Odds and Dead Ends : New Slains Castle / Dracula’s Scottish Home

You always find stuff that you didn’t know when preparing these articles, and this little nugget it happens is my find of the week. It’s been well reported that Stoker got part of his inspiration for Count Dracula from Vlad Dracula III (Vlad the Impaler), though retro-actively working the figure into his idea, rather than being originally inspired by him. I was also aware that one of Stoker’s colleagues, actor Henry Irving, who worked at the Stoker-owned Lyceum Theatre, was widely considered another inspiration for the character. However, I was not aware that one of the largest inspirations may have come from New Slains Castle, up in Aberdeenshire, in Scotland.

Admittedly, my Stoker knowledge is, depressingly, severely lacking. The extent of it goes to lots of Dracula and its various adaptations, my undying devotion to The Jewel of Seven Stars (which people who read my section here a lot will know I bang on about constantly, but damn you, it’s an incredibly bleak and unnerving novel), and Lair of the White Worm on my phone which I’ve sadly never gotten around to. So it surprised me to discover that this castle, which is mentioned in The Watters’ Mou and The Mystery of the Sea (more well-read readers can confirm this for me), may not only have inspired the castle in Seven Stars, but also Dracula’s castle, particularly a specific octagonal room mentioned in the novel. It turns out that Stoker frequently went on trips to the area on holiday, and so would not only have known the area very well, but most likely been very familiar with the castle, both its location and grounds, and its interiors.

A brief history lesson first. The old castle was built in the early 14th century by John Comyn, part of the Comyns family who held it for many years. In 1594, it was attacked by King James VI of Scotland (who was also James I of England, successor of Elizabeth I, final ruler of the Tudor family) as the then-owner, Francis Hay, 9th Earl of Erroll, was leading a rebellion against him. The old castle was mostly destroyed with gunpowder and cannon-fire, though remnants of it remain to this day. It remains a ‘scheduled monument’, a title given to architecturally important monuments in the UK and as such protected against change and modification.

The new Slains Castle (The one we’re interested in) was built by Hay upon his return from exile (the uprising hadn’t gone too well) a little ways up the coast. Originally a tower house and courtyard, it was expanded and changed over the years, with wings and towers built up as the centuries went past. In the mid 1800s, a complete redesign was ordered, turning what was there into a more contemporary, Baronial-style castle, giving it granite facing update. Large gardens were designed and laid out only a few years before Stoker visited for the first time. The whole thing was eventually unroofed not long after WWI, and has remained derelict ever since.

The history lesson over, this brings us back to Dracula, and the octagonal room in question. The novel has a small passage which reads as follows: ‘The Count halted, putting down my bags, closed the door, and crossing the room, opened another door, which led into a small octagonal room lit by a single lamp, and seemingly without a window of any sort.’ (my copy, p 21). It turns out that New Slains Castle has a similar room, specifically octagonal in design, and considering Stoker knew the castle well, the very unusual design seems to be a big red flag alerting us to the fact that New Slains is indeed where he got it from. Coupled with the fact that Stoker is rumoured to have been staying in, or near, the castle at the time he was beginning to plan, or even write, Dracula, it’s not too far a stretch to say that, even if parts of the castle weren’t intentionally lifted and transported to the rugged hills of Transylvania, there was more than likely a subconscious application.

Obviously, the location in the novel is nothing like the coastal views of the Scottish ruins, and there doesn’t seem to be any reports or rumours of ghouls, ghosts, or sunlight-fearing vampires lurking in Slains Castle. I would assume it’s now in the ownership of the National Trust, or some other organisation, so I’m not sure if you could just rock up and have a look around, but if you are ever in the area, might be a fun time to go and check out the real Castle Dracula.

-Article by Kieran Judge

-Twitter: @KJudgeMental

Postscript: People interested in following up on this topic might want to check out When Brave Men Shudder: The Scottish Origins of Dracula, by Mike Shepherd. I haven’t read it, but it’s got an introduction by Dacre Stoker, great-grand-nephew of Bram, and plenty of 5 star reviews on Amazon. Link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/When-Brave-Men-Shudder-Scottish/dp/1907954694

From The Vault : A Vampire’s Guide To New Orleans

The following was previously posted on December 2, 2013

A VAMPIRE’S GUIDE TO NEW ORLEANS

By

Steven P. Unger

 novamp1I wrote this article on New Orleans as an homage to one of my favorite cities, one still fresh in my mind and heart after a long-postponed revisit there as an invitee to the Vampire Film Festival’s Midsummer Nightmare last year.

All of the photos in this article are my own, except for the portrait of the Compte de St. Germain and the two pictures otherwise credited.  Most of the text is a compendium of others’ words and research.  With apologies to anyone I may have inadvertently left out, my online research for this chapter led me to articles from hubpages.com; Kalila K. Smith (whose Vampire Tour I can recommend from personal experience—see http://www.zoominfo.com/p/Kalila-Smith/178024410); New Orleans Ghosts.com; GO NOLA; Brian Harrison; Haunted Shreveport Bossier.com; and Frommers.com.  I’ve borrowed freely from all of these sources and recommend them highly to those who would like to delve more deeply into the secrets of this unique city.

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If you have ever walked the dark, rainy streets of the French Quarter at night, you have seen the voodoo shops selling their gris-gris and John-the-Conqueror Root.  You’ve seen the old woman in the French Market whose pointing finger foretells your death  And if you know the right person to ask and you ask in the right way, you’ll be shown to the vampire clubs.

I’ve been in those clubs and seen people who believe with their heart, body, and soul that they are real, live vampires.  And some of the people in those clubs are scared to death of a select group of vampires who have only appeared there a few times, and always in the darkest of night.

By day, of course, the vampire clubs are closed and locked or turned back into regular tourist bars . . .

–Crazy Horse’s Ghost

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St. Louis Cemetery (Photo Courtesy of David Yeagley)

Like the Spanish Moss that drapes the trees of the nearby bayous, mystery and the occult have shrouded New Orleans since its birth.  For hundreds of years, families there have practiced a custom called “sitting up with the dead.”  When a family member dies, a relative or close family friend stays with the body until it is placed into one of New Orleans’ above-ground tombs or is buried.  The body is never left unattended.

There are many reasons given for this practice today—the Old Families will tell you it’s simply respect for the dead—but this tradition actually dates back to the vampire folklore of medieval Eastern Europe.  First, the mirrors are covered and the clocks are stopped.  While sitting up with the deceased, the friend or family member is really watching for signs of paranormal activity, e.g.,. if a cat is seen to jump over, walk across, or stand on top of the coffin; if a dog barks or growls at the coffin; or if a horse shies from it, these are all signs of impending vampirism.  Likewise, if a shadow falls over the corpse.  At that point, steps are taken to prevent the corpse from returning from the dead.

Ways to stop a corpse—especially a suicide—from becoming a vampire include burying it face down at a crossroads.  Often family members place a sickle around the neck to keep the corpse from sitting up; stuff the mouth with garlic and sew it closed; or mutilate the body, usually by decapitating the head and placing it at the bottom of the feet.  But the most common remedy for impending vampirism is to drive a stake into the corpse, decapitate it, then burn the body to ashes.  This method is still believed to be the only sure way to truly destroy the undead.

THE CASKET GIRLS

Ask any member of the Old Families who the first vampires to come to New Orleans were, and they’ll tell you the same:  it was the Casket Girls.

Much of the population that found their way to New Orleans in the early 1700s were unwelcome anywhere else:  deported galley slaves and felons, trappers, gold-hunters and petty criminals.  People who wouldn’t be noticed if they went missing.

Sources vary on the specifics, but the basic story is that the city’s founders asked French officials to send over prospective wives for the colonists.  They obliged and after months at sea these young girls showed up on the docks, pale and gaunt, bearing only as many belongings as would fit inside a wooden chest or “casquette,” which appears to have been the 18th Century equivalent of an overnight bag.  They were taken to the Ursuline Convent, which still stands today, where the girls were said to have resided until the nuns could arrange for marriages.

Some accounts say they were fine young women, virgins brought up in church-run orphanages; some say they were prostitutes.  But there are many who swear they were vampires, vampires who continue to rise from their “casquettes” on the third floor to break through the windows and hurricane shutters—windows and shutters that always seem to need repairing after the calmest of nights—to feed upon the transient crowds that for centuries have filled the darkened alleys of the Quarter.

Finally in 1978, after centuries of rumors and stories, two amateur reporters demanded to see these coffins.  The archbishop, of course, denied them entrance.  Undaunted, the next night the two men climbed over the convent wall with their recording equipment and set up their workstation below. The next morning, the reporters’ equipment was found strewn about the lawn.  And on the front porch steps of the convent were found the almost decapitated bodies of these two men.  Eighty percent of their blood was gone.  To this day, no one has ever solved the murders.

LE COMPTE DE ST. GERMAIN

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Le Compte de St. Germain and the Balcony at Ursuline and Royal

If there is one person who encapsulates the lure and the danger of the vampire, it is the Compte de Saint Germain.  Making his first appearance in the court of Louis XV of France, the Comte de Saint Germain endeared himself to the aristocrats by regaling them with events from his past.  An alchemist by trade, he claimed to be in possession of the “elixir of life,” and to be more than 6,000 years old.

At other times the Count at claimed to be a son of Francis II Rakoczi, the Prince of Transylvania, born in 1712, possibly legitimate, possibly by Duchess Violante Beatrice of Bavaria. This would account for his wealth and fine education.  It also explains why kings would accept him as one of their own.

Contemporary accounts from the time record that despite being in the midst of many banquets and invited to the finest homes, he never ate at any of them.  He would, however, sip at a glass of red wine.  After a few years, he left the French court and moved to Germany, where he was reported to have died. However, people continued to spot him throughout Europe even after his death.

In 1903, a handsome and charismatic young Frenchman named Jacques Saint Germain, claiming to be a descendant of the Compte, arrived in New Orleans, taking residence in a house at the corner of Royal and Ursuline streets. Possessing an eye for beauty, Jacques was seen on the streets of the French Quarter with a different young woman on his arm every evening.  His excursions came to an abrupt end one cold December night when a woman’s piercing scream was heard coming from Jacques’ French Quarter home.  The scream was quickly followed by a woman who flung herself from the second story window to land on the street below.  As bystanders rushed to her aid, she told them how Saint Germain attacked and bit her, and that she jumped out of the window to escape.  She died later that evening at Charity Hospital in New Orleans.

By the time the New Orleans police kicked in the door of Saint Germain’s home, he had escaped.  However, what they did find was disturbing enough.  The stench of death greeted the nostrils of the policemen, who found not only large bloodstains in the wooden flooring but even wine bottles filled with human blood.  The house was declared a crime scene and sealed off.  From that evil night to the present day, no one has lived in that home in the French Quarter.  It is private property and all taxes have been paid to date, but no one has been able to contact the present owner or owners.  The only barriers between the valuable French Quarter property and the outside world are the boarded-up balcony windows and a small lock on the door.  Whispers of Jacques sightings are prevalent, and people still report seeing him in the French Quarter.  Could it be the enigmatic Compte checking up on his property?

 ANNE RICE AND THE VAMPIRE CHRONICLES

 There is no one who has done more to bring the vampire into the New Age than Anne Rice, born and bred in New Orleans, with her novel Interview with the Vampire and the films and books that followed.  Those who have profited mightily from the popularity of True Blood and Twilight owe her a great debt.

The ultra-retro St. Charles Avenue Streetcar will take you close to Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, the gravesite of Louis de Pointe du Lac’s (Lestat’s companion and fellow vampire in Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles) wife and child and where Louis was turned into a vampire by Lestat.

The Styrofoam tomb from the film Interview with the Vampire is gone now, but you can easily find the site where it stood, the wide empty space in the cemetery nearest the corner of Coliseum and Sixth Street.

During the filming of Interview with the Vampire, the blocks between 700 and 900 Royal Street in the French Quarter were used for exterior shots of the home of the vampires Louis, Lestat, and Claudia, trapped through time with an adult mind in the body of a six-year-old girl.  In fact, the streets there and around Jackson Square were covered in mud for the movie as they had been in the 1860s when the scenes took place.

The perfectly preserved Gallier House at 1132 Royal Street was Anne Rice’s inspiration for the vampires’ house, and very close to that is the Lalaurie House, at 1140 Royal Street.  Delphine Lalaurie, portrayed by Kathy Bates in American Horror Story:  Coven, was a real person who lived in that house and was indeed said to have tortured and bathed in the blood of her slaves—even the blood of a slave girl’s newborn baby—to preserve her youth.  She was never seen again in New Orleans after an angry mob partially destroyed her home on April 10, 1834.  There is a scene in American Horror Story where Delphine escapes from the coven’s mansion and sits dejectedly on the curb in front of her old home. A private residence now, some locals still swear that the Lalaurie House is haunted and that the clanking of chains can be heard through the night.

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Built in 1789, Madame John’s Legacy (632 Dumaine Street) is the oldest surviving residence in the Mississippi Valley.  In Interview with the Vampire, caskets are shown being carried out of the house as Louis’ (Brad Pitt) voice-over describes the handiwork of his housemates Claudia and Lestat:  “An infant prodigy with a lust for killing that matched his own.  Together, they finished off whole families.”

RESOURCES FOR VAMPIRES

 As a service to this most vampire-friendly city (http://www.vampirewebsite.net/vampirefriendlycities.html), the New Orleans Vampire Association describes itself as a “non-profit organization comprised of self-identifying vampires representing an alliance between Houses within the Community in the Greater New Orleans Area.  Founded in 2005, NOVA was established to provide support and structure for the vampire and other-kin subcultures and to provide educational and charitable outreach to those in need.”

Their Web site also points out that “every year since Hurricane Katrina, the founding members of NOVA have taken food out on Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas to those who are hungry and homeless.”  (See http://www.neworleansvampireassociation.org/index.html.)

FANGTASIA, named with permission from HBO after the club featured in True Blood, is an affiliation of New Orleans-based musicians and film and TV producers who for three years have presented a multi-day vampire-centric event of the same name, the first two years at 1135 Decatur and last year at the Howlin’ Wolf.  You can follow their plans and exploits via their blog athttp://www.fangtasiaevent.com/fangtasia-blog/.

Next year FANGTASIA hopes to create “the South by Southwest of Global Vampire Culture” at an as yet undisclosed location in Greater New Orleans.  As they describe it:

Moving beyond this third consecutive year, FANGTASIA is building a broader international draw that will bring fans to not only party at club nights but also attend conferences, elegant fashion shows, film & TV screenings, celebrity events as well as an international Halloween/party gear buyers’ market.

Participants will experience gourmet sensations, explore our sensuous city and haunted bayous… as well as epically celebrate the Global Vampire Culture in all its sultry, seductive, diverse and darkly divine incarnations.  Additionally, FANGTASIA is strategically poised months prior to Halloween to provide corporate sponsors and vendors a perfect window to connect with their core demographic.  This also allows FANGTASIA to actively support and promote existing major Halloween events in New Orleans and beyond.

On the subject of vampiric Halloween events, for 25 years the Anne Rice Vampire Lestat Fan Club (http://arvlfc.com/index.html) has presented the annual Vampire Ball (http://arvlfc.com/ball.html), now as part of the four-day UndeadCon (http://arvlfc.com/undeadcon.html) at the end of October; and on the weekend nearest Halloween Night (for example, November 1, 2014), the Endless Night Festival and New Orleans Vampire Ball takes place at the House of Blues (http://www.endlessnight.com/venue/).

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The Boutique du Vampyre (http://feelthebite.com/boutique2013.html) is a moveable (literally—they’re known to change locations on short notice) feast of vampire and Goth-related odds and ends, many of them locally made.  There are books as well—you may even find a copy of In the Footsteps of Dracula:  A Personal Journey and Travel Guide if they’re not sold out.  Their Web site itself holds a surprise treat:  a link to a free videocast of the first two seasons of Vampire Mob(http://vampiremob.com/Vampire_Mob/Vampire_Mob.html), which is just what the title implies.

Finally, no visit to the Crescent City would be complete, for Vampire and Mortal alike, without a taste of absinthe (http://www.piratesalleycafe.com/absinthe.html), or even more than a taste.  There is a ritual to the preparation and serving of absinthe that should not be missed; one of the sites that does this authentically is the Pirates Alley Café and Absinthe House at 622 Pirates Alley.

***

            Steven P. Unger is the best-selling author of In the Footsteps of Dracula:  A Personal Journey and Travel Guide, published and distributed by World Audience Publishers (http://www.amazon.com/Footsteps-Dracula-Personal-Journey-Travel/dp/1935444530/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262485478&sr=1-1).

            In the Footsteps of Dracula can be ordered from your local bookstore or online atwww.amazon.com,. www.amazon.co.ukwww.barnesandnoble.comwww.amazon.fr,www.amazon.dewww.amazon.com/Kindle, or with free delivery worldwide fromwww.bookdepository.co.uk.

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https://www.amazon.com/author/steven_p._unger_wordworker

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: All Things Dracula Video Review

Kristin Battestella aka Kbatz compares and contrasts Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, and then some more Draculas, Nosferatus, and television to Bram Stoker’s original 1897 novel. Penny Dreadful, Hammer Horror, Gerard Butler, Francis Ford Coppola and Netflix’s recent Dracula series all have a moment here alongside Dracula: Dead and Loving It because why the heck not?

 

 

Read all the reviews mentioned in our Dracula conversation including:

Penny Dreadful Season 3

Dracula (2013)

Dracula 2000

Dracula 1931

Dracula (Spanish Version)

Nosferatu

Horror of Dracula

Brides of Dracula

Dracula Has Rise from the Grave

Dracula A.D. 1972

Count Dracula (1977)

Dracula (1979)

Dan Curtis’ Dracula

Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Dracula: Dead and Loving It

 

Thank you for being part of Horror Addicts.net and enjoying our video, podcast, and media coverage!

 

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FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: Dracula (2020)

Netflix’s New Dracula is Downright Frustrating to Watch.

by Kristin Battestella

Initially, I was excited for the BBC/Netlfix 2020 co-production of Dracula featuring Claes Bang (The Square) as the infamous Transylvania count terrorizing lawyer Jonathan Harker (John Heffernan) before sailing to England on the subsequently cursed Demeter. Unorthodox nun Agatha Van Helsing (Dolly Wells) tests all the legendary vampire elements in a cat and mouse battle against Dracula. His survival into the twenty-first century spells doom for fun-loving Lucy Westerna (Lydia West), and unfortunately, the poorly paced, uneven back and forth between the Bram Stoker source and intrusive contemporary changes make for some terribly torturous viewing.

The Rules of the Beast” opens with annoying extras already calling attention to themselves as nuns surprisingly blunt about faith or the lack thereof try to make sense of this Mr. Harker and his monstrous experience. Beginning with the convent rescued is an interesting place to recap the preceding horror, so there’s no need for weird questions on whether Harker had sex with Dracula. Such sensationalism underestimates vampire fans familiar with the tale and lures new audiences with the wrong notes. After the opening credits, snowy Carpathian prayers, crosses, and howling wolves restart the story with the more recognizable coachmen creepy and ominous castle. The full moon, booming door knocker, and fluttering bats build toward famous introductory quotes as Carfax Abbey paperwork and tutoring in English etiquette force Harker to stay with Dracula. Sadly, the actors don’t have much room thanks to the orchestrated frame – the convent interrogation intrudes on the castle tension while extra zooms or hisses over blood and broken mirrors point out the obvious. Rather than letting the audience enjoy the eerie for themselves, the harping voiceover undercuts any ominous with “So it struck you as strange? And so your search continued. Tell us.” minutia. The womanly phantoms and gothic explorations take a backseat as we’re told how Dracula gets younger and Harker grows gruesome – ruining the sinister irony by giving away gory discoveries, bodily contortions, and spinning heads. Viewers anticipate the funhouse horror shocks and laugh as the undead leap out at the screaming Harker before another monologue ruins the quiet reveal of Dracula’s crypt. Spinning panoramas and intercut, fast-talking plans over-edit Dracula in that British heist movie or clever case closed Sherlock tone. Dollies into the mouth of the biting vampire are special effects for the audience instead of painful for the victim, and everything stalls for “You were about to explain how you escaped from the castle.” redundancy. It takes ten minutes to explain how sunlight reflected from a cross burns the vampire as if it’s some shocking revelation, but at least the nuns are ready with stakes when Dracula begs for entry at their gate with severed heads and convent slaughter tacked on in the final fifteen minutes.

Crawling hands, ship-bound nightmares, and onscreen notations introduce the captain, crew, and passengers of the Demeter in “Blood Vessel” alongside ominous cargo boxes, buried alive scratches, and dead deckhands. However onscreen chess parallels, unfortunately, fall prey to typical attractions between Dracula and our female Van Helsing. Characters wax on how books must immediately engage the audience and today’s horror loves a frame narrative, yet editors would ditch the prologues, bookends, and flashbacks. Once again, the episode restarts with one and all coming aboard – including Dracula and a Goodfellas freeze-frame to point everything out for the audience. Despite the Demeter disturbia, the back and forth setting is ambiguous, and flashbacks again disrupt the point of view. Humorous questions about going to the dining room when one doesn’t eat food fall flat, and intriguing passenger opportunities go unexplored in favor of baiting homosexual mixed signals. Dracula roughly attacks men from behind before wiping the blood from his mouth with the closeted newlywed’s napkin. Bram Stoker already wrote of the bite as sex metaphor, so treating the vampire suckling, flirtatious nods, and knee squeezes as a disease to demonize gay men comes off wrong. If this Dracula was going to address more sexual topics, it should have done so properly instead of toying with both characters and viewers. The turbulent ship is a superb locale, yet there’s no sense of space. Is Dracula attacking people and oozing blood in the crowded dining room or leaving bodies above deck in front of everybody? The disjointed editing doesn’t disguise the muddled scene, for key pieces of action that should be shown in real-time are withheld for later spooky flashes. Lackadaisical live-tweeting style voiceovers with a lot of “I don’t understand” and “but I assumed” interfere with the locked cabins, unseen travelers, and tantalizing murder mystery. Searching the ship, suspect evidence, and pointing fingers on who can’t be trusted are delayed for mind games and let downs from the first episode nonsensically tossed in here. Dracula toys with the crimes so he can solve the case with winks on what a great detective he is, detracting from Van Helsing’s book quotes and passenger tensions. At first, it seems so cool to see Dracula up to no good aboard the Demeter, but once the episode backs itself into a corner, one almost wishes we had just seen the passengers on the vampire deduction themselves.

Contrived answers as to how Dracula got out of his watery grave in “The Dark Compass” aren’t shrewd, just gimmicky – pulling the rug out from under viewers with chopped up, non-linear storytelling. After Dracula labors for over two hours on adapting the beginning of the novel – albeit with new intrusions – the series up and decides to move into the present, restarting again with trailer park terrors and in world inexplicable. The vignette style disarray encourages audiences to half pay attention to fast-moving scares with no time to ask questions as the beach raid seriously gives way to Dracula laughing at technology and playing with cameras. Underwater preservation, diving teams, accidental fresh blood revivals, and science briefings studying Dracula are treated as less important than his being down with the lingo or telling doctors his blood connections are like downloading memories. Dracula has a grotesque reflection showing his age, police bulldoze a house so he won’t have a roof over his head during the day, and seeing inside the bite reveals a unique abstract limbo. Poisoned blood makes him vomit and this vampire research foundation was founded by Mina Murray in Jonathan Harker’s name, but any intriguing background or choice horror gets dropped for deadpans like Dracula wondering why his jailers gave him a toilet and “Who gave him the wi-fi password?!” Phones, photos, and raves introduce viewers to a whole new set of characters, and where Dracula painfully dragged out earlier episodes, now the cemeteries, supernatural, and undead move at lightning speed. Problematic cancerous blood, suspect scientific organizations, and ill characters drinking the vampire samples stall thanks to sassy emails from Dracula read as a voiceover – avoiding one one one confrontations for glossed over montages skipping to three months later where there’s no longer any pretense at this being a gothic novel adaptation. Existential wordy on flavor, being in love with death, and suggestions that Dracula has lived so long simply because he is a coward afraid to die are thrown at the screen in the final fifteen minutes alongside Hammer knock offs and a stake through the heart dusting ripped right from Buffy. The “Children of the night…” quote finally comes in a fascinating sequence about hearing the still conscious dead knocking in their tombs, but the lack of paranormal follow through, forgotten up to no good foundation, and barely-there medical crisis are infuriating when this science meets occult agency versus new to the millennium Dracula could have been a series in itself.

It’s a lot to ask for the audience to like an unlikable protagonist with no redeeming qualities thanks to glowing eyes, gross nails, and tasty babies in bags. Claes Bang’s Count is white-haired before being re-invigorated as a well-spoken Englishman – he has the gravitas in serious moments inspired by the novel, but the jolly good clever retorts replace any menace. Dracula need not explain anything, yet our mustache twisting, almost camp villain wastes time mansplaining into the new century even as sad crescendos suggest we should be sympathetic to his crocodile tears. His powers are more cinematic convenience than supernatural, and the glib gets old fast as Dracula complains about exercise while he swipes left for his latest food delivery hook-up. Bang deserved to have a faithful adaptation to sink his teeth into, but the script has the character patting himself on the back before giving up just because the page says so. It’s also obvious Dolly Wells (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) is our Van Helsing when we see her. Using the Stoker text as she explains the undead and waxes on having plans not faith when dealing with those denied salvation are strong enough characterizations, yet Dracula sacrifices her action with too much reflective talking. Agatha doesn’t believe in God but stays in their loveless marriage for the roof over her head, but her serious study is hampered by super sassy bordering on ridiculous. She stands face to face goading Dracula over his invitation status when she isn’t sure of the no vampire entry rules, and their debates are played for temptation. Agatha admires and encourages Dracula, but her lack of undead information leads to deadly consequences. How can she be both bungling sardonic and grandstanding with not today, Satan speeches? It’s not seeing the actors acting per se, but the scene-chewing intrusions are too apparent as Agatha tells Dracula to a suckle boy before her great-great-grand niece Zoe swaps hemoglobin with him for some cryptic ancestral conversations – which could have been awesome if they weren’t tacked on in the last twenty minutes. Despite spending the first episode with John Heffernan’s (Dickensian) pasty, deformed, and desperate Jonathan Harker in an unnecessarily drawn out account, we never really know the character because so much of his development is given to others. His outcome is also significantly different than in the novel, and Morfydd Clark (The Man Who Invented Christmas) is surprisingly almost non-existent as his fiancee Mina Murray. Glittery Lucy Westerna loves selfies and making the boys jealous, but I wish we saw Lydia Wells (Years and Years) in Victorian frocks instead of modern cool and cliché party girl garb. Viewers are tossed into her pretty snobbery before skipping to her down low Dracula feedings, and the pointless cremation screams versus skin-deep beauty wears thin fast. Writer and producer Mark Gatiss (Coriolanus) as Dracula’s lawyer Frank Renfield Skypes with the Count over his human rights being violated. This awkward self-insert calls attention to itself with fast-talking legalese tut-tuts. Renfield asks questions the viewer has, but the answers should be in the story, not told by the writer onscreen.

Steeple silhouettes and gray skies open Dracula with gothic flavor, but sweeping CGI panoramas and bugs squashing against the fourth wall are irritating when we’re here for the flickering torches, winding staircase, stone corridors, and heavy drapes of Dracula’s castle. Echoes and shadows accent the candles, lanterns, portraits, creaking doors, and scratching at the window as boxes of dirt, rats, and undead adds grossness. Hidden laboratories and crosses would suggest medieval hints, but the snarling at the camera is lame and the should be disturbing vampire baby is as laughable as that delicious lizard puppet from the original V. Raw, furry black wolf transformations are much better thanks to birthing contortions, blood, moist oozing, and nudity. Likewise, the congested, ship bound Demeter scenery is superb with all the proper maritime mood, moonlit seas, foggy isolation, and claustrophobic horror tension before fiery explosions and underwater spooky. The present, however, is extremely colorful – purple nightlife, teal laboratories, dreamy red visions, and jarring pink filters. Enchanting abbey ruins contrast the high tech prison rotating toward sunlight to keep the vampire in his place, and the organization’s Victorian roots could imply a steampunk mix with the modern technology, but any older aesthetic is sadly dropped for rapid shutter clicks, strobe headaches, and onscreen text speak. YOLO! For once I’m somewhat timely on reviewing a new series – rushed to beat spoilers because social media compatriots were already talking about not finishing the First Episode here. Unlike Sharpe and Wallander, the three ninety-minute television movie-style episode season does not work for Dracula. Maybe this format is good for a Netflix binge where we just let the whole smorgasbord play, but if Gatiss and co-creator Steven Moffat (Doctor Who) had designed Dracula as six forty-five minute episodes instead of lumping everything together, it would have helped heaps in organizing the story between adapting segments from the page and adding new material or time jumps. Rumors suggest Netflix tracks viewing duration rather than series completion, so maybe bowing out after the initial ninety minutes goes further in their algorithms than if audiences had tuned out after a forty-five-minute start? The bang for instant viewing buck shows in the mess onscreen, and the only thing that could have made this worse was if it had actually been named Dracula 2020.

Narrative interference and deviations from the novel make this Dracula terribly frustrating to watch. This is the first time I’ve felt reviewing was an obligated chore, and at times, I had to take a pause because I was so aggravated. The Transylvania start and Demeter ride imply a novel retelling, but the convent shenanigans and Van Helsing ladies past or present suggest new adventures. Attempting both in a back and forth, short attention span frame only insults audiences looking for new vampire spins, experienced horror viewers, and teachers who can tell when the student has only read the first few chapters of the assigned book and just makes up the rest. Dracula isn’t scary – the Netflix and chill model is designed to make us awe at something creepy now and again, but the try-hard gore is dang common with little sense of dread. There’s so much potential for a faithful book interpretation as well as new vampire direction, but this transparent seemingly cool ultimately ends up being the same old horror same old and Dracula wastes most of its time on nonsensical absurdities.

I feel so scathing but I started with fourteen pages of complaints and made it down to six so I guess that’s an improvement? ¯\_()_/¯

For More Vampires, revisit:

Top Horror Television

Gothic Romance Video Review

Dark Shadows Video Review

Odds and Deadends : The Mummy (2017): A Universal Problem

I love a good monster movie. And when it was announced years ago that Universal Studios were reviving their classic monster movies, I, like the rest of the horror world, had a small heart attack. Then Tom Cruise got attached to The Mummy and we realised that they were going all in. It was going to be mind-blowing.

