Dracula

All posts tagged Dracula

Book Review: Family Ties and Gothic Horror in The Only Child

Published June 19, 2017 by rmpixie

The Only Child by Andrew Pyper (Simon & Schuster, 2017)

 

Canadian horror author Andrew Pyper has his finger on the pulse of the family. His previous works cover a father looking for his child in the best-selling The Demonologist to a twin haunted by his sister in The Damned, and now, another family dynamic in The Only Child. With his dark approach to family and psychology, he brings us to world where literature, personal demons and reality collide.

Lily Dominick is a forensic psychiatrist who is brilliant at what she does because it’s all she does. Throwing herself into her work with the criminally insane, she is driven and stoic-the result of a tragic family and personal history. Her usual day at the forensic psychiatric center is changed when she is alerted to a patient who has committed a violent crime and awaits her assessment. This patient, known only as client 46874-A, reveals to her that not only did he know her dead mother, but he is also her father. This is alarming to Lily since her mother fell to a violent death, the details of which escaped her for years as well as no memory of her absent father. When this strange patient escapes and starts to pick off people in Lily’s life, she embarks on a global journey where she finds out more about this mysterious man we come to know as Michael and his outrageous claims to be the inspiration for classic horror writers and their creations. Compelled by this menace she tries to stay ahead of his terrifying abilities while