Saturday, October 12, 2013

31 Days of Horror: Horror of Dracula (1958)

Inspired by Bram Stoker's classic novel and directed by Hammer Horror alumni Terence Fisher, Horror of Dracula stars Christopher Lee as the undead Count Dracula who travels from his castle in Transylvania to England, hoping to seek revenge on a mortal man who tried to vanquish him. In the process, the Count runs into his arch-nemesis, Dr. Van Helsing, who will do whatever he can to end Dracula's reign of terror.

Horror of Dracula, with its predecessor Cure of Frankenstein, helped turn Hammer Films into an icon of horror cinema. The movie is a perfect mixture of gothic horror, wonderful performances, fantastic sets and special effects, and a good dash of suaveness and sexuality.

Like the novel and the 1931 Universal movie, Horror of Dracula possesses an eerie atmosphere that melds perfectly with the dread surrounding Count Dracula and the situations of the story. Its a movie that focuses more on mood and situation instead of on-the-nose scares. It wants to draw you into the story, making you feel like you have a connection with the characters, a connection that causes you to worry when a character is put into danger and hope they will succeed, and the films pulls it off.

The acting is also superb. Christopher Lee, who would go on to play Dracula several more times in future Hammer Horror films, is easily the best actor to dawn the cape and fangs since Bela Lugosi in the 1930's. He easily captures the spookiness and terror that is inherent to the character, but mixes that with a suave demeanor that draws you in, like another one of his victims. Peter Cushing is just as amazing. You actually believe he's dedicated his life to studying the undead and will do whatever he can to destroy Dracula. He also seems to have a will of iron, not even batting an eye when a vampire comes at him and not hesitating in the slightest to fight Dracula in the climax, knowing the Count is most likely stronger than him. While Lee and Cushing are easily the stand-outs in the cast, the other actors do a fantastic job as well.

For a film made in the late 50's, the majority of Horror of Dracula's effects and sets manage to hold up fairly well. While there are times when you can see through the illusion, like Dracula turning to ash for example, most of the sets are beautiful to look at and the effects are great and get the job done.

Horror of Dracula deserves its place among the classics, such as Frankenstein or The Wolf Man. Its a well-made, beautifully shot film that has an eerie atmosphere and wonderful acting. If you like vampire movies, atmospheric horror films, and great acting, you will love Horror of Dracula.

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