For the next few weekends leading up to Halloween, I have decided to decrease my amount of sleep and sanity by comparing some of the most bloodcurdling, hair-raising and underwear-ruining movies of all time.
Before watching any of these I asked myself, “What makes a movie scary?”
Then I (awkwardly) answered myself, “Well Randee, I’d have to say story line, special effects and fears of that generation.”
The first two are pretty self-explanatory, but I’d like to expand on the fact that the fears people have instilled in them contribute to a movie’s fright factor.
Dracula 1931 vs. Dracula 1992
Fears of the generation:
For almost any period of time we can find out what was scaring the mass amount of people by examining their popular stories, books, plays, songs and movies. What is ours now? Zombies. Think about it, there are countless movies, shows, Halloween costumes, and even marathon runs based on this idea that some disease is going to turn us all into brainless, human flesh craving killers. I will admit that I’ve dreamt a time or two of this kind of apocalypse (and have already started preparing a bunker,) and that just shows that whenever I watch a Zombie movie there’s a part of me that is truly frightened because I really think it could happen. That’s why when a movie hits us deep in the core of our fears, it is associated as a “good” scary movie because it sparks true and honest emotion.
Anyways, I began my journey by watching two versions of the Bram Stoker’s classic tale of count Dracula muhaha. *Image me saying that in a really lousy Transylvanian-vampire accent.
After watching both movies, I decided I want to base this week’s breakdown on the time period they were made in.
1931 vs. 1992
Although both stories were based on the same novel, there are a lot of differences that I think can be attributed to the time they were produced.
The acting plays a huge role in this (yes, pun intended.) Film was still getting started in the early 30’s, and the actors and actress were freshly stepping off the stage and onto the set of a movie. Theater calls for the over dramatization of words and emotions, so the acting in this was very memorable for me. I’m not saying that the acting was better, but I can still perfectly picture the way Dracula’s eyes widened as he rolled his tongue while slowly saying, “I am Drracccula.” There was also a lot less dialogue in the earlier film, so when they did speak, their words lingered in my head because I knew those lines were important to the story.
When I was watching the 1931 version, I realized there was no background music the entire movie. Yes, there was the fuzzy crackle from the old film, which is creepy in its own sense, but it doesn’t have that added suspense that we are exposed to now. When there was a “spooky” scene in the 1992 version, the music would gradually make my heart beat faster leading up to whatever eerie thing was about to happen, almost as if it was guiding us to what was meant to be scary. In a way, the lack of music in the older film contributes to you deciding what you find frightening.
In the original, you never saw him actually bite one of his victims, let alone see any intense violence. There were also a lot of fade to black scenes when I felt there was more I needed to know/see, so this left things open to the imagination. You had to picture Dracula’s fangs breaking through the neck skin, and the pain on the girls face while he slowly sipped away at her deep red blood.
All and all, both movies were really good and I recommend everyone watch them. I think I had a lot more to say about the earlier film because it was so foreign to me. I am used to the modern Hollywood films that have the exact formula down for a successful scary movie at the box office. They know how to incorporate crazy special effects, use fast cut scenes and vibrant colors to keep our interest, how the use of gloomy music adds panic, and how to tell a story that answers all of our questions.
So, which was scarier? The one full or buckets of blood and amazing monster makeup? Or the one that said and showed very little leaving me lying there at night trying to figure it all out?
I’m going to have to go with the OG Dracula because there is nothing scarier that what our own brains can create for us with a little inspiration.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992):