Saw the movie House of Dracula on TV the other night. It’s a 1945 Universal Monsters flick that contains three of their most popular monsters: Dracula (duh) the Wolf-Man, and Frankenstein’s monster. It was fairly well-done for what it was. John Carradine is great as Dracula. Also, the film features the stereotypical hunch-backed assistant to the mad scientist, but for a change the character is female, and fairly attractive apart from the hunch-back. It’s an unusual role, and the actress, Jane Adams, does a pretty good job.
But what was especially notable about the movie was that it falls into the awful horror movie pitfall of trying to explain the source of the horror scientifically. So, it turns out that Dracula has a blood disease, and that the Wolf-Man can be cured by brain surgery and some kind of weird fungus that the aforementioned scientist grows in his castle.
Folly! I’ve blogged about this before: horror movies should not rationalize or explain the horror in any way. When they do, it becomes less frightening. They make this mistake all the time in horror movies. It’s much better when the scientifically-inclined are skeptics and shown to be wrong, and the monster is an inexplicable violation of the laws of nature. The intelligent, scientific types being wrong is how you know you’re in trouble.
If you try to explain everything, it is less scary. This applies not only to trying to give explanations for the monster’s origin or condition or whatever, but to every element in any scary story. Just give people a few hints of the monster, and let them piece together the rest, that’s what I say.
I agree completely, and not just with explaining the plot, but showing the horror. If I see scary shadows and off-screen violence I find that to be better and more horrific than watching someone get tortured on-screen. What happened to letting the imagination run wild?
I don’t know when moviemakers got the idea that more violence = scarier, but that seems to be the prevailing style now, unfortunately.
That’s why I like to retreat to classic horror and Stephen King novels…I like leaving the fright to my imagination.
You know, I have been looking around for a new horror novel to read, and realize that, incredibly, I have not read anything by Stephen King. I’ve been planning to read “Insomnia” after a friend recommended it to me. Any other recommendations?