Until it wasn’t.

I’m going to outline my thoughts as to why the rebooting of the iconic collection failed, and I’m going to split it into the following three categories:

1) The film itself.

2) The heritage and genre.

3) The Marvel effect.

  • THE FILM ITSELF

The MummyThat the other two categories feed into this general discussion of the movie as a whole is not to be ignored, but this first category ignores that the film is part of a larger narrative and just focuses on the filmmaking and storytelling itself.

The first glaring issue is the over-reliance on CGI set pieces used to try and carry the film. From large green screen sandstorms to a plethora of unrealistic zombie mummies, the film might as well have been completed animated. The worst part of it all is that these set pieces come thick and fast, with no rhyme or reason, or sense of proper narrative timing. You look at a Marvel movie (such as the new Spider-Man: Far From Home), and you notice that they normally break it up into three main parts. A fight early on, one in the middle, then the big wind up for the third act. It’s your basic three act structure with a large action sequence in each, and it allows the movie to have the downtime to build on its characters. Even movies such as those in the James Bond or Mission Impossible franchises will do the same sort of thing, with a sprinkling of smaller sequences here and there, but it’s still just the three big moments. The Mummy has so many that the rhythm is off. It just doesn’t feel right.

And it also means that parts, such as the desert sandstorm near the beginning of the film, are irrelevant. We saw the crows take off after the sarcophagus when it is airlifted away, and it is these birds that will bring the plane down. Why is the sandstorm needed? To add a little hint of ‘danger’? To make sure the audience doesn’t forget we’re in the desert? It makes no sense. When the sandstorm blows through London in the final act, it was a wonderfully gothic image, capitalising on the fear of outsiders and things that shouldn’t happen. But having this be a singular, major event that cut out communication lines, throwing all the heroes into confusion, would have been wonderful, and saving the sandstorm for this moment would have made it seem much more threatening. As it is, we’ve already seen a sandstorm do nothing. Why should we be scared of this one? Short answer: we aren’t.

One of my other issues was the lack of subtlety in the film in any department. The scares were ham-fisted attempts at CGI skeletons that didn’t take the time to allow the tension to build. And the amount of exposition is ridiculous. Jekyll’s opening speech gives most of the plot away, and leaves no mystery as to what is to come. It’s bad filmmaking and bad storytelling at the best of times, leading to a picture that rushes from one big scene to another, and has to have things spelled out quickly in between each blockbuster moment to make sure we’re following along. It’s nowhere near efficient craftsmanship.

  • THE HERITAGE AND TONE

When Universal said they were reviving the monster movies, audiences wanted horror. They wanted to be scared, brought back to being a kid. Universal, wanting to compete with summer blockbusters, changed their classic horror into an all-out action thriller with a few horror elements scattered around. There’s even some funny moments scattered around, such as when Jenny yells ‘Get her, Nick!’ to Tom Cruise’s character as the newly revived Princess Amanet heads towards them in the forest. Really? ‘Ger her, Nick!’? It’s not the movie audiences wanted, or were promised.

Because the movie goes for a grander scale, the horror, when it is there, never really hits. Sure, give your plagues and your zombies an apocalypse to try and bring about, but even these focus on a small group of survivors. Think Night of the Living Dead or 28 Days Later. Horror is deeply personal, and you have to make sure it feels personal to a protagonist we connect with, in order to make us truly feel it.

This is something Bram Stoker did wonderfully in his novel The Jewel of Seven Stars, a personal favourite novel of mine, and one I’ve already discussed on HorrorAddicts.net ( I’ll put a link to my analysis of the character of Queen Hera from the novel at the end of the article). Stoker’s tale presents an ancient Egyptian threat rising from the dead, like The Mummy, but for two-thirds of the narrative, everything is confined to one house and plays out like a murder mystery. It’s closed and confined, and because of this we empathise with the characters because we know them intimately. When the terror comes, we feel the fear because we’ve put ourselves in their shoes. As a result, the possible apocalypse after the book is finished feels much more worrying.

  • THE MARVEL EFFECT

The Dark Universe is Universal’s attempt to replicate the success Marvel Studios have had with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The trouble is that Marvel seems to be the only ones that have really cracked the format. Disney tried it out into Star Wars, but the bad reception to Solo halted their plans for possible Obi Wan and Boba Fett films. The DC Universe has its fans, but has never really caught the approval like Marvel has, and only recently has Aquaman and Wonder Woman really hit the box office hard. One can only wait to see how the Godzilla monster-verse goes on, but if the reviews I’ve seen of Godzilla: King of the Monsters are anything to go by, it doesn’t look good.

The Mummy’s primary problem is that Universal threw all their chips in too early.

The film isn’t just about the eponymous mummy, but the introduction to the whole world. But rather than sneak in suggestions and nods, and build the whole thing up slowly, whilst still allowing each film to be its own unique piece, they’re already interconnecting everything at the very heart. The beating heart of this connection is the Dr Jekyll, head of the Prodigium organisation. However, instead of letting Jekyll just be an incidental part of the storyline, or his true identity being a big reveal at the end of the film, they made him integral to the movie.

This has multiple risks. It risks sidelining the main focus of the movie, the mummy herself, and it risks, if you’ll excuse the vulgar phrasing, Universal blowing their load too early. Universal didn’t keep their powder dry. Hold Jekyll and Hyde back and you’ve got a whole other movie in store to unleash. If The Mummy goes down, you’ve got another shot. Notice how Marvel, in the first Iron Man film, only announced Nick Fury in the post credit scene. They could easily have cut it had the test screenings been bad, and simply kept it as a one-off movie that made a decent splash, whilst also jettisoning the movie from a wider connected universe if they needed to. They can even bring Iron Man back into the storyline in 10 movies time if it takes them that long to get into their rhythm.

The Dark Universe, complete with logo at the beginning of the movie, announces very plainly that everything goes together. You’ve got obvious nods to Dracula and The Creature from the Black Lagoon in the jars Prodigum has in its stores, clearly showing Universal’s intention to use them at a later phase. In one, opening movie, we’ve got four of the classic monsters together. All we needed was someone to be invisible, and Jekyll to have a daughter marrying a doctor called Victor Frankenstein, and Universal would have taken down almost every monster they had in their arsenal in one go.

In a bid to outdo Marvel with their interconnected universe, the producers relied on the fan base of the monsters of the past to carry the movie with references and nods all by themselves. In the end, when these fans didn’t get what they wanted, Universal were left canning the other projects they had set up. Their interconnected world had crashed at the first hurdle, and because the rest of their plans were integral to the first film being a hit, it set up a chain of dominos that knocked the other films down.

One can only hope that Leigh Whannell (and Blumhouse, I believe) will have the sense to work slowly, building up a series of films that are tense, scary, and operate by themselves, which have the potential, but not the necessity, to interlink later on. Whannell has already established himself (along with James Wan, ironically directing movies in another connected universe, having released Aquaman last year), at being able to bring about an interlinked horror franchise with The Conjuring universe. Let’s hope that he can learn from the mistakes that Universal made with The Mummy, and slowly bring us the spectacle we all wanted, and still want, to see.

-Article by Kieran Judge

-Follow him on Twitter: KJudgeMental

My article on Queen Hera from The Jewel of Seven Stars can be found here: https://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/2018/09/05/odds-and-dead-ends-resurrecting-the-queen/

Bibliography

28 Days Later. 2002. [Film] Directed by Danny Boyle. United Kingdom: 20th Century Fox.

Aquaman. 2018. [Film] Directed by James Wan. USA: DC.

Creature from the Black Lagoon. 1954. [Film] Directed by Jack Arnold. USA: Universal Pictures.

Dracula. 1931. [Film] Directed by Tod Browning. USA: Universal Pictures.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters. 2019. [Film] Directed by Michael Dougherty. USA: Legendary Pictures.

Iron Man. 2008. [Film] Directed by Jon Favreau. USA: Marvel Studios.

Night of the Living Dead. 1968. [Film] Directed by George A. Romero. USA: Image Ten.

Solo: A Star Wars Story. 2018. [Film] Directed by Ron Howard. USA: Lucasfilm.

Spider-Man: Far From Home. 2019. [Film] Directed by Jon Watts. USA: Marvel Studios.

Stoker, B., 2009. The Jewel of Seven Stars. United States of America: Seven Treasures Publications.

The Mummy. 2017. [Film] Directed by Alex Kurtzman. USA: Universal.

Wonder Woman. 2017. [Film] Directed by Patty Jenkins. USA: DC.

 

Chilling Chat: Episode 165 David Leinweber

chillingchat

David Leinweber is a historian with over 25 years of experience in the college classroom. He has published numerous articles, reviews, essays, and academic reference worksDavid Leinweber (including works on folklore, the occult, mythology, magic, and religion.) Dr. Leinweber is also a lifelong guitarist and pianist whose music has been featured in numerous venues, ranging from festivals and clubs to television, radio, theaters, and art galleries.

David is an amazing professor and an accomplished musician. We spoke of horror, inspiration, and the legacy of Dracula.

NTK:  Welcome to Chilling Chat, David. Thank you for chatting with me today. Could you tell us about A Song of Dracula? What is it about?

DL: A Song of Dracula is a romantic musical, loosely based on the classic 1897 novel by Bram Stoker, and also Jane Eyre.  It features a collection of original spooky songs, along with a few tavern singalongs.

It is about a young girl named Madeleine who arrives as a governess at a great estate in England, like Jane Eyre.  There is a romantic interest with the head of the estate (also like Jane Eyre).  However, witchcraft, vampirism, and a ghost enter into the story.  I really wanted it not to be gory or sensationalistic, however—no hissing or blood.  It’s a romantic story.

NTK: What inspired you to write this musical?

DL: Well, I’ve been a lifelong horror fan, especially of the old Victorian novels like Carmilla and Dracula, as well as the classic horror films.  I wanted this to be a production that evoked the romance and the historical/geographical settings of the old films, especially Hammer Films.  I also wanted it to be something that could range in targeted audiences from adult theater groups to community or high-school productions.

Interestingly, the word vampire does not appear in the story, though it’s obvious that is what is going on.

NTK: How much research went into A Song of Dracula? Did you try to incorporate songs appropriate to the time period?

DL: I would say that the play/musical reflects my long interest in horror, romance and gothic lit, if not flat-out research.  I did try to evoke spooky songs that have the spirit of a gothic estate.  There are also some tavern tunes that would be good for sailors or other port-city type characters right out of central casting (Laughs.)  However, I think the songs could be interpreted in a number of different ways.  I mostly envision them as spooky, romantic ballads.  But several could be done in a range of styles, including a few that could be hard-rock with electric guitar, and a light show.  I think a lot would depend on the director’s ideas.  For me, though, it’s a romantic Victorian gothic story, first and foremost.

NTK:  What do you think the attraction to Dracula is? Why does he have such a lasting legacy?

Bela LugosiDL: Great question.  I certainly think one could point to the classic psychological themes, like the fear of death, or subliminal sexual desires.  I also think that a good vampire story often has a folklore quality to it, and evokes a sense of being bound in time.  I sometimes think the classic elements of the Dracula tale don’t appear as much in vampire stories of the present-day when so many film studios want to update the classic elements.  Call it cliche if you want, but some of the classic horror tropes were very powerful and we should try to transmit them to the next generation.

NTK:  How did you discover horror? How old were you?

DL: Pretty young.  There was a guy on TV in Detroit when I was a kid called Sir Graves Ghastly—a Saturday matinee movie host who came out of a coffin hosted old horror movies, told bad horror jokes, read kids’ birthday cards, and all that.  I used to watch him every Saturday.  I remember all the “House of” horror movies he showed, which were truly classics, among many others.  I also was a big Dark Shadows fan, though pretty young at the time.

NTK: Do you have a favorite horror film?

DL: Another great question.  Hard to answer though (Laughs.)  I actually like some of the quiet, spooky films like Let’s Scare Jessica to Death.  But I think the Hammer films are my favorite, especially the three horror films they did that were loosely based on CarmillaThe Vampire Lovers, To Love a Vampire.  There was something special about the horror films of the late sixties and early seventies—it was still the hippie era, with all the creativity and mood that came out of it.  The fact that there were Drive-in Movies back then also created a big demand for lots of movies.  They weren’t all exactly Citizen Kane or The Godfather, but they were usually pretty fun to watch, and often surprisingly good.  That was also before Star Wars came out, which changed Hollywood into more of a Blockbuster mindset and the tasteful little movies, including B films and Drive-in Movie titles, became less common.

NTK: As a musician, did you find these soundtracks inspiring?

DL: Yes, a lot of those films had fine soundtracks.  The film I mentioned Let’s Scare Jessica to Death, in particular, had a really distinct soundtrack— quiet piano and flutes and guitar lines that really created that sense of loneliness, haunted locales, and, towards the end, isolation and fear.  That soundtrack really gave that sense of going back in time.  The Hammer Film, Lust for a Vampire, also had a really strange, very ‘sixties’ sounding tune—“Strange Love.”  It’s almost comical to watch it today because it can seem dated and out of place in the film, but it was actually a pretty eerie musical effect.

NTK: Who do you think portrayed the best Dracula?

DL: Of course, I like the Lugosi and Lee Draculas.  But Lon Chaney also did a good job and John Carradine.  But a sometimes underrated and/or less noted version was the Frank Langella 1979 Dracula, a very fine production.

NTK:  Do you have a favorite horror novel?

DL: Well, I guess the obvious choices would be Dracula and Carmilla.  But beyond those two classics, I remember that Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot really scared the heck out of me when I first read it, along with the 1979 miniseries.  When I was a kid, I used to read a lot of the cheap paperback horror novels, too, though I don’t have time for that anymore and I’m not sure if there is as big a market for them as there used to be.  Horror novels were kind of like horror movies.  They made a lot of them, which meant that there were often some quite good ones mixed in with others that weren’t’ so good, but it was always fun to read through the find the gems.

NTK: Do you think there’s any truth to be found in the folklore surrounding vampires? Do you think there are personalities who could be considered vampiric?

DL: Another great question.  Well, I certainly can see how the folklore had its roots—all the classic fears of premature burial, blood-borne diseases, or wasting away.  I also think the classic vampire motif that mixes terrible fear with desire is very powerful, for everybody.

And yes, I do think there are people who could be considered vampiric.  Not sure I want to give any names (Laughs.)  I think there are people who have a way of draining your energy and vitality.  They get stronger and richer, while you get weaker, more uncertain, and lose your zest for life.  But I guess the most classic vampire is a romantic attraction, and sometimes even kind of tragic and sad in the way they kill what they love.

NTK: David, what does the future hold for A Song of Dracula? Where can Horror Addicts see the musical? And, do you have any other upcoming horror projects?

DL: Well, I’m really hoping to have a good theater production do the musical.  Of course, Dark ShadowsI’d even love to have it turned into a film.  But first and foremost, it’s a theatrical production.  I’m still working on finding the right theater to debut the show, but hopefully soon.  I also enjoy writing ghost songs and am compiling a list of ghost songs to release as a song cycle.  My song “Daphne,” about the Kate Jackson character Daphne Harridge on Dark Shadows, remains my favorite song and it was the ghost song I wrote that got me the most inspired along these musical and storytelling lines.  Kate Jackson loves the song, which was encouraging.

NTK: Thank you so much for joining me, David. It’s not often we gain insight from an awesome educator like yourself.

DL: Thanks again for your interest in my musical and thoughts about horror.

Terror Trax: David Leinweber

David Leinweber
Guitar, Piano, Lyricist
https://www.facebook.com/david.leinweber.73

Album/Song/Tour you are excited about right now.

I played some of my ghost songs like “Daphne and Little Sarah” at the Popular Culture Association Annual Meeting in Washington D.C. in April.

What singers or bands inspired you growing up?

I grew up listening to Eric Clapton, Cat Stevens, and hard rock like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, and Mott the Hoople.  I was also raised in Detroit and love a good bar band.

Who are your favorite artists today?

I think some of the best music today, that I come across, is in films.  I enjoyed “Shallow” by Brad Cooper and Lady Gaga.

What non-musical things inspire your music?

Movies, books, memories of people and past times, history.

Is there a place where you go to be inspired?

Detroit, Spain, and long walks.

What’s been the greatest achievement of your band?

When Kate Jackson, the star of Dark Shadows who played the beautiful ghost Daphne Harridge, called to tell me how much she loved my song “Daphne”.  We talked for about thirty minutes. She told me a lot of inside stores about the old Dark Shadows show and some of the stars.  She loved the song Daphne and said it really captured the spooky, atmospheric, romantic nature of the character.

Where was the coolest place to play? Where did you enjoy yourselves the most?

Also, I was invited two times to perform as the Flatpicking Professor in Scotland for the Scottish Bluegrass Association.

What are your favorite horror movies?

The Vampire Lovers with Madeleine Smith, Dracula with Frank Langella, The Wicker Man, and almost anything by the old Hammer studios.

What was the scariest night of your life?

Walking home from partying at a friend’s house after seeing the Salem’s Lot TV miniseries.

If you could play anywhere in the world, where would it be and who would be your opening band? 

An English pub with Eric Clapton.

What are you working on now for future release?

I’m hoping to get my musical Dracula finished and done.  Also, I’m working on a new cycle of story songs.

Final thoughts:

It’s all about the song, and every song has a story.

 

Guest Blog: Vampires-Animated Corpses-By Brian McKinley

Vampires – Animated Corpses by Brian McKinley

This is what most people in Western culture think of when they hear the word vampire. But, as you’ll see, there are nearly as many varieties of animated corpse vampires as there are every other kind.

The Vetal of the Indian subcontinent is an example of a vampire who straddles categories. It’s a spirit that possesses and animates corpses and in many tales it has sorcerous powers. In the Tibetan Book of the Dead, the Vetal are said to be a race of divine vampiric beings who appear half human and half bat. However, like other vampires we’ve seen, the Vetal can possess a human corpse in order to disguise itself, using fresh blood to keep the body from decay. Feeding on the intoxicated, the insane, and others whom society would not be likely to believe, the Vetal enters a home by use of a magic thread down the chimney—so those of us with central air are safe. Not content simply with blood, it consumes intestines and excrement as well.

Despite this unsavory aspect, the Vetal is far from a mindless killer. In fact, its’ most famous appearance is in the tale of King Vikram in which one of these creatures thwarts twenty four attempts to capture it by telling tales which all end in a riddle. Later, the vampire gives the king advice on how to turn the tables on a trap which his enemy has planned.

In some versions, a Vetal is created when a child dies and doesn’t receive proper funeral rites. This is similar to creation methods found in vampires of surrounding regions like the Greek peninsula, China, and the Balkans. Turning our attention to China, no survey of vampire folklore would be complete without the Jiangshi, the infamous hopping vampire.

One of the most distinctive and memorable tales from around the globe, the Jiangshi is created in a number of ways: cats jumping over fresh corpses, moonlight shining down on fresh corpses, and black magic. In its early form, it is literally just a corpse stiff with rigor mortis who hops around and attacks either on its own or under the command of a sorcerer. It is difficult to destroy in this form, but relatively easy to capture or elude, as it fears running water, can’t move in anything but a straight line, and has a compulsion to stop and count rice, peas, or iron filings thrown in its direction. While doing that, you sweep them away and the Jiangshi follows so that it can resume counting.

As it ages, however, it is said to grow long white or green fur, limber up, and gain the ability to fly and shape-shift into mist and animals. Now, a lot of these traits—aside from the fur—sound pretty familiar, right? My personal theory is that the Chinese incorporated elements from other vampire legends into their own. Anyway, by this point, Jiangshi are nearly indestructible and need to be burned completely in order to be rid of them.

Which brings us to Greece and the Vrykolaka. These can be created by a person living a bad life, being excommunicated by the church, committing suicide, and many of the other typical methods we’ve seen. One unique method is simply by being a werewolf in life, which is a condition one is born with in Greek culture. When those come back from the dead, they’re called Varkolaks. When Vrykolakas rise from the grave, it looks every bit like the bloated, animated corpse that it is. It will go to the homes of the people it knew in life and knock upon their doors. Whoever has the misfortune to answer, the vrykolaka will ruthlessly attack by day or by night. Victims who happen to survive the attack of a vrykolaka will become this type of vampire themselves when they die unless they eat some of the dirt from the grave of the body that attacked him.

The vrykolaka can be prevented from attacking if its resting place is found. Decapitating the vampire and hiding its head where it cannot be found is used in modern times, but the traditional method of rendering the body to ash is the most certain and effective. The only way to destroy a vrykolaka that was created through excommunication is to have a priest perform a special ceremony over the body followed immediately by either of the methods of destruction previously mentioned. Honestly, though, this one has more regional variations than almost any other.

The Draugr of Iceland was a fearsome revenant exists solely to guard its treasure, which Viking warriors were traditionally buried with. Draugrs could do strange tricks like increasing their body weight and growing or shrinking, move freely through earth and stone, conjure storms, and see the future. What’s more, draugrs were said to be impervious to mundane weapons and that the only way they could be killed was by being wrestled into submission by a hero and then beheaded. Some scholars believe that Grendel of the Beowulf saga was a draugr, and others think that we get the concept of the ogre, troll, and dragon from these legends as well.

Finally, we come to the guy that most of us think of when we think of a traditional vampire: the Upyr. Known by many regional variations including Upire, upior, upiri, vapir, and wampyr, this is most likely the word that eventually gave us the term vampire. Russia’s version has iron teeth that allow it to chew out of its grave and eat the heart from its victim’s chest. Unlike our modern version, though, it tends to be active between noon and midnight—kind of like me. The Polish variety has a stinger on the end of its tongue to drain blood with and it likes to sleep in a bath of blood. In Germany, it resembles the Greek Vrykolaka but needs to be destroyed with a stake made of mountain ash in a single blow. Call Buffy for that one. In other Slavic countries, the body has to be dug up and re-buried face-down so that the suspected vampire can’t dig its way out anymore. In other areas, you hear about garlic, prayers, and holy water.

And that most famous of vampire terms, Nosferatu? Where’s he? Well, there’s some debate about that. The term itself comes from Greek and means plague-bearer; many believe that it had nothing at all to do with vampires until Emily Gerard used it in her book on Transylvania, which Bram Stoker based much of his folklore in Dracula on. Others insist that there is a particularly sexually oriented vampire by that name in central and Eastern Europe, known to return to its home and try to resume its old life. To me, this also sounds a lot like some of the stories of the Vrykolaka, but I could be wrong.

In any event, you’ve probably noticed that almost none of these types fit all the tropes of the modern vampire archetype and that’s true. Today’s vampire is an ever-changing amalgamation of various folklores and that’s what makes them so captivating.

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Brian McKinley doesn’t really exist. He’s a constructed mortal identity used by a relatively young Vampyr in order to publish the truth about The Order. Due to the world-wide influence of The Order and its minions, these accounts must all be published as fiction. Sometimes the names and sequence of events have been changed to protect the innocent, the guilty, and to keep from getting sued.

Guest Blog: Irish Vampires by Brian McKinley

Irish Vampires by Brian McKinley

Ireland is not particularly known for its vampire legends. Strange, in a way, because the Emerald Isle gave birth to two of the best-known and most influential vampire authors in history: Bram Stoker and Sheridan LeFanu. The authors of both Dracula and Carmilla, respectively, were both born and raised in Ireland and likely owe some of their literary creations’ characteristics to stories they heard growing up.

The most famous of Ireland’s vampires is a specific woman known as the Dearg Due (dar-ag dua) or “red blood sucker” said to be buried in Waterford, Ireland. The story is told of a beautiful young woman who, forced to marry a cruel and abusive clan chieftain, committed suicide. At the anniversary of her death, she rose from the grave with a blood lust. She began with her father and former husband, but her rage and thirst could never be sated. She sings to men in their sleep, luring them from their homes and draining the blood from their bodies.

In their earlier, pre-Christian forms, many fae creatures had distinctly vampiric characteristics. The first of these is called the LeananSidhe (Lee-awn She). They appear as beautiful women, often invisible to everyone but their intended victim, who seduce men and try to cause them to fall in love. If successful, the Leanan-Sidhe will drain him of life energy during sex, similar to a succubus, and feeds small amounts of her blood to him so that he is inspired to write love poetry to her. Slowly, he is drained to a husk. If, however, the man does not fall in love with her, the Leanan-Sidhe will strangle him and drain his body of blood. In some versions of the legends, resisting the seduction of the Sidhe causes her to fall in love with her intended victim and serve him as a slave.

Rather than simply drink the blood like most vampires, this creature has an element of the vampiric witch to her. She keeps her victims’ blood in a large red cauldron, which is the source of her ability to shape-shift into animals, become invisible, and remain youthful. The Sidhe in this creature’s name is a word traditionally associated with the fae in Irish folklore and refers to the ancient burial mounds Celtic people used for centuries. These mounds were often believed to be gateways between the land of the living and the dead. Some early beliefs about the origin of the fae mention not Arcadia, but rather the underworld.

A variation on this theme is the Baobhan Sith (Bavaan Shee). Technically a revenant, created when a woman died in childbirth and the body rose as a fae—again we see references to the underworld origin of fae—this vampire was unusual in that it would attach itself to a specific family and live among them normally. In fact, prior to the arrival of Christianity in Scotland, it was considered a sign of status to have one in the family. Most likely a precursor to the Banshee, the Baobhan Sith warned of impending death by wailing and, if a group of them came together to wail, then the death would be of a great person. After Christianity took hold, however, the Baobhan Sith took on a more evil role.

Described as a beautiful, tall, pale woman in a green dress (which hid cloven hooves), this vampire would appear to lone shepherds or travelers as a woman they knew or lusted after and lead them away to dance. Once the man was exhausted, the Baobhan Sith would attack and drink his blood. They could also transform into crows and, like most fairies, it was vulnerable to iron.

Similarly, people from Great Britain to Brazil to Eastern Europe and the United States all tell tales of White Ladies whose appearance boded death on the nights of the full moon. Originally ghosts of noblewomen who had been murdered or died an otherwise tragic death, and later associated with any local tragedy, they could be seen wandering cemeteries, crossroads, and the castles and manors where they died. Dressed in period finery and carrying chalices filled with poison, it was said that they would call out with hypnotic voices, inviting any who heard them to dance to music that didn’t exist. Those who accepted the invitation would be drained of blood, their bodies found the next morning by the side of the road. The White Ladies’ very touch was icy cold and could drain the life energy of the living. These ghostly ladies, like their fae counterparts, were vulnerable to the touch of iron but could also be warded off by crucifixes or priestly blessings. Another variation on this theme is the Lady in Red, more often a prostitute or jilted lover killed in a fit of passion and often to be found haunting theaters, hotels, and brothels.

Heard about any that I missed? Please let us know in the comments below!

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Brian McKinley doesn’t really exist. He’s a constructed mortal identity used by a relatively young Vampyr in order to publish the truth about The Order. Due to the world-wide influence of The Order and its minions, these accounts must all be published as fiction. Sometimes the names and sequence of events have been changed to protect the innocent, the guilty, and to keep from getting sued.

Brian is no longer a typical Vampyr and, for this reason, lives in hiding and writes from a secret location. The real “Brian” lives a life of danger and excitement; he loves Star Trek, Game of Thrones, and gangster movies as much as he loves chicken fried steak. And he really loves chicken fried steak! He’s a reader, a role-player, and a dreamer. He’s lived many lifetimes and is eager to share as many of them as possible with his readers.

He’s the author of Ancient Blood: A Novel of the Hegemony and Drawing Dead: A Faolan O’Connor Novel which won the Author’s Talk About It 2016 Horror Novel Contest.

 

FRIGHTENING FLIX Horror Holiday Gift Guide Video

Kristin Battestella aka Kbatz discusses what type of affordable, family friendly, or full on scary Frightening Flix to give this Holiday season included Bela Lugosi and Universal Horror, Tales from the Crypt versus Tales from the Darkside, and more!

 

 

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FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: Penny Dreadful Season 3

Penny Dreadful Season Three a Disappointing Finale

by Kristin Battestella

I loved me some Penny Dreadful. Previously, I watched the First Two seasons twice or more before writing my reviews a few months after I had simmered in the immersion of all things sophisticated Victorian macabre. I re-watched the entire series again when finishing this obviously late review, but Season Three’s still blindsiding finale and haphazard resolution of the series undermines the glorious potential that was yet to be found in Penny Dreadful.

Year Three hits the ground running with some delightful circumstances in “The Day Tennyson Died.” Our quirky little family of evil fighters – Vanessa Ives (Eva Green), Sir Malcolm Murray (Timothy Dalton), Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett), Victor Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway), and His Monster (Rory Kinnear) – is scattered about the globe from London to the Old West and Africa to the frozen north. Their townhouse base is shabby with covered furniture and piled mail before the titular solemn and lovely poetic references reconnect old friends with tenderness and sympathy. After all they’ve been through, those in London are allowed to stew and cry – unlike the unforgiving railroad and lawless land of the New Mexico Territory. Though blindingly bright compared to the British bleak, there’s an underlying ominous to the witches and werewolves among the lawmen. Letters from Africa with burials made right also find Chiricahua Indians in the most unlikely Zanzibar alley while faraway frozen trawlers debate cannibalism and melodies remind monsters of when they were men. Famous names face racism at Bedlam as pale minions with anemia excuses lurk. Penny Dreadful has a lot to do but does it with superb conversations, new allies, and bloody vignettes. “Predators Far and Near” adds vintage photography, jurisdiction technicalities, a modified barber’s chair for experimenting on patients, and fear of the gramophone cylinders recording one’s sin. Therapy confessions recount prior indiscretions, but the prescription for godless loneliness is doing something innocent and happy no matter how small. Women debate on light and dark souls while men bond over their love of daughters and a son not birthed to them but bound with their suffering. Talbot family history, ritual chanting, and colorful vision quests counter the sophisticated Victorian science lectures and whimsical memories of adventures the likes of 20,000 Leagues under the Sea. Unfortunately, our dreadfuls are more familiar with lunatics and monsters rather than childhood heroes, with Jekyll and Hyde-esque transformations on crazed victims, deceptively charming courtships, a wise Apache woman reminiscent of the fortune teller in The Wolf Man, and a desert full moon to aide one’s bone cracking escape.

