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Posts Tagged ‘Dracula’

In a particularly meta moment in the oh so meta Scream 2, Randy (Jamie Kennedy) tells us “Sequels suck!” and “By definition alone, sequels are inferior films!”. Classmate Mickey (Timothy Olyphant) disagrees “It’s bullshit generalization. Many sequels have surpassed their originals.”  He suggests T-2, another classmate played by Joshua Jackson thinks “Aliens. Far better than the first.”  While I don’t totally agree, I prefer The Terminator to T-2, and love Alien and Aliens equally, there are however, some horror sequels and second films is series that I prefer to the first:Aliens and T2

Bride of Frankenstein (1935): I love the original, but the sequel has the edge.  Together cinematographer John Mescall and art director Charles D. Hall, director James Whale created Expressionist masterpiece that isn’t just a horror movie, it’s also a social satire and a comedy.  The greatest of the Universal horrors. Bride of Frankenstein

Dawn of the Dead (1978): George A. Romero’s masterpiece came a whole decade after the original film, Night Of The Living Dead. Tom Savini (who also appears in the film) provided the zombie makeup that makes the film so effective.  The allegory of modern consumer society is more and more relevant as time passes.  A film that manages to be both a truly gruesome horror and a clever satire.  Dawn of the Dead

Evil Dead II (1987): Bruce Campbell returns as Ash in Sam Raimi’s sequel to The Evil Dead.  It is essentially more of the same from the first film but more polished, more gory and a hell of a lot funnier. Evil Dead II

Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966): Most fans will tell you the first Hammer Dracula, Horror of Dracula from 1958 is the best.  While a great film and one of the studio’s best, it is a retread of Bram Stoker ‘s original often told story.  Prince of Darkness is an original story, and a really effective one. It lacks  Peter Cushing as Van Helsing (except a prologue recap of the previous film) but Andrew Keir’s Father Sandor is a suitable substitute.  Famously, Christopher Lee doesn’t speak in this film (as the dialogue in the script was so bad), this makes his performance is more chilling.  A true horror that has a feeling of dread from start to finish. Dracula Prince of Darkness

Blade II (2002): Wesley Snipes is perfectly cast as the half human, half vampire “daywalker” vampire hunter.  Predating the MCU, Blade (1998) proved what Marvel movies could be.  It works as both a horror, and an action movie, with suitable amounts of both gore and humour.  How could you make this better?  Hire Guillermo del Toro to direct it!  del Toro brings even more style, but also, as always  he plays with the idea of who the monsters are. blade II

The Devil’s Rejects (2005): Admittedly this one has something of low bar, 2003’s House of 1,000 Corpses wasn’t great, but this second instalment of the (mis)adventures of the Firefly family is a really solid grindhouse inspired gore-fest.  By far the best Rob Zombie directed movie, and the end is fantastic.  A third instalment 3 from Hell is in post production and due out in 2019. The Devil_s Rejects

10 Cloverfield Lane (2016):  Totally different to the original, telling a very different story, and dropping the now tired found footage gimmick.  Most of the film is a claustrophobic three-hander; John Goodman is fantastic, Mary Elizabeth Winstead is even better. 10 Cloverfield Lane

I have only included horror movies, there are plenty of examples from other genres, I have also stuck to examples where I think the sequel is better than the original movie, not merely good sequels.  

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The Twilight Saga (2008 – 2012) is loved and loathed in equal measure, it does however give us a different type of vampire in a different type of vampire movie. Here are a few more vampire movies with original ideas.

Sunlight in Nosferatu (1922)nosferatu

Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens translated as Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror; or simply Nosferatu (1922) directed by F. W. Murnau and starring Max Schreck was adapted from Bram Stoker’s Dracula the names were changed, not to protect the innocent, but because the studio did not obtain the rights to the novel. They didn’t even use the word vampire, instead replacing it with Nosferatu. Despite being an adaptation, Nosferatu has some original ideas, one of them has become a mainstay of vampire movie ever since (except Twilight). Sunlight. In the original novel Dracula avoids daylight as he is weakened by sunlight. Orlok (as he is called in Nosferatu) is destroyed by sunlight.

