Posts Tagged ‘Dracula’

HALLOWEEN WEEK 2021! THE MONSTER SQUAD. “Who is the coolest monster?”

“Where the hell am I supposed to find silver bullets? K-Mart?” Rudy (Ryan Lambert) in The Monster Squad.       

Like many baby boomers reared on the Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine, Fred Dekker is a huge fan of the classic Universal horror movies. Frankenstein, Dracula, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Mummy and The Wolf Man inspire nightmares in most, but for Dekker they simply fire his imagination.

“As a kid,” said the San Francisco born filmmaker, “I loved the Universal monster films of the ’30s and ’40s so obviously, getting the chance to play in their fictional universe was a dream come true.”

The result of Dekker’s reverie was the creation of The Monster Squad, a 1987 teenage horror comedy that owes a big nod to Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein with a side order of The Goonies thrown in for good measure.

When Count Dracula recruits a posse of monsters — Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Wolf Man and The Creature from the Black Lagoon — to retrieve and destroy an ancient amulet that holds the key to controlling the balance of good and evil in the world, he didn’t count on a band of fifth graders (and one chain-smoking eighth grade greaser) driving a stake through his plans.

The Monster Squad, a geeky group who wear T-shirts that say “Stephen King Rules” and spend their days obsessing over monster magazines and debating important topics like, ‘Who is the coolest monster?’ and ‘Does The Wolf Man have the biggest nards?’ have come into possession of the diary of famed Dracula hunter Abraham Van Helsing, a document that holds the secret to stopping the Count’s army of darkness and thwarting his evil plan.

With the help of the local “Scary German Guy” (Leonardo Cinimo) who translates the book into English they get the skinny on the amulet. According to the book it is composed of concentrated good, but for one day every century it is vulnerable and can be destroyed.

If they can find the amulet and use it in conjunction with an incantation from the diary they can create a swirling vortex which will suck the monsters away from Earth, condemning them to a metaphysical jail and saving the world from their reign of wickedness. If the monsters get to the amulet first, evil will win.

The first thing you’ll notice about The Monster Squad is that the monsters don’t look exactly the way you remember them from the old Universal movies. That’s because this homage to those landmark films wasn’t made by Universal, who still own the copyrights to the likenesses of those famous fiends. To get around that hurdle special effects wizard Stan Winston, whose creature creations have been seen in everything from Edward Scissorhands to Jurassic Park and Aliens, took the original copyrighted designs and tweaked them just enough to avoid lawsuits.

“One of the things we had to be very careful of was that although we were doing a movie that was a take-off on the Universal classics, we had to be careful none of our designs infringed on the original designs of the Universal characters,” Winston told Rue Morgue in 2007. “There were subtle changes; we had to be sure that nothing specific about them could be considered a copyright infringement of a design.”

You’ll notice Dracula still has a cape, but no widow’s peak; Frankenstein’s head is shaped differently and the neck bolts are gone, while The Wolf Man looks like his hair was blown dry and teased by a hairdresser with one too many Red Bulls under his belt. The changes are minimalist, but spookily effective. The success of the make-up designs is further enhanced by strong creature performances by the actors, particularly Tom Noonan as Frankenstein’s Monster, who brings a vulnerability to this familiar character.

“I think Tom Noonan brought just the right amount of conviction and gentleness and sadness to Frankenstein’s Monster,” says Dekker, “and Duncan Regehr was a terrific Dracula. He had just the right combination of nobility and evil and animal rage and all the stuff that are the hallmarks of that character.”

In contrast to the supernatural showings of the older actors, the kids of The Monster Squad turn in nice, natural performances.

“It was really important to me that we had real kids and not movie kids,” Dekker says. “You know, the kind you see in commercials who are too pretty and mug and overact? We didn’t want that. We wanted them to be believable, and to seem like they were really friends. Luckily, they turned out to become a very tight-knit group.”