Unholy alliances between witches and the Wolf of God continue in “Good and Evil Braided Be.” Is it the beast or angel, good or evil that’s the real persona? Does the mind create phantoms and demons to explain the darkness and pain? Do you bury the animal inside or unleash it? Between the werewolf curse, divided locales, tug and pull father figures, and hints of Hyde, Penny Dreadful creates superb dual themes alongside several racial moments and of the time derogatory Native American comments. Sophisticated light and dark visuals and good and evil motifs are interwoven against crudeness, triumphing over those who define what’s black and white or right and wrong solely based upon skin tone rather than soul. The audience isn’t hit on the head with the social commentary, but one scene beautifully addresses the sadly still lingering attitudes upfront. New, risky hypnosis techniques further retrace past darkness and despair in Episode Four “A Blade of Grass.” Memories and present offices blur in a dreamy act with current doctors and familiar faces in unexpected places uncovering new revelations of a forgotten padded white room. In camera foregrounds and backgrounds accent the confined or expanded four walls as needed with overhead views, zooms, face to face close ups, and wide angle warped. Finite descriptions of precious few details, amplified sounds, and demon shadows match the kindness of an orderly or the evils that await. Precious blankets are taken away amid growling, crying, straight jackets, and water torture. Can God find you in a place like this or are you alone? Our patient fears the evil within and wants to die over the betrayals and sins committed, yet the tender bonding with her jailer turned poetic advocate provides an unlikely compassion. Whether you can face yourself in the mirror or not, these fugue state manifestations overcome evil with the truth at Christmas in one excellent parable. The least amount of effects, minimal characters, and few locales leave nothing but the emotion and anguish upon their faces. It’s divine, just everything television should be and perhaps the best episode of the entire series.

And then, somehow, Penny Dreadful went to shit.

Series writer and creator John Logan hands Penny Dreadful over to new writers mid season – a maneuver suggesting a viable transition rather than leaving unknowns to resolve your planned finale with rushed characters and compressed stories. Andrew Hinderaker (Pure Genius) pens “This World Is Our Hell” with The West as a barren purgatory full of symbolic multi-layered pursuits on who the righteous should save or whom the evil would kill. Water is scarce among the grave sins and shame worn as redemption; forgiveness versus temptation comes in revealing fireside chats recounting past ambushes and the difficulty of serving multiple masters – fathers, duty, Lucifer. Unfortunately, these lofty topics are undone by nonsensical mysticism. Witches can summon snakes to conveniently wipe out pursuers but cannot heal injured mounts or conjure water and dying people somehow have enough energy for awkward evil sex after days of thirst. The Victorian mad science and desert shootouts jar in an anchor-less back and forth when the confrontations between our converging father figures are more interesting. Lengthy exposition on past horrors feels odd in a series that often shows rather than tells. Why not have an entire Talbot past hour the way “Closer than Sisters” showed us how Penny Dreadful really began? Otherwise the audience is left confused over who’s really at fault for the faithful turning evil. It was Ethan’s dad’s fault for making it the army’s fault who made the Apaches to blame??? Penny Dreadful always had pacing issues and uneven characters, but this Old West excursion could have ditched the dead weight characters and been back to London in half the time. I don’t think it is necessarily Hinderaker and newcomer Krysty Wilson-Cairns’ fault, but “No Beast So Fierce” throws even more at the screen with too many threads regarding who’s evil or who’s the law amid busy shootouts, vampire minions, Bedlam serums, how to kill a man tutorials, Egyptian wonders unrealized, and new steampunk introductions. What’s supposed to be important – monsters being kind to sick children or sassy sword wielding new characters? If the key to defeating evil is holding fast to loved ones, why has our family been apart all season? Perhaps one writer should have been responsible for one set of characters the entire year, as Dracula’s apparently content to wait out the cowboy adventure while other isolated and aimless immortal plans go round and round and pull Penny Dreadful apart at the seams.

Penny Dreadful has an innate melancholy – cemeteries, grave digging, mourning shrouds – but the dark romance is used for unnecessary preachy in “Ebb Tide.” Separated characters finally meet, but one knock on the door and a brief scene reconciling the past and present is not enough. Friends that could fill this empty manor and fight the bloodshed are pushed away while our team in the West doesn’t heed ancestral warnings. Despite insisting London is home, characters remain obstinate just for the sake of creating drama, leading to contrived betrayals and more speeches begging for the fast forward button. Touching conversations on who will bury whom are interwoven with weaker plots, straying from the core and repeating exposition we already know. Visions unite players who have been apart but such mystic conversations and wisdom on rescuing one another from darkness should have happened much sooner – two episodes ago, nobody cared. Krysty Wilson-Cairns writes the quick at forty-three minutes “Perpetual Night,” and it’s the shortest episode of Penny Dreadful when the series desperately needed more time. The boys rush back to Londontown amid foggy cityscapes, morbid voiceovers, tasty frogs multiplying, and rats amok. Dead wolves and toothy minions everywhere require swift blade work and fireplace pokers to stave off vampire infections – but no one thought to call Dr. Frankenstein away from Bedlam’s dungeon when people are said to be dying by the thousands? Penny Dreadful bites off more than it can chew, takes too long to achieve what matters, and spits out the excess when there’s no time left. Ironically, the “The Blessed Dark” finale also delays, saving choice moments with its stars rather than going full tilt with the dream hazy, bodies on hooks, and bats as sad lullabies over the special credits recap the sad state of our separate characters. It’s very exciting to see the reunions and werewolves fighting vampires in true monster mash up fashion as it should be – Dr. Jekyll passes by as Dr. Seward hypnotizes Renfield! As a season finale, this hour provides closing moments on some toiling plots. However, as a series finale, it barely resolves anything. Brief mentions on her destiny, his destiny, and previous prophecies don’t make sense anymore, and Victor literally bumps into the gang at Bedlam. The team is together again by accident! Major moments with his monsters earn one scene each, and none of those super strong immortals join the End of the DaysTM battle. Instead, bad ass walking down the street filler and a few ridiculously outnumbered pistols struggle with conveniently confusing action choreography. Bitter ties to the First Season become unrealized tangents, and new characters are inexplicably more steadfast than our original crew. Four episodes ago, life was worth fighting for but now isolated characters give up because the script says they should in a one hundred and eighty degree turn that’s painful to see end this way.

Vanessa Ives begins alone, a recluse living in squalor before rising thanks to words and wits with her therapist. Eva Green’s heroine cleans up and humbly restores the manor. Despite losing her faith, Vanessa is inspired by Joan of Arc’s confidence and says she will remain resolute. Oddly, she doesn’t seem as psychic or intuitive anymore and fails to recognize evil tendencies she previously pegged so astutely. It’s sad to see Vanessa open herself, revisiting innocent things that make her happy or having a man’s company once again end in terror. She’s willingly hypnotized to face her repressed psychiatry treatment, addressing her past doubts, regrets, and battles with Lucifer. “A Blade of Grass” shows her at rock bottom before a ray of hope and renewed prayers – if you believe in evil, then you must believe God is there to defeat it. Unfortunately, Penny Dreadful squanders the Lucifer issues, fast tracks Dracula, and circumvents Vanessa’s body and soul versus the fallen brothers with a past event cheating viewers out of a current victory. Vanessa can sense and see Kaetenay when the plot says so, but her lack of psychosexual possession and failed insights inexplicably have her give up despite knowing overdue help is on the way. Green saves this sloppy writing and deserved more hardware for Penny Dreadful. I don’t blame her if she recognized the tone had changed and was ready to depart. The series could have continued in searching for an evil Vanessa as an absent lead a la Blake’s 7 rather than two scenes with bad girl red eye shadow trying to make up for rushing to resolve Vanessa’s story. Josh Hartnett’s Ethan “Lawrence Talbot” Chandler is also not only reluctant to see his real father, but he’s angry at being adopted as Kaetenay’s Apache son. Ethan knows there is blood on his teeth and his soul deserving of punishment and wears his guilt on his sleeve. Unfortunately, his history comes from three different sources – so for all this New Mexico excursion, we don’t get a clear picture. The Wolf of God also spends about fifteen minutes being evil, standing up for Hecate over Malcolm because he won’t repent and belongs in hell. Ethan speaks evil prayers at the dinner table, but isn’t this the guy who’s Latin single-handedly exorcised Vanessa? His reciting of the Lord’s Prayer in the finale feels hollow thanks to his satanic reversal just a few episodes earlier. Was Ethan’s western escapade and Vanessa’s evil each meant to be it’s own season storyline? They both have a scene or two of darkness, and one moment in the finale doesn’t make up for Ethan’s back and forth. Meanwhile, Sarah Greene as Hecate travels in white, an unassuming Gibson girl who loves horses and animals but loathes people. She wants to be evil beside Ethan, but her powers are both handy or nonsense as needed. Hecate kills unnecessary to teach him a lesson and lingers too long in this uneven capacity – crowding an already busy Penny Dreadful while not being a character in her own right. The English Sean Glider (Hornblower) may be an unusual choice as a U.S. Marshall, but his crusty ways balance the British tidiness of Douglas Hodge as Inspector Rusk as they pursue Our Mr. Talbot. Rusk may ask for tea in the bar car and insist Scotland Yard Inspectors do not carry firearms, but he doesn’t underestimate the ruthless West. He begins to believe the Occult upon his case and does take up more violence as the blood on their path increases – before a thankless end, of course.

The beard is back for Timothy Dalton as Sir Malcolm, and even if he doesn’t know all the details, he’s ready to respect Wes Studi’s (Geronimo: An American Legend) Chiricahua Kaetenay if it will help save Ethan. Like an oasis in white in the mostly unlikely place, it’s wonderful when Malcolm and Ethan finally meet up for some shootout action. However, Malcolm really doesn’t have a whole lot to do this season beyond listening to Kaetenay. Most of his dialogue is responsive filler, and even before the surprise series finale, I suspected Dalton would not be returning for Season Four. You don’t keep a talented name without giving him quality writing, and Malcolm ends up repeating the same plot. Chasing after lost lamb Ethan, fighting a vampire to rescue Vanessa – he’s again saving his family even as his travels keep him from his home and any relationship with Victor. Malcolm could have returned to London post-Africa, maybe to meet Catriona sooner or dislike Dr. Sweet, as it’s a disservice to reduce him to little more than Kaetenay’s sidekick. That said, yes please to more of Studi’s set in his ways Apache. He still scalps because old habits die hard, but he doesn’t drink and believes one can’t die until his purpose is served. Granted, Penny Dreadful is trading the mystical negro trope for the mystical Apache stereotype, but the moonlight visions and enigmatic destiny talk tie the blood, suffering, and wolves together. Kaetenay pushes on after Ethan no matter what – he and his people have endured much but he’s prepared to face this darkness over London. There should have been more time for his revelations, and Penny Dreadful only makes use of Kaetenay when needed. It takes seven episodes for Ethan to heed his warnings about what is to come, and he should have mystically connected with Vanessa from the start. As Ethan’s father, Brian Cox (Coriolanus) also has some great one on one’s with Malcolm. They are wonderfully alike, right down to the conquest map on Jared Talbot’s wall, the mountains named after him, and an empty home as the cost. However, a boat load of family history that Ethan already knows is repeatedly told rather than seen, leaving Talbot Senior unevenly written with sorrowful or crazed exposition amid one gunshot and stand off after another. Had we seen the first terrible shootout that has him so angry, then this second battle in his ranch chapel would have had much more meaning. Kaetenay provided connecting visions when necessary, so why not have some kind of mystic Talbot dream that showed the betrayals and horrors causing all this pain?

Fortunately, Rory Kinnear’s Creature aka Caliban aka John Clare has some superb redemption on Penny Dreadful. He won’t harm a dying cabin boy, recalls more about who he was, and realizes who he may yet be after touching moments in the Fourth and Fifth episodes showing his life before his death and resurrection. He is again at the window or in the eaves, on the outside peering in on those that think he is dead. The Creature risks rejection and reaches out despite the pain, blossoming from being an angry violent child to almost the man he used to be. His resurrection allows Caliban to find his family – only to loose it again thanks to innocence versus the unnatural. This season, Clare is almost totally separate from everyone else, alone on this sympathetic journey beyond too brief moments with Vanessa, erroneously on the fringe without even seeing Dr. Frankenstein. He may piece together his past, but not enough was done with the connection between Vanessa and the Creature. She recognizes him, but not him her, and Penny Dreadful cops out by resolving their past in a flashback. Again, just because we the audience saw it does not mean the characters themselves received any current resolution. Why didn’t Caliban ever knock on Malcolm’s door? He would have been welcome in this misfit family dang nabbit! Reeve Carney’s Dorian Gray and Billie Piper’s Brona cum Lily Frankenstein, however, should have stayed home. By his very nature, Dorian is a supporting character that never changes. They aren’t missed when absent but Penny Dreadful uses him and Lily to shoehorn in some kind of modern feminism vengeance that goes nowhere fast with repetitive, ad nauseam speeches. Whether it is justified man hate or not, the appearance of Jessica Barden (The End of the F***ing World) as Justine perhaps a la the de Sade wastes time with back alley torture, nudity, and bloody threesomes. The warped justice is all over the place with even less to do Dorian getting stabbed for funsies before he gets bored from having seen such depravity already. Episodes grind to a halt with their round and round male behavior psychoanalysis, briefly tossing in suffragettes and violence that makes them just as bad as the abusers from who they claim to rescue women. Penny Dreadful has done better psychosexual themes, and compared to Caliban’s soul searching, Lily realizes her humanity too late in one great soliloquy that should happened the moment she was reborn, and Ethan never finds out Brona has been resurrected!!!!

Harry Treadaway’s junkie Victor Frankenstein becomes a mopey little piss ant bent on proving his superior science can conquer death, and he arrogantly thinks he can perfect on Jekyll’s methods. Maybe there’s a parallel between his wanting to create angels instead of monsters and Lily’s superior woman army, but their uneven storylines barely intersect beyond a few redundant stalker scenes and never factor into other plots. Victor goes about getting Lily back in the worst way possible, becoming like his originally angry Creature in a fitting poetic justice. He’s deluded in thinking Lily owes him anything, and it should be a great destructive character arc. However, rather than having him freaking call on Vanessa while they are both in London twiddling their thumbs, Penny Dreadful treats Frankenstein as an afterthought before one last lesson on how to be a human rather than the monster. One poetic voiceover from Victor such as, “Sir Malcolm, I hesitate to confess it now, but I must inform you I have a singular talent for defeating death as we know it…” could have ended Penny Dreadful in a uniquely twisted vein. Sadder still is that Shazad Latif (Mi-5) as Dr. Jekyll somehow turns into a handing Victor the scalpel lackey. He has history with Dr. F. – roommates and dare I say something more – and faces much “half breed” Victorian racism. Jekyll despises his white father but wants his acclaim and title to help prove his serum on anger and duality. Simply put, there is no way he was intended as a throwaway character and we deserved to know him more. Although scheduling conflicts necessitated the departure of Simon Russell Beale as Mr. Lyle, his being written off as going on assignment to Egypt just begs to be told! Did everyone forget all the prophecies on Amunet and Lucifer or the hieroglyphics carved onto the vampire bodies? Of all the friends still about London who never bother to visit, it’s Lyle who draws Vanessa out and into therapy because thanks to his closeted sexuality, he understands what it is like to be unique and alone. Of course, he might have mentioned Perdita Weeks’ (The Tudors) thanatologist Catriona Hartdegen when they were studying all that Fallen Angel and Mother of Evil stuff. She’s a woman of occult science fencing and wearing pants who doesn’t blink at the thought of Dracula being in London. Her one on one scenes with Vanessa are well done with possible replacement or lover vibes, “It’s ‘Cat’ for you, as in cat o’ nine tails.’” Wink! She calls Malcolm “Sir M” and I would have liked to see more of them together, but Catriona’s style provides a steampunk cum The Time Machine and albeit meaningless potential. Her cool fighting skills are ultimately convenient and inexplicable – if we weren’t going to learn more then all these superfluous characters should have never been introduced.

We are however given some divine new characters with Patti LuPone returning to Penny Dreadful as Dr. Florence Seward – an alienist said to have distant Clayton ancestry due to her resemblance to LuPone’s previous cut-wife role. Though rigid and progressive, Seward is there to heal the ill, who aren’t bad or unworthy, just ill. She calls out every politeness or mannerism, pegging Vanessa’s loss, isolation, and depression in delicious two-hander scenes with award worthy dialogue and delivery. A moving session recounting Vanessa’s tale, however, makes the doctor strike up a cigarette. She refuses to believe the paranormal causes or that vampires are after her patient, but she does understand pain and has some murderous history of her own. Samuel Barnett’s (Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency) seemingly innocent Renfield is Dr. Seward’s secretary, but his red light district cruising leads to bloody encounters and insect snacks. Where Penny Dreadful initially had to dance around the Stoker limitations, these superb character interpretations deserved more than this season’s rushed attention. Christian Camargo (Dexter) as zoologist and charming widower Alexander Sweet is a man smitten using rapid fire science references to woo Vanessa, but his reveal as Dracula is too darn early. This romance seemed so happy and Sweet is almost empathetic, but evil lurks in the House of Mirrors of all places! He doesn’t want Vanessa’s submission, just to be seduced by she, the Mother of Evil and serve her. Sadly, unraveling toppers instead go unresolved. After admitting he was directly responsible for Mina’s demise and all of Season One, Penny Dreadful lets Dracula exit stage right and we aren’t supposed to notice? What is worth noticing are the trains, dime western action, and steampunky flair alongside our usual penny blood, gore, buzzing flies, broken necks, and bat silhouettes. The cobwebbed and boarded manor opens the windows and clears the dust as the camera focuses on the period touches – vintage motion picture cameras, spectacles, brandy decanters, nibs, and ledgers contrast the hay, canteens, wagons, saw dust, and Native American motifs. The fashions are a little more modern, but the museums, taxidermy, skeletons, and specimens in jars invoke Victorian sciences amid the carriages, cobblestone, and tolling bells. Although some CGI backgrounds are apparent with a foreground actor and fakery behind, the desert vistas, mountains, and ranch compounds create bright lighting schemes to contrast the British grays, developing a unique style like nothing else on television.

Unfortunately, with NBC’s Dracula long gone, Crimson Peak’s less than stellar box office, and Penny lost too soon, the promise of more Victorian horror and a new dark romanticism appears short-lived. Whether the cast or Logan wanted to depart or Showtime disliked the production expenses, something behind the scenes was the final nail in Penny Dreadful‘s coffin. The two hour finale burned off the last episodes yet advertising promoting the event as a season finale later backtracked with the series’ fate. More merchandising opportunities never seemed capitalized upon, and there was little award campaigning. Having had Season One available on other streaming platforms might have helped the show find more audiences, however Penny Dreadful wasn’t available on Netflix until after its cancellation in a tidy Three Season binge package. The series’ props have been auctioned off, so it appears no one shopped Penny Dreadful to any other networks. Call me a conspiracy theorist, but in late 2015 while this Third Year was filming was also when Tom Cruise swept in to take over The Mummy and start Universal’s highly anticipated but ultimately D.O.A. Dark Universe monster revival. Did somebody squash the competition? Maybe it isn’t as simple as that, but I will always be skeptical of Logan and Showtime’s he said/she said claiming that this was always how Penny Dreadful was supposed to end. With new locales and more colorful literary characters among our beloved team, why couldn’t Penny Dreadful sustain itself? Previously, one could overlook any small inconsistencies because the sophisticated scares and morose design far outweighed any negatives. This season, however, becomes a chore to continue and is best left at Episode Four. After finishing Dexter and losing interest in Homeland and Ray Donovan, we’ve canceled our Showtime subscription since Penny is no more. There were other ways to do Penny Dreadful justice than this, well, what seems like internal sabotage, but gothic viewers shouldn’t let this rushed Season Three dampen what has otherwise been a stellar and macabre program.

Classic Horror Summer Reading – A Video Recommendation

 

Hello, Horror Addicts! Kristin Battestella aka Kbatz here again on video, braving the sunshine poolside to chat about why you should be revisiting some Classic Horror Reads this Summer!

 

Press play for some thoughts on Dracula, Anne Rice, Shakespeare, Stephen King, The Bronte Sisters, and more!

Don’t forget you can be part of the conversation – By Horror Addicts, for Horror Addicts! – on our Facebook Group. Tell us what kind of videos, media, and Horror coverage you’d like to see and what scary stories you’re reading!

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: It’s Better To Be Alive

The music I am going to be reviewing for you today comes from a rap artist named Kasim Gary but who is widely known as Guillotine, however his mature and unique style of dark storytelling was inspired by more than just movies. Encouraged by both his father and brother and armed with the historical knowledge of art and dark literature concepts Guillotine creates more than just music. As a true fan and architect Guillotine has many contributing irons in the fires of horror, which is precisely why the name Guillotine is swiftly rising to the top of Horrorcore.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term or are wondering why I am reviewing a rap artist on a horror blog, the term is meant to describe a subgenre of horror called, which is rap music that is inspired by horror movies. Oftentimes their music videos resemble or flat mistaken for short horror films, which is why I knew reviewing his work would be a good fit here at Horror Addicts.

The Darkness

I love the whisperings at the beginning of the video. The sharp juxtaposition of order and chaos, normality and the freakishness is a common theme throughout and towards the end you start to wonder if what’s going on is actually happening or a hallucination caused by some sort of psychosis.

 

Expect Me To Change

This one had me at “I’m an addict for scaring the people.” Yes, my squad #AllHorrorEverything this is why I think this is my favorite song and the video is grotesquely beautiful. This one is for the gore hounds and nothing is spared. The makeup is stunning, the blood and splatter are over the top. The ‘villain’ in this video brand new dollar bill crisp, exquisitely dressed, and downright gorgeous. And you all know how I feel about bad guys. Oh, be still my beating heart.

Much Better to Be Alive
I really loved the visuals in this video, but I wasn’t really feeling the music because I am not really a fan of the dubstep style.

Lost It to the Music

This is my 2nd favorite from this album, the beat makes you turn up the volume and the villain in the video hooded, his weapon of choice 1st a hammer, then an ax, and then…well, I’ll let you see it for yourself.

Gotcha Duckin
Everything about this video, the lyrics, the beat, the imagery is old school hip hop blended with 80s slasher films nostalgia. It’s nicely done.

The Last Freestyle

Clocking in at 9 minutes and 26 seconds like The Darkness, this is more than a short film than a music video.  The Last Freestyle is shot in a bleak post-apocalyptic world and right off the bat, there is plenty for fans of zombie genre & gore hounds to sink their teeth into. Once the rapping starts you’ll find yourself bobbing your head to a classical hip-hop beat with lyrics that flow like water. The only difference here is instead of rapping about fast cars, beautiful women, and expensive jewels Guillotine uses zombies as a metaphor to describe the realities of growing up and living in the inner city.

So Near

This video opens up with a quote from Clive Barker, “Everybody is a book of blood; wherever we’re opened, we’re red.” This should have prepared me. But it didn’t. This track is more of a short story than it is a song, and I was I distracted by light upbeat rhythm and what was going on that when he said, “This little sexy petite Christian girl in a bad mood,” I was like WTF?!! All the shit she’s done just a minute into the song and she’s a Christian girl…oh contraire! Lol, you’ll see what I mean when you listen to the song.

 

Dope Emcee

This is a nice short video with lyrics paying homage to the MCs who seemed to have inspired him.

It’s Better to Be Alive

Bringing up the rear of my top three, this seems to be the 1st version of Much Better to Be Alive but I’m not sure why he thought it needed to be remade. The absence of the dubstep sets these lyrics on fire, there aren’t any special effects or heavy makeup in this video, and it seems to have been shot in the living room which only serves to highlight the lyrics.

 

Depending on how old you are you may have heard of another Horrorcore group that goes by the name of Insane Clown Posse. However,  the aforementioned hip-hop duo is not the only one who has paved the way to allow Guillotine to arrive where he is today. Make no mistake about it, he is the descent of a rich, long line of Horrorcore forefathers.  Dare I say, he has made his musical ancestors proud.

To learn more about Horrorcore and discover other Horrorcore artist, Nico Amarca’s article: Obscure Hip-Hop Genres: HORRORCORE written for Highsnobiety, and Benjamin Welton’s: 6 Horrorcore Rappers For Metalheads are excellent places to start.

http://www.highsnobiety.com/2015/05/28/horrorcore/

http://www.metalinjection.net/lists/6-horrorcore-rappers-metalheads-might-enjoy

To purchase this album It’s Better To Be Alive and sample more of his music: https://guillotinethekasinochamp.bandcamp.com/

To view and purchase the artwork: http://darkart.bigcartel.com/

 

BUT WAIT….THERE’S MORE!!!

Master Imaginationist and Instagram photographer Crystal Connor is the Chief Imagineer working for the Department of Sleep Prevention’s Nightmare Division. A Washington State native she loves anything to do with monsters, bad guys (as in evil-geniuses & super-villains.  Not ‘those’ kind her mother warned her about), rogue scientific experiments, jewelry, sky-high high-heeled shoes & unreasonably priced handbags.

She is also the founder of CrystalCon, a symposium that brings both Science Fiction & Fantasy writers and STEM professions together to mix and mingle with fans, educators, and inventors in attempts to answer a new take on an age-old question … which came first, the science or the fiction?

When she’s not terrorizing her fans and racking up frequent flyers miles by gallivanting all over the country attending fan conventions and writer’s conferences she reviews indie horror and science fiction films for both her personal blog and HorrorAddicts.net

She is also considering changing her professional title to dramatization specialist because it so much more theatrical than being a mere drama queen.

The Website

The Fanpage

Download your free copy of …And They All Lived Happily Ever After! from Podiobooks.com and see why the name Crystal Connor has become “A Trusted Name in Terror!” 

http://podiobooks.com/title/and-they-all-lived-happily-ever-after

It Came From the Vault: Classic Horror novels

 

 

vault

 

Origninally published January 1, 2011…. A short suggestion of Classic Horror Books… Maybe you are looking for something “new” to read for the coming fall… Check out these titles have you read them all?

 

 

With the topic for episode 54 of Horror Addicts being classic horror. It would be easy to just mention Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein or maybe Edgar Allen Poe or H.P. Lovecraft. I thought it would be more fun to find some lesser known classics. If your willing to look for them you will find these for free online.

Varney_the_Vampire

One book I found was Varney the Vampire or The Feast of Blood by James Malcom Rymer. Though in some places the author for Varney the Vampire was given as Thomas Preskett Prest. Both James and Thomas wrote several books in the mid 1800’s and they introduced the world to Sweeney Todd in a book called The String of Pearls in 1847.

The Feast of Blood was a serialized gothic horror story which was released in a series of penny dreadfuls between 1845 and 1847. The story is about a vampire named Varney and the troubles he brings to a family called the Bannerworths.  As the story moves along Varney is shown as a sympathetic character. He was cursed to be a vampire after accidentally killing his son in a fit of anger. He is either killed or commits suicide several times in the book but always comes back to life and is doomed to feed on the blood of  the living for eternity.

Varney The Vampire was published as a book in 1847 and totals about 667,000 words. Varney was a major influence on vampire fiction, he has fangs, hypnotic powers and super human strength but he is able to walk in daylight and is not afraid of crosses. This book is one of the inspirations for Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

Another book that inspired Dracula is The Vampyre by John William Polidori. This story was written during the same period as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Authors Lord Byron, Mary Shelley, John Polidori, Claire Clairmont and Percy Shelley were staying at the Villa Diodati in the summer of 1816. It was rainy and to pass the time the five of them wrote stories.

This book was released in 1819, the story revolves around a young Englishman named Aubrey who meets a man named Lord Ruthven. Aubrey soon realizes that everywhere Lord Ruthven goes people end up mysteriously dying. Lord Ruthven is not a traditional vampire but several comparisons can be made between Lord Ruthven and Count Dracula.

A third book I found was The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. This is a book from 1898 about a haunted house in England. The story follows a boy named Miles who was just expelled from a boarding school. When he returns home he brings along two ghosts that terrorize Miles and the rest of the people that live in the house.

Some other books I found was The Book of Were-wolves by Sabine Baring-Gould This book contains several old myths and short stories that pertain to shape shifters. This book may not be a traditional classic but its all older stories about werewolves and I love werewolves so I wanted to include it here.

The last book I wanted to mention was Brood of the Witch Queen by Sax Rohmer. The story follows a man named Dr. Bruce Cairn who is using mind control to get people to kill for him. This pulp novel was written in 1918 by the same author who created Dr. Fu Manchu.

David’s Haunted Library: Night Things: Dracula versus Frankenstein

 

David's Haunted Library

 

28321018New York City is a place where you can meet all kinds of people. In Terry M West’s Night Things: Dracula versus FrankensteinNew York is also home to vampires, werewolves, zombies and other odd creatures, who are referred to as the night things. Night things walk the streets with humans but they don’t have the same rights that we have. Dracula has plans to change that though and not in a good way. He is rallying the night things and his goal is to destroy all of humanity.

That’s where Frankenstein comes in, he has been living as the king of New York under the name of Johnny Stücke and he runs the city’s criminal underworld. Dracula and Frankenstein have been enemies for years and Frankenstein doesn’t like the idea of living in a world of Night things and humanity being destroyed. A war is about to begin between the world’s most famous monsters and it may be a heroin addict that is the deciding factor in who wins.

Every once in a while a book comes along that reestablished my love for the horror genre and Night Things: Dracula versus Frankenstein is that book. This is a short book but it packs a lot into it. The beginning starts in the distant past showing a time when Dracula and Frankenstein were friends and you feel a certain amount of sympathy for both characters as you see how they react to a world that neither one fits into. Then we flash forward to the present and see how much the characters have changed and you get a different feel for what they are in the present. Once you’re get invested into the two monster’s stories we get introduced to a third main character, a heroin addicted monster porn movie director named Gary.

At this point you start to think there is way to much going on but Terry makes it work. While this is a self-contained novella, Terry has created his own mythology based on established monsters and has had a few other stories in this universe, most notably: Monsters in the Magic Now. I love the concept of monsters living out in the open and everyday people having to deal with them. The most interesting character in the book is Gary who has to face a personal demon in heroin. He also has to live with the consequences of his hatred for monsters and is forced to change his ways when Dracula kidnaps his daughter. One of my favorite scenes in this book is when Gary has a run in with his ex-wife who is now a ghost.