Kung Fu vampires in The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974)The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires

Blade (1998) reinvented the vampire movie, not as a horror but as an action movie. The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974) was a co production between Hammer Studios and Hong Kongs Shaw Brothers Studio. Having lost its way from Scars of Dracula(1970) onwards a change was needed and in The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires was certainly a change. Relocating the story to China and utilising the skills of both legendry Hong Kong action director Chang Cheh and Roy Ward Baker, a veteran of several previous Hammer films. The result is a bonkers 83 minute action horror that is both brilliant and original.

Realism in Near Dark (1987)near_dark

Vampire movies are fantasy as any movie containing a fictional species is, however vampire stories tend to be more complicated than that. With stories of good and evil, darkness and light, they are often more religious or spiritual stories. The weapons that destroy vampires often signify purity, they include crucifixes and holly water. Near Dark takes a different approach. Essentially a modern day western, a dustland fairytale were salvation comes not from a mysticism but from a blood transfusion.

It’s fun to be a vampire in The Lost Boys (1987)jun 52

Those who only know Joel Schumacher as the director that killed the Batman franchise in the 90’s will be surprised by his pop culture credentials. As a twelve year old , The Lost Boys was amongst my favourite movies. Although the conclusion is the usual good over evil scenario we have come to expect from a vampire movie, the hour leading up to the conclusion is exactly what the tagline promises: Sleep all day. Party all night. Never grow old. Never die. It’s fun to be a vampire.

Melancholy in Interview with a Vampire (1994)Interview with the Vampire

Based on the novel of the same name by Anne Rice is the story of Louis de Pointe du Lac (Brad Pitt), a man who following the the deaths of his wife and child has lost the will to live. Offered death by the mysterious Lestat de Lioncourt (Tom Cruise) he instead asks to live and in return is given the eternal “life” of a vampire. What follows is a an existential story based around the melancholy of an unusually long life. Not a completely original idea but probably the best example of the idea.

30 Days of Night in 30 Days of Night30 Days of Night

Ever since Nosferatu vampires have seen vulnerable to sunlight so why did it take so long to set a vampire movie in a place with no sunlight? 30 Days of Night was originally an unsuccessful film pitch, in 2002 it became a three issue graphic novel mini-series written by Steve Niles and illustrated by Ben Templesmith. Five years later it became a movie directed by David Slade. Both comic and movie tell the story of the fight for survival as a group of vampires descend on Barrow, Alaska during its month-long “polar night”.

What happens when the food runs out? in Daybreakers (2009)daybreakers elvis and edward

Vampires are mysterious creatures that exist in the shadows, it is often the case that they appear in movies without the other characters knowing of their existence. But what happens when vampires are take over the world and become the dominant race? Simple they run out of food and that’s the premise of Daybreakers (2009).

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165 years at 15 Marino Crescent in Clontarf, a coastal suburb on the north side of Dublin, Charlotte Mathilda Blake Thornley gave birth to the third of her seven children. You have probably never heard of her of her six other children, but you may now the third, Abraham “Bram” Stoker. In 1897 at the age of fifty, he published his fifth and most famous novel Dracula. Over 200 actors have played Dracula in around 300 films and TV episodes. My favourite of these has always been Christopher Lee. The English Knight played the Transylvanian Count numerous times mainly in Hammer movies. Is it because he is the best or just the first actor I saw play the part, probably a bit of both! When I was about ten years old I was introduced to Christopher Lee, I had no idea who he was. A few months later Channel 4 started showing a series of old Hammer Horror movies starting with Dracula: Prince of Darkness. Not only was this my introduction to Dracula, but to horror movies in general, for that reason, I can think of no better way to celebrate Stokers birthday that to talk about one of my favourite Hammer Horror movies.

Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966)

“There’ll be no morning for us”

The movie starts with a prologue made up of the closing scenes of the previous film (the first Hammer Dracula) complete with a voiceover explaining the destruction of Dracula (Christopher Lee). We cut to a group of English tourists including Charles Kent (Francis Matthews, a sort of low rent Cary Grant type) who are stranded by a superstitious coach driver whist on their way to Carlsbad. After a coach and horses turns up out of nowhere, they find themselves rescued and accepting the “hospitality” of a dead count in his mysterious castle. I won’t give the plot away but I think you can guess that the castle belongs to Dracula and it is no accident that they have found their way to his castle.

