We’ve all been there, it’s awkward when someone outstays their welcome. When someone you hardly know turns up out of the blue to ruin your day. Rude. Now take Dracula, I have quite the love hate relationship with the Count; at times he’s my pal other times he just needs to leave (just so you know there will be more of this…).
Pray, shut yours eyes (figuratively) and think of Dracula, he’s got a nice satin cape right? Tall dark and handsome? Thick Eastern European accent? Penetrating eyes? Basically find a poster for Genndy Tartakovsky’s ‘Hotel Transylvania’ and you’re away. This image is burned into our collective retinas for a good reason; Tod Browning’s 1931 film ‘Dracula’. Browning cannot be praised enough, this film stands as the great grandfather of modern horror and it’s influence is monumental. This was by no means the first adaptation of Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel, being pre-dated at least by F.W. Murnau’s ‘Nosferatu’ and by the stage production Browning’s film was based on. Having acknowledged this Bela Lugosi is the definitive Dracula, and it is this Dracula that isn’t taking the hint.
Dracula has been sitting at your table nibbling on your biscuits for far too long, does he know everyone else has already left? Does he know it’s late? Does he know you have stuff to be doing? Has Dracula got nowhere to be? The idle chit chat is really winding down and you’ve been checking your watch with criminal frequency; no more subtle signals, party over, time to start hoovering or something… you get the idea. Dracula is supposedly the second most portrayed character on film following Sherlock Holmes, I don’t doubt it. Dracula’s longevity reflects his initial impact; it’s a wonderful testimony. I’m not saying we’re done with the Count, ‘Hotel Transylvania’ is certainly not detracting from the horror genre, my point is that we don’t need a Dracula A.D. 2012. I’m looking for something truly fresh to come out of Hollywood horror and soon.
Don’t get me wrong I ruddy love Lugosi’s Dracula,who couldn’t ? His performance still sends shivers down my spine. His stare, his grace; Lugosi is simply hypnotising. Moreover Lugosi has left his mark on the Count, when asked to do an impression of Dracula it is Lugosi we imitate. Theses are the shoulders upon which Hollywood horror stands. For horror to continue to climb it needs to take a few leaps.
Let me ask you this: is immortality such a good thing? Dracula has inspired so much and yet anyone who glances at Hammers shameless over-use of the Count will hopefully agree it’s not all good. Dracula doesn’t cast a reflection, this is one of his more mysterious powers, but if he could look in the mirror what would he see? Perhaps Darth Vader, perhaps Jason Voorhees, perhaps the puppet from Saw. Certainly a lot to be proud of. If Dracula saw himself staring back as John Carradine or Christopher Lee or Gary Oldman he might have to turn into a bat.
To clarify the Dracula horror films that follow Browning’s 1931 picture are not all bad. It’s just they could be so much better; a sprinkle of innovation couldn’t hurt. Dracula has been treated like a soap regular, he’s been through it all. If Hollywood would just put up some wolfsbane for a while it’ll help air the place out if you catch my drift. Dracula might scowl but we’ll just have to let him scowl, things are going to have to be ready for the next guest. This is where we hit the crux of the matter, and I hope you’re listening too demon from ‘Paranormal Activity’. To tell a story might take ten films but it’s more than likely that your story will take three films or less, following this the rest is likely to be ad hoc padding. Take Michael Myers, a character originally intended to feature in two films; ‘Halloween’ I & II, the masked killer went on to murder his way through another five films in the franchise before featuring in Rob Zombie’s 2007 remake of ‘Halloween’ and it’s sequel. That’s a total of nine films! Frankly that’s embarrassing.
The original intention for the Halloween series was to create horror stories focused around Halloween. As such the third film in the franchise ‘Season of the Witch’ doesn’t star Michael the masked man it takes the series in a completely different direction. To be fair ‘Season of the Witch’ is an incredibly average film, but at least it had a go. Horror is cursed, ironically, by it’s stars, Dracula is just the tip of the iceberg, the Count had his fifteen and now is little more than a regular on a panel show. The panel is a good laugh but the glory days of it’s inhabitants are long gone.
I feel like Jack Skelington, I’ve grown so tired of these recurring characters. Personally I’m much more excited about Scott Derrickson’s ‘Sinister’ than Ariel Schulman’s ‘Paranormal Activity 4’. In ‘Sinister’ we can expect a new creepy menace with some relation to our Dracula, with any luck the menace will only inherit Dracula’s awesome genes and not his awkward behaviour at parties.