There is actually a good message about the evils of discrimination and racism in this book. Though rather than being preachy,the message is part of a horror story about living in a world of supernatural creatures. Night Things: Dracula versus Frankenstein is beyond brilliant. Even the villains are likeable because you see them as monsters just being monsters. They’re not evil they are trying to survive, which leads us to a perfect ending with one of the characters becoming a totally changed monster by the end. Terry M. West knows what horror fans want and he delivers in this book.

http://terrymwest.com/

Press Release: Night Things: Dracula versus Frankenstein coming in March!

Night Things: Dracula versus Frankenstein coming in March!

 

77643c0c-cf6c-468a-b989-815bac633727In a world where every creature of legend has stepped forward from the shadow to exist shoulder to shoulder with humankind, Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein meet for a final showdown.

New York City has become a macabre melting pot. Vampires, werewolves, zombies and ghouls are now the new immigrants and they are chasing the American dream. The Night Things have become part of the system. But many humans feel the creatures are dangerous ticking time bombs.

Night Things: Dracula versus Frankenstein is a new novel by Terry M. West. It features a battle between the biggest icons of horror in a world gripped with fear over the Night Things. The fate of the Night Things and humanity itself hangs in the balance of this monumental confrontation.

The Magic Now universe began with the book, Monsters and the Magic Now. Here are some review blurbs for that book:

“A grippingly twisted saga. West depicts this macabre world with style and dark humor.”-Bram Stoker Award® winner Lucy Taylor

“Will definitely leave an indelible mark deep within your soul!”-DIABOLIQUE MAGAZINENight Things Paperback Cover

“Only Terry M. West could spin a tale so dark and brutal and still make it transcend horror and become a work of literary craftsmanship.”-Kevin Lintner, SANITY’S GRAVEYARD 

“Equally disturbing and powerful.”-Bob Milne, BEAUTY IN RUINS

“[Monsters and the Magic Now] is a nightmare on acid. It is beautiful, deep and sad.”-Heather Omen, THE HORROR NATION

“One of the most powerful and disturbing- yet incredibly entertaining things- I have read in decades. “-Michael Donner, Captain Creeper

“[Monsters and the Magic Now] is a super edgy, blood-thirsty tale that made me uncomfortable and left me wanting more. I love this story!”-Zachary Walters, THE MOUTHS OF MADNESS PODCAST

“What true horror is all about.”-SCARLET’S WEB

“Terry M. West has created an unnerving horrific masterpiece!”-GEEKDOM OF GORE

 “I cannot overstate this: Horror fans looking for something truly original that will get under their skin need to read [Monsters and the Magic Now].”-author DS Ullery

“The story is full of dark places inhabited by dark characters – both in human and monster form.”-Stuart Anderson, The 5th Dimension

Critically-acclaimed horror author Terry M. West continues his Magic Now series with this standalone novel that presents a world only a slight shade darker than our own.

Pleasant Storm Entertainment, Inc. will release Night Things: Dracula versus Frankenstein onMarch 18th, 2016 in Kindle and paperback versions. Dracula will grace the Kindle cover while Frankenstein will be featured on the paperback edition. An audio-book will follow. It is available now for pre-order at this universal book link: http://bookShow.me/B019SFEHQK

****Terry M. West is a filmmaker, author and Active member of the HWA. He was a finalist for two International Horror Guild Awards and he was featured on the TV Guide Sci-Fi Hot List. He has been at it since 1997, but recent years have seen a strong rise in his popularity. His website: www.terrymwest.com****

Kbatz: Penny Dreadful Season 1

 

Penny Dreadful Debuts with Scary Sophistication

by Kristin Battestella

 

penny_dreadful_by_pzns-d7iyerpThe 2014 Showtime series Penny Dreadful has some hiccups in blending the stylish past and its literary based madcap of monsters and macabre. Fortunately, shrewd writing and a gothic, sophisticated approach keeps this eight episode debut a cut above the rest.

The alluring but mysterious Vanessa Ives (Eva Green) recruits Wild West show shooter Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett) for a dangerous mission headed by explorer Sir Malcolm Murray (Timothy Dalton). No longer climbing mountains with his manservant Sembene (Danny Sapani), Sir Malcolm is searching for his daughter Mina (Olivia Llewellyn), who has been abducted by a vampire master while brutal, butchering violence shocks the post-Ripper London. Young Doctor Victor Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway) aides Sir Malcolm while Vanessa has several risky dalliances with the enticing Dorian Gray (Reeve Carney). Victor’s monster Caliban (Rory Kinnear), however, pressures the doctor to do his wishes, and Dorian has encounters of his own with Ethan’s immigrant girlfriend, the ill prostitute Brona Croft (Billie Piper). Will the supernatural secrets of this unusual group unite them or tear the team apart as they go head to head with vampires, demons, and monsters in hopes of saving Mina?

 

penny-dreadful-eva-green-ep-1Not having all the trademarks to Dracula gave Penny Dreadful creator and Oscar nominated writer John Logan and fellow Skyfall and Spectre James Bond producer Sam Mendes an excellent dramatic license to combine the gothic tropes we know and love along with uniquely macabre off shoots. The expected upscale period splendor is here yet the cinematic film quality and realistic visual schemes add a dark and dirty as each episode narrows the character focus and clues the viewer in on these bizarre circumstances. It’s downright fun to guess who is actually who, as not all of our similar but different literary inspirations are immediately named or their secrets revealed. My husband doesn’t know what’s up with Dorian Gray and I’m not going to tell him! The audience takes the paranormal leap along with the psychic connections and horrific elements thanks to the character concentration, great dialogue, and a writing first approach instead of the more recent lame brained gore over substance horror. The well written, likable players make literary allusions themselves and the sophisticated conversations don’t insult the viewer – though that’s not to say their isn’t some shocking, then colorful language or scandalous words flavoring the ghastly polish. Racist, of the time terms are also unfortunately necessary, but honest conversations about American Indian history and past injustices make up for the occasional harsh term along with parallel circumstances and bitter, supernatural lessons not learned. Wild West side show parodies and horrible killings set this miserable Victorian mood in Episode One “Night Work” while Latin prayers, an opium house, Nosferatu underlings, monsters, and abductions add to the titular creepy along with a macabre mix of the well dressed, violent fighting, mysterious Arabic, and Egyptian Book of the Dead hints. How did this disparate crew get into this dark underbelly? The good versus evil and seemingly untarnished layers aren’t as clear as we think. Do our players find themselves amid the spiritual realm between life and death or the new world of science – or are their transgressions across both?

rtw3udft198rnhszvvniSeance” introduces more Penny Dreadful players to the dockside desolate with prostitution, tuberculosis, and Dr. Frankenstein joining the fold. Everyone has a secret – Victor, his creations, and the so pretty yet so naughty Dorian Gray. Are the crimes about London related to these concealed truths and Sir Malcolm’s paranormal quest? The saucy is both demented and artistically done even if it is also slightly over the top, but the intriguing dialogue continues alongside the parlor fun and spiritualism winks. What can I say, it’s simply great to hear people use big words, and the titular sequence is superb. Vanessa’s unrevealed role to play goes wild, hooking the audience thanks to creepy voices, hidden history, and possession. Demonic language, sad revelations, and frightening powers – I’d leave that table! At only 48 minutes, Episode Three “Resurrection” is shorter than Penny Dreadful‘s usually true hour long airtime, but this segment focusing on Victor adds some flashback colorful before unpoetic death enters in and a bloody convulsing spurns Victor’s goals as his mother is snatched from him. Do our violent births, first rejections, and brushes with death irrevocably shape our outlook on life? The Caliban framing narration slows the pace, but transferring the monster’s plot to a theatre underground adds a Phantom of the Opera-esque gory onstage pulp. The zoo showdowns, wolfy scares, and captured informants, however, are more sinister, and details about finding Mina and the antagonism between our players are more interesting than Caliban’s complaints.

 

Penny-dreadful-episode-3-calibanPenny Dreadful could have been cheap and nasty in showing Dorian Gray’s depravity in “Demimonde,” but I’m glad it doesn’t go there despite his increasingly extreme desperation. His creepy mirrors, photography, and secret passages juxtaposed nicely against innocent questions, sad burials, and melancholy churches where one is not sure she is permitted entry. Bright outdoor scenes and delicate orchids belie dangerous nightshade and peril in beauty. Is there a method to nature’s madness or these supernatural apparitions? The show within a show audiences and theatre behind the scenes add more dimension, and players previously unknown interact as Vanessa’s revelations happen in Episode Five “Closer than Sisters.” Childhood beach side splendor, white lace and sunshine evoke the time before Penny Dreadful began, when evil temptations, sexual desires, and “little acts of wickedness” lead to much more. This past recounting is better than Caliban’s bitterness because this is the root cause for Vanessa and the show’s main quest – creepy taxidermy and tales of safari cannibals hint at macabre to come. Do we willfully choose this dark path over prayers unanswered as jealousy and hatred mount? pd7Are evil possessions at work on a corrupted soul or is physical illness the cause of a sickly body? The hospital cruelty and institutional torment are just as dehumanizing as the demonic possibilities. Who is at fault for such suffering and sin when the devil is your friend? Penny Dreadful puts all its gothic sin, salvation, and transgressions together here, and “What Death Can Join Together” moves the action forward as our team learns to forgive themselves. Plague ship battles are congested, intimate, and messy with rats, vampires, and monsters. Dreadful prices, divine gifts, escalating desires, and internal, self referential ironies are not lost on this merry outfit as evil of all shapes and sizes ups the ante.

Minimal but dangerous levitation and flying objects are smartly used in Episode Seven “Possession,” imagesand Penny Dreadful’s motley family huddles in support of the titular victim – not that they always keep it together as they face their inner demons, however. Insects and manifestations mount as hidden truths will out, and things get ugly as people lose control, fight loved ones, and try to reach the lost souls. Foul language, demonic speaking, and symbolic snow add to the great performances all around as the science versus spirit debate rages. Does demonic possession belong in the realm of the religious or will standard doctoring do? These divides unite our players, strengthening their trust in each other against evil without the usual smoke and mirror exorcism spectacles. Penny Dreadful remains personal with excellent agonizing screams, weary witnesses, and sickly pallors as faith, friendships, and romances are tested. In a lengthy 24 episode season, this episode would be a bottle show thanks to its contained nature. However, some lofty material goes down with Penny Dreadful’s five core players without them even leaving the house. Hot damn. “Grand Guignol” puts all the outside factors and interior influences together for the finale’s multilevel theatrical showdown. Stage ropes and trap doors add to the vampire peril as characters come to new truths and surprising bonds are made. Can redemption yet be found? Has everyone done their part in this play? Of course, there are subtle implications left for Season Two, possible future plots culminate, and Penny Dreadful certainly tells us that death isn’t quite so definitive.

 

penny-dreadfulI feel like I’m glowing with praise, but Penny Dreadful is not without its fair share of debut problems. While there are no excessive, panorama, look at the monster so cool camera works; cliche, bad ass walking transitions, dark meetings on street corners, and lengthy establishing shots meander when a cut to already being where we need to be would do. There aren’t that many flashy for flashy’s sake moments, but modern shock editing, zooms, and dark vampy battle scenes are iffy at times, and the closed captioning is also sometimes more amusing than atmospheric with its “screams reverb and flow into the night” or how every door simply must “creak” open. Quibbles, yes, but the story lines on Penny Dreadful themselves are unevenly paced and not equally interwoven – something that should be easy to do across only eight episodes. Unnecessary support takes up time from the relatively straight forward, supposedly primary vampire abduction quest, and the ongoing carnivorous murders about town are poorly handled, sprinkled throughout the season along with Egyptian themes. Both are trumped as being of critical importance then disappear before the previouslies introducing the episode or obvious flashbacks and foreshadowing shoehorn them in again. It’s superb to see bisexuality on Penny Dreadful, however, same sex material is bizarrely montaged over – and isn’t as equal opportunity nude or graphic as the other heterosexual kinky scenes, either. Evil and sexual acts or on the nose light and dark symbolism are also linked together, but perhaps these naughty ties are in commentary on hypocritical Victorian ways. Penny Dreadful is a great show upon the first watch, but picking through it with too many fine toothed comb viewings can crack its veneer.

Fortunately, Eva Green (Casino Royale) looks dynamite in period regalia as Vanessa Ives. Lace frocks, Penny-Dreadful-1-07-Vanessa-Ives-episode-stills-vanessa-ives-penny-dreadful-37563938-3600-2400wild up dos, and red lips add allure, but Green remains can’t look away stunning when stripped bare, down and dirty, or possessed and spouting wicked incantations. Vanessa shows strength in weakness yet shakes down the men around her, recognizing their similar complications even though the audience hasn’t figured out what’s behind her poise. Over the course of Penny Dreadful, Vanessa goes from a pious and humble beauty to hospital horrors, creepy crawlies, and back again as she struggles between religious beliefs and increasingly nasty evils. Miss Ives is at times the lady, a child, or evil with slightly scandalous hints to her latent naughty – no gloves at a posh Victorian party and such a saucy kinship to Dorian Gray. What is she to Sir Malcolm? What is the source behind her psychic and possessive powers? Green is simply great in “Seance” and “Closer than Sisters” – award worthy in fact. Vanessa is a strong woman facing death daily whilst hiding a hidden internal battle yet remains put together as best she can. Her convalescence is anything but when she must live with the violence and death she has caused. This is a wonderful original character anchoring Penny Dreadful, and Vanessa Ives fits right in with the familiar literary boys.

 

imagesThen again, when Timothy Dalton’s (The Living Daylight) Sir Malcolm Murray says don’t be amazed by what you see and don’t hesitate, we don’t! The classy waistcoat, top hats, and cane add prominence while the gray in his beard adds gruff to his elder gentleman appeal. This African adventurer has been aged by his shady experiences; he’s a pissed off dad and has the means to do something about getting his daughter back but he hasn’t been a perfect parent by any means. Sir Malcolm’s tug and pull with Vanessa is scene chewing excellence – they’ve both gained a bizarre new family with this dreadful team. Sir Malcolm navigates the Gentleman’s club bright and fancy as swiftly as he handles the down low and dirty. His power and wealth have a long reach, and Sir Malcolm is able to follow inside the police investigations whilst also keeping his own family secrets behind closed doors. Be it arrogance, negligence, or dark forces, he’s running out of people close to him to lose, and this increasingly high price is taking its toll. Fatherly love clouds Sir Malcolm’s judgment, he sees some of his son in the young Victor, and tries to be better man to this motley band than he was to his own family. However, he’s also uses or protects them as necessary in this quest to save his daughter. Sir Malcolm thinks he is above the darkness about him and believes he will do what has to be done. Unfortunately, he is sorely mistaken and must learn to face his regrets, familial mistakes, and grief.

He’s pretentious about his research and the possibility of a greater science, but Harry Treadaway images (1)(Honeymoon) has some wild disciplines and bloody medicine to contribute as Victor Frankenstein. He rebuffs the notion that he is just a man with a knife and isn’t afraid to call these shocking circumstances as he sees them despite his glassy stare and small stature compared to paternal steady hand Sir Malcolm or would be big brother Ethan Chandler. Treadaway delivers some wonderfully intelligent wit and ambitious dialogue – Victor wins his battles with a dance of words but also knows when to be silent or in awe of his creations. His work is a mix of genius and barbaric butchery, yet there is a poetic, touching, and human sensitivity amid Frankenstein’s snap, crackle, and pop laboratory. Victor remains gentle in his power of giving life and death – but he isn’t exactly able to control such corrupting opportunities or his so-called children. Indeed his maternal aspects are stunted and cut short, for Victor is so desperately interested in trying to cheat death that he’s missing out on life. The doctor lives through literature, he’s sickly and bloodshot, and unprepared when his creation becomes painfully superior. Naturally, “Dr. F.” looses whatever innocence he may have had along the way, leaving reluctance for complete compliance and monstrous orchestration.

 

images (2)Penny Dreadful unfortunately missteps again in the handling of Josh Harnett’s gun for hire Ethan Chandler. His secret is pretty apparent to start and obvious to the audience in “Resurrection” and “Demimonde” yet his plot is played as though it were some major surprise kicker for the finale. Instead of underestimating the audience, the focus should have been upfront so the viewers could be further inside his may or may not know pain. Thankfully, there’s a built in American reason for Chandler’s kinky, cowboy veneer, and without the need for the usual trite Yank going faux Brit, Hartnett becomes surprisingly impressive for the somber and serious moments. Granted, there is a part of you that can’t stop thinking of the woe that was Pearl Harbor or “It’s hottie of the 90s Josh Hartnett all grown up!” However, Ethan knows his weapons and fearlessly goes after the vampy monsters. He has a would be sibling rivalry with Victor yet provides a wise sounding board to Sir Malcolm when needed and holds fast to a tender sentiment with the ladies. Chandler is running from a lot more than an oppressive father back home, and the bluffing banter with Vanessa on his shadowed possibilities is more interesting than the inevitable love with Brona. Much of Ethan’s relationship with Brona feels unpolished or shoehorned in as set up for the tug and pull plots in Season Two – which would have been a real pity had there been no next year. Fortunately, Hartnett’s “and” billing is fitting, for Ethan adds a relatable American tell it like it is wit and dark humor matching Penny Dreadful‘s twisted cynicism.

PennyDreadfulUnderstandably, Reeve Carney (The Tempest) as Dorian Gray is played up to be depraved and assy, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. It’s tough to enjoy the extremes Dorian takes, and for the most part, it’s all too pretentious to care. His chemistry with Vanessa is also too smarmy and not on par with the other characters– Carney feels inferior to Green and she carries their scenes. Dorian is styled as a modern pretty boy – his bathroom is absurdly decadent, the one excessive, intruding set piece here – and he seems hammy and out of place. Dorian sorely miscalculates Vanessa, uses Ethan, and ultimately, his superfluous, slutty twists don’t do much for the main plot. Likewise, it’s obvious who Billie Piper (Doctor Who) will be in Season Two as the original but dead end Brona Croft. Her entire plot is not as sympathetic as it should be thanks to a pitiful accent and redundant support driving Ethan to places he was already headed. I like Piper, but she feels wrong for the part, and Brona’s inevitable should have been paired down to its late season essentials. Rory Kinnear (Othello) as the creature Caliban is also slightly over the top and obnoxious with a pissy entry that the audience won’t like. He can’t get over his sad start, and Caliban goes overboard in complaining about the perceived sins of his father when it’s his own crimes and monstrous actions making him just as villainous. With his smarts and superior attitude he should know better. Caliban learns of hatred and mercy but chooses the former – his own adolescent, emo behavior and violence mars the would be theatre kindness he receives. He isn’t fun to watch, and a late introduction taking up most of the third episode takes away from the other more interesting players we have already met.

 

Indeed, the alphabetical credits belie the importance of the aforementioned trio – they don’t appear in all the episodes and provide uneven aggravation or fodder for the main stars, again all in future storytelling hopes not needed in the tale at hand. I’d much rather have had the wasted David Warner (Titanic) as Van Helsing, an all too brief but charming hematologist with wise words and a steady, grandfatherly presence beyond the occult matters. Recurring guest stars such as Alex Price (Father Brown) as Proteus also do much more for Penny Dreadful. His nudity, subtext, and a childlike but sensuous, emotional exploration add a far better bittersweet sense of wonder to the Frankenstein plots. Does the new man composed of previous men belong to those past recollections or new human development? The answers are both touching and upsetting. Likewise, we’re immediately curious about Danny Sapani (Trance) and his mysterious manservant Sembene. He’s a soft spoken cool cat, a butler who is the keeper of far more secrets and skills than we realize – which comes in pretty handy to Sir Malcolm. Sembene claims he has no story to tell, but there’s certainly some excellent sophistication and compassion in how smoothly he can do what Sir Malcolm cannot when it comes to the new, if uneven, twists for Olivia Llewellyn (The Lizzie Borden Chronicles) as Mina Harker. I hope we have more intrigue from Sembene in Year Two, for the subtle seeds have been placed for him alongside the perfectly flamboyant Egyptologist Simon Russell Beale (The Hollow Crown) and the wild Madame Kali Helen McCrory (Peaky Blinders).

Speaking of items I’d love to see, can these Victorian fashions please come back in full force? Penny Dreadful has the period look as it should but the clothes also have an air of modern streamline – no fru fru frilly is getting in the way of the appropriately bloody bodies, gruesome human parts, or harbored ships with their shady below decks and monster works. Cringe worthy institutions show the old errors juxtaposed against photography, emerging technologies, and more rarities of the time, but the unpleasant, red eyed Nosferatu vamps keep Penny Dreadful old school ugly. The seemingly nondescript courtyard and townhouse hide a dramatic staircase, a dungeon below, the possessed upstairs, and a sweet parlor where all the heavy conversations happen. How did wallpaper then look so good when ours can be so tacky? Cartography, old time explorations, antiques, and fine woodwork add realism while seances, tarot cards, and luscious red interiors shape that 19th century mysticism. Gas lamps, candles, and fire add a period patina as London fog and lamplighters create a near black and white noir scheme; storms, winds, and rain add to the bleak when all is stripped bare. Sound effects or simple tricks of flashing darkness, moving in camera with a character, or cut away shocks do heaps more in building spooky than the more recent in your face horror designs. Small doses of other languages, fancy phrases, and of the time speakeths add to the panache while play within a play under the stage theatre spectacles layer the observations. The angry, frenetic violin theme music establishes the blue, macabre symbolism during the opening credits, and the viewer is more than ready to settle in with the snakes, spiders, bloody tea cups, and all that is afoot on Penny Dreadful.

 

Currently, Penny Dreadful can be seen via Showtime streaming options, Amazon, DVD and blu-ray releases, or in on air marathons as Season Two looms. Unfortunately, the on Demand and Xfinity interface can be quite cumbersome and nineties laden with sound issues and playback trouble. Episodes also expire or have varying dates, and it doesn’t make much sense to have Year One unavailable to subscribers when the Second series is imminent. These viewing technicalities, however, are but a quibble when considering how Penny Dreadful proves what can be done when a network gives a paranormal drama the care and attention the production needs to match its literary weight and saucy opportunity. I loved NBC’s Dracula, but the Big Three American network didn’t have the inclination or know how to support the series. Universal probably also misfired with its Dracula Untold, leaving its new monster mash up franchise off to a shaky start, but this, this, this is how Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows movie should have been done. Penny Dreadful is pulpy but witty, and any bemusements or camp don’t interfere with the frightful mood and macabre atmosphere. Their are First Year growing pains, but the series goes where it wants to go and shows all its saucy or gory without dumbing the style, players, or plot down to the bottom denominator. Instead of lowering the bar, Penny Dreadful raises the measure for gothic horror adaptations with lavish looks, intriguing characters, and sophisticated storytelling.

Horror Addicts Guide to Life Author Spotlight: Steven Rose Jr.

Steven Rose Jr. writes horror and dark fantasy, including an anthology called  The Fool’s Illusion.  For Horror Addicts Guide To Life  Steven wrote  two articles in the book entitled Horror And Dark Fantasy and Tomb Toons and Kid’s Horror. In his essays Steven gets into the differences between horror and dark fantasy and gives us a history of horror aimed at children. To read Steven’s work, along with several other articles on living the horror lifestyle, pick up a copy of Horror Addicts Guide To LifeRecently Steven was nice enough to tell us what he likes about horror:

What do you like about the horror genre?

18521949Ever since I was a little kid (4 or 5) I’ve loved that sense of mystery and the unusual that the darkness and grotesqueness of much horror conveys. Because I like the unusual, I like the supernatural monsters and alien/mutant creatures of horror; a lot of sci fi, especially in film, overlaps with the horror genre.

What are some of your favorite horror movies, books or TV shows?

One of my favorite all-time classic horror movies is The Shining, a movie that is so chilling that I was not able to watch it all the way through until several years into my 20s. I love the classic Universal monster movies, especially the Frankenstein and Wolfman films. When it comes to Dracula, however, I just can’t get into Bela Lugosi’s enactment of the vampire (although I’ve liked a lot of the other horror characters he’s played, especially the mad scientist ones). I like Christopher Lee’s enactment of Dracula in the British Hammer films much more. Lee portrays the vampire a lot more realistically, in my opinion. (Lugosi comes across as over-acting the part.) When it comes to contemporary horror films, I have not really seen a lot of newer horror films that I really like. A couple that I were really good and are post-2000 are Universal’s remake of the Wolfman and the Alien prequel, Prometheus. I thought they did a great job giving a gothic ambience to the Wolfman re-make and Prometheus gave interesting background to the earlier Alien movies without info-dumping (a term us fiction writers use that refers to background information in a story where it’s not needed).
Favorite books: I like Edgar Allen Poe’s stories, especially “The Fall of the House of Usher” and “The Pit and the Pendulum”; I like Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulhu; The Manitou by Graham Masterton; Joe Hill’s 20th Century Ghosts; the list is nearly infinite especially since there’s so many horror short stories that I really like because I’m a big lover of the short story in general (that’s what I normally write, as far as fiction goes.) But my favorite classic novels of horror are Frankenstein and Dracula, not only because they star monster characters who have been most iconic in modern horror but also because it conveys so much meaning on a literary level.
Television: I haven’t really been a big fan of horror television, although I’ve liked many of the dark supernatural episodes of the original Twilight Zone, such as one about a living ventriloquist puppet that torments its owner and another about the ghosts of murdered Jews who come back to haunt their Nazi oppressor. I like television horror-hosted movie shows such as Elvira’s Movie Macbre of the ‘80s, Sven Goolie’s show and Mr. Lobo’s Cinema Insomnia of today and the 1970s’ Creature Features hosted by Bob Wilkins in which this last one I grew up with. Horror- hosted movie shows such as these often feature B-rated flicks that are so horrible they’re good which I like right up there with the, believe it or not, A-grade or big budget horror films. I like the pop culture of the eras many B movies grew out of and reflect, especially the 1950s through ‘70s.

Another television show that I’ve always liked, although it’s not supernatural horror, is the original Outer Limits. MV5BODk0Nzg3OTAwMF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDM0OTIzMDE@._V1_SX640_SY720_Many of the episodes were dark, featuring menacing monsters from other planets or from mad science experiments. And even though I’ve only seen a couple episodes since it debated about two years ago, I thought Sleepy Hollow was pretty good. Even though it’s way off course from Washington Irving’s short novel, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, as a TV show and so within itself it’s been made really good and utilizes the Biblical apocalyptic theme well during this trending time of post-apocalyptic zombie themes (even though Sleepy Hollow isn’t a zombie series like Walking Dead is, in which this second one I was never able to get into by the way.)

In what way do you live the horror lifestyle?

I wear horror fandom tees, such as ones with Cthulhu prints, skull images, Universal Monster tees. I wear a ‘70s long-hair style and a full beard, which most people seem to be scared of the ‘70s. [laughs] I collect horror memorabilia, especially skull figurines, and use Halloween items I’ve bought on clearance for year-round interior decorating. For example, I have a “painting” of a figure that metamorphosizes from an 18th century naval captain to a dead pirate captain that was manufactured as a Halloween decoration but I hang it in my living room year-round. I don’t dust off the cobwebs in most places in my house. I’m fascinated with crows since they’re so much like ravens and so I’ll take extra effort to avoid hitting them while driving on the road no matter how much an angry driver in back of me is blaring his/her horn or yelling curses to me for “holding up” traffic. I call our local countryside coyotes “little wolves” or “mini wolves”, and I’ll stand several minutes outside at night admiring the full moon. For me, rain and thunder storms are beautiful weather (especially in fall and winter). Also Halloween is like an autumn version of Christmas to me, and so is my ancestral Day of the Dead which for me the two don’t contradict each other. Other words in my Lexington of horror that I use in everyday settings: I call my apartment maintenance man and the cemetery groundskeepers “caretakers”; I don’t call the underground level of a house a “basement”, I say “cellar”; I’ll say “coffin”, not “casket”; I’ll say “grave-“ or “tombstone”, not monument; and I never call a cemetery/graveyard a “monument park”.

My sense of humor tends to be pretty dark too. I listen to pop music by horror-inspired bands, especially the Groovy Ghoulies (who are no longer together) and the Phantom Jets, both who are local to my home area of Sacramento. But a few of my favorite horror rock songs by more notable artists are Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”, Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London”, the Rocky Horror Picture Show’s “Time Warp” and, of course, Bobby Boris Pickett’s classic “Monster Mash” which was probably my very first rock song I really got into.

What are you currently working on?

I was working on a second book of short fiction which I originally planned to release in August of this year but it looks like it won’t happen that soon. That’s because I’m trying to submit some stories to some magazines and, because many literary magazines don’t want simultaneous submissions, I would have to write up some new stories for the book. I plan to title it The Hidden. However, if my short story submissions don’t follow through, then the book release may not be delayed for too long (hopefully no later than the fall, ideally in time for Halloween).

Where can we find you online?

My book of short fiction, The Fool’s Illusion, is available on Amazon in both print and e-format (Kindle) [http://www.amazon.com/Fools-Illusion-Steven-Rose-Jr/dp/1491092548/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1431652461&sr=1-1&keywords=the+fools+illusion]. You can sometimes find sample stories of my book at my blog, A Far Out Fantastic Site (faroutfantastic.blogspot.com) as well as ones I have not yet compiled in a collection. Not all of my stories in Fool’s Illusion and on my blog are necessarily horror but most are dark to some degree. I also have a sci fi “column” at the news site, Examiner.com.  [http://www.examiner.com/scifi-in-sacramento/steven-rose-jr ] My Twitter page is @StaRosep2, The Fool’s Illusion Facebook page is [https://www.facebook.com/TheFoolsIllusion?ref=hl] (you may have to be logged into Facebook to see it), or you can email me at strosejr@gmail.com.

Horror Addicts Guide to Life Author Spotlight: Laurel Anne Hill

Laurel Anne Hill has had over 25 short stories published along with the award-winning novel  Heroes Arise. For Horror Addicts Guide To Life  Laurel Anne wrote an article called Practicing Safe Satisfaction. In her article Laurel Anne gets into how to get your horror fix no matter where you are. To read Laurel Anne’s article along with several other articles on living the horror lifestyle, pick up a copy of Horror Addicts Guide To LifeRecently Laurel Anne was nice enough to tell us what she likes about horror:

What do you like about the horror genre?

