as the Mummy than he is as Frankenstein. Though the two characters are pretty close aesthetically. Almost is the key word.
Running the longest of all the monster flicks I have reviewed this week, The Mummy has the most complex story line of the lot. Set the mid thirties, a crew of British excavators is lead to the tomb of an Egyptian princess by none other than an Egyptian prince, raised from his tomb by the alleviation of a curse that he was punished under back in ancient times. The film begins with an original set of explorers who come across this Mummy and while discovering more about his tomb, end up waking the Mummy from its sleeping state.
The Mummy then adapts into the culture provided by the current team of excavators and remains unnoticed as a native for a time, until he begins to give himself away.
To be completely honest, after watching Frankenstein, The Mummy was a little less exciting and ran a little bit longer than I expected any of these films to run. Maybe it’s the mood I find myself in today, on a rainy and cold day in Akron, but I just wasn’t into it.
I could go on to tell you more about the plot, but it would be in an effortless way that might demean a reader looking for a genuine opinion. I can give my genuine opinion and it is this: The Mummy fits in with the theme of Universal Movie Monsters, because he is in fact a monster, but breaks the sense of community built up between the previously reviewed films. Whereas the rest of the films use reoccurring actors, playing reoccurring roles, creating an occult following of these small tragic towns, The Mummy breaks that mold and almost feels out of place.
The plot of the film is everywhere and there are scenes that seem extraneous and ill fitted. As a viewer I found myself saying “I have no idea what is happening here,” which is common when I find that I am being given more information than I need to stick with a film.
Plus, The Mummy looks just like Frankenstein’s Monster and I found myself wishing to just revisit those movies again. Just like the Monster. Why would they do that? Because Frankenstein was such a hit? Most likely. It makes me uncomfortable when an industry’s motives are so transparent. I think Universal could have worked harder at The Mummy as a character aesthetically and personally.
Grade: C (for a serious lack of imagination and an overwhelming incorporation of details)
by Corinne Rizzo
While sequels are hard to get away with, the Bride of Frankenstein is pretty efficient in making its own way, though it is in no way equal to the thrill and artfulness that is contained within the original tale of Frankenstein. The original film though left off as just half of the story had been told.
Within the story that Mary Shelley created, the Monster becomes more of a sympathetic character, driving more of a critical eye toward his inhumane treatment and neglect. The villagers have forgotten that despite the Monster being created in a laboratory, he is still built like a human and functions the same way a human does. He needs the essentials that humans need; food, water, clothing and regardless of what anyone will say, human contact in the vein of warmth or affection. It becomes clear to the viewer that the Monster isn’t getting these things and for the rest of the film, our Monster is no longer scary without reason, but frightening in a way that he is influential. The Monster has been given the gift of speech development and warmth of friendship at once, though he isn’t able to decipher between what is good and bad, he understands the concept when given the answer and rolls with it.
But that is also where his faults lie. The viewer sees that though and forgives the Monster for most of his actions. The viewer might also even find themselves cheering for the Monster—as he is tied up and locked up and assumed to be a criminal though he’s never been taught otherwise.
This is the part of the story that isn’t told in Frankenstein and probably the entire motivation for filming a sequel though the Bride never appears in the original lore. But, every story must have its love affair—even the story of of the Titanic’s demise had to be given a love story in order to make it sellable to the public. The love affair in Bride of Frankenstein though doesn’t really stand up and becomes, in the end, a bit of a humorous if not sad occasion, as the Bride is afraid of the Monster and given that we don’t meet her until the end of the film, there is only the hope that the Monster will find a companion.
Bride of Frankenstein is an important afterword to the original film as it displays the full intention of Mary Shelley’s concept and then some. The story continues though this film to develop sympathy from the author for a creature that was created too crudely to exist and in his own words describes how he would rather endure death than live the life he has been given.
The film ends abruptly as the first one did, most likely making way for Son of Frankenstein, or Cousin of Frankenstein or Baby Daddy of Frankenstein’s Grandmother, but I would say that the important attributes to the story end with this film. Any further and the folklore would be lost on the viewer, using the concept to drive film sales and keep the same cast and crew running for an eternity.
Grade: B+ (Because it is important for the audience to see the human inside of the Monster, too.)