The Monster Squad, despite the salty language (the boys swear, Dracula calls a little girl “a bitch” and a preteen uses the word “chickenshit,” no doubt courtesy of Shane Black who also wrote more adult fare like Lethal Weapon), the refreshing lack of political correctness, the violence and the presence of nightmare-inducing monsters this is, above all, a kid’s film. The youngsters are the heroes and battle the monsters in ways that only kids can. A garlic pizza proves to be Dracula’s undoing, and in one classic scene The Wolf Man is felled by a well-placed kick to “the nards.”

“I like to think that Monster Squad, in its own small way, says something about what it is to be a kid and to be afraid in the world,” says Dekker, “and discovering the need for heroism.”

Dekker adds that he set out to make an exciting teen adventure movie, but may have been a bit ahead of his time. In the post–Buffy the Vampire Slayer world we live in the mix of kids, humor and horror seems normal, but in 1987 it didn’t click with audiences.

“When Monster Squad was released, we found that kids didn’t go see it because their parents wouldn’t let them. Mostly because they thought it was going to be too scary, and parents didn’t see it because they thought it was a kid’s film,” he says. “In fact it took another several years before the combination of young people in jeopardy in genre-horror situations like Buffy and Goosebumps and Harry Potter really became acceptable. The audience wasn’t ready for it in the ’80s. Sure there was The Lost Boys and The Goonies, but specifically the kind of monster-slayer approach wouldn’t be popular for another ten or fifteen years. So I like to think that we were a little ahead of the curve.”

The movie’s box office take, or lack of it, condemned the film to obscurity, but it didn’t disappear altogether. Substandard video releases of the movie helped built a small cult audience for the flick, but fans had to wait twenty years for a deluxe DVD treatment. In 2007 Lionsgate released a sparkling two-disc set with lots of extras and deleted scenes. “The remastered print is so incredible that there are many shots that I hadn’t seen since I saw them through the lens of my Panaflex,” says Dekker.

Metro Canada In Focus: Unfriended #Iknowwhatyoudidonline

Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 12.52.08 PMBy Richard Crouse – Metro In Focus

The best horror films are never only about the Double Gs—guts and gore. Sure, part of the appeal of scary movies is that they make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end, and that frequently requires a spray of blood or a nightmarish vision of terror in the form of Freddy Kruger or Jason Voorhees, but great horror films are always about something other than the thrills and chills.

To be truly effective scary pictures must tap into a collective anxiety; societal hot buttons that elevate the frights to a new level. For instance, Frankenstein plays on people’s fear of science while Godzilla is an obvious cultural metaphor for nuclear weapons in reaction to the devastation of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and you don’t have to be Sigmund Freud to see Dracula as the metaphorical embodiment of everything from drug addiction and old age to alternative lifestyles and capitalism.

Perhaps the most socially self-aware horror film of all is Night of the Living Dead. It’s got zombies galore but director George A. Romero had the braaaiiins to include a subtext that echoed the contemporary state America’s of race relations, the horrors of Vietnam and cynicism with government. It’s the best of both worlds—a thought-provoking movie that gushes with gore.

Film historian Linda Badley suggests Night of the Living Dead horrifies because the zombies weren’t bizarre creatures from outer space or from Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory, but because, “They’re us.”

This weekend a new film, Unfriended, turns the camera, or in this case the Skype screen, on us in an eerie story about bullying. On the surface Unfriended may look like a cheapo teen horror flick with a cast of unknowns—which it is, but so was Night of the Living Dead—but by basing the plot in the world of social media and the bad behaviour that comes along with anonymous avatars, it becomes a ripped-from-the-headlines comment on a very touchy societal subject.

The movie begins a year after Laura, a popular high school student, was cyber shamed into killing herself. A teenage girl is on a group Skype session when she begins to receive cryptic and threatening messages from Laura’s old account. As the movie unfolds secrets are revealed and the danger is amped up.

The mysterious killer is a hoary old horror convention, but here it’s told in the contemporary language of Millennials. Unsurprisingly, the movie has already sparked the interest of the Y Generation—the trailer garnered almost 300,000 Twitter comments on its first day—who relate to the setting—by-and-large it takes place on a computer screen—and who are all too familiar with the everyday brutality of Twitter, Facebook, Skype, Instagram and Spotify. They understand what a minefield the web can be and the filmmakers realized the narrative possibilities of creating cinema’s first deadly internet troll. Freddy Kruger is your father’s baddie; the new horror comes in bits and bytes.