2969162Horror stories depict the ultimate in vulnerabilities. Readers and viewers who connect with doomed characters experience the terror of such vulnerabilities, yet they emerge from the experience unharmed. Except, maybe, for a few bad dreams. Talk about a powerful win-win situation!

What are some of your favorite horror movies, books or TV shows?

The original Dracula with Bela Lugosi captivated me in the third grade and every viewing afterward. It’s a funky but wonderful movie. I loved the book even more. The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty was an amazing read. Ghost Story by Peter Straub also glued my eyes to the page. And I’ll never forget the short stories of Robert Aickman, particularly “Cicerones” and “Ringing the Changes.” I so enjoyed participating in the Robert Aickman panel at the World Fantasy Convention in 2014.

In what way do you live the horror lifestyle?

Open the utensil drawer in my kitchen and two plastic eyeballs will greet you.LaurelAnneHill2010 Gaze at my annual Christmas tree, and you will notice the ornaments include bats, insects, mice and snakes. Look at the framed picture in my home’s entryway just the right way and a “ghost” will appear. And, naturally, being a writer, I look at ordinary experiences and ponder how to change them into horrific encounters with the unknown.

Where else can we find some of your work?

http://www.laurelannehill.com

http://www.amazon.com/Laurel-Anne-Hill/e/B002XK5R5S

http://laurelannehill.libsyn.com/

https://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/tag/laurel-anne-hill/

 

HorrorAddicts.net 114, H.E. Roulo

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Horror Addicts Episode# 114

Horror Hostess: Emerian Rich

Intro Music by: Valentine Wolfe

h.e. roulo | particle son | the walking dead

Find all articles and interviews at: http://www.horroraddicts.net

174 days till halloween

richard cheese, down with the sickness, zombies, baycon, book release party, emerian rich, h.e. roulo, j. malcolm stewart, laurel anne hill, sumiko saulson, loren rhoads, lillian csernica, seanan mcguire, earthquakes, horroraddicts on kindle, babadook, netflix, chiller, lifeforce, colin wilson, the space vampires, tobe hooper, texas chainsaw massacre, mathilda may, siren, slasher, stack.com, death note, adam wingard, the woman in black, horror addicts guide to life, sandra harris, ron vitale, david watson, books, plague master: sanctuary dome, zombie dome, slicing bones, kindle buys, morbid meals, dan shaurette, london mess, fox uk, canniburgers, the walking dead recipe, nightmare fuel, japanese fable, slit mouth woman, surgical mask, particle son, revelation, portland band, dawn wood, stephen king, clive barker, grant me serenity, jesse orr, black jack, the country road cover up, the sacred, crystal connor, dracula dead and loving it, kbatz, kristin battestella, c.a.milson, the walking dead, dead mail, candace questions, colette, bees, david, bugs, the watcher in the woods, pembroke, jaws, gremlins, craig, devil, sparkylee, the thing, dogs, kristin, alien, robert, magic, daltha, clowns, pennywise, jaq, creature from the black lagoon, jody, night of the living dead, world book day, interview with a vampire, michael, haunting of hill house, kbatz, frankenstein, dracula, anne rice, jane eyre, sumiko, the stand, lillian,  jim butcher, changes, a.d., exorcist, mimielle, firestarter, bad moon rising, jonathan mayberry, edgar, alabama, alien from la, kathy ireland, ask marc, marc vale, mike, pittsburgh, driver’s test, what would norman bates do?, mother, voices, psycho, h.e. roulo, heather roulo.

 

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Write in re: ideas, questions, opinions, horror cartoons, favorite movies, etc…

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h o s t e s s

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David Watson, Dan Shaurette, Marc Vale, KBatz (Kristin Battestella), Mimielle, Dawn Wood, Lillian Csernica, Killion Slade, D.J. Pitsiladis, Jesse Orr.

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Horror Addicts Guide to Life Author Spotlight: Sandra Harris

Sandra Harris writes fiction, poetry and movie reviews. For Horror Addicts Guide To Life  Sandra wrote an article called How Hammer Horror Changed My Life. In her article Sandra talks about how being a fan of Hammer Horror and finding a community of like minded fans led her to be a writer. To read Sandra’s article along with several other articles on living the horror lifestyle, pick up a copy of Horror Addicts Guide To Life.Recently Sandra was nice enough to tell us what he likes about horror:

What do you like about the horror genre?

HammerDraculaI came to worship at the altar of the horror genre late enough in comparison to those who were born suckling at its unholy teat. For most of my life, I was timid and nervous and I thought that books and films featuring bloodsucking vampires, devils (horny or otherwise), demons, zombies, witches, boogeymen and other fearsomely ghoulish beasties that routinely go bump in the night were not for me. I felt excluded from them, if you want to know the honest truth. They were for other, braver people, not for wimps like me.

During Halloween of 2013, however, egged on by a friend, I watched my first-ever HALLOWEEN movie featuring the impassive, white-masked villain, Michael Myers. I followed this up with a short season of Hammer Horror films during Christmas of 2013. A sort of transformation took place within me. I loved what I was seeing. I was hooked. I then watched scary film after scary film, read creepy book after creepy book, and by the summer of 2014 I was a fully-fledged horror addict. Not as knowledgeable, maybe, as the folks who’ve been at it for years and years, but hopelessly addicted, nonetheless.

This brings me to the question: What do I like about the horror genre? Well, I don’t just like, I positively, absolutely Halloween_coverflippin’ love the freedom it’s brought me to be a whole new person. I’m no longer Sandra Harris, film and book addict but one, sadly, who’s too afraid to open that one last door marked HORROR and take a walk on the dark side. I’m now Sandra Harris, film and book addict who’s free to walk anywhere she damned well pleases, thank you very much. Even places that stink of fear and death and despair and have icky cobwebs that get stuck in your hair and tubes of lotion that it must put on its skin so it doesn’t get the hose again… (Movie quote. Look it up!)

I feel so freeeeeeeeeeee…! I feel as liberated as someone who’s managed to cast off the tight, confining, ill-fitting, even slightly itchy brassière of timidity and lack of confidence and is now running topless, knockers bouncing deliriously in their much-welcomed, new-found freedom, straight into the abandoned murder house or deserted shopping mall of a thousand of my nightmares. Did there have to be boobs in that analogy? No, I guess not, but it just seemed apt, somehow. Don’t steal my analogy, by the way. I’ll be copyrighting it before you can say lift and separate…

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a baby in horror terms next to the people who can watch someone stab someone else in the ear with a pencil and think it’s mild and tame compared to some other stuff they’ve seen. I have friends who tell me fondly that I’m a newbie who’s still only studying HORROR 101 in the University Of Life and that I must serve a long and gruesome apprenticeship before I can call myself a true horror addict. That’s okay with me. I’ll serve my apprenticeship. I’ll do the time. And I’m pretty sure I’ll enjoy every minute of it.

I love that the horror genre challenges me every day to push myself, to find and push right on past my boundaries. I think it helps me to be more open-minded. I’ve watched, read, written and even published things since discovering the horror genre that wouldn’t have even seemed possible a few years ago. In the last six months, I’ve published two books of horror film reviews and an erotic horror novella based on Christopher Lee’s smoulderingly sexy performance as Count Dracula in the Hammer Horror DRACULA films. Does that sound to you like the Sandra Harris of a couple of years ago? Well, you don’t know me all that well so you probably couldn’t say either way. But I know me, and I can tell you that it doesn’t sound like me in the slightest. It’s the me of today, though. And I love, love, love the new me.

What are some of your favorite horror movies, books or TV shows?

I adore Stephen King. He truly is the King Of Horror. My goal is to one day be able to say that I’ve read all of his books and mean it. As he’s written, like, a bazillion books, I reckon there’s enough material there to keep me going until I’m one-hundred-and-ninety-five years old. I’m incredibly jealous of his tremendous output and productivity. Actually, in the time it took me to write this he’s probably written two novels, three novellas, a book of short horror stories and the film script for a movie adaptation of one of his books, so I guess you’d better make that one-hundred-and-ninety-eight years old…

I also adore horror anthologies. Yes, exactly like the incredibly special and excellent one recently produced by tumblr_inline_nmqkp0Er5a1szqb3l_540horroraddicts.net, haha! I particularly love ones that contain stories about haunted houses but, generally speaking, any good spooky tale of the macabre will do.

Film-wise, I’ve been watching movies lately like THE AMITYVILLE HORROR (1979) and AMITYVILLE 2- THE POSSESSION (1982) and they’re so brilliant and scary that I think I might like to watch a few more films in this vein, especially if the evil is originating from a haunted house with a severely troubled past, as in the aforementioned two films or even in POLTERGEIST (1982), which is another good one. I want to watch a few more episodes of TALES FROM THE CRYPT as well, a terrific scary half-hour television show hosted by the pulchritudinously-challenged Crypt-Keeper. (Pulchritudinously? It’s a word, look it up….!)

In what way do you live the horror lifestyle?

Well, naturally, I sleep for most of the day in my special self-assembly coffin from Swedish furniture giants IKEA. It’s pretty comfortable and well-equipped with all the knick-knacks, doo-hickeys and whatchamaycallits required by any51rLIQ1XURL self-respecting wanna-be vampire (I’m a wanna-be vampire, by the way), including DVDs of the entire TWILIGHT saga and easy-to-open sachets of fake blood. I don’t get up until the sun goes down and then I begin my night by bathing assiduously in the blood of virgins, or at least I used to until virgins became harder to find than… well, than a thing that’s actually quite hard to find. Nowadays, I just use a nice moisturising soap that doesn’t dry the skin or leave me smelling like a compost heap.

I spend most nights moping around my local graveyard, writing gloomy gothic poetry, arranging myself artistically across the graves and getting to know one or two of the transients who congregate there by night to chat and smoke and drink and just generally shoot the breeze. They’re actually a pretty good bunch and we have a high old-time together. Some of the local residents have gotten up a petition against us, claiming that we make the place look untidy with the debris from our human sacrifices, orgiastic apocalyptic-style sexual free-for-alls and takeaway snack-boxes from Luigi’s Late-Nite Chipper across the street, but we don’t care. We figure life is for living, right…? Or, as in my case, being Un-Dead…

I nip back to my coffin before the first rays of sun can illuminate the logo on Ned The Knife’s Tesco Bag-For-Life, I grab the eighteen hours beauty sleep essential to keep my skin looking smooth and Un-dead, and then the whole glorious hoop-la can begin all over again…

What are you currently working on?

In January 2015, I published Book One of what I call my ANNA MEETS COUNT DRACULA trilogy. It’s an erotic horror novella that tells a scandalously saucy tale of sex, spanking and vampirism in Victorian England. It’s based on legendary horror actor Christopher Lee’s performance as Dracula in the Hammer Horror films of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s and its tremendous fun to write. I’m working on Book Two of the trilogy at the moment, so hopefully I’ll be ready to publish it well before the end of 2015. Book Three should then appear in 2016. Fingers crossed…!

Where can we find you online?

  1. Here are all the links to my email, Facebook Page and Twitter profile, my blogs and my published e-books:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

http://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

MY OWN SELF-PUBLISHED E-BOOKS.

THE DEVIANTS: A NOVEL.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00PPM16YM

ANNA MEETS COUNT DRACULA: AN EROTIC HORROR NOVELLA.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00SAUGZ6K

FIFTY FILTHY-DIRTY SEX-POEMS YOU MUST READ BEFORE I DIE: ADULT POETRY.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00OABATWO

FIFTY REALLY RANDOM HORROR FILM REVIEWS TO DIE FOR: NON-FICTION.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00OV9EKG6

ANOTHER FIFTY REALLY RANDOM HORROR FILM REVIEWS TO DIE FOR: NON-FICTION.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00VR8XE84

Free Fiction Friday: How to Become a Ghost Hunter by David Draper

How to Become a Ghost Hunter

by David Draper

Ever since I was a young boy I have always been fascinated by the supernatural. Ghosts, Vampires, Zombies, Werewolves, all of them. A haunted house, a possessed doll, a vengeful spirit, a demon from Hell, whatever it was, if it was truly frightening, I was hooked. About a year ago I watched a show that would change my life. It was show about Ghost Hunters. Well, it wasn’t a show about Ghost Hunters, it was a show with Ghost Hunters, starring real people like me. People who were actually out there hunting ghosts. It was awesome. I watched every episode. I knew then exactly what I wanted to do and what I was going to do. I became a Ghost Hunter.

Now as you may or may not know, there is no practical education or program to help you become a Ghost Hunter. There’s no college. No online certification. You have to be resourceful. At the time, I lived with my girlfriend, Carlee, and together we decided to pool our savings and start a Ghost Hunting business. We quit our jobs so we could have the time to dedicate ourselves to the craft at hand and purchased a digital camera, a handheld sound recorder and some lighting equipment. We created a website, designed a logo, printed business cards, and started Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. We marketed ourselves to the world. We were ready to hunt ghosts.

One of the things you should know about ghost hunting is that no one is going to hire you just because you say you’re a Ghost Hunter. The spirits of the dead don’t just show up when you need them to. You have to go out and get them. We started with nightly séances. Using black candles, pentagrams, Ouija boards, Pagan chants, and the darkest parts of the Bible, the Torah and the Koran, we called them forth. We read out loud, passage after passage, whispering and screaming into the night and hoping that one of the dead and damned would hear us and show up, ready to be caught on camera and shared with the living. But they never did. It was then that I knew we had to take this little enterprise of mine to the next level.

Our first cemetery was a disappointment. It was too large, too close to the city and patrolled by security. We were almost arrested. But the next ones were smaller and on the outskirts of the county with plenty of room and time to do what I knew I had to do. It took some convincing, but pretty soon my Carlee was practicing rituals, reading incantations, and even dancing on graves while I directed her in our dark art, filming and recording everything. We did this night after night for two weeks, hitting over a dozen different cemeteries in six different counties. I felt like we were making progress, but Carlee was starting to complain. The bills were piling up and we were having a hard time paying rent. But I was not about to give up. I stopped sleeping and spent each night watching and listening to my videos and recordings over and over. I knew there was something, something I had to find hidden in those hours and hours of footage. It was waiting for me. Just me. I could feel it.

It’s amazing how much information about murderers and victims of violence you can find on the internet, including the places where they are buried. I found thirteen graves associated with the old Clivemore Regional Hospital. They used to bury prisoners there that died on the operating table. We arrived at midnight and I cut the padlock on the back gate. Carlee didn’t want to go, but I convinced her we were so close to getting everything I wanted and told her that if she didn’t go I’d leave her. Once inside, I set up my equipment and told Carlee to say the words I had given her and begin dancing on their graves. While she did that I made a bunch of small cuts on my forearm, cupped the blood in my hands and splashed her with it. I should have told her I was going to do that because that was the night she said she wanted to quit. She said things were getting out of control and I was obsessed. At the time, I remember I didn’t like her saying that about me. But now I know that Carlee was right. Obsession is what you need to be a Ghost Hunter. Because after I strangled her in that cemetery I started hearing them right away. And now I hear them all the time, every day and every night. I hear them, but I can’t see them. Not yet. But I know they are there. They are all around me and all around us and I am going to find them, because now I am a ghost hunter. A real Ghost Hunter.

I just need a new partner.

****************

DD2David Draper BIO: After a brief semi-career as an underpaid or more often unpaid screenwriter, David took a huge break from writing and lived entirely on day jobs and parental pity. Now, having broken free of his Hollywood cocoon, he has found the right wife, is raising three great kids, and has a day job he can be proud of.  Through it all, he remains the same horror-loving rascal he’s always been since that first paper-mache Frankenstein mask made on the family kitchen table, under the concerned, furrowed brows of his loving parents. David has only just started writing short Horror fiction this year and would love your feedback.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DrunkDracula

More on Dracula (2013)

Dracula (2013) was a series I very much liked. Unfortunately, it was cancelled, but I am hoping for more series like this one. One that takes risks by changing stories we know into new stories that are still enjoyable.

Kbatz gave us her take on the series yesterday.
Now, a few more opinions from our staff.

by Emerian Rich

I really enjoyed the Dracula series. I liked the way they changed the traditional story of Dracula with Renfield more of a butler than a crazed lunatic and Van Helsing a doctor who woke Drac to help him put down a secret society that had wronged them both. I liked the mixing of the bio-electric galvanism with the story making it almost Frankensteinish and trying (with the look) to be a little steampunkish. I also loved the camera shots. When Mina gets attacked and can only see and hear what’s going on from a distance, the director did a really great job of showing us only what Mina would see, keeping the monster out of the shot in a way that made you feel like you were there. I was sad to see it cancelled, but hope for more like it in the future.

Dracula2

by Dan Shaurette

NBC’s Dracula was a very intriguing twist on the characters we know and love. I am the kind of fan who can enjoy a show like this, like a new comic book version of an old classic. At first, I did have to turn off that voice that was screaming that the characters are not the same, but it wasn’t hard to do. My biggest complaint is that this could have been any vampire story set in 1897 London, with steampunk touches, Jack the Ripper references, and bloody mystery. Instead they cheated by giving characters names from Stoker’s tale. They didn’t have to.

I think they even wanted to tell a new story with new characters, as evidenced by having Dracula use the alias “Alexander Grayson”, and him wooing/fighting the delicious Lady Jane. (She was my favorite character, by the way.) But it is as if they came up with the clever use of the Order of the Dragon and it became too deeply entrenched. So they ran with it. Conspiracies and reboots for everyone. I loved the story that they told and am sad it only had one season. Would it have been more successful if it had been on cable TV instead of a network like NBC? I was (pleasantly) surprised by the sex scenes, gore, and violence on the show. I doubt there’s more they could have done if they’d been on cable. But maybe the question then is, was it too risqué for broadcast television? Yes, maybe we are still too Puritan for Victorian vices.

Speaking of cable TV, let’s look at Showtime’s Penny Dreadful. I wonder which came first in the production. Did Showtime hear about NBC’s Dracula reboot and decide to come up with something? Or was this just a happy coincidence? Are they both just cashing in on the popularity of Steampunk? I know I’m not complaining. Penny Dreadful is another Victorian horror fantasy drama. It brings together characters from Frankenstein, Dorian Gray, Dracula, The Wolfman, The Mummy, and re-imagines them all, but for the most part, they are still familiar. The interesting difference is that (to my recollection) Dracula is never mentioned by name, though we have the Murray family involved with vampires and even Van Helsing made an appearance. There is an enigmatic alpha vampire, so we’ll see if he takes up the mantle or not.

Where Dracula made me grumble about how the beloved characters were all askew, I thought Penny Dreadful’s take was refreshing. I felt watching PD like we could be watching the “True Origin” of the characters, wheres as Dracula was saying, “oooh, we made Lucy a lesbian, aren’t we clever and topical?” While both shows introduced new “strong female characters” in Lady Jane and Vanessa Ives, Miss Ives is a conflicted, complex, anti-hero seeking redemption, and Lady Jane in the end was really just a grown up Buffy. Nothing wrong with that, but Vanessa is just more developed. In fact, I dare say, Penny Dreadful is Vanessa Ives’ world and everyone else is merely living in it. “The séance scene” is my favorite moment on TV in recent memory.

What it may boil down to between the two shows ultimately is that Penny Dreadful is a period horror series and Dracula was more of a period drama with vampires. Dracula may be done for now, but we still have a second season of Penny Dreadful to look forward to and hopefully even more to follow.

*************

What did you think of the series?

Kbatz: Dracula (2013)

Late Dracula Flawed but Still Entertaining

By Kristin Battestella

draculaI was excited for NBC’s 2013 prime time limited series Dracula. However, network demands and a rocky start seem to have unfortunately done in the series’ potential, and gothic, horror, and steampunk audiences are sadly left to wonder what could have been with this entertaining one shot.

The latest suave American inventor in 1896 London is none other than Dracula himself! Posing as Alexander Grayson, Dracula (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) seeks vengeance against the corrupt Order of the Dragon with the help of Professor Abraham Van Helsing (Thomas Kretschmann) and R.M. Renfield, Esq. (Nonso Anozie). Meeting Mina Murray (Jessica De Gouw), however, expedites Dracula’s desire for a vampirism cure. He hires Mina’s paramour Jonathan Harker (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) as his assistant, using his newspaper know how whilst also romancing the Order’s lead huntsman Lady Jayne Whetherby (Victoria Smurfit) away from her vampire killing duties. Unfortunately, Mina’s best friend Lucy Westerna (Katie McGrath) also has romantic folly on her mind…

Episode 1 “The Blood is Life” jumps right into resurrecting Dracula from his spiky prison in proper bloody fashion, but this first installment feels ironically slow paced with seemingly little actual set up and too many new characters and changes to the Stoker tale audiences were probably expecting to see. Couldn’t Dracula take down these angry, interfering businessmen with supernatural ease? Conflict over fantastic industrialism and wannabe Tesla designs feels unnecessary and takes up valuable narrative for purists, and steampunk enthusiasts – who, despite what the recent mainstream bandwagon would have us believe, have been around for decades – may be put off by these very changes meant to attract such an audience. Though historically based and possibly interesting, the Illuminati-esque Order of the Dragon and its thinly veiled but thickly laid modern technology talk of wireless power versus corrupt oil detracts from Dracula’s opportunities as the tormented villain. “A Whiff of Sulfur” shows Grayson’s blackmail cunning and character conflicts and thus does much better in getting to the action of how and why Dracula was resurrected. Had Dracula begun here with Episode 2 or as a full 90-minute premiere the reasons behind his revenge may have been more hard hitting. Dangling the weekly carrot with flashbacks to start each episode feels uneven, as does the mix of steampunk and seers horrors. Stockholder plots and majority shareholder papers in “Goblin Merchant Men” feel limp or easily played and gay blackmail comes across as too trite. We didn’t need this villainous organization against Dracula’s intimate quest for a solar vaccine – his psychic battles and eerie visions with the seers are far more occult fun then the Order’s gents playing at being bad. Early on Dracula simply can’t decide with which vein it wants to tell its tale, industrial allegory or gothic good times.

Fortunately, Lady Jayne gets her fight on with the vampire coming out party in “From Darkness to Light,” and guest star Alec Newman (Dune) makes the intrigue between her and Grayson as both lovers and antagonists more complex. These juicy elements should have come a lot sooner in the series in order to hook the audience – energy scenes and power demonstrations are simply not as wondrous to us and feel tacked on amid superior past vampire angst and threats on who knows Grayson isn’t the romantic do gooder scientist he claims to be. Despite an excellent progression on the Van Helsing character and his daylight serum, this lingering, feeling itself out writing and drastic book changes all at once do not work on network television today. Familiar vampire intrigues and an already delightful core story don’t need Ottoman Empire conspiracies, either. Thankfully, “The Devil’s Waltz” continues the great cliffhanger from Episode 4 with sexy dreams and Victorian torture. It’s on the nose perhaps, but also violent, kicked up, creepy yet nonchalant. Up close cinematic filming, askew angles, and dark Frankenstein turns for Van Helsing up the demented fantasy horror along with the delightful Renfield developments. Loyalty, laboratories, predatory blood and violence – the scenes of horror and irony in Dracula are excellent. Subterfuge and deceptions tie together perfectly with vampire sexy, shocking, and tender. “Of Monsters and Men” also ups the saucy and suspicions over Grayson’s plans – daylight meetings increase the intensity and Mina is far more interesting as a snooping Van Helsing assistant. Lady Jayne and Lucy manipulate wonderfully and great skin and bloody special effects keep the pace, confrontations, and toppers entertaining.

The excellent blackmail and character entanglements continue in “Servant to Two Masters,” and Dracula gets close to showing some scandalous for NBC. Primal filming distortions, tempting heartbeats, sensuality, and angsty vamp out resistance accent the simmering man versus nature and himself. Likewise “Come to Die” brings stimulating personal dynamics, and with such medieval takedowns and revelations, it’s baffling why Dracula ever began with generic overreaching revenge. I would rather have seen Lady Jayne’s pursuits and dramatic love triangles before the early Order of the Dragon piecemeal. Renfield and Dracula both play devil and angel on each other’s shoulders as needed while torn arms and impalements remind the audience that Dracula was always going to be a show about vampires – even if the series got away from that foundation at its start. Grayson’s orchestration goes deep, and the Order framework was never needed if “Four Roses” can bring all the abductions and character revelations together like this. The innocent are caught in the bloodbath crosshairs, and the pace upticks thanks to daylight interference and changing allegiances. I don’t want to spoil these final episodes, although “Let There Be Light” does inexplicably return to laying the Order’s purpose on thick when huntsmen versus fangs action and gruesome threats are done better. Bombs, horror violence, and questions on who is really the hero or the villain counter any quibbles. Granted, some maybe, maybe not character fates are unknown thanks to the show’s cancellation and seeds left for more in hopes of continuation remain hanging. Dracula, however, concludes with the confrontations that needed to happen and a quality dramatic finish.

In recalling his early, pale, androgynous roles, it’s surprising that Jonathan Rhys Meyers (The Tudors) has not played a vampire previously, for he is perfectly cast as both the medieval warrior Vlad Dracula and his incarnation as the Victorian entrepreneur Alexander Grayson. Yes, it’s unusual that he puts on an American twang rather than simply coming from the continent as the Stoker source says. However, Meyers embodies the charisma and scandal nonetheless thanks to animalistic nuances for the more toothy scenes, a sexy stealth making his lady victims so ecstatic, and a well aware, calculating slick. I’m not sure why Grayson is made to drink so much considering Meyers’ off screen alcohol difficulties, but he carefully accents the character within a character suave using the glassware and props. There is unfortunately some flat foil and weak dialogue hampering him, scenes without Meyers tend to drag, and playing politics with a different Order of the Dragon chap each week is a waste of Dracula’s primal potential. Why does Dracula need outside revenge or romance? Why can’t he be a vampire for good energy or bad daylight power for his own motivation? Grayson’s desperation over not being able to keep his proverbial fangs in his pants adds more dimension – his vampire nature is the very thing that mucks up his plans most.

Victoria Smurfit (Ballykissangel) as Lady Jayne may seem shoehorned in to Dracula for no reason or too Selene ala Underworld to start thanks to an off kilter mix of slo mo fights hindering her suspicion of Grayson – she looks unnecessarily played and stupid in not knowing he’s a vampire. Fortunately, her Old World pretty and kick ass make for a unique, sexy conflict, and Jayne’s chemistry, dialogue, physicality, and confidence match Dracula’s game. Her intriguing upmanship with Katie McGrath (Merlin) as Lucy Westerna adds a fresh element as well, and where Mina’s bemoaning seriously impedes Dracula, Jayne and Lucy’s twists work wonderfully. Simply put, McGrath should have played Mina instead. Her flashy style and flirty pish posh perfectly hide Lucy’s subtle lady leanings, and again, this viewer aside is a pleasing character improvement upon Bram. We know the reasons why Lucy may seem too pretentious, but despite these positive strides, Lucy isn’t fully utilized until the later half of the season. Jessica De Gouw (Arrow) as Mina is far too bland in comparison and remains typical as the off and on, wishy washy, maybe reincarnated love interest instead. It’s quite progressive that she is a Victorian medical student, but Mina is also squeamish and set back with nervousness and romantic idiocy. Her seemingly feminist dreams and juvenile behaviors don’t match the character’s would be strengths nor Grayson’s sophistication, and one wonders why all these people are so desperately enthralled with her.

Likewise, Oliver Jackson-Cohen (World Without End) overplays the wannabe rich and snot reporter Jonathan Harker. The potential for early old-fashioned newspaper designs and muckraker happenings is ruined with his clunky – Harker does not have the who’s who and what’s what finesse to be an insightful investigative reporter and conflict is created purely by his being a jerk or stepping into it with everyone or everything. Along with the equally plodding Order of the Dragon, the character could have been written out with the show no worse for the wear. Blessedly however, Nonso Anozie (Game of Thrones) as R.M. Renfield is an ingeniously urbane henchman. He likes that Grayson is not a “proper” employer and dislikes Dracula’s bouts of morality but stands firm and remains loyal in wise, quiet villainy. This Renfield smartly sees through people, deduces their nature, and will use or dismiss anyone as needed. Another very positive character development for Dracula along with Thomas Kretschmann’s (Avengers: Age of Ultron) cantankerous Professor Van Helsing. Old time medical gear aids his rocky relationship with Dracula and the debating between these expected enemies now allied is meaty fun. Science and revenge both help and hinder, and again, Dracula could have been solely about this search for a desperate daytime cure with Van Helsing’s side dose of revenge. His retribution feels far more believable, and his ruthless motivation leads to some intriguing questions on who is the worse monster on Dracula.

Though not as costume bespectacle as big screen productions of old and a bit too modern in hairstyles, fabrics, low cuts, and pants wearing women, the 19th century style on Dracula is high end, flashy, and colorful – frocks, feathers, jewelry, long coats, and top hats! The elegant men are refreshingly refined alongside quality blood, creepy graves, cobblestone streets, carriages, early cars, and plenty of fog and rainy feelings. Delicate society highs and lows are here along with skeletons, medical gruesomes, and head choppings. Sometimes the false illumination technologies seem overhyped, but dangerous window light and swaths of streetlight make for mood and interesting shadows. CGI rooftop battles are obvious as are Highlander style swordfights and too much slow motion, but thankfully, these designs are gone after the first few episodes. Did someone realize such action was unnecessary? The blink and you miss them opening credits, however, seem trapped in a contemporary blue tinted and steampunk atmosphere – complete with gears and goggles as if NBC felt they had to package the show with such forced edge. Ironically, these expensive production values and showy misfires when compared against the resulting ho hum Friday night numbers are most likely what cooked Dracula’s goose. Different writers and directors across the series created no clear vision of progression, and with only 43 minutes per episode, the story felt like it was just getting started when it was time to stop. I had hoped NBC might develop other gothic properties or literary works for a rotating classy prime time block. However, network television is increasingly cutting its nose to spite its face, and Dracula is no longer available On Demand or Hulu while one awaits the incoming 3-disc set from Netflix. With its faulty start, it was tough enough to watch Dracula from week to week. NBC could have made a real autumn event by having several Dracula episodes airing on back to back nights or even showcased the entire show in the true mini series format of old with two hour television movie chic. Viewer styles have changed and the production team here was simply not up to pace.

