Following last year’s dissection of Frankenstein’s make-up in 2014, Jokerside turns to the original Dark Knight – the one who’s never allowed to retreat to the shadows. Just how is the legendary Prince of Darkness fared on the small and big screen in the peaceful few years before that other Batman swings back? In this first part, a look at NBC’s high profile adaptation… Er… Dracula.
DRACULA’S HUGE IMPACT ON POPULAR CULTURE BELIES THE ORIGINAL NOVEL’S LIFESPAN OF 118 YEARS. It was theatre and film that gave him wings, starting with a performance at the Lyceum penned by Stoker himself. And after a slow start the Count soon came to carve a significant cultural footprint in the 20th century thanks to the contemporary advent of film. Despite the legion vampires who have followed him he’s never stayed out of view… And as recent adaptations show there are plenty of facets left to explore.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula
“Stoker’s real masterstroke was to ally vampirism with sophistication “
No real introduction is necessary. There are reasons why the vampire that Bram Stoker crafted stood cape and fangs above all the blood-suckers that had come before. While the tale was lodged in late Victoriana it has refused specific categorisation in invasion, horror or gothic genres. And that proved a significant benefit in the century that followed, with adaptations dragging Dracula into every genre imaginable.
Stoker’s opted to title his protagonist Dracula rather than the mooted Count Wampyr, for reasons unknown. Apart from a modicum of subtlety you would hope. There’s little to suggest that he knew a great deal about Vlad the Impaler, the 15th century member of House of Drăculești and infamous protector of the Romanian people, who went by the name of Dracula. Though by seizing that family name, Stoker opened up a treasure chest of exploration – as potent for writers as the more obvious facets of blood, horror and immortality. But away from Eastern European royalty, Stoker’s real masterstroke was to ally vampirism with sophistication. The central European locale, the entwining of love and vampirism, the superstitious deterrents… They had all existed before, notably in Dracula’s Irish near-comparator Sheridan le Fanu’s Camilla. But Stoker bolted on Victorian sensibilities to the myth of the vampire, including aristocracy, society standing, land-owning and the natural development of The Grand Tour. It was a compelling mix and one that proved irresistible when the character hit screens a few decades after publication: particularly Bela Lugosi’s imperious entrance on the stairs of Castle Dracula in 1931. Bram Stoker seized on many contemporary elements to craft his tale. And at the tail end of the gothic era it proved inspired and highly influential.
As with that other giant of Victorian literature, soon to earn a deerstalker and cape of his own, the temptation to update the 19th century setting is all the more irresistible when there is ready-made mystery in the origin. Although, as Hammer’s soulless and fairly disastrous Seventies updates to the myth show, it’s a tricky business. Still, the Count is endlessly resourceful in his reincarnation, and as recent adaptations show he’s as full-blooded as ever. Continue reading “Dracula: “Vlad about Town” – AD 2015 (Part One)”
Last Halloween I achieved a minor life aim, watching the complete Nightmare on Elm Street series in a row. Even Freddy Vs Jason? Yes. So, what was the result? Well, the third and final part of this blog for the 30th anniversary year to begin with…
TO RECAP FROM THE FIRST TWO PARTS: IT WAS A FORTUITOUS DELIVERY THAT FOUND ITS WAY OVER THE ATLANTIC TO MY YOUNGER SELF THAT KICK-STARTED THE NIGHTMARATHON OF EVERY ORIGINAL RUN FREDDY FILM AT HALLOWEEN 2013. A stash of bubble-gum cards, comedy taglines and horrifically compelling images. In a long-awaited retrospective I re-discovered the first film, Wes Craven’s master class in bringing real fear and real supernatural to the slasher genre… then a franchise that went through peaks and troughs of an increasingly convoluted mythology. Once the ‘son of a hundred maniacs escaped his family, even signing on to a film titled ‘Freddy’s Dead’ in 3d couldn’t do him in. In this final part of the retrospective, there are three distinct films across three decades. These could well be the franchise’s pledge, turn and prestige…
“Seven…” Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994)
A shadow would soon fall over New Nightmare of course. The shadow of Ghostface, bulked up by the Scream franchise. Now, Wes Craven’s other saga is bloated with a belated fourth entry, but it had already become synonymous with post-modern horror. Scream may have been the shot in the arm that slasher films needed in the 1990s, but it also inexorably created the recent wave of horror remakes, including 2010’s A Nightmare on Elm Street.