An interesting movie, the story is original but holds many similarities with the original, this is evident in the characters. The traditional Van Helsing character (played by an un-credited Peter Cushing in the prologue) is replaced by Father Sandor (Andrew Keir who went of to play Prof. Quatermass in the Hammer movie Quatermass and the Pit). Charles and Diana Kent (Francis Matthews & Suzan Farmer) are a good stand in for Jonathan and Wilhelmina Harker. Ludwig (Thorley Walters) fills the Renfield part. The movie did two things for the genre: it set the template for the Hammer Dracula movies and also opened the floodgates for Dracula (and vampire movies in general) to move away from the original Bram Stoker novel. Directed by Hammers greatest director Terence Fisher the film has a perfect blend of carefully manipulated tension and just enough gore and horror to make this a great atmospheric movie that only Hammer could have made. There has been some contention as to why Christopher Lee’s Dracula is mute, whatever the reason it just makes it more sinister. A Must for all classic horror fans. The significance for this movie for me goes beyond the film itself, had I not seen it, I would not have become interested in Hammer Horror and certainly would never have read Bram Stokers original novel.

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Legend is a word that is used too lightly but with a career that has spanned eight decades and a Guinness World Record of 275 films, Knighted for services to drama and charity in 2009 and receiving the BAFTA Fellowship in 2011, it is a title that fits Christopher Lee very well. As I mentioned a couple of years ago I was introduced to Christopher Lee when I was about ten years old, I had no idea who he was. A few months later Channel 4 started showing a series of old Hammer Horror movies starting with Dracula: Prince of Darkness. This is when I first got interested in horror movies. So today, his 90th birthday here is the briefest overview of his movies.

In the mid 1940’s Lee joined the Rank Organisation and was given a seven-year contract (as was the norm of the day), during this period he made numerous movies. His first significant roles came a decade later when in 1957 he played the monster in Terence Fisher’s The Curse of Frankenstein alongside Peter Cushing as Frankenstein. The following year Fisher made Dracula (1958), he cast Lee in his most iconic role Dracula and Cushing as Van Helsing. He reprised the role in sequels: Dracula Prince of Darkness in 1965, Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968), Taste the Blood of Dracula (1969), Scars of Dracula (1970), Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972) and The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973). Lee’s other work for Hammer included The Mummy (1959), Rasputin, the Mad Monk and the little known classic Taste of Fear (1961). Possibly his best Hammer movie and one of his (and my) personal favourites was the occult adventure/horror/thriller The Devil Rides Out (1967) based on a novel by Dennis Wheatley. He also appeared in two versions of the Jekyll and Hyde story The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll (1960) and I, Monster (1971) (only the former being made by Hammer).

Having already played Sir Henry Baskerville (to Cushing’s Sherlock Holmes) in The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959) Lee went on to play Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace (1962), and Mycroft Holmes (Sherlock’s smarter brother) in Billy Wilder’s The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970). He played Holmes again in the TV movies: Incident at Victoria Falls (1991) and Sherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady (1992). A step-cousin of author Ian Fleming, he was rumoured to be in contention to play James Bond, he was offered the part of Dr. No in the movie of the same name (1962) but was vetoed by the movies producers. He did eventually play a Bond villain, Francisco Scaramanga in The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) and was the best thing about the movie. As cinema, particularly horror cinema changed in the 1970’s the gothic horror he was most famous for became outdated he appeared to be moving with the times making one of his best horror films The Wicker Man (1973). Sadly the quality of his roles dried up with a lot of TV movies and lesser work in the decades that followed.

More recently his career has gone through a renaissance with a small part in Sleepy Hollow (1999) leading to further collaborations with Tim Burton: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), Corpse Bride (2005), Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007), Alice in Wonderland (2010) and Dark Shadows (2012). Following Peter Cushing and Alec Guinness who appeared in the original Star Wars (1977) Lee plays Sith Lord, Count Dooku in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002) and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005). But his most notable role in recent years came in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. A great fan of The Lord of the Rings Lee has stated that it was a life long dream to play Gandalf, the Peter Jackson film trilogy came too late for him to realise this ambition but he did get a significant part in the movies playing Saruman. Later this year he will be reprising the in the prequel film The Hobbit. Retuning to the studio that made his name Lee had a small part in the new Hammer movie The Resident (2011). More significantly for a actor who has made so many movies he appeared in Martin Scorsese’s love letter to cinema Hugo (2011).

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