Longtime Bram Stoker fans can’t go into this Dracula expecting a faithful book retelling. In fact, the plot as ended feels more like a prequel to the novel we know and love. Yes, it is slow to start. Yes, mixed motivations will have you yelling at the TV. Fortunately, progressive characters, excelling performances, and superior plots save Dracula. Despite its brief life, the intriguing changes, gothic style, and moody spins here are perfect for a sophisticated vampire viewer’s macabre weekend marathon.

Horror Writing Month: SANDRA HARRIS

ANNA MEETS COUNT DRACULA… A VERY GOTHIC JOURNEY

by SANDRA HARRIS

hammer-horror

You could say that my ANNA MEETS COUNT DRACULA stories came about organically. They were the obvious next step on a journey that started over Christmas of 2013. I’m not kidding you, dear reader and fellow horror fan, when I say that the whole thing not only took me by surprise but it also kind of blew the roof off my head, turned me upside-down and inside out and set me back on my feet again as well, only this time with a specific destination in mind. This time, you could say that my feet knew exactly where they were headed.

A short season of late-night Hammer Horror films during Christmas 2013 unlocked a part of me that I’d only previously been aware of in a sort of hazy, peripheral way. It was a part that adored all things Gothic, things like ruined castles and abbeys, bloodsucking vampires and beautiful women with heaving bosoms who fall prey to all manner of monsters, ghouls and things that go bump in the night. I acquired a copy of Bram Stoker’s Gothic masterpiece, DRACULA, from my local Tesco when it came free with a daily newspaper. (The book, that is, not the supermarket.) I devoured it from cover to cover. I loved it, as surely anyone must who takes the time to read it.

Bram Stoker was Irish, same as myself, I told myself wonderingly afterwards. If he could do it, maybe I could do it…? Obviously not on the same scale, I reasoned. Probably not something that would be remembered in a century’s time like Stoker’s DRACULA but maybe something a bit sexy, a bit titillating, something that gave people a kind of illicit thrill when they read it…? Sexy and titillating I can definitely write. Hell, sexy and titillating I was born to write. Hmmm. It was food for thought, anyway.

lee-5I watched and re-watched all the Hammer Horror DRACULA films I could get my grubby little mitts on. Hammer Horror, by the way, is the name given to the horror movies made by the British film production company formed in 1934 by William Hinds.DRACULA (1958) is arguably Hammer Films’ most famous and successful production, created during the golden years of Hammer Horror. Christopher Lee, born in London in 1922, played Hammer’s Dracula in their superb series of films about the evil- but handsome- Transylvanian count.

Here we must depart from the strictly factual for a moment and move into the realms of personal opinion. Christopher Lee in his heyday was a big ride, as we say here in Ireland. Or, a big roide, if you want to be truly authentically Irish about it. He’s still a big ride, in my humble opinion, and always will be. In his role as Dracula, he is pure sex. If I were going to write my own little version of the famous story, he was always going to be my Count of choice. Ooooh, the things I could write about with Christopher Lee as my leading man! Ideas were formulating in my twisted and deviant little brain. Naughty ideas. Wickedideas. Erotic, kinky-as-f**k, downright filthy-dirty sex-meets-horror-meets-sex-again kind of ideas.

In June of 2013, I wrote my first piece of Dracula fan-fiction for a Creative Writing workshop I was taking. It went down well with the class, so I typed it up and put it on my newly-created horror movie review blog with the title ANNA MEETS COUNT DRACULA. The response was encouraging so I decided to keep going, just to see where the story would take me and how far I could go with it. At the time of writing this piece, I’ve written and posted over thirty instalments of the story and the readers and followers of my blog are still enjoying it and clamouring for more, so I’ve every intention of continuing to write it, at least until it comes to a natural and satisfactory conclusion. (Though I’ll be gutted when it does!)

drac_1513745c1Let me give you an overview of the plot. Lady Anna Carfax (yes, that’s a reference to Carfax Abbey!) is young, rich and beautiful and living in Victorian London in the time of fog-wreathed, gaslit streets, hansom cabs and Jack The Ripper. She lives a sheltered, fairly boring life and so she’s thrilled skinny when Count Dracula makes a nocturnal visit to her virginal bedchamber in the autumn of 1888. This period, by the way, is known to all Jack The Ripper fans such as myself as The Autumn Of Terror because of the murderous shenanigans of the aforementioned JTR, who gets a mention in the story. See, there’s a bit of actual history in there as well…! Anyway, Dracula is sternly handsome, commanding and authoritative and, the way I write him, he’s a stone-cold expert on female sexuality.

Dracula is responsible for Anna’s awakening as a vibrantly sexual woman with needs and desires that, naturally, only he can satisfy. (Clever bastard, isn’t he, fixing it that way!) In her bedroom at Richmond House, her family home, he teases her and toys with her until she’s practically begging him to take her away with him so that they can be together properly. When he eventually spirits her away to his heavily-fortified castle in a remote part of the English countryside, she is both fascinated and horrified to find out exactly what men and women do behind closed doors on their wedding nights.

Dracula takes Anna’s virginity, turns her into a vampire and instills in her a twisted desire for pain, sexual humiliation and physical punishment that only serves to complicate her life and ensure that she is further in thrall to her master, the Count, than is strictly good for her. (Thrall, that’s a real word, right…?!) As a woman, Anna submits to Dracula completely and utterly, but the newly-formed vampire in her needs to find an outlet too, and believe me when I say that that’s going to cause some problems down the line for the D-man…

ANNA MEETS COUNT DRACULA is peopled with an eccentric, sex-mad cast of characters who are in and out of each other’s beds with the single-minded determination of a dog who’s spied himself a particularly juicy cut of meat. We have Thomas Renfield, the young footman at Richmond House who’s so easy on the eye he’d be a Hollywood movie star if he were around today. He can’t make up his mind between Hester Price, Anna’s personal maid, and little Bessie Stoker, one of the kitchen maids, so he’s doing himself a favour and having them both.

Hammer Dracula Christopher LeeThere’s Sir Blaise Carfax, Anna’s older brother, who likes prostitutes, and rich, boorish swell Sir Daniel Rochester, who also likes prostitutes. It was Victorian London, okay? A lot of men liked prostitutes. Don’t blame me. Take it up with the Victorians, the prostitute-loving lot that they were. Now, if I may return to the subject of prostitutes for a moment… What? Oh, I never left it…? Oh, all right then. We’ve even got evil Nicholas Flint, who gets his kicks from strangling prostitutes and blaming it on poor old Jack The Ripper, and Vera Stoker, Bessie’s mother, who has to work as a prostitute in order to keep a roof over her kiddies’ heads and food in their hungry little tummies. Jeez Louise. Looking back, there was a whole heck of a lot of prostitution in Victorian times. You’d think somebody would have done something, wouldn’t you…?

Any-hoo, I’m including an extract from ANNA MEETS COUNT DRACULA in this blog post, but it won’t be sexually explicit so as not to offend the good people who prefer their horror to come without the dirty bits. If you want the full-on, undiluted version of the story, then go to my horror film review blog. You’ll find the links below in my author bio. I’m off now to think up yet another saucy situation in which a Victorian lady, gentleman or vampire- or prostitute- might find themselves. The possibilities, dear reader, are literally endless, the combinations and permutations stretching over the horizon to infinity. In other words, I’m going outside and I may not be back for some time. See you all in the next cartoon…

 

 

ANNA MEETS COUNT DRACULA…
PART 31.
AN EROTIC TALE BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
STRICTLY FOR OVER-EIGHTEENS ONLY.

Count Dracula had changed into fresh linen and was combing his slicked-back dark hair, edged with grey at the temples, when Valeria quietly entered the room. No-one, not even the nude handmaidens who normally did all the cleaning and tidying of the castle, was allowed into Dracula’s private dressing-room except for Valeria. Not even Anna, who for the most part was confined to her bedroom while she impatiently awaited the Count’s nocturnal visits.

“Does my Master require anything?” Valeria murmured as she approached him now. At six feet five inches in height, the Count towered over her as he did most people. Valeria, though she had served him for a long time, was always struck anew by his sternly handsome appearance each time she encountered him.

His eyes were so dark as to be almost black, and they were magnetic. Magnetic and compelling. They made Valeria feel as if she could get lost in them. His cheekbones were high and sharp, a direct result of his Eastern European heritage.

His lips were well-shaped and his jaw perpetually shadowed with an imminent growth of dark stubble, though he shaved every evening upon waking. He was the most handsome and charismatic man Valeria had ever known, and also the most suavely dangerous.

The Count shook his head.

“Not at the moment, Valeria,” he said.

“Master looks fatigued after his trip,” ventured Valeria then. Only her long-standing as chief among his female servants emboldened her to make such a personal remark.

“It’s been a fatiguing few days,” the Count replied with a short, humourless laugh.

“How are things at Richmond House?” asked Valeria, referring to the house in London in which Lady Anna lived with her mother, Lady Grace Carfax, and her older brother, Sir Blaise Carfax. Had lived, Valeria corrected herself. Since her abduction by Count Dracula, Lady Anna now lived with Dracula in his castle in a remote spot in the English countryside, a place where it was unlikely she would be found. Unlikely, though not, Valeria supposed, impossible.

“Investigations into Lady Anna’s sudden disappearance are continuing apace,” Dracula replied with another short bark of a laugh. “Though not very successfully, I might add,” he went on as he fastened his cufflinks. “The Metropolitan Police are scratching their no doubt worthy heads in bafflement at the complexity of the case. I rather fancy that Lady Anna is quite safe where she is at present and that we have no immediate cause for alarm.” He had travelled to London incognito to check personally on the status of the investigation.

“That is indeed good, Master,” said Valeria. “And… and what of the new arrivals to Richmond House?” she continued, lowering her eyes demurely so that Dracula should not see the excitement in them. “Lady Athena Carfax and Lady Abigail Carfax? Did you… did you see them while you were there?”

“Yes, my dear Valeria, I saw them,” replied the Count, his dark eyes alight with mocking amusement. “And yes, they are as beautiful as you have heard. But no, I have no immediate plans to bring them here to the castle to join their pretty cousin, so you must swallow your disappointment as best you can and content yourself with being permitted the continued care of Lady Anna.”

Valeria flushed. She might have known that Count Dracula, who knew everything about her and who could read her thoughts as easily as if they were the printed word on a page before him, would be aware that she was desperate to get her hands on- and fangs into- the beautiful Carfax sisters, both cousins of Lady Anna’s.

Valeria’s preference in life had always been for soft, yielding female flesh. Lady Anna was truly a vision of beauty, but Valeria wanted the sisters too, and Count Dracula would not permit her to go to Richmond House to feast on them nocturnally there. She wondered if perhaps he was planning on keeping the delectable sisters for himself. It would not be the first time that that had happened.

Now she shrugged, feigning an indifference in which Dracula would be unlikely to believe.

“Is Master certain that he requires nothing further for the moment?” she said, easing the straps of her white Grecian-style gown down over her shoulders and baring her perfect, snowy-white breasts. “That he has no needs which he requires satisfying…?” she continued as she dropped to her knees in front of him. “Needs which Valeria can perhaps assist him with…?”

**********

This story is a work of fiction and comes (almost!) entirely from the imagination of Sandra Harris. Any resemblance to any persons living or un-dead is purely coincidental. This story is copyrighted material and any reproduction without prior permission is illegal. Sandra Harris reserves the right to be identified as the author of this story.Sandra Harris. ©

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

sandra-1fixedSandra Harris is a Dublin-based performance poet, novelist, film blogger, sex blogger and short story writer. She has given more than 200 performances of her comedy sex-and-relationship poems in different venues around Dublin, including The Irish Writers’ Centre, The International Bar, Toners’ Pub (Ireland’s Most Literary Pub), the Ha’penny Inn and The Strokestown Poetry Festival.

Her articles, short stories and poems have appeared in The Metro-Herald newspaper, Ireland’s Big Issues magazine, The Irish Daily Star, The Irish Daily Sun and The Boyne Berries literary journal.

She is addicted to buying books and will swap you anything you like for Hammer Horror or JAWS memorabilia, and would be a great person to chat to about the differences between the Director’s Cut and the Theatrical Cut of The Wicker Man. You can contact her at:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

http://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

HorrorAddicts.net 108, Alexander Beresford

Horror Addicts Episode# 108

Horror Hostess: Emerian Rich

Intro Music by: Cancer Killing Gemini

Click to listen:

40 days till Halloween!

alexander beresford, post rapture party, whitechapel

coolest little monster, john zacherley, halloween prep, whitechapel tv series, jack the ripper, eden lake, wolf creek, dating a zombie, c.a. milson, zombie town, pet cemetery, crystal connor, devil, m. night shyamalan, cam2cam, post rapture party, cropsey, dark wave, music, venus de vilo, queen of the pumpkin patch, a taste of murder, chocolate coconut oblivion cake, end of the world radio, zombies, 809 jacob street, marty young, christine sutton, all the little children, suffer the children, craig dilouie, apocalypse, flash fiction friday, ken macgregor, horror addicts guide to life, events, count dracula and his daughter boocula, reanimator, h. p. lovecraft, the ring, japanese novel, 30 days of night, comic, movie, clive barker, oscar wilde, bela lugosi, dracula, alexander beresford, doll face, charla, www panel audio, emerian rich, heather roulo, laurel anne hill.

 

http://traffic.libsyn.com/horroraddicts/HorrorAddicts108.mp3

Find all articles and interviews at: http://www.horroraddicts.net

 

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s t a f f

David Watson, Dan Shaurette, Marc Vale, KBatz, Mimielle, Dawn Wood

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Kbatz: Christopher Lee Delights!

Christopher DeLEEful Films!

By Kristin Battestella

 

How does one choose the best or most beloved pictures from Sir Christopher Lee’s extensive film repertoire?  Short answer: you can’t. Long answer: I’m going to try a batch of my horror favorites here!

 

Horror of Dracula – Well, well. Director Terence Fisher is here again for the one that started it all!  Even with little dialogue, Lee is tall and imposing, his stature and glare deadly and delightful.  Appearing a half hour into the film, top billed Peter Cushing as Van Helsing is also simply badass. There are unique changes to the tale from Hammer writer Jimmy Sangster (Horror of Frankenstein) of course, with library scholar Harker engaged to Lucy and more character switcharoos. Dracula is also decidedly styled as an English gentleman yet the story never leaves Central Europe.  This also doesn’t look 1958 as we expect from the Leave It to Beaver types.  Yes, it’s bright and colorfully filmed in the style of the time, but this Dracula is dark, gothic, and feels earnest, passionate, deadly.  There’s something so nasty about the way Lucy opens the door, removes her cross, lays out, and unbuttons the nightgown!  All the staples- stakes, garlic, candles, coffins- are here; everything we expect a proper vampire tale to be twists together with great deception and scares.  Hot damn!

 

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Horror Hotel – This 1960 low budget scary also called The City of the Dead opens with a 1692 good and wicked burning at the stake and it only gets freakier from there.  Yes, it looks a little poor in quality, is too dark sometimes, and the hep cat guys are a dime a dozen.  The fog and flickering firelight, however, add heaps of disturbia, and we just know this sinister- er sleepy hamlet isn’t what it seems. Investigating ingénue Venetia Stevenson (Island of Lost Women) is a sunny and fun fish out of water we can get behind as she blindly plunges deeper into the Massachusetts bizarre.  Sir Christopher is of course smashing as a deathly serious but young and oh so suave professor who knows his witchcraft history too well. Even in the seemingly forgotten 80 minutes here, his contribution is essential, his performance quintessential.  Toss in a swanky score and you have all the brewing ingredients needed for future Amicus Productions’ horror gems. Who knew?

 

Dracula: Prince of Darkness –  This Terence Fisher helmed 1966 sequel opens with a revisit to his Horror of Dracula and adds fun Victorian via sixties ladies, freaky servant Philip Latham (The Pallisers), action monk Andrew Kier (Cleopatra), candlelit ambiance, and sweet velvet décor.  There’s actually a touch of the novel as well, with hints of Renfield and visiting English twists- except our Carpathian guests are two couples this time around. Barbara Shelley (also of The Gorgon) makes a great scaredy cat who would be annoying except that we know somebody should take heed in a vampire picture! Besides, it’s always the good girls like Suzan Farmer (Die, Monster, Die!) who go so bad for Dracula! Even though we know a resurrection ritual is coming, it’s still bloody impressive- literally and figuratively. There’s a great sense of foreboding fear with scary music as Lee silently hypnotizes and takes the dames as he wills in what seems like less than 10 minutes! I know he did some of these films under protest and had conflicts over the dialogue, but Dracula need not speak to be badass either. OMC’s great strength, overbearing physicality, and evil red eyes more than fit the terror bill.  It’s actually fitting that there are no wither tos and why fors- just a silent, powerful, unstoppable menace. We don’t have outright nudity or such for this round, but the vamp approach and violation works.

 

Dracula Has Risen from the Grave – A sweet, bloody, almost Bond-esque introduction and a fun opening shocker lead off the revenge plotting, suspenseful carriage chases, surprising character development, saucy bedroom scenes, religious twists, and rooftop pursuits in this 1968 sequel. Whew! It’s quite intriguing to for once see what would possibly happen after Bram, as we instead focus on Monsieur Rupert Davies (Maigret), priest Ewan Hopper (Julius Caesar), and the terrified village folk who all still live in the shadow of Big C.  We actually see more of Lee as Dracula earlier on in the film, and this time he even speaks!  Well, it’s only about dozen lines and we still don’t really have enough of the eponymous villain, but Sir Christopher has more to do here. Dracula is quite sensual and kinky; all these necks and bosoms just thrust right at him!  Though filmed well, the production values seem a step down from the usual Hammer high style, and the women seem a little too sixties designed instead of the late Victorian onscreen. Young Barry Andrews (Blood on Satan’s Claw) is also too hepcat annoying, as is bad girl Barbara Ewing (Torture Garden) to start- but we know Dracula will educate her- a bite, a beat down, a catfight! Yes, the titular revival is a little preposterous, but its also pretty creative- even if the vampire rules, times, and places established in the first two films are fudged up. The horror sound effects are great, along with impressively eerie green glow effects and colored lens tricks. It does indeed look like death here!

 

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The Devil’s Bride – Frequent Hammer director Terrence Fisher (Dracula: Prince of Darkness) helms this elusive 1968 satanic fest in which Christopher Lee is the good guy. Whoa.  Let’s just take in that power of performance right there.  One of his personal film favorites, Lee ups the ante- using all his coy, charisma, and stature for the occult heroics and parental considerations here.  He looks damn classy, and Charles Gray (Diamonds Are Forever) is dynamite as well. Two Bond villains for the price of one- that has to be worth a look!  Leon Greene (A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum) as Big C’s sidekick starts out as a little stereotypical chum chum disbelieving cheerio, but he takes up the cause wonderfully- though I don’t really understand why an English guy was dubbed for an English movie? The thirties via sixties style is also suave: sweet roadsters and English country car chases, cool suits, and great frocks all around.  Sigh, candlestick phones!  We have genuine frights, smart mystery, and fun cloak and dagger action along with great color and decent, scary effects.  If the eyes are the window to the soul indeed…shudder.  Though I’m not sure of the actual details, the rituals are realistic and the occult material is intelligently handled for a dang good time. Now if only the DVD- also titled The Devil Rides Out – wasn’t so damn tough to find!

 

Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970)– Well, in this Hammer’s fifth Dracula themed film, Big C has a sweet intro tying into his previous entry, 1968’s Dracula Has Risen from the Grave.  The occult circumstances leading to Dracula’s resurrection here are also lovely horror treats- creepy organ music, lightning crackles, and bright red oh so delightfully fake blood!  Even if Lee only has about a dozen mostly one-word lines, he’s still enchanting, suave, and lays on the kinky with Linda Hayden (Blood on Satan’s Claw) and Isla Blair (Battle of Britain). What can I say; he knows how to dominate a picture! While this outing suffers a little bit from lack of other stars- it’s tough to enjoy all these Brit blokes who all seem the same- the Victorian flavor, gore, and underlying cheeky are just right. So what if the cult rituals in the titular quest are over the top. You can read into all the blood, life, and naughty symbolism if you want, but Taste is also a lot of fun; everything we expect in a good old midnight movie.  I do grant that the plastic gardens are hokey, but I like that something special and stage-like intimacy where nothing but a good cape, red eyes, and pimpin’ fangs are needed.

 

Scars of Dracula – Roy Ward Baker (The Vampire Lovers) takes the helm for this 1970 entry in the Hammer series once again starring Christopher Lee as the eponymous count. The plot kind of sort of picks up from Taste the Blood of Dracula with the pre-requisite resurrection in the first few moments and sets the mood with booming orchestration, outdoor scenery, wild carriages, and cool castle interiors accented by red décor and bloody, pecked, and stabbed victims. Yes, the period design is cheap and the plot standard – a young village girl is attacked, angry townsfolk and the clergyman head off for Dracula’s known lair, one person doesn’t heed said village’s advice, a couple pursues him to the castle… The tale starts several times and takes too long with seemingly random players before the vamp action, and most of this set up could have been abandoned for an in medias res cold open. Expected series inconsistencies and a plodding lack of panache detract from the Stoker touches, but Lee looks good, mixing both violent and torturous intensity with suave and delicate mannerisms.  From casual dining and conversations to a seductive vampire bride and slightly hokey bat control, Lee has much more to do with these developments, and it’s wonderfully creepy. Likewise, Patrick Troughton (Doctor Who) is a seedy, hairy, hatchet wielding, and conflicted henchman. Though the nudity and bed hopping are a little more risqué, there could have been more and subtitles would clarify a lot! Yes, it’s somewhat typical with nothing new on the vampire theme, but Lee’s presence anchors the spooky iconography here.

 

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Dracula A.D. 1972 Numero 7 brings Dracula back once again-and this time, the titular year is where all the juice happens with Stephanie Beacham (The Colbys) and Caroline Munro (The Spy Who Loved Me).  The swanky scoring is a lot of fun, but director Alan Gibson (also of the follow up Satanic Rites of Dracula) wastes time on dated onscreen band performances. We don’t need lengthy 1972 establishing, and the now retro styles would have look cool old school if they weren’t so dang garish. We poke fun at the psychedelic, sure, but imagine how ugly current slasher horror films brimming with kids in the latest fashions are going to look in 40 years! The annoying hepcats wannabes here make things too bad English; Scream and Scream Again does the formula just a little bit better. Thankfully, Peter Cushing’s return as Grandpa Van Helsing is classier and action pimpin’ then all of the little boys put together! Of course, things kick up when Lee is resurrected and Cushing takes up the fight, but who knew Dracula was down with the swirl?  Pity he is only in a reluctant handful of scenes with another dozen obligatory lines.

 

The Satanic Rites of Dracula – This direct sequel and number eight in the Hammer Dracula cannon sticks to the contemporary designs from its 1972 predecessor with more faux Bondian opening titles, breasts, and bad zooms. Though the sets and scenery are a little bland, drab, and not as colorful as the previous outing, the blood, kinky vampire brides, and disturbing rituals get all the horror across just fine. It’s also neat to see tapes, slides, and old style investigations instead of high tech CSI.  The modern spy angle and same old Scotland Yard inspectors are, however, a little ho-hum in overtaking the expected vampness. Van Helsing’s credentials change to fit the themes here, but PC is still sweet- slapping people around to get his answers and taking long contemplative drags on his cigarette.  Big C commands a lot of attention with his strong, distinctive voice and speech, yet his silent and brutal sweeping in and conquering works in his handful of scenes here. There’s something so sensual about not always seeing the actual taking bite, just the fear before and the deadly euphoria after.  Yes, perhaps the ‘spies saving England from vampires’ plot might not always work, but the latent lesbian vampire action and orgasmic stakings go a long way for old school male audiences.

 

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To the Devil a Daughter – Though it may look old, this 1976 satanic thriller boasts a great cast- including reluctant occult expert Richard Widmark (Cheyenne Autumn), juicy dame Honor Blackman (Goldfinger), unaware but not so young and innocent would be nun Nastassja Kinski (Cat People), and fearing for the err of his ways Denholm Elliot (Raiders of the Lost Ark).  Now then, let’s top all that off with a downright frightening Big C, too!  This one is very bizarre to start; the rituals are totally kinky, and the intentions are absolutely disturbing.  Lee’s Father Michael is even scarier than his Dracula- perhaps because he is a real soulless man of flesh with such a wicked, wicked agenda.  Yes, the ending is a little flat- resorting to abstract demon talk and psychedelic colors after all that great intelligence and paranoia.  But it’s damn good in getting there, and I’m not sure why there’s so little fanfare about this one.  I really liked it!

Kbatz: A Peter Cushing Passion!

Respect Horror Pimp Peter Cushing!

By Kristin Battestella

 

Along with Christopher Lee, this unassuming and charming little man stood tall for Hammer Films and took on many memorable characters even before he blessed us as Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars. Bow!

 

The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) Director Terence Fisher (Sword of Sherwood Forest, not to mention 4 Frankenstein sequels) puts the Hammer spin on this Mary Shelley classic with more frame and focus on Peter Cushing’s mad scientist Baron Victor von Frankenstein than his monster creation Christopher Lee.  Robert Urquhart (Knights of the Round Table) is delightful as the tragic voice of reason, and Hazel Court (The Masque of the Red Death) adds the proper feminine screams, too.  Although the colorful Victorian style is typical and the old time science is downright phooey, the creepy tone, kinky undercurrent, and sinister plots build wonderfully. Even knowing how this tale plays out, there are still plenty of scares, suspense, and unethical monstrosities to be had here.

 

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The Revenge of Frankenstein – Finally, finally I’ve got my hands on this 1958 Hammer sequel!  Now called ‘Victor Stein of the Switzerland branch’, Peter Cushing (I see your lack of Sir Christopher and raise you a Grand Moff Tarkin!) is once again delightfully ruthless in his delivery and actions- and looking fine while at it, too. A 19th century doctor with ladies packing into his waiting room, hmm… He seems so reformed to start, helping the poor and suffering patients- but we should know better! Cushing’s wicked suave villainy trumps all the inconsistencies in this series.  Despite director Terence Fisher’s (helmer of all except Evil of Frankenstein) best efforts, at this point, I don’t even think it matters what order you watch Hammer’s Frankenstein films. Fortunately, the stylized gore and expected Victorian flavor make up for any errors- even if the tone is more English than Continental.  The laboratory is sweet, and the bodily transformation for the hunchbacked Karl (Oscar Quintak and Michael Gwynn) tells a lovely story. Frankenstein’s just misguided, isn’t he? This new body is a good thing, right? Unfortunately, the extremes for science are just too murderous for the brain to handle, and the scares, shocks, and freaky deformities are perfection.

 

The Hound of Baskervilles – A solid and demented colonial prologue opens this 1959 Sherlock Holmes treat in the expected Hammer Horror style, and oft director Terrence Fisher keeps the suspense and thrilling moments going. Our dynamite duo has some sweet indoor and outdoor photography and lush Victorian looks to play with, too.  Peter Cushing is speedy and witty as Holmes, with an extra suave pose and flair to his actions, and boy Christopher Lee looks so young and smashing!  He fits perfectly as the snotty heir presumptive and should have been a traditional romantic lead far more often. Andre Morell (Ben-Hur) is also quite the fun, capable sidekick as Watson, and likewise Francis de Wolff (Scrooge) as Mortimer keeps the plot chewed and juicy. This is a fast-paced hour and a half with a smartly timed and unraveling puzzle. I definitely wish Hammer would have continued a Sherlock series as planned. If the Doyle arena weren’t so crowded today, I’d love nuHammer to try its hand. I suppose each generation wants to put its stamp on the detective, and perhaps not all fans of the newfangled Holmes approaches will enjoy the dry wit, British humor (should I say humour?) or possibly stuffy style here. Cinematic tricks, visual cues, and action twists are added to the tale, sure. However, all the traditional magic here exceeds an old-fashioned audience’s expectations.  Longtime fans of the cast, Holmes, and Hammer designs will certainly delight.

 

The Brides of Dracula – Peter Cushing returns- without the titular Big D- for this 1960 Hammer sequel directed by Terence Fisher (also of the precursor Horror of Dracula).  Here the once again young, suave, taking names and staking dames Van Helsing puts the cross to Yvonne Monlaur (Circus of Horrors), Martita Hunt (Great Expectations, Anastasia) and Andree Melly (The Belles of St. Trinian’s).  Though the Hammer sets are a little familiar, naturally; the scary sound effects, Goth Victorian dressings, lots of candles, and plenty of red velvet work toward a great, old fashioned, classy atmosphere. This chick spin on Bram Stoker’s plotting is unique, juicy, and dangerous-all these sexy women with secrets, screams, and fangy hysteria!  This probably wasn’t the first of the Hammer Dracula series that I saw growing up, but it’s the one that sticks in my mind best- mostly because of a sweet climatic finale.  Granted the inconsistencies are iffy, but that windmill of danger, doom, and retribution is classic awesome.

 

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The Evil of Frankenstein – Baron Frankenstein is back!  Once again solo, Cushing handles this 1964 third film in the mad scientist focused Hammer set with gravitas and complexity.   Not so innocent assistant Sandor Eles (Countess Dracula), Kiwi Kingston (Hysteria) as the more traditionally styled monster, and creepy hypnotist Peter Woodworthpe (Inspector Morse) do drag a few scenes down.  However, there’s great spooky and demented music, delicate Victorian accents, cobwebbed castles, and all kinds of cool evil laboratory Rube Goldbergs to keep things pretty and entertaining.  Yes, longtime horror studies may notice the flashbacks and continuity here doesn’t always make sense.  Big whoop.  Other than a few inconsistencies and some screen or matte work, there’s actually very little to woefully date this movie- unlike modern effects laden films that rush for the now and get passé within five years.  Director Freddie Francis (Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors) keeps things in the ‘made to look old’ classy vein, with plenty of tragedy, smarts, and some fun horror hysterics, too.  Frankenstein uses an oil lamp as a weapon, beat that!