Top Five Reasons to See Bride of Frankenstein:
1) That batty old woman who is crazier than The Invisible Man, in the film of the same name, plays another (or the same) batty old woman in this film.
2) On the same note, the film does a neat job of incorporating all of the same minor characters to pull the films together as if all of our Movie Monsters occur in the same town.
3) Dr. Pretorius is the best villain as a man of holy order and a scientist – not uncommon in those days.
4) Things get a little hokey as Dr. Pretorius shows Frankenstein his own creations.
5) Seriously, was that the same Elizabeth or are they trying to pull the wool over our eyes? Pshh.
by Corinne Rizzo
To put the breaks on third person narrative, if you asked me what my top five favorite books were, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is somewhere near the top three. Nowhere near five, but probably not one. The story line spoke to me one day in my senior year of high school (which at the time was required reading), and I finished the book almost overnight leaving me as the leader of discussion in class and in turn, the teacher’s pet. More than that though, Frankenstein and his Monster showed me that I wanted to write and that I could write and that I should write. Not that I ever had an interest in fiction, but imagine if one could find a story just as weird in reality and be able to share it in a style that got people really thinking about god and life and death—things, I believe average minds don’t consider on a daily basis. Like Frankenstein himself, I was on the brink of my greatest discovery and literature and I haven’t parted since.
As Dr. Frankenstein abandons house and home to bring life to this creature that he has scavenged graveyards and laboratories for, he becomes so overwhelmed with the idea of bringing a life into this world that he totally overlooks the natural processes of things. He has a fiancée and she’s dedicated and beautiful—why don’t they just go through the motions of creating life the way we all know how? This is a thought the viewer might only consider when sitting down to write a review because throughout the film as we watch those short moments before the Monster comes to life, it is easy to see that the man is passionate and should be left to his work. Plus, I wouldn’t mess with a madman like the good doctor. He’s got his sights set and isn’t interested in what gets in the way.
Science is the answer for Frankenstein and it is not biology, but electro-biology. He serves to show that life can be brought upon the dead by a single ray that surrounds us daily. But other oversights begin to come into play as he gets his Monster up and running; he realizes that he has taken no interest in where the organs and limbs originated, or who they belonged to. In fact, he has implanted the brain of a criminal into his Monster and with total faith in science, believes that it will have no ill effect on his creation.
When the Monster kills off a loyal professor of his and innocent people living in the hillside, it is then that Dr. Frankenstein has come to the conclusion too late that faith and science are not tools that work in harmony. Like oil and water, when science failed him, Frankenstein was left to faith to decide that his Monster would not be criminally minded as he was warned.
Before I go on any longer sounding like a prewriting exercise for a thesis paper, and I could literally ramble on all day about the film, you should see it. It is the epitome of classic and a gateway to the literature behind it. In fact, while you’re at it, you should read The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells. The entire line of Universal Monster Movies is a lesson in the classics and will leave the viewer needing to know more. Leave us a comment if we can answer any questions, or seek them out yourself on the giant encyclopedia that is the internet. Watch clips, see the art that has been inspired by these films. It is a microcosm that one should at least test out before writing off.
When deciding which film to watch first in the entire collection, ask yourself if you want to save the best for last. Then decide whether you should watch Frankenstein first or last because if you watch it dead center of all the other films in the series, you’ll be thrown for a loop and have to go back and watch the other ones again.
Top Five Reasons to See Frankenstein:
Actually—there is no top five. You should just go see it.
by Corinne Rizzo
Backward down the number line of chronology, Dracula, released on Valentine’s Day in 1931, is not the first in the series of Universal Monster Movies, but it certainly is one of the most refined.
Beginning not unlike the last two films reviewed this week, Dracula begins with a grand arrival, much like the arrival of the gypsies in The Wolf Man and The Invisible Man’s entrance into the pub, Renfield arrives via horse and carriage to a small valley town just below the mountain top where Dracula resides. The townspeople are hurried in their actions and are surprised to see someone new arriving so late in the evening. In an attempt to warn him at once, the villagers encourage Renfield to stay for a night and begin his travels again in the morning. When the tale of Dracula is told, Renfield laughs it off and reminds the village that he is not scared and must continue. Little did Renfield know that his arrival would give way to his enslavement.