With a worldwide haul of 398 million to Nightmare’s $583 million, Scream also immediately created the gap that a new wave of more serious, hyper-violent, low budget shockers could fill (most notably Saw). But before writer Kevin Williamson formed an alliance with Wes Craven, the latter “father of Freddy” had just one more visit to Elm Street up his pied sleeve. Continue reading “Horror: An Elm Street Nightmare before Christmas – “The Rest is Silence…””
Last Halloween I achieved a minor life aim, watching the complete Nightmare on Elm Street series in a row. Even Freddy versus Jason? Yes. So, what was the result? Well, the second part of this blog for the 30th anniversary to begin with…
TO RECAP FROM THE FIRST PART: IT WAS A FORTUITOUS DELIVERY THAT FOUND ITS WAY OVER THE ATLANTIC TO MY YOUNGER SELF THAT KICK-STARTED THE NIGHTMARATHON OF EVERY ORIGINAL RUN FREDDY FILM AT HALLOWEEN 2013. A stash of bubblegum cards, comedy taglines and horrifically compelling images. In a long-awaited retrospective I re-discovered the first film, Wes Craven’s masterclass in bringing real fear and real supernatural to the slasher genre; the mis-step of a sequel that tried too hard and; the third, sublime showcase of talent that brought us structure, a set up for the franchise to expand in and that marionette sequence to boot. So some victims escaped the third instalment – what would happen to Kirsten and co next..?
“Four, Better Lock your Door….” A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988)
As often happens, the smart moves of the second sequel weren’t quite built on with the follow-up. It wasn’t immediately wasted, and there’s certainly no lack of trying… Talent was high once again, with Renny Harlin coming in to direct and Brian Helgeland co-scripting– using a pen with Mystic River and LA Confidential in its future. But it wasn’t quite the same in front of the camera. Patricia Arquette’s departure as Kristen particularly disconcerting as the series instalments become more interconnected.
There’s an attempt to keep up the ideals of the third part though, with an opening quote from the Book of Job (I mean, this was pre-Google, so good effort) and immediate, dream-state return to the original house in a dream-state. Part four is a return to basics, but throws up the interesting additions like the daydreaming Alice, the proper return to high school and the capacity for Freddy to expand his empire. Consolidating that Elm Street house as an implied base for the slasher also works as a shrewd and deliberate attempt to write part two out of the franchise. That’s hardly unusual in a long-running series, nor is the fact that any inherited characters are sadly… Quickly killed off (a lean 37 minutes to be precise; one of Freddy’s most efficient sprees). Continue reading “Halloween Horror: Nightmare on Elm Street – “In that Sleep of Death…””
Last Halloween I achieved a phenomenally important life aim: watching the complete A Nightmare on Elm Street series in a row. Who doesn’t want to do that? Even Freddy versus Jason? Yes! Again! So, what was the result? Well, this blog for the 30th anniversary to begin with… From humble beginnings to the legendary third part…
IT WAS A FORTUITOUS DELIVERY TO MY YOUNGER SELF THAT KICK-STARTED THIS, WINGING ITS WAY ACROSS THE ATLANTIC IN THE LATE 1980s. A stash of bubblegum cards (Bubble gum not included, Customs) sent by a cousin, mainly horror – with comedy taglines attached to images from Fright Night, Chucky, various Stephen King adaptations… It was the era of Garbage Pail Kids but this was much more real: Hollywood real. And standing out from the stash, more than any other gruesome, was Freddy Krueger. He was credited with lines far funnier than in any of the films I’d soon learn, the battered stills capturing comedy moments less scary than that Nightmare influenced episode of Byker Grove. In many subsequent years I’d see the first instalment a number of times, but last year was a chance to see it all in its franchise spanning glory, thanks to the advent of DVDs, DVD players, box sets and a far exceeded 18th birthday.
“One”… A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
“The scarred face, the striped jumper, the fedora almost as famous as Indy’s…”
Wes Craven’s definitive film kicks off with a heavy fairy tale vibe, one that’s faded into increasing familiarity over the past 30 years. “One, Two, Freddy’s Coming for you” runs the nursery rhyme at the film’s heart, the only concession to that horrific secret hidden at the heart of the Elm Street community. That community’s part of the film’s necessary reality. Yes, the fact that the fairytale exists is a little strange, as do the various choices by law enforcement throughout the film, but not staggeringly so. Mainly, there needs to be that semblance of reality to establish boundaries for dreams to blur.
Continue reading “Halloween Horror: A Nightmare on Elm Street – “The Undiscovered Country…””