Saturday, October 2, 2021

31 Days of Scary Movies

 This Halloween, the Ghost is all about planning. More than a month ago, I took a calendar for October, and tried to fill each day with a scary or otherwise Halloween related movie. I had quickly filled the month, lucky that I’d used a pencil, and was able to erase films that had to be bumped for something else. Like my reading list, I tried to be as thoughtful as possible about about what made the cut. 

 I left off movies that I wish I’d had room for. The standards are there— 1931’s Frankenstein, 1978’s Halloween— and I often found myself able to select only one of two childhood animated favorites or entries from a franchise. 

 Last night, for the first night, I watched one of the very first Universal Monsters horror films: Tod Browning’s “Dracula,” from 1931. One of my eternally favorite horror films, it was a natural inaugural choice. The film is so ethereal, dream like and atmospheric. While the temperatures dipped and the wind picked up outside, I once again watched Bela Lugosi give one of film’s major performances, that would cement so much about horror and Halloween— Count Dracula, haunted houses, and monster movies— for almost 100 years (so far.) 

 What struck me most on this viewing was how subversive this film is, especially for the time. The horror. When this story is made today, gore is used in more explicit ways, but in 1931, to have a monster displayed, so early, in such a matter of fact way with Dracula and his brides rising from their coffins, and dispatching who we think is the main character early on— is quite unlike most of what came before on film. 

  Count Dracula, Mina, Van Helsing, Jonathan Harker. Against tombs and Transylvanian landscapes, aboard a ship to England in a bat filled world of black and white. Welcome, October. 

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