When the audience meets Count Dracula, a slow and cautious character is introduced. His actions are calculated and lack confidence, though he knows what he is capable of. The Count’s character traits almost mimic the action within the film and just as his movements are akward and slow, the film continues in a calculated though anticlimactic way. For instance, each one of Count Dracula’s victims is visited by him in the form of a bat before they are taken down. Then, they almost casually fall unconscious, while Dracula slowly goes for the jugular. The audience can always tell when a victim is about to fall, though the viewer never sees the blood, leaving a much desired horror effect.
It is easy to write off nuances like this and chalk it up to the film being dated and that the viewer may just be used to a certain standard by now, but honestly, the story told by the villagers in the beginning seemed more menacing than the villain in this film. Think about it. Assuming you’ve seen Dracula and are reading this review to support the site or for whatever reason, every night The Count comes creeping out of his casket where he keeps native soil to rest in and he brings his three lovely assistants, whom he only calls upon to show off in front of, and there is smoke floating all around the caskets, a slow creep out with those gangly awkward fingers and then…there is no smooth and casual way of showing it, but all of the sudden Dracula is standing up! It’s enough to turn the audience giggling every time the scene is repeated. The camera shot is panned away from the casket for just a moment and suddenly, without a trace of dirt or a hair out of place, Dracula is on his feet and ready to roll.
Things like this within the film are rampant. The only way to tell if someone has been affected is that their eyes get really big, the bat that Dracula turns into to spy on his victims is super hokey and Dracula almost has too many weaknesses against him to be menacing. The guy can’t tolerate light, is spooked by mirrors, wolf vein, and crucifixes. There are so many ways to keep Count Dracula out of one’s life and the film really felt like it was stretching to find ways around those ideas.
This is not to say that it wasn’t a valiant effort on Universal’s part to depict such a character, the film was enjoyable enough to watch, though fell short of certain expectations one could develop after being exposed to The Wolf Man and The Invisible Man. There are many parallels within Dracula to keep an avid Monster Movie buff interested in the entire series, the incorporation of things like wolf vein and evil being equated with wolves, the repetition of scenes and the noticeable calculation of scenes, even the token female character—all across each film so far could keep a campy crowed happy through marathon, though taken alone, Dracula falls short in this best of three.
Top Five Reasons You Should Watch Dracula
1) Bela Lugosi is Dracula! The same gypsy werewolf in The Wolf Man!
2) There are way more dames in this film than the others so far.
3) Bats, usually a frightening creature, are the size of small pigs and hilariously nonthreatening.
4) An actual quote about these pig bats is “Watch out, it will get in your hair.” Leading the viewer to believe that whoever wrote the script believes that the everyday woman of the twenties and thirties has bat/hair issues.
5) It makes Twilight less sexy (not in that “Oh, I want to do you way, but in that overexposed American way) and more pervy (and even more awkward).
by Corinne Rizzo
On the second day, there was The Invisible Man, and it was good.
A film inspired by and named after the H. G. Wells novel, The Invisible Man is an interesting addition to this week’s selection of Universal Movie Monsters. This film, overlooked and underrated by some enthusiasts is a fearless and masterful peek into the evolution of the movie monsters.
Released years before The Wolf Man, The Invisible Man is a film based on a scientist who had chosen himself as his own test subject, ultimately turning himself invisible and it is at that point that the viewer is introduced to this scientist as The Invisible Man. There is no waiting for his character to develop and his unraveling comes quick.
The film opens as a walking bandage, outfitted in a suit, hat and glasses, stumbles through the snow, uphill to a tavern where he hopes to seek refuge from the cold and the privacy to bring himself back to a visible state. The hat and glasses are what cause this character to look suspicious at first, especially to the patrons of the bar, then at second glance, the bandages, gloves, and wig all come together to help the viewer understand that as we meet The Invisible Man, the damage has already been done. The viewer has no choice but to take interest in his advanced state as it has been given freely. The viewer is granted permission to sit back and watch what an invisible man will do.
Stating that every month for a year The Invisible Man has injected himself with a serum designed precisely for that purpose, the audience becomes aware that this is no ordinary scientist, though he might have started that way. The Invisible Man’s character quickly jumps from one of embarrassment and desperation of becoming normal again to a crazed mad man, as if this serum is destroying his better judgment by the minute. One minute, our man is beating himself up about not being able to reverse his discovery and the next, he is raving about how menacing it is to be invisible and how he could never be caught.