Similar to Psycho’s Norman Bates or the undead of 28 Days Later, the kids of Unfriended tell a very specific story—the sad tale of a teen suicide—that becomes a universal horror tale by making the characters and setting ordinary and relatable. Like the best of classic fright films, it breathes new life into a form we’ve seen before by recontextualizing it for a new generation.

Metro Canada: Filmmakers have been using mazes to amaze audiences for years

mazerunnerGiant labyrinthine puzzles are almost as old as mankind: Prehistoric mazes were built as traps for malevolent spirits, while in medieval times the labyrinth represented a path to God. But recently, the idea of people struggling through a complicated network of paths has made for some striking visuals in movies.

This weekend, The Maze Runner sets much of its action inside a gigantic maze where frightening mechanical monsters called Grievers wander, tormenting Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) as he navigates the maze to pick up clues that help him piece together memories of his past. The sci-fi story is just the latest to feature a maze as a major plot point, but just as Labyrinth’s Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) is warned, “nothing is as it seems” in these movie puzzles.

Remember Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire? Like Thomas in The Maze Runner, the boy wizard has to make it through a maze (in this instance to find the Triwizard Cup), but instead of fighting magical creatures, this hedge maze is magical; shape shifting to make the journey extra difficult. The 1972 horror film Tales from the Crypt contained an even more sinister maze.

Made up of five stories, the film culminated with the tale of a labyrinth told with razor-sharp wit. Set in a home for the blind, the patients get even with the institute’s cruel director by placing him in the centre of a maze of narrow corridors lined with razor blades. It’s a cutting edge story, that, according to besthorrormovies.com “rivals the ‘death traps’ of Saw and ‘tortures’ of Hostel while only showing a single small cut of the flesh.”

In The Shining, the axe-wielding father Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) chases his son Danny (Danny Lloyd) through the Overlook Hotel’s hedge maze. The quick-thinking boy escapes by retracing his steps, confusing his maniacal dad. The documentary Room 237 offers up a number of interpretations of what the maze and Danny’s escape represents. One theory suggests it reflects Greek hero Theseus’ slaying of the Minotaur and escape from the labyrinth, while another speculates it’s a metaphor for conquering repression. Whatever the subtext, it remains one of director Stanley Kubrick’s most tense scenes.

And finally, Francis Ford Coppola’s version of Dracula sees Lucy (Sadie Frost) sleepwalking through a garden maze, chased by Dracula (Gary Oldman) in wolfman form while Pan’s Labyrinth features a maze as a place of safety for Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) to evade her attacker.

YULE LOVE IT! RICHARDCROUSE.CA’S CHRISTMAS GIFT LIST! DAY EIGHT!

71Q4pzRI-VL._SL1500_Q. What do you call vampires who ring doorbells?
A. Dead ringers.

A bad joke, but a cool Christmas gift. What Bela Lugosi fan wouldn’t want a replica of the Ring of Dracula, bearing the Count’s crest and cast from an original prop ring?

Here are the details from amazon.com: “The Ring of Dracula Elite Edition Prop Replica: A high quality, officially licensed replica of The Ring of Dracula, bearing the Count’s crest. This signet style ring prop is one of the hallmarks of the classic on-screen aristocratic vampire Count. Cast from an original prop ring with exacting attention to detail, this stunning Elite Edition replica is crafted from sterling silver and inset with a genuine semi-precious Carnelian “blood” stone. The original prop has an unmatched provenance to the most famous on screen vampire. Since its first appearance in “The House of Frankenstein” in 1944, the Dracula ring, or a copy of it, has adorned the fingers of some of the most admired actors to have portrayed Dracula, including John Carradine, Bela Lugosi and Sir Christopher Lee. For several decades the ring was also one of the prized possessions of the late writer, publisher and fan extraordinaire, Forrest J. Ackerman. This replica was cast from the prop in Mr. Ackerman’s collection. The mark of “THE” vampire, The Ring of Dracula Elite Edition will be a valuable addition to any collection. Each Elite Edition replica ring comes in a handsome presentation storage box, housed within custom designed packaging and includes a certificate of authenticity. This product is officially licensed by Universal Studios. This Elite Edition replica ring is being hand produced as a strictly limited edition of just 600 pieces worldwide. The Carnelian stone used is a natural product and therefore some slight variance in color and density is completely normal. No two stones will be exactly identical. Ring Face Dimensions 1.33” x 1.02” and Ring Band Size 10 1/4 USA.”