 

Frankenstein Created Woman – Pimp Cushing returns to his titular villainy for this 1967 sequel of sorts co-starring Susan Denberg (recognizable from the original Star Trek’s ‘”Mudd’s Women”) as his conflicted but deadly creation. The resurrection of the slightly more tender Baron thanks to his henchman Thorley Walters (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother) and Robert Morris (Quartermass and the Pit) is almost mythical, as is the suggestion of his work delving towards black magic or sorcery in the quest for higher understanding.  The philosophical concepts, cruelty, legal injustice, and soulful debates add dimension and horror depths. What happens to love, innocence, and inner beauty when a tormented soul is given a pretty new body? The Victorian stock and demented laboratory look great in establishing the radical and unethical experimentations, too.  In addition to great guillotine suggestions and smart uses of red wine symbolism and color, there’s some sweet murder and suspense brought forth by the almost ghostly crossover vengeance.  While some may find the plot too abstract or even goofy, the big scary questions that come with science going to far work beautifully with the period creepy. Scientific reincarnation, horror, spirituality- all in one Hammer delight!

 

Frankenstein Must be Destroyed – Okay, there are more series inconsistencies that might hamper this 1969 outing for some; in many ways, it seems like the Hammer Frankenstein films were themselves released out of order, go figure.  The derelict laboratory scares, lady screams, and medical thrills here are darker, more sinister, and brutal compared to the previous installment indeed.  Cush is totally freaky this go round- nasty from beginning to end with an acerbic delivery and vehement action both for and against coerced accomplices Simon Ward (Young Winston) and Veronica Carlson (also of Dracula Has Risen from the Grave). How could such a charming little old man play such a saucy bastard? Shudder.  The visual mix of finery, top hats, and spats clashing with dirty acts and bloody surgery send the period fine furnishings and Victorian protocol on its ear.  Returning director Terrence Fisher (must I?) keeps things very intense, well paced, and properly played for a complete science horror ride.  Cocaine use, ethics of medicine, lunacy- with all this juice, it’s easy to say to hell with film continuity!

 

The Vampire Lovers –Ingrid Pitt and Peter Cushing star in Hammer’s kinky 1970 adaptation of Carmilla, and this one all but has it all!  It doesn’t look dated one bit, is still very well paced, and keeps up the entertainment through out.  Very nice fog and castle moods, early 19th century frocks and wispy nightgowns, sparkling candelabras and jewelry- it all sets the tone for plenty of blood, fangs, bites, and lots and lots of boobs.  The askew, black and white dreamlike photography and scary outdoor locations set off the definite lesbian juiciness, but fans of girl on girl vampire action and those of straight horror can both enjoy alike. The virginal Madeline Smith (Live and Let Die) ups the vampire prey, Kate O’Mara (Dynasty) is also darkly enchanting, and Pippa Steele (of the follow up Lust for a Vampire) is a real screamer!  Okay, the opening narration is a bit much and the music is kind of loud but really, no quibbles here. Now if only the two sequels were readily available stateside!

 

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Twins of Evil – Another horror gem that goes by a dozen different titles and is tragically near impossible to find! Lovely playmates Mary and Madeleine Collinson join a zealous witch finder Cushing in this 1971 pseudo sequel prequel to The Vampire Lovers.  Even if the ladies may seem young or look a little too seventies ingénue to start, they are simply dynamite in their matching frocks and do fit the colonial style. Without subtitles, the accents and dubbing might be iffy for some, but so what.  It might also be tough to tell the girls apart initially, but bad girl Frieda makes herself known against good twin Maria, and the audience is treated to mistaken identity suspense, decent effects, and some sensual scares.  And oh, how Big Pete rocks that puritan look! He’s scary strict yet charismatic in his persecutions and latently kinky in beating and burning pretty girls. Cushing raises the evil fears and witchy terrors amid the vampness along with the slick Damien Thomas (Jane Eyre) as Count Karnstein. Who’s more the villain, the count who makes no secret of his bloodthirsty practices or the ringleader who burns the innocent?  Though juicy, some of the plotting here doesn’t make sense if you think too hard, for writer Tudor Gates (also Lust of the Vampire) may stray too far from the film’s predecessors and the Carmilla novel. Nevertheless, there’s great blood, boobs, black candles, and rituals to enjoy, along with a fun Katya Wyeth (A Clockwork Orange) appearing for Mircalla’s rising and seduction scenes.  Stroke that candle girl!

 

Horror Express The DVD transfer on this 1973 Peter Cushing and co. fright fest is damn bad, ripe with too dark to see images, background noise, and ridiculously soft dialogue and dubbing. The turn of the century Asia locale looks cheap, the archaeology and science of the time stinks, and the editing is poor in my cut up 85 minute print.  Nevertheless, Christopher Lee is young, juicy, and rockin’ the porn mustache! This cargo gone wrong tale with a splash of religion and aliens has a fun train bound cast of characters, all of them with something to hide. Sure, the effects are a little hokey, but the less is more mystery does well- and the scary red eyes work. There’s rapid isolation for the evil monsters to run amok, kinky implications, betrayal, tension among passengers, and ambiguity among our boys. Lee and Cushing- both good guys working together for a change!  Add an unexpected and fun appearance by Telly Savalas (Kojak), humor and great quips, even some genuinely scary and jumpy moments along with the contained paranoia and you’ve got a damn fine little horror movie. This one definitely deserves to be cleaned up- hopefully the recent blu-ray does some justice.  As much as I’m against modern remakes- and Lee would have to make a cameo appearance in any update- in the right hands, this contained, fearful formula could work anew.

 

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BayCon Horror Buzz – What’s Hot, What’s Not

The BayCon Horror panel was awesome! Nice seeing all of you and chatting with authors Laurel Anne Hill and J. Malcolm Stewart! I always enjoy taking notes on what we talk about and letting your feedback steer our show and feedback topics.

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For all of you who couldn’t make it, you might be wondering what the horror buzz is. Here is a list of what the panelist and audience talked about. Do you agree with the list? Would you like to add anything?

KEY:
+ means the majority liked it
– means the majority didn’t like it
? means none of us have seen it or have an opinion one way or another, or that it was a such a quick mention, we didn’t have time to discuss it.

Movies

+The Purge

+Oculus

+The Conjuring

+Devil

+V/H/S

+V/H/S 2

+Beneath

+Pig Hunt

+Troll Hunter

? Insidious

? Insidious 2

-Godzilla w/Brodrick

Books

+Jeffery Ford / Crackpot Palace

+The Orphans of the Creek / Richard S. Todd

+Stephen King / Full Dark No Stars

+Peter Straub / Shadowland & Ghost Story

+Seanan McQuire / Zombie trilogy

+Wrath James Waite / Voracious

+Peter Stenson / Fiend

+Kim Newman / Anno Dracula – Johnny Alucard

TV

+Penny Dreadful

+Dracula

+Hannibal

+Fargo

-Bitten

-Bates Motel

-Witches of East End

?Rosemary’s Baby

?American Horror Story

?Witches of Eastwick series

Coming up – we are excited about

? The Purge 2

? Omen Series

? Insidious 3

? Phantasm 5

? Conjuring 2

? Paranormal Activity 4

? found footage Friday the 13th

? new Poltergiest

Want a remake

Motel Hell

The Car

Terror Train

Mothra

Wish they weren’t gone – must watch

Hammer films

1951 The Thing

Full Moon – Subspecies, Vampire Journals

 

So, online crew, what are your thoughts?

Morbid Meals – Paprika Hendl with Mamaliga from Stoker’s DRACULA

EXAMINATION
My favorite vampire novel ever, hands down without question, is Bram Stoker’s immortal DRACULA.

This Victorian era novel may not be as thrilling as modern stories, but it is a snapshot of its era. Furthermore, part of the brilliance of the novel is the epistolary nature of its telling. For those not familiar with that term, that means it is told in the form of letters, diary and journal entries, telegrams, newspaper clippings, etc. This adds to the feeling of realness not only of the characters but their situation. You are there, glimpsing the past lives of these folks.

As part of his journals, the protagonist, Jonathan Harker, wrote about his trip through Europe, and he noted the meals that he ate along the way.

“I had for dinner, or rather supper, a chicken done up some way with red pepper, which was very good but thirsty. (Mem., get recipe for Mina.) I asked the waiter, and he said it was called ‘paprika hendl,’ and that, as it was a national dish, I should be able to get it anywhere along the Carpathians.”

It is from my tattered copy of Leonard Wolf’s excellent The Annotated DRACULA that I long ago found a traditional recipe for paprika hendl (also known by the name chicken paprikash), which itself comes from The Art of Viennese Cooking by Marcia Colman Morton.

Paprika Hendl
1 young fowl, about 4 pounds
2 tablespoons fat
2 large onions, chopped
2 tablespoons Hungarian sweet paprika
1/2 cup of tomato juice
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup sour cream

Later in his journey, he has a breakfast of mămăligă (which is essentially a baked polenta). Here is a traditional recipe.

Mămăligă
3 cups water
salt
1 cup corn meal
2 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup sour cream
4 slices of feta cheese (or other sharp cheese)

These two dishes, paprika hendl and mămăligă, have become a staple in my home after I discovered these recipes.  Though they were not eaten together in the story, my family loves to eat the chicken on a bed of polenta, so that has become our tradition. Below I share with you how we prepare the dishes together for one meal.

ANALYSIS
Serves: 5-6 people

Ingredients
Paprika Hendl
1 (5 to 6 pound) whole chicken, cut into pieces
3 Tbsp olive oil
salt and paprika to taste
1 cup chopped onion (about half an onion)
1 Tbsp sweet paprika
1 Tbsp smoked paprika
1/4 cup red wine (or white, if you prefer)
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup sour cream

Chicken broth
Chicken scraps from above
3 oz carrots, cubed
3 oz celery, cubed
3 oz onion, chopped
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp whole black peppercorns
1 bay leaf

Mămăligă
2 cups chicken broth
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup corn meal
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sour cream
4 slices of feta cheese (or other sharp cheese)

Method
To prepare the chicken

  1. If you bought a whole chicken, cut into manageable pieces.
  2. You can keep the bones in the drumsticks, thighs, and wings, if you like, but do separate the breast meat from the rib bones.
  3. Remove as much of the skin as you can. Set the chicken pieces aside. Save all of the scraps for the chicken broth.

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Making the chicken broth

  1. Into a 7-quart pressure cooker, place the chicken bones, excess fat and skin, giblets, gizzards, small bits of the wings that frustrate people to eat, etc.
  2. Chop the veggies and add them to the pressure cooker, along with the salt, peppercorns, and bay leaf.
  3. Pour in enough water to cover everything completely, but make sure NOT to go above the “maximum fill” line.
  4. Cover with the lid and lock it down. On the stove top, turn the heat to high and bring up to pressure.
  5. When you hear the pressure release whistle, reduce the heat to low, for a steady low hiss. Cook for 40 minutes.
  6. Release the pressure and open the cooker carefully.
  7. Strain the broth into a container. You’ll need 2 1/2 cups total for the recipes here. Save the rest for later use. This will keep in the freezer for up to six months.
  8. Discard the solid bits — they have given their all.
  9. Can you make broth without a pressure cooker? Sure, but it will need to simmer for at least two hours.

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Making the paprika hendl

  1. Place a 5 quart dutch oven onto a stove top burner at medium-high heat. Add olive oil and chicken. Season chicken lightly with salt and paprika to taste.
  2. Brown the chicken on all sides. Remove chicken and set aside.
  3. Add the chopped onion to the dutch oven. Cook until tender and translucent, but not browned.
  4. Stir in sweet and smoked paprika, wine, and broth. Mix well.
  5. Return chicken to the dutch oven, coating all the pieces with the sauce. Bring up to a boil for about a minute.
  6. Reduce the heat, cover the dutch oven, and let it simmer for 40 minutes, or until the chicken is fully cooked at 165 F (74 C) degrees.
  7. (This is the perfect time to make the mamaliga or another side dish of your choice. The instructions for mamaliga are below.)
  8. Remove the chicken to a serving platter and keep warm.
  9. Boil the sauce until reduced, for about 5 minutes. Stir in the sour cream and mix well. (I like to use a stick blender at this point; just be VERY careful, the sauce is extremely hot.)
  10. Serve chicken on a bed of mamaliga (or rice, pasta, potatoes, or whatever you like), and serve the sauce in a gravy boat or just pour over the chicken.

 

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Making the mămăligă

  1. In a 3-quart saucepan, bring chicken broth and salt to a boil.
  2. Wisk in the corn meal slowly in a steady stream. Add the milk. Cook over medium-high heat, continuing to whisk.
  3. When the mixture starts to bubble, turn down the heat to low, and cover the saucepan.
  4. For about 30 minutes you will need to stir the polenta at 5 minute intervals. A long-handled wooden spoon works best. The goal here is to keep the polenta from clumping and burning on the bottom of the saucepan.
  5. After the 30 minutes of slow stirring, remove from heat.
  6. Grease up a casserole dish. Preheat your oven to 400 F (200 C) degrees.
  7. Pour the polenta into the casserole, spread the sour cream on top, and then cover with cheese.
  8. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes.

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DISSECTION
Of course you *could* buy your chicken pre-cut into whatever pieces you like, but this is Morbid Meals! One of the things I want to advocate with these recipes is nose-to-tailslow food cooking. Step away from the boneless/skinless/FLAVORless chicken and canned broth. It doesn’t take long to cut up a whole chicken yourself.

Plus, then you can make your own chicken broth from the chicken bones and scraps. (Especially if you have a pressure cooker, there’s no reason not to make your own broth.) Besides, you can save a fair amount of money buying a 5 – 6 pound whole roasting chicken, or for a smaller family, a 4 pound “young” chicken.

When it comes to seasoning your chicken when you brown it, go with whatever you like. You can do just salt and pepper, or as I like, smoked paprika. In addition to that, my special secret ingredient for cooking chicken is Old Bay Seasoning. Trust me, it’s not just for seafood boils. It perks up the chicken broth, too.

Regarding the mamaliga, we usually do not bake with the sour cream and cheese as it is done traditionally. In that case, it really is pretty much a simple polenta, which is done at step 5. For special occasions, though, we bake it for the traditional mămăligă.

POST-MORTEM
We enjoy paprika hendl so much, my wife and I prepared 100 pounds of it for a medieval feast put on by our local College in the Society for Creative Anachronism. Furthermore, even with my dietary restrictions, I can still make this meal and enjoy quite a feast. With a whole chicken really being the only “expensive” part of this meal, it is one that you can enjoy often, as we certainly do.

I may never get to travel through the Carpathians and partake of the local cuisine. Yet with these recipes, I do feel like I am recreating some of that culinary adventure, and that connects me to the folklore that inspired Bram Stoker.

Morbid Meals – Poppy Seed Flat Bread from The Dracula Cookbook

EXAMINATION
Marina Polvay (1928-2002) was the author of one of my cherished cookbooks, The Dracula Cookbook (published in 1978 and again later in 2000).

Her love of Count Dracula inspired her to travel to Transylvania to find authentic recipes for her collection which eventually became this wonderful cookbook. The book is loaded with anecdotes from Romania along with history and descriptions of the culture from the land beyond the forest.

All of the recipes have a fun flair to them. Many have playful names, like “Shrimp Ghoulé”, and references to Dracula the fictional character, like “Black Forest Cake Nosferatu”. You will also find some wonderful, more traditional recipes, like “Chicken Liver Paprikash”.

The recipe that I want to share is “Poppy Seed Flat Bread”. Not only is this a traditional bread, but for those familiar with vampire lore, you know that counting poppyseeds keeps vampires distracted so you can escape from them. That makes this bread a handy and tasty defense against vampires, should you need it.

For the record, this recipe makes a flat risen bread, like focaccia, rather than something akin to tortillas, pita, or matzo.

ANALYSIS
Makes 1 Large Flat Loaf, roughly 12-15 pieces

2 cups warm water
3 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp molasses
2 pkgs granulated yeast
5 cups (700 g) all-purpose flour, split (see below)
2 tsp salt
4 Tbsp canola oil
yellow cornmeal, to sprinkle
pat of butter, or non-stick spray
1 egg, well beaten
2-3 Tbsp poppy seeds

  1. In a large bowl, combine the water, honey, and molasses, and yeast. Let sit for about 5 minutes to activate the yeast.
  2. Add 2 cups (280g) flour and salt. Mix together with a wooden spoon for about two minutes.
  3. Add the remaining 3 cups (420g) flour and knead the dough for about one minute.
  4. Pour the oil over the dough and work it in, kneading until the oil is absorbed, for about two minutes.
  5. Cover the bowl with a clean, dry towel and set is aside in a warm place until it doubles in bulk, about 50 minutes.
  6. Punch down the risen dough, turn it out onto a floured board and knead for another minute.
  7. Grease an 11″x17″ jelly-roll pan with the butter or non-stick spray, and then sprinkle with cornmeal to cover the whole pan. Shake out any loose extra cornmeal.
  8. Roll the dough out on a floured surface then place it onto the sheet pan, stretching to fill the entire pan.
  9. Cover again and let rise for another 30 minutes.
  10. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into roughly 3″ squares. The dough will stay bound together, but it this will make it possible to break the bread into pieces once it is baked.
  11. Brush the top with the beaten egg and then sprinkle with the poppy seeds. Resist the urge to count the poppy seeds as you do so.
  12. Place the dough on the middle rack of your oven.
  13. Bake at 375 F degrees for 50-55 minutes, until the bread has a firm, golden brown crust.

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DISSECTION
The original recipe suggested the use of an 11″x17″ jelly-roll pan, which I did not have. I only had a quarter sheet pan which is about 9″x13″. The dough fit with no issues, though presumably baked thicker than it otherwise would have. By the way, I did not know there was a difference between a “Jelly roll pan” and a “cookie sheet”. Wikipedia explains, “A sheet pan that has a continuous lip around all four sides may be called a jelly roll pan. A pan that has at least one side flat, so that it is easy to slide the baked product off the end, may be called a cookie sheet.”

I supplied the gram weights above for standard all-purpose flour so that the recipe can be altered to use any other flour, like a gluten-free mix, in exact substitution.

The traditional directions above require a lot of elbow grease. Feel free to use a standing mixer with a dough hook if you desire.

POST-MORTEM
I am on a gluten-free diet, but I allowed myself a piece of this bread. I made it the traditional way so I would know what it is supposed to be like when I make it gluten-free later. I could not help myself after the house smelled SO GOOD while it baked. I had forgotten what that smell was like. The bread did not disappoint either. So good! I highly recommend it.

Oh, by the way, that myth about eating poppy seeds causing you to fail a drug test is true, according to Snopes.com and Mythbusters.

As for the myth regarding vampires counting them thus allowing you to escape, well, according to Dracula III:Legacy, they can count REALLY fast.

Kbatz: Dracula 2000

Dracula 2000 A Guilty Pleasure Fun Fest

By Kristin Battestella

The 19th century had Bram Stoker’s original Dracula, the 20th Century had the likes of Nosferatu, Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee, Gary Oldman, and more scary, sensual, or comedic vampire spins. The turn of the millennium, however, had Dracula 2000 – producer Wes Craven’s authorized revision of now dated camp, clichés, twists, and so bad its good delights.

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Alerted by the amount of impressive security around her boss Matthew Van Helsing’s (Christopher Plummer) antique shop, Solina (Jennifer Esposito), her boyfriend Marcus (Omar Epps), and his team of thieves (Sean Patrick Thomas and Danny Masterson) break into Van Helsing’s vault, steal a dazzling silver coffin, and inadvertently unleash the imprisoned Count Dracula (Gerard Butler) on their getaway plane. Once the plane crashes outside New Orleans, Dracula quickly makes vampire brides (Jeri Ryan and Colleen Fitzpatrick) as he searches for Mary (Justine Waddell) – a young woman who shares his visions thru a unique blood connection. Van Helsing and his assistant Simon (Jonny Lee Miller) pursue Dracula and the undead in his wake – but can they stop him before Dracula takes Mary as his next vampire bride?

Although it is probably common knowledge today, I don’t want to spoil everything about the solid Van Helsing family plots, vampire blood connections, smart use of leeches, and Biblical concepts anchoring Dracula 2000. The first time you see it; these unique topics from director Patrick Lussier (My Bloody Valentine 3D) and co-writer Joel Soisson (Highlander: Endgame) stand out in very pleasing, memorable twists. However, the more one watches Dracula 2000, the more flaws and campy over substance mistakes appear. Despite the tremendous potential of these unique vampire spins, this is unfortunately not a Dracula adaptation for the new millennium, but rather a very of the moment, cliché vamp tale. From its then-hip cast, action styles, and dated fashions to turn of this century tunes and ridiculously obvious product placements, most of the excessive flash and over the top, uh, excess of Dracula 2000 has not stood the test of time. Longtime Dracula fans will spot book references like Dr. Seward, Carfax Abbey, and other Stoker connections, but there should have been more of these nuggets included even if you are updating the tale. It’s a pity, as this picture could have been a lot more than just a cheesy, pop excuse for some great bad, very bad to the point of quotable lines. I still use, “I don’t drink….coffee.” Dracula 2000 is certainly watchable and even down right entertaining if you indulge in the formulaic fun, but you have to forget the glorious potential and what could have been in order to enjoy.

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Naturally, part of the joy in watching Dracula 2000 is Gerard Butler, and I actually don’t really like him without a beard. That aside, there’s still enough hotness here from the 300 star, oh yes – he’s wet, open-shirted, black trench coat wearing, kicking butt, and biting necks. Thanks to his more recent action or sour romantic comedy films, one probably wouldn’t think of Butler for a horror movie, much less as a vampire these days. Here, however, he’s the perfect mix of pale, svelte, mysterious, bewitching, and deadly. Granted, some of the vamp flying leaps and theatrics that were so popular fifteen years ago are over the top, but Butler also keeps the eponymous Count just cheeky enough alongside his angry, century long battle with Christopher Plummer (The Sound of Music, Beginners) as Van Helsing. He’s always classy and simply perfection, yet Plummer’s Van Helsing is also wonderfully shady at the same time. He’s the good guy gent who has royally messed up, yet we trust his wise ways and vampire hunting skills to out do Dracula. Plummer adds a much needed elder statesmen panache to Dracula 2000 – his potential father, son, and daughter emotions belies a hope that the film will stay a serious undead with consequences picture. Much as Dracula 2000 is remembered for Gerard Butler’s youthful glory and his 2,000-year-old twist, it’s a pity Van Helsing ends up as a secondary character. Though Direct to Video retconned sequels Dracula II: Ascension and Dracula III: Legacy do follow, today’s model would have been to keep stars like Butler and Plummer for some Hammer-esque, big ticket franchising. I would have liked to see that!

I liked Justine Waddell’s period piece turns in Great Expectations and The Woman in White – her later work perhaps proves she has the best acting skills of all the ladies here – but her Mary in Dracula 2000 nearly sinks the entire picture. Even for the Y2K era, Mary is woefully dated, too innocent, simple, and small. She’s erroneously set up as Dracula’s main foil, but the telepathic connections and when and how she uses her ties to the vampire are conveniently utilized as needed for a plot deus ex machina or cool, dreamy effects. It’s not fresh, since Dracula and Mary so uncomfortably lack chemistry, and it’s simply unbelievable that she is the object of his affection and main foe in this battle of undead wits. Their dynamic just doesn’t register – this is the one? Really? I know it is a stupid thing to notice, but Mary also wears little flip-flop sandals for the duration of Dracula 2000’s vamp mayhem. This is just such impractical footwear when battling the nosferatu! I’d much rather have seen the blood ties between Van Helsing and Dracula explored. Two men at odds sharing such a personal, suggestive connection – now that would have been interesting! Thankfully, Jonny Lee Miller (Hackers) works as the then-cool hipster turned sudden vampire hunter in training. Yes, he has some greatly stupid but fun lines amid the preposterous slow motion action. His Simon, however, looks good with the crossbow and vampire hunting gadgetry, and Miller’s scenes with Plummer are delightful. The Van Helsing legacy comes thru far better in their early scenes than in the inexplicable Mary metaphysical moments. Besides, “Never, ever fuck with an antiques dealer!” is far more memorable.

 

Fortunately, Dracula 2000 is also littered with fun to spot appearances by everyone and their grandmother from back in the day. Some performances are better than others, some live longer than they should, and most of them have ridiculously bad lines, yet this, “Hey, it’s that guy!” humor adds to the audience’s good time. From Omar Epps (House) and Jennifer Esposito’s (Blue Bloods) seriously campy and innuendo-laden dialogue to brief appearances by Danny Masterson (That 70’s Show), Sean Patrick Thomas (Save the Last Dance), Lochlyn Munro (Scary Movie), and Shane West (ER), there’s a pun for everyone. And did I mention Nathan Fillion (Firefly) as Mary’s resident Priest?  Colleen Fitzpatrick, better known as then-hot singer Vitamin C, gets to stand beside her own CD for posterity, and Star Trek’s own Seven of Nine Borg hottie Jeri Ryan asks a victim if he’s ever thought about making it with a TV star. I also love how Dracula’s brides all magically get curly hair after being bitten – nyuk nyuk nyuk!

While some of the special effects and paranormal designs in Dracula 2000 still look pleasing, other makeup and visuals look very poor compared to today’s high definition and CGI. Again, the of the moment need to look cool trumps any possibilities for lavish or timeless style, and what suave scenes are present are purely there for the style over substance. What is that red hallway with all the breezy red sheers supposed to be? Some of the aforementioned slow motion also contrasts with the too fast and flashy editing at times. It all looks nice and fancy when it wants to be, but the pace can be undecided if you think about it too much. Of course, all the Virgin Records symbolism, logos, Megastore fronts, and products also immediately date Dracula 2000 – our heroine works in a record store that no longer exists stateside! But it’s cool, this record store had, like, escalators, dude. The loud, unnecessary music is so in your face, and honestly, I don’t think any of it is very good. Great New Orleans locations are somehow not as cool as they could be either thanks to the cliché, unsexy Mardi Gras scenes. Clues hidden in the quick, blink and you miss it montages, dreams, and visions also don’t make sense on an initial viewing – Dracula 2000 should be viewed once for the tale, twice for the twists, and everything else thereafter is a giddy pleasure.

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Younger, contemporary audiences may not pick up on all the dated charm in Dracula 2000, but today’s generation can enjoy the indulgence of it all along with vampire viewers and fans of the cast. Keep Dracula 2000 for a goofy, brainless late night alone or for a mature Halloween party drinking game. It’s campy, cheesy, and of its time, but a blood sucking good occasion nonetheless.

A Vampire’s Guide To New Orleans

A VAMPIRE’S GUIDE TO NEW ORLEANS

By

Steven P. Unger

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I wrote this article on New Orleans as an homage to one of my favorite cities, one still fresh in my mind and heart after a long-postponed revisit there as an invitee to the Vampire Film Festival’s Midsummer Nightmare last year.

All of the photos in this article are my own, except for the portrait of the Compte de St. Germain and the two pictures otherwise credited.  Most of the text is a compendium of others’ words and research.  With apologies to anyone I may have inadvertently left out, my online research for this chapter led me to articles from hubpages.com; Kalila K. Smith (whose Vampire Tour I can recommend from personal experience—see http://www.zoominfo.com/p/Kalila-Smith/178024410); New Orleans Ghosts.com; GO NOLA; Brian Harrison; Haunted Shreveport Bossier.com; and Frommers.com.  I’ve borrowed freely from all of these sources and recommend them highly to those who would like to delve more deeply into the secrets of this unique city.

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If you have ever walked the dark, rainy streets of the French Quarter at night, you have seen the voodoo shops selling their gris-gris and John-the-Conqueror Root.  You’ve seen the old woman in the French Market whose pointing finger foretells your death  And if you know the right person to ask and you ask in the right way, you’ll be shown to the vampire clubs.

I’ve been in those clubs and seen people who believe with their heart, body, and soul that they are real, live vampires.  And some of the people in those clubs are scared to death of a select group of vampires who have only appeared there a few times, and always in the darkest of night.

By day, of course, the vampire clubs are closed and locked or turned back into regular tourist bars . . .

–Crazy Horse’s Ghost

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St. Louis Cemetery (Photo Courtesy of David Yeagley)

Like the Spanish Moss that drapes the trees of the nearby bayous, mystery and the occult have shrouded New Orleans since its birth.  For hundreds of years, families there have practiced a custom called “sitting up with the dead.”  When a family member dies, a relative or close family friend stays with the body until it is placed into one of New Orleans’ above-ground tombs or is buried.  The body is never left unattended.

There are many reasons given for this practice today—the Old Families will tell you it’s simply respect for the dead—but this tradition actually dates back to the vampire folklore of medieval Eastern Europe.  First, the mirrors are covered and the clocks are stopped.  While sitting up with the deceased, the friend or family member is really watching for signs of paranormal activity, e.g.,. if a cat is seen to jump over, walk across, or stand on top of the coffin; if a dog barks or growls at the coffin; or if a horse shies from it, these are all signs of impending vampirism.  Likewise, if a shadow falls over the corpse.  At that point, steps are taken to prevent the corpse from returning from the dead.

Ways to stop a corpse—especially a suicide—from becoming a vampire include burying it face down at a crossroads.  Often family members place a sickle around the neck to keep the corpse from sitting up; stuff the mouth with garlic and sew it closed; or mutilate the body, usually by decapitating the head and placing it at the bottom of the feet.  But the most common remedy for impending vampirism is to drive a stake into the corpse, decapitate it, then burn the body to ashes.  This method is still believed to be the only sure way to truly destroy the undead.

THE CASKET GIRLS

Ask any member of the Old Families who the first vampires to come to New Orleans were, and they’ll tell you the same:  it was the Casket Girls.

Much of the population that found their way to New Orleans in the early 1700s were unwelcome anywhere else:  deported galley slaves and felons, trappers, gold-hunters and petty criminals.  People who wouldn’t be noticed if they went missing.

Sources vary on the specifics, but the basic story is that the city’s founders asked French officials to send over prospective wives for the colonists.  They obliged and after months at sea these young girls showed up on the docks, pale and gaunt, bearing only as many belongings as would fit inside a wooden chest or “casquette,” which appears to have been the 18th Century equivalent of an overnight bag.  They were taken to the Ursuline Convent, which still stands today, where the girls were said to have resided until the nuns could arrange for marriages.

Some accounts say they were fine young women, virgins brought up in church-run orphanages; some say they were prostitutes.  But there are many who swear they were vampires, vampires who continue to rise from their “casquettes” on the third floor to break through the windows and hurricane shutters—windows and shutters that always seem to need repairing after the calmest of nights—to feed upon the transient crowds that for centuries have filled the darkened alleys of the Quarter.

