Yet another All Hallow’s Eve has come and gone. I hope you enjoyed this year’s run of diabolical dread and devilish distress. This year we revisited some old favorites, conjured up some new scares, and assailed our ears with terrifying…
A bizarre revenge tale mixed with elements of horror tragedy. Universal went all out to bill this as an extreme monster mash-up, deliberately creating the archetypes that have become so familiar, reaching as far back as The Hunchback of Notre Dame to label the simpering Daniel (J. Carrol Naish) as the Quasimodo-ish assistant.
This is a more direct monster movie than Frankenstein. What it lacks in complexity, however, it makes up for in performances, especially Claude Rains, Ralph Bellamy, Maria Ouspenskaya, and no less than Dracula himself, chameleon Bela Lugosi as Bela, the cursed gypsy fortune teller who passes his burden onto Lon Chaney, Jr.’s Lawrence Talbot.
By no means the first horror movie ever made (nor, in fact, the first Frankenstein movie ever made) but James Whale’s eternal classic is the fountainhead from which has sprung the modern horror movie. Though he would later go on to make the deliberately silly Bride of Frankenstein, here Whale constructs an elegantly tragic frightener that taps into the timeless theme of man playing god.
Based on the Japanese film of similar name, The Ring addresses the urban legends and fascination with the non-existent snuff film genre that came of the VHS era, particularly the Faces of Death series. It’s the realization of that dreadful little feeling up your spine that witnessing a real death, or witnessing a bewitched video that sneaks in subliminal images, can somehow damage or even kill you.
Free of Tim Burton’s shackles, director Henry Selick spins a marvelous adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s book that is a visual banquet, with superb supporting characters that do double duty in two separate dimensions, or more if you count 3D. This is one of the few movies I wish I had seen in the otherwise worthless format.
The orchestrations of prior horror films, most notably the Hammer Studios films, were frenetic and uptempo, something more suited to an action movie today. Williams mostly avoided this zealous use of horns and frantic strings, preferring instead the sweeping romanticism that has since become a hallmark of the Dracula story.