More info HERE!

 

HALLOWEEN SPOOKTACULAR DAY 14: HOW TO KILL A VAMPIRE AUTHOR BY Liisa Ladouceur

 

Richard Crouse interviews Liisa Ladouceur author of How to Kill a Vampire: Fangs in Folklore, Film and Fiction.

Citing examples from folklore, as well as horror films, TV shows, and works of fiction, this book details all known ways to prevent vampirism, including how to protect oneself against attacks and how to destroy vampires. While offering explanations on the origins and uses of most commonly known tactics in fending off vampirism, the book also delves much deeper by collecting historical accounts of unusual burial rites and shocking superstitions from European history, from the “real” Serbian vampire Arnold Paole to the unique Bulgarian Djadadjii, a professional vampire “bottler.” It traces the evolution of how to kill the fictional vampire—from Bram Stoker’s Dracula and the Hammer horror films beginning in the 1950s to Anne Rice’s Lestat and the dreamy vamps of Twilight, True Blood, and The Vampire Diaries—and also celebrates the most important slayers, including Van Helsing, Buffy, and Blade. In exploring how and why these monsters have been created and the increasingly complex ways in which they are destroyed, the book not only serves as a handy guide to the history and modern role of the vampire, it reveals much about the changing nature of human fears.

HALLOWEEN SPOOKTACULAR DAY 6! Inanimate objects can be evil too By Richard Crouse

Snap00011We can all imagine the fear that comes along with being chased by a werewolf. Or waking up to find Dracula staring down at you. They are living, breathing (or in Drac’s case, dead and not so breathing, but you get the idea) embodiments of evil. But how about inanimate objects? Have you ever been terrified of a lamp? Or creeped out by a tire?

In this weekend’s The Possession, a Dybbuk Box purchased at a yard sale brings misfortune to everyone who comes in contact with it.

It’s not the first time that the movies have imbued an inert object with evil powers.

There have been loads of haunted houses in the movies. In most of them, however, the house is merely a vessel for a spirit or some unseen entity that makes its presence know by making the walls bleed or randomly slamming doors. Rarer is the house that is actually evil.

Stephen King wrote about a house that eats people in the third installment of his Dark Tower series. On screen Robert Zemeckis and Steven Spielberg visualized the idea in the appropriately titled Monster House.

In this animated movie three teens figure out the house across the street is a man-eating monster.

By the time they got around to the fourth installment of the most famous haunted house series, the Amityville Horror, filmmakers had to figure out a new plotline apart from the tired “new owners move in to the house, get freaked out leave,” storyline. In The Amityville Horror: The Evil Escapes, a cursed lamp causes all sorts of trouble when it is shipped from the evil Long Island house to a Californian mansion.

Much weirder is Rubber, the story of a killer tire — yes, you read that right — with psychokinetic powers — think Carrie with treads — who terrorizes the American southwest. It’s an absurdist tract on how and why we watch movies, what entertainment is and the movie business, among other things. But frankly, mostly it’s about a tire rolling around the desert and while there is something kind of hypnotic about watching the tire on its murderous journey — think Natural Born Killers but round and rubbery — that doesn’t mean Rubber is a good movie.

Finally, think bed bugs are bad? How about a hungry bed? The title of this one sums it up: Death Bed: The Bed that Eats.

The many faces behind movie monsters In Focus by Richard Crouse METRO CANADA April 30, 2010

haleyfreddy1Bela Lugosi is the actor most closely associated with Count Dracula, but he is certainly not the only one. More than 200 others have played old toothy over the years including mister tall, dark and gruesome Christopher Lee, who played the blood sucker eleven times.