Finally in 1978, after centuries of rumors and stories, two amateur reporters demanded to see these coffins.  The archbishop, of course, denied them entrance.  Undaunted, the next night the two men climbed over the convent wall with their recording equipment and set up their workstation below. The next morning, the reporters’ equipment was found strewn about the lawn.  And on the front porch steps of the convent were found the almost decapitated bodies of these two men.  Eighty percent of their blood was gone.  To this day, no one has ever solved the murders.

LE COMPTE DE ST. GERMAIN

 

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Le Compte de St. Germain and the Balcony at Ursuline and Royal

If there is one person who encapsulates the lure and the danger of the vampire, it is the Compte de Saint Germain.  Making his first appearance in the court of Louis XV of France, the Comte de Saint Germain endeared himself to the aristocrats by regaling them with events from his past.  An alchemist by trade, he claimed to be in possession of the “elixir of life,” and to be more than 6,000 years old.

At other times the Count at claimed to be a son of Francis II Rakoczi, the Prince of Transylvania, born in 1712, possibly legitimate, possibly by Duchess Violante Beatrice of Bavaria. This would account for his wealth and fine education.  It also explains why kings would accept him as one of their own.

Contemporary accounts from the time record that despite being in the midst of many banquets and invited to the finest homes, he never ate at any of them.  He would, however, sip at a glass of red wine.  After a few years, he left the French court and moved to Germany, where he was reported to have died. However, people continued to spot him throughout Europe even after his death.

In 1903, a handsome and charismatic young Frenchman named Jacques Saint Germain, claiming to be a descendant of the Compte, arrived in New Orleans, taking residence in a house at the corner of Royal and Ursuline streets. Possessing an eye for beauty, Jacques was seen on the streets of the French Quarter with a different young woman on his arm every evening.  His excursions came to an abrupt end one cold December night, when a woman’s piercing scream was heard coming from Jacques’ French Quarter home.  The scream was quickly followed by a woman who flung herself from the second story window to land on the street below.  As bystanders rushed to her aid, she told them how Saint Germain attacked and bit her, and that she jumped out of the window to escape.  She died later that evening at Charity Hospital in New Orleans.

By the time the New Orleans police kicked in the door of Saint Germain’s home, he had escaped.  However, what they did find was disturbing enough.  The stench of death greeted the nostrils of the policemen, who found not only large bloodstains in the wooden flooring, but even wine bottles filled with human blood.  The house was declared a crime scene and sealed off.  From that evil night to the present day, no one has lived in that home in the French Quarter.  It is private property and all taxes have been paid to date, but no one has been able to contact the present owner or owners.  The only barriers between the valuable French Quarter property and the outside world are the boarded-up balcony windows and a small lock on the door.  Whispers of Jacques sightings are prevalent, and people still report seeing him in the French Quarter.  Could it be the enigmatic Compte checking up on his property?

 

ANNE RICE AND THE VAMPIRE CHRONICLES

 There is no one who has done more to bring the vampire into the New Age than Anne Rice, born and bred in New Orleans, with her novel Interview with the Vampire and the films and books that followed.  Those who have profited mightily from the popularity of True Blood and Twilight owe her a great debt.

The ultra-retro St. Charles Avenue Streetcar will take you close to Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, the gravesite of Louis de Pointe du Lac’s (Lestat’s companion and fellow vampire in Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles) wife and child and where Louis was turned into a vampire by Lestat.

The Styrofoam tomb from the film Interview with the Vampire is gone now, but you can easily find the site where it stood, the wide empty space in the cemetery nearest the corner of Coliseum and Sixth Street.

During the filming of Interview with the Vampire, the blocks between 700 and 900 Royal Street in the French Quarter were used for exterior shots of the home of the vampires Louis, Lestat, and Claudia, trapped  through time with an adult mind in the body of a six-year-old girl.  In fact, the streets there and around Jackson Square were covered in mud for the movie as they had been in the 1860s when the scenes took place.

The perfectly preserved Gallier House at 1132 Royal Street was Anne Rice’s inspiration for the vampires’ house, and very close to that is the Lalaurie House, at 1140 Royal Street.  Delphine Lalaurie, portrayed by Kathy Bates in American Horror Story:  Coven, was a real person who lived in that house and was indeed said to have tortured and bathed in the blood of her slaves—even the blood of a slave girl’s newborn baby—to preserve her youth.  She was never seen again in New Orleans after an angry mob partially destroyed her home on April 10, 1834.  There is a scene in American Horror Story where Delphine escapes from the coven’s mansion and sits dejectedly on the curb in front of her old home. A private residence now, some locals still swear that the Lalaurie House is haunted, and that the clanking of chains can be heard through the night.

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Built in 1789, Madame John’s Legacy (632 Dumaine Street) is the oldest surviving residence in the Mississippi Valley.  In Interview with the Vampire, caskets are shown being carried out of the house as Louis’ (Brad Pitt) voice-over describes the handiwork of his housemates Claudia and Lestat:  “An infant prodigy with a lust for killing that matched his own.  Together, they finished off whole families.”

RESOURCES FOR VAMPIRES

 

As a service to this most vampire-friendly city (http://www.vampirewebsite.net/vampirefriendlycities.html), the New Orleans Vampire Association describes itself as a “non-profit organization comprised of self-identifying vampires representing an alliance between Houses within the Community in the Greater New Orleans Area.  Founded in 2005, NOVA was established to provide support and structure for the vampire and other-kin subcultures and to provide educational and charitable outreach to those in need.”

Their Web site also points out that “every year since Hurricane Katrina, the founding members of NOVA have taken food out on Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas to those who are hungry and homeless.”  (See http://www.neworleansvampireassociation.org/index.html.)

FANGTASIA, named with permission from HBO after the club featured in True Blood, is an affiliation of New Orleans-based musicians and film and TV producers who for three years have presented a multi-day vampire-centric event of the same name, the first two years at 1135 Decatur and last year at the Howlin’ Wolf.  You can follow their plans and exploits via their blog athttp://www.fangtasiaevent.com/fangtasia-blog/.

Next year FANGTASIA hopes to create “the South by Southwest of Global Vampire Culture” at an as yet undisclosed location in Greater New Orleans.  As they describe it:

Moving beyond this third consecutive year, FANGTASIA is building a broader international draw that will bring fans to not only party at club nights, but also attend conferences, elegant fashion shows, film & TV screenings, celebrity events as well as an  international Halloween/party gear buyers’ market.

Participants will experience gourmet sensations, explore our sensuous city and haunted bayous… as well as epically celebrate the Global Vampire Culture in all its sultry, seductive, diverse and darkly divine incarnations.  Additionally, FANGTASIA is strategically poised months prior to Halloween to provide corporate sponsors and vendors a perfect window to connect with their core demographic.  This also allows FANGTASIA to actively support and promote existing major Halloween events in New Orleans and beyond.

On the subject of vampiric Halloween events, for 25 years the Anne Rice Vampire Lestat Fan Club (http://arvlfc.com/index.html) has presented the annual Vampire Ball (http://arvlfc.com/ball.html), now as part of the four-day UndeadCon (http://arvlfc.com/undeadcon.html) at the end of October; and on the weekend nearest Halloween Night (for example, November 1, 2014) the Endless Night Festival and New Orleans Vampire Ball takes place at the House of Blues (http://www.endlessnight.com/venue/).

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The Boutique du Vampyre (http://feelthebite.com/boutique2013.html) is a moveable (literally—they’re known to change locations on short notice) feast of vampire and Goth-related odds and ends, many of them locally made.  There are books as well—you may even find a copy of In the Footsteps of Dracula:  A Personal Journey and Travel Guide if they’re not sold out.  Their Web site itself holds a surprise treat:  a link to a free video cast of the first two seasons of Vampire Mob(http://vampiremob.com/Vampire_Mob/Vampire_Mob.html), which is just what the title implies.

Finally, no visit to the Crescent City would be complete, for Vampire and Mortal alike, without a taste of absinthe (http://www.piratesalleycafe.com/absinthe.html), or even more than a taste.  There is a ritual to the preparation and serving of absinthe that should not be missed; one of the sites that does this authentically is the Pirates Alley Café and Absinthe House at 622 Pirates Alley.

***

            Steven P. Unger is the best-selling author of In the Footsteps of Dracula:  A Personal Journey and Travel Guide, published and distributed by World Audience Publishers (http://www.amazon.com/Footsteps-Dracula-Personal-Journey-Travel/dp/1935444530/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262485478&sr=1-1).

            In the Footsteps of Dracula can be ordered from your local bookstore or online atwww.amazon.com,. www.amazon.co.ukwww.barnesandnoble.comwww.amazon.fr,www.amazon.dewww.amazon.com/Kindle, or with free delivery worldwide fromwww.bookdepository.co.uk.

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https://www.amazon.com/author/steven_p._unger_wordworker

Movie Quiz & Prize Contest : Horror of Dracula

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Answer one of these questions (that has not already been answered) in the comments and win a signed copy of my book, Artistic License.

1. What Famous studio produced Horror or Dracula?

2. Who wrote the screenplay adapted from Bram Stoker?

3. What famous monster remake did director Terence Fisher helm the previous year?

4. Name another film pairing Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing.

5. Which film in the Dracula series does not star Christopher Lee?

Comment below to be entered into the drawing for a copy of my book, Artistic License. 

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KBatz: Nosferatu (1922)

Nosferatu Still A Classic

By Kristin Battestella

Yes, I am going to review, recommend, and praise a silent film.  Not just any silent film, perhaps one of the best known pre talkie films.  Film historians who treasure The Great Train Robbery and Lon Cheney’s Phantom of the Opera or London After Midnight know where I’m coming from.  I’m probably unusual in my generation for liking silent films, and I doubt any teeny bopper today could stand visuals without effects or booming sounds and all that hype.  Nosferatu, however, transcends time and technology with its haunting images, eerie score, and spooky story.

For the uninitiated youth, I should explain that silent movies aren’t really without sound.  A musical score accompanies the onscreen action, and dialogue is show onscreen via place cards in between cuts.  Some of it is silly, with too many exclamation points and women swooning, but this was the style of the time.  I find something special in bob haircuts, engraved tin plates, and nitrate film.  Film restoration and preservation of classics such as Nosferatu is a necessary cause when remembering each stop on the twentieth century’s technological timeline.

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Lawyer Reinfeld sends the newly betrothed Harker to Transylvania to secure real estate for Count Orlock (Max Schrek).  The Count, however, gives credence to local legends of vampires.  He sleeps during the day, and Harker discovers his coffins filled with earth.  While Harker is trapped in Transylvania, Orlock sails to Bremen and prays upon the plague fearing city.

The story sounds familiar, naturally, so familiar, in fact, that Bram Stoker’s widow-yes she was still alive in 1922-sued the producers of Nosferatu for its similarities to Dracula.  The German movie makers agreed to make several changes-including the characters names.  Today’s English versions have again replaced the German names, but Orlock and Nosferatu have become almost as iconic as Bela Lugosi’s widowed peaked Dracula.

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Nosferatu’s director F. W. Murnau makes the most of what was technologically available at the dawn of the motion picture. Lighting, shadows, and of course smoke and mirrors add depth to the two dimension silver screen.  It’s not that scary now- today’s audience is too aware to be creeped out when Nosferatu appears and disappears, but the old fashioned over the top acting gets the spooks across. Greta Schroder’s wide eyes and biting knuckles look a bit silly, sure, but they also look like some genuine fright.  Likewise, Max Schreck is still as oft parodied and played as Dracula.  When we see a teen horror comedy with the dork in pointed ears and rat teeth, we always recall the classic clips from Noseferatu- certain scenes always appear in spoofs or vampire documentaries.  Schreck’s stilted walk and claw like hands give the underside of those pretty, sexy vampires.  We love vampire hotties like Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise, but people in early twentieth Europe feared unnatural and decrepit creatures like what Nosferatu  brings onscreen.

Hyper audiences today won’t sit through the relatively short at 94 minutes Nosferatu, but classical music lovers ought to adore this and other silent films.  Nosferatu’s score gives all the beauty and fear it needs to and then some.  Music takes on the emotional workload for the lack of words, although public domain has given Nosferatu different scores, times, and dvd editions. Collectors have their pick of spooky versions to praise and powerful scores that tug at one’s heart strings.  Rare editions of Nosferatu have become quite pricey, so why do films with only music to carry the visual lose the love?  (Ahem, Dad!)

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Once thought lost and destroyed, Nosferatu has also found its way to low budget videos and DVDs.  Look for it on television late one October night or pick up the dvd in your store’s bargain bin.  Many cheap collection sets exist with a dozen or more b horror flicks together.  Check online for what’s available where. If you must give the tweens something worthy, try similar modern films like the 1979 Nosferatu remake and John Malkovich’s Oscar nominated turn in Shadow of the Vampire.

Just because something has shoddy effects, over the top acting, and no sound, doesn’t make it a bad film.  Appreciate Nosferatu with a spot in your Halloween movie marathon.

In The Footsteps Of Dracula

Have you ever wanted to experience the trip of a lifetime. Steve Unger has taken that trip and he talks about it in his travel guide and history book: In The Footsteps Of Dracula. The book starts off with Steve Unger describing why he had to write this book. He was vistiting Whitby, England and was on Cemetery hill  where in the Book Dracula, Lucy and Mina sat in their favorite spot as Dracula slept below them. Steve said in his mind’s eye he could see Dracula rising from from the grave to feed on the living. He then felt the spirit of Bram Stoker and the ghost of Vlad The Impaler urging him to take the journey and tell the stories that they no longer could.

In the Footsteps Of Dracula then gets into visiting the locations of Bram Stoker’s dracula. You get to hear the author’s experiences as he visits where Dracula came ashore on the Demeter, cemetery hill in Whitby, The Dracula Trail and locations in Dublin, Romania and London. The author describes what the locations look like now and how they would have appeared in Bram Stoker’s time. He also gives quotes from Dracula to describe it further.

The book also tells Bram Stoker’s story. You get to hear how he was inspired to write Dracula, the places where Dracula was written and you hear about the reactions to Bram’s work when it was first released. I  really enjoyed reading the first review ever written for Dracula and hearing about the staged readings of Dracula before the book was released.

Not satisfied to give you information on Dracula alone, Steve Unger also gets into the history of Vlad The Impaler who Dracula was based on. Steve  gives examples of how Dracula compares to Vlad by giving quotes from Dracula that reference him. Hearing the story behind Vlad Tepes was like reading a horror novel itself. The author talks about how he impaled over 20,000 men, women and children, he boiled people alive, burned down a building full of people and you hear about his battles to keep his throne.

Its also told how Vlad’s father was a member of The Royal Order Of The Dragon which was a branch of The Brotherhood of the Wolf. One of their beliefs was that they could transform into wolves. While reading In The Footsteps Of Dracula, I felt that Vlad Tepes seemed like a much more horrifying character then Count Dracula and I loved hearing his story. Steve also visits all the places associated with Vlad Tepes,  including his tomb and Castle Dracula.

What really makes the author’s story come to life is the beautiful photos in this book. There are 185  pictures which really show a sharp contrast between some of the ruins of various castles to the tourist areas where people are trying to cash in on Dracula.  Some of my favorite photos was of the reading room in the British Museum, cemetery hill overlooking the ocean, Vlad’s tomb on Snagov Island and the photo of the wolf dragon.

If you ever do make this trip, Steve Unger also tells how much everything costs and the best ways to get to where you want to go. This is what makes this book the ultimate travel guide. You get pictures, a history behind all the locations and you hear about the best places to stay. I also loved how you get to hear about the people that Steve met on the way. He tells about how he met several goths on his journey and they here the friendliest people you would ever want to meet. This is an amazing book that made Count Dracula, Vlad The Impaler and Bram Stoker’s stories more fascinating.

Even if you never get to walk in the footsteps of Dracula you can still own a copy of this excellent book. You can either buy one on Amazon or you could win your very own autographed copy of In The Footsteps Of Dracula by answering two questions. What year was Bram Stoker’s Dracula published and Who was your favorite on screen Dracula and why? Email your answers to horroraddicts@gmail.com. The best answer gets the book. Good luck!

Upcoming Events

October 13th – 14th / Monster Con / San Antonio, Texas /Monster con includes a zombie shooting contest, lil ghoulie play area, a zombie beauty contest. There will also be appearances by horror authors: Rhiannon Frater, Gabrielle Faust, Joe McKinney and Juan Manuel Perez. For more information go to: www.monster-con.com.

October 19th – 20th / South Texas Horror Con / McAllen, Texas / This convention includes FX Make-up tutorials, ghost hunting panels, a costume contest and appearances by fantasy artist Ken Kelly, author Belladonna Drakul, Carlo Barberi, Ernie Hudson and many more. There will also be a tattoo and piercing expo. For more information go to: www.southtexashorror.com.

October 26th /Dracula: A Ballet To Die For / Redwood City, CA / The Peninsula Ballet Theatre celebrates Halloween with their production of Dracula. Set to a haunting music soundtrack with international guest dancers from Europe, this ballet plays out the struggle of love after death. Ticket prices  start at $35. For more information go to: www.peninsulaballet.org.

October 26th – 27th / The Paranormous Costume Ball / Goldfield, Nevada / This is a paranormal convention hosted by Michael and Lindsay Knight from Knights Paranormal Research Society. This event includes paranormal tours, a costume contest, a treasure hunt and live performances from Grocery Store Rejects and Plane Without a pilot. For more information go to: www.ghosttownoperations.com.

October 26th / Anne Rice’s Wolf Gift Ball /New Orleans, LA / This masquerade ball will include performances by Saints Of Ruin, Lestat the band and Warchild. There will also be a dealers room and author panel discussions  by Sherrilyn Kennon and Lewis Aleman and members of the paranormal romance guild. For more information go to: www.arvlfc.com.

Free Fiction Friday: Dream of Dracula

For this week’s Free Fiction Friday selection we have to take a trip in our time machine back to the year 1972 for A Dream Of Dracula by Leonard Wolf. This is a non-fiction book that tells the history of the character Dracula. The book starts off by talking about the historic figures that inspired Bram Stoker to write Dracula, such as Romanian ruler Vlad the Impaler and Baron Gilles de Rais who was a French serial killer with a taste for blood.

From there the book talks about the books that inspired Dracula including Mathew G. Lewis’s The Monk and John Polidori’s The Vampyre: A Tale. It also gives a detailed biography on Bram Stoker and talks about his writing process for Dracula. There are even chapters in this book that cover all the plays and movies that were based on Dracula.

When Leonard Wolf wrote A Dream of Dracula, he was working as a creative writing professor at San Francisco State University. He was born in Romania (home of Dracula) and always had an interest in classic horror literature. He went on to write non-fiction books on Frankenstein, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and The Phantom of the Opera. He has also written several books researching mythological beasts.

A Dream of Dracula was a labor of love and gives a very detailed description of a cultural phenomenon. If you would like your own copy of this book and you live in the United States, just leave a comment on this blog post and let us know why you want to adopt this book. The best comment gets a copy of A Dream of Dracula. Good Luck!

Free Fiction Friday: A Dream Of Dracula

For this week’s Free Fiction Friday selection we have to take a trip in our time machine back to the year 1972 for A Dream Of Dracula by Leonard Wolf. This is a non-fiction book that tells the history of the character Dracula. The book starts off by talking about the historic figures that inspired Bram Stoker to write Dracula, such as Romanian ruler Vlad the Impaler and Baron Gilles de Rais who was a French serial killer with a taste for blood.

From there the book talks about the books that inspired Dracula including Mathew G. Lewis’s The Monk and John Polidori’s The Vampyre: A Tale. It also gives a detailed biography on Bram Stoker and talks about his writing process for Dracula. There are even chapters in this book that cover all the plays and movies that were based on Dracula.

When Leonard Wolf wrote A Dream of Dracula, he was working as a creative writing professor at San Francisco State University. He was born in Romania (home of Dracula) and always had an interest in classic horror literature. He went on to write non-fiction books on Frankenstein, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and The Phantom of the Opera. He has also written several books researching mythological beasts.

A Dream of Dracula was a labor of love and gives a very detailed description of a cultural phenomenon. If you would like your own copy of this book and you live in the United States, just leave a comment on this blog post and let us know why you want to adopt this book. The best comment gets a copy of A Dream of Dracula. Good Luck!

Free Fiction Friday:Dracula Unbound

This Week’s Free Fiction Friday selection is Dracula Unbound by Brian Wilson Aldiss. This book was originally released in 1990. The story is that Count Dracula has a time machine that is in the form of a train. He wants to make sure that Bram Stoker never writes his novel Dracula so he sends a group of vampire assassins to the year 1896 to kill Stoker.  Things don’t go well for the vampires, a man named Joe Bodenland hijacks the train and finds Bram Stoker. The two now plan to use the train to destroy all vampires.

Brian Wilson Aldiss is generally a science fiction writer. He is from England and was heavily influenced by H.G. Wells. He is vice president of the international H.G. Wells Society, co-president of the Birmingham Science Fiction Group and has also won two Hugo awards and one Nebula award. Some of the other books Brain has written include: Courageous New Planet, Ruins and Sanity and the Lady. He also wrote Super Toys Last All Summer Long which was the basis for Steven Spielberg’s 2001 film A.I.

The reviews I’ve read for this book say its an entertaining read but the story is a little far fetched. They also say the depiction of Bram Stoker is the best part. Another interesting item brought up in this book is that vampires are descendants of pterodactyls, have mastered time travel and want to use it to enslave the human race.

So if you want to read a tale about time traveling vampires and find out more about Bram Stoker traveling through time to destroy vampires, then this is the book for you. If you are a U.S. resident, leave a comment on the end of this post and let us know why you would be a good owner for this book. The best comment gets a copy of Dracula Unbound.

1980’s Horror Books

The first book I want to look at for the 1980s is Blood of the Impaler by Jeffrey Sackett. This book was released in 1989 and is a sequel to Bram Stoker’s Dracula, it follows a twenty something bartender named Malcom Harker who is the great grandson of Jonathan and Mina Harker.  Malcom  hates going out in the day and only feels good at night, he soon finds out that he has Dracula’s blood running through his veins from when Mina was forced to suck Dracula’s blood.  The Harkers are cursed and the only thing to stop the curse is  to find Dracula’s ashes and spread them outside the vampire’s native land.

Its been several years since I’ve read Blood of The Impaler but I remember it was good enough where I found some of the other books that Jefferey Sackett wrote. Jefferey on all his books mixes history and horror. In Blood of the Impaler, he goes back and takes an in depth look at the real Vlad the impaler by having Dracula recount his own past from his childhood, to when he became ruler of Wallachia, to when he became a vampire, to his death in the book Dracula. The book also includes more diary enteries from the characters in Dracula and actually reads like Bram Stoker’s novel in places.

Blood of the Impaler gives a history lesson on the real Dracula but a lot of it also takes place in the present day. It offers up some interesting characters, some good death scenes, as well as a great battle between good and evil towards the end. This book may be hard to find now but if you enjoyed Bram Stoker’s Dracula and want to know about the vampire’s past as well as what happened to the other characters in Dracula after the end of the 1897 novel, you may want to find it.

The next book I want to mention came out in 1988 called Quarrel With The Moon by J.C. Conaway. The story follows an anthropologist who has uncovered some bones in West Virginia that look like they might be the remains of a werewolf. While investigating he also finds that the mountains are home to a clan of hillbilly werewolves who terrorize the back woods of West Virginia when the moon is full.

Also from 1988 we have Monastery by Patrick Whalen. This is a vampire tale that focuses on a couple of vampires that were trapped by the Catholic church under a Monastery located  an island 100 years ago. Two sociologists buy the Monastery and accidentally free the vampires setting the blood thirsty creatures free to feed on the innocent island residents. Luckily there is a hitman living on the island that may be able to put an end to the vampire menace. Most of the reviews for Monastery we’re positive calling the vampires true evil villains and the hero as larger then life. It was followed by a sequel called Night Thirst in 1991.

After I had finished and posted my article on 1970’s books, I was disappointed with myself because I realized that I forgot to mention one of my favorite 1970’s books: Demon Seed written by Dean Koontz in 1973. So I decided to make up for it by mentioning another great Dean Koontz book written in 1980 called The Funhouse. Ellen ran away from home one night and joined up with a traveling carnival, she eventually married the man who runs the carnival and they had a deformed child. Ellen killed the child and ran away. She now has a new family but the carnival is coming to town and her ex-husband wants to do to her children what she did to his.

When I read The Funhouse I noticed that when I got towards the end, the story seemed very familiar. When I was done I found out that the book was originally written under a pseudo name and was the novelization for the movie The Funhouse which was released in 1981 and directed by Tobe Hooper. Dean Koontz had written most of the novel before he saw the movie and only the last part of the book resembles the film. So if you have seen the movie and didn’t like it don’t let it stop you from reading the book.

I thought The Funhouse was a fun read filled with characters that have a lot of depth to them. I ended up feeling sorry for the carnival barker even though he is presented as the villain and the carnival barker’s second deformed child is much scarier in the book then the movie. The book also contains many gruesome death scenes and a great chase scene between the kids at the carnival and the people running the carnival. The Funhouse is a battle versus good and evil but what makes it an interesting book is all the shades of grey in the characters. At times you wonder who the villain really is and you see that sometimes there is a very thin line between good and evil.

The 1980’s was the golden age for horror novels, so do have a favorite 1980’s horror novel? Leave a comment on the blog and let us know.

1970’s books

When I was looking for horror books for the seventies it didn’t take long for me to come up with a list of books to talk about. The seventies and eighties were a great time for horror novels.  One of the most intriguing books I found was one written in 1972 called The Werewolf vs. Vampire Women by Arthur N Scram. This book is supposed to be an adaptation of a movie that was released  under the same name in 1971 but according to what I read, the book doesn’t follow the movie.  The book begins in a morgue where a  man called Waldo who happens to be a werewolf  is lying in a morgue on a table with a  silver bullet in him. The mortician removes the bullet and Waldo springs to life killing the mortician. Waldo the werewolf then goes out into the world and finds two female med students who are doing a masters thesis on a vampire queen named Wandessa de Nadasdy. Waldo hates vampires so he decides with the help of the female med students that he his going to find this queen and kill her. This books sound just corny enough to be entertaining.

Another book I wanted to mention was written in 1979 called The Majorettes by John Russo who was one of the co writers of Night Of The Living Dead.  This book was written at the same time that slasher movies were becoming popular. The story begins when  high school nerd Tommy Harvack who has a crush on a majorette named Nicole Hendricks, goes to meet her in the woods. Unfortunately for them they get murdered while on the rendezvous. The killer is not stopping there though, he has his sites set on killing the whole majorette squad. Can the police stop him in time? The Majorettes was originally meant to be a movie but when Russo could not get funding for it, he made it into a novel instead. A movie was finally released based on The Majorettes in 1987.

The 1970s also brought us a comic book that ran from 1972 to 1979 called Tomb of Dracula. This title was published by Marvel Comics, it was written by Marv Wolfman, drawn be Gene Colan and inked by Tom Palmer. The story for Tomb of Dracula was that Dracula was revived in the present day 1970’s and is being hunted by the decedents of the vampire hunters that once killed him. Tomb of Dracula also marked the first appearance of Blade who had his own comic series, TV series and three movies.

If your going to talk about books of the 1970’s you have to to mention the biggest horror author of all, Stephen King. King’s first novel was released in 1974 called Carrie. Carrie as you probably know tells the story of a shy girl in high school who discovers that she has telekinetic powers and uses them to take revenge on the  classmates that made fun of her.

My favorite Stephen King novel was his second novel which was released in 1975 called Salem’s Lot. Salem’s Lot follows the story of a man named Ben Mears who grew up in Salem’s Lot Massachusetts. He moved away when he was 12 but has now returned to find the town a very different place. The streets are deserted in the daytime, the town has been infected by vampires and only a few town residents are left to stop the vampires from taking over. I don’t feel that I have to say to much about Salem’s Lot here because most people reading this blog probably at least know the story from the 1979 mini series or the 2004 mini series which followed the book closely. Salem’s lot was heavily influenced by Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House which was recently mentioned in this blog.

Sticking with the subject of vampires, I feel I also need to mention Anne Rice’s Interview With A Vampire which was written in 1973 and released in 1976. The story for Interview With A Vampire follows Louis as he tells the story of his life over the last 200 years. Interview With The Vampire spawned 11 sequels that I know of and also had a movie made on it in 1994.

What’s your favorite 1970’s horror novel? Leave a comment and let us know.

1930’s Horror Flicks!

The Ghoul is a 1933 British Horror film starring Boris Karloff as THE GHOUL!

What’s interesting is that after it’s release, it disappeared and was considered to be a lost film. The current copy that we all watched was found in the early 1980’s, in a forgotten film vault at Shepperton Studios. The vault was cleared and inside — the dormant nitrate camera negative in perfect condition. The film was kinda like The Ghoul in the film, kept in a sarcophagi, until after death, when it awoke! The film didn’t kill anyone that we know about, but the image of The Ghoul will stay with anyone who watches it.

This is one of those classic tales— the Egyptian curse, those that don’t believe, those that do and suddenly… the monster rises from the tomb to attack everyone! What I loved most about the movie was the huge mansion all dark and looming with Egyptian carvings casting interesting shapes on the walls. It really gave it a spooky sense of appeal.

Another movie of the era, Dracula, had the same sort of foreboding sets. Dracula is my all time favorite horror classic.

Here’s what David had to say about it:
Dracula was released on February 14th 1931 and was directed by Tod Browning and starred Bela Lugosi as Dracula, Edward Van Sloan as Van Helsing, and Dwight Frye as Renfield.

The story begins with a stage coach riding through the Carpathian Mountains in Eastern Europe, carrying Renfield to Castle Dracula to meet with the count to talk about property he is buying in England. Dracula feeds on Renfield and turns him into a slave and then heads off on a ship to London where he meets Lucy Weston and turns her into a vampire. Dracula then turns his sights on Mina, but before he can turn her Dr. Van Helsing and Mina’s fiancé, John Harker, discover that he is a vampire and try to stop him before it’s too late.

Dracula is not one of the best movies of all time but Bela Lugosi gives a great performance that makes this movie a classic.

What do you think about these two films? What is your favorite 1930’s horror flick?