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Dracula – in search of Space Monsters

Wake Wood and the Hammer revival

Wake Wood poster imageWhen I was younger I adored horror movies. To a certain degree I still do although over time I’ve become less interested in the kind of show-me-show-me-show-me style of horror that studios spit out these days. Think Saw or Hostel and you’re on the right lines.
Those films have their audiences I know but they’re not for me.
I always much preferred ghostly tales. I guess this is why I fell in love with the J-Horror of 10 years ago – The Ring, The Eye, Dark Water. Essentially ghost stories with an original cinematic twist. But even they got a bit boring. A good idea is cool but not if it’s repeated 17 times.

Back in the day Hammer studios produced some real killer titles. As a kid I remember watching Dracula movies late at night on my old black and white TV (the ones where you had to twist the dial to tune the blessed thing in !). I must have been no more than 10 or 11 years old. The impact of those films is still with me today.

It was never really the visuals that gripped me more it was the story that was being told. There was (and still is) a penchant amongst British movie makers to have the actors tell you the story rather than relying heavily on staging or visual effects.

When I read on Mark Kermode’s Film Blog that Hammer was resurrecting itself and releasing stuff like Wake Wood I sat up and took notice.
It seems to me that there probably is enough of a retro fascination to see such films succeed. But I think in order for it all to work Hammer needs to stick to what it did best and not sway too far from what it was famous for. I dread the thought of Hammer going gung-ho for CGI in its films, for example. It really wasn’t what made them so good.
With any luck the script writers for the “new” Hammer productions will have a love for the classic Hammer. They’ll understand that there was always a story to be told before there was blood to be spilled. The story might never have won too much critical acclaim amongst the high-brow authors of the day but they were enough to set you up for a thrilling hour and a half of film fun.

According to some accounts Wake Wood falls down in the story department. I’ll reserve judgment until I actually watch it. But far more exciting for me is to see Hammer Horror appear in the news again. Hopefully this will give rise to many an effective spooky movie spawned from these fair shores.

Dracula 1979 – the awful transformation of Mina


Mina's awful transformation

Mina's awful transformation

The scene with Mina in the mines from Dracula 1979 on YouTube.

As a young boy watching the 1979 version of Dracula with Frank Langella, Laurence Olivier, Trevor Eve, Jan Francis and Donald Pleasance to name but a few I was horrified at the transformation of Mina. The effects of becoming a Vampire were so visual, so catastrophic to her that the image of her stumbling through the mines in rags and with those awful bloodshot eyes and pale, flaking skin has remained imprinted on my brain for the last 30 years. Utterly terrifying.

I don’t think I’ve seen too many scenes in a movie that have left such an impression. Sure the Exorcist had plenty scenes of a similar style but they were used so much you almost became desensitised to it. With this short 2 minute scene played out between Olivier and Francis (and later Pleasance) you have something that is both heartbreaking and horrific at the same time.

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