Ditto Frankenstein’s Monster. Boris Karloff owned the role in 1931, but 60 other actors have tried to fill his size fifteen platform shoes in subsequent years.

The point is, no actor has total possession over a role, no matter how well known they are for playing it.

Just ask Robert Englund.

For 26 years, he has been Freddy Krueger, purveyor of bad dreams, in The Nightmare on Elm Street series. In seven films and the television series, Freddy’s Nightmares, he played the evil offspring of a nun and one hundred maniacs. His take on the character is so loved some people even pay permanent tribute to it.

“I saw an entire magazine of Freddy Krueger tattoos,” he says. “There are thousands of people walking around America with my tattoo on them!”

He’ll always be associated with Freddy, but as of this weekend his run as the most hated man in Springwood, Ohio comes to an end when Jackie Earle Haley makes the iconic role his own in the reboot of the series.

Ironically, Haley auditioned for one of the teen roles in the original film in 1984 but the part went to his friend Johnny Depp.

As for taking on the role, Haley says, “A lot of people wish it was Robert and I get that. He’s made this character iconic and he’s iconic as well. It’s a tough thing, and hopefully when the movie comes out people will dig it.”

Haley is just the latest to fill in for a famous face. Recently, Benicio Del Toro donned the lupine face mask of the Wolf Man, but Lon Chaney Jr. (who had yak hair glued to his face during his 1941 transformation scenes) originated the role 70 years before.

Chaney is best known as The Wolf Man, but he was also one of those actors who stepped in to sub for some of the most famous monsters of filmland. In fact, he is also the only actor to have played all four of the classic movie monsters: The Wolf Man, Frankenstein’s Monster in The Ghost of Frankenstein, the Mummy in The Mummy’s Tomb and Count Anthony Alucard, Dracula’s son, in the appropriately named Son of Dracula.

Bloodsuckers return to dominate the box office In Focus by Richard Crouse FOR METRO CANADA January 08, 2010

daybreakers-vampire-movieWho knew there were so many fang bangers out there? The success of HBO’s True Blood and the Twilight franchise is proof that vampires have risen from the dead, driven a stake through the very heart of popular culture and won over new fans in unprecedented numbers.

Never before have bloodsuckers done such boffo box office, but how can this newfound popularity be called a comeback when the vampires never went away?

No amount of garlic, it seems, can keep vampires out of the theatre. This weekend Daybreakers, a film about a world where vamps outnumber humans, joins the list of vampire films which dates back to the 1900s.

In the 101 years since audiences first sunk their teeth into a vampire movie — 1909’s Vampire of the Coast — vamps have come in all shapes and sizes. There’s The Vampire Effect, a Chinese martial arts vampire movie (guest starring Jackie Chan), Thomas Dolby’s vampire musical comedy Rockula and the self explanatory Gayracula to name just a few.
E

ven stranger than any of those is Dracula Blows his Cool, a 1979 German comedy featuring the Count as the proprietor of a disco in his ancestral castle. It’s quite awful, but worth a rental (if you can find it) to hear the disco “hit” Rock Me Dracula (Suck! Suck!).

More traditional is another German film made the same year. Roger Ebert called Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu the Vampyre, “the most evocative series of images centered around the idea of the vampire” since 1922’s Nosferatu.

It cannot be said that this is a particularly scary movie, but Herzog’s emphasis on slowly building tension and atmosphere rather than simply smearing the screen with blood is disquieting and decidedly eerie.

A little more rock’em sock’em is The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires, the 1974 collaboration between Britain’s Hammer Studios and the Hong Kong based Shaw Brothers Studio. Peter Cushing is vampire hunter Prof. Van Helsing who battles Dracula and six disciples in a remote Chinese village. It’s weird and wacky, but as one critic said it gets by “on sheer novelty alone.”

So many vampires, so little time. How have vampires survived when other film fads are dead and buried? Adaptability. Just as every generation has placed a hero on the pop charts, cinematic vampires have shapeshifted over the years, bending to the times.

How else can you explain Dracula Blows His Cool’s disco dancing Drac?