And with that notion our Invisible Man becomes quite maniacal, but also so straight forward with his madness that it comes across as slightly humorous. Directly communicating to his lab partner upon returning back to his home town that he will kill him at a ten o’clock on the dot the next day, elaborating to include that he will be strangled and left for dead and that no one would ever be able to find his killer doesn’t sound funny, but one might be surprised by how a straight talking invisible cowboy of a man, could be so cynical and darkly humorous.
The film is filled with these no nonsense anecdotes and as The Invisible Man begins to feel more and more empowered by his discovery, he begins to act more irrationally.
The authorities in this film, as well as the mob of drunks looking to destroy The Invisible Man and his horrible ways have a hard time finding him, which also lends to a certain humor. Firstly, the police in the film are slow moving St. Bernard types who are easily bamboozled by The Invisible Man and that there always seems to be a gaggle of drunkards following them all just adds to a very Three Stooges like setting.
Taking advantage of a snowy day and the fact that The Invisible Man must be naked in order to evade his captors, the entire town which awkwardly hosted him in the beginning of the film eventually outnumbers The Invisible Man and brings him down, signaled only by a seizure of foot prints in the snow and a sudden human sized dent in the snow adjacent to the stalled prints.
What is interesting about the end of the film is that the viewer learns that the serum’s effectiveness dies as The Invisible Man becomes nearer and nearer to his own death. It is at that point that one might find themselves with the sudden realization that a whole hour and ten minutes has passed and in no way had they wondered what The Invisible Man actually looked like.
Like a gift from Universal Monster Movie heaven, the audience is granted permission to see the scientist as a visible and physical being, something a viewer might not have even considered given that the film is so darned entertaining in its own cynical and darkly humorous way.
This film, though released nearly a decade before The Wolf Man, is in many ways superior in building suspense and maintaining a certain tone of indecency that is truly horrific.
Top Five Reasons to see The Invisible Man:
1) A pair of pants goes trotting down a country road singing “Here We Go Gathering Nuts in May”.
2) You might just go the whole film without wondering what our man looks like.
3) The love affair in the film just doesn’t matter.
4) The bar maid is way more out of her mind than The Invisible Man is.
5) It’s just a way cool concept that trumps things like werewolves.
Hello, boys and ghouls…
We are very close to beginning our Halloween Horror Movie Spooktacular here at Anti-Film School. Starting October 1st, Anti-Film School will be overrun by monsters of all sorts. We will have zombies, mummies, vampires, werewolves, swamp monsters, psycho killers, and more. No one will be safe. Here is what you can expect over the course of the month:
Starting October 1st through the 9th, Steve will be reviewing George Romero’s zombie films and the remakes of two of his films. He will also be reviewing one of his personal favorite zombie flicks that is not a George Romero movie. It will be a gory week, so make sure you don’t get any blood and guts on you while checking the reviews out!
Starting October 10th, Corinne will be visiting with the Universal Studios Movie Monsters. She will drop in on The Phantom of the Opera, Dracula, Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Wolf-Man, and The Creature from the Black Lagoon. It’s going to get spooky!
Throughout the third week of October, Charles will be unleashing Norman Bates in Psycho and the sequels that followed the Hitchcock original. He will also be checking in to the refurbished Bates Motel in the Gus van Sant remake. Charles will be hanging out with the ghosts of Poltergiest and writing a study on shock rocker turned horror director Rob Zombie. Oh, the horror!
You can also expect reviews of vampire films that you may have not seen, reviews of the original John Carpenter film The Thing and the prequel that makes it’s way to theaters during the month, and a few other monsters that we like and dislike. Also, we are asking you to vote in our latest poll, which asks you which horror film you want us to review on Halloween day. This is your chance to interact with out site. Head over to the Category Cloud and click on the poll link. The first poll box that comes up is the one that we want your input in. Voting closes on the October 20th and anything cast after the said date will be ignored. We hope you are as excited about this event as we are. We hope you all make it a ghoulish hit. Who’s ready to get scary?
Note: Anti-Film School does not claim to own the images and clips from Universal Pictures’ 1931 film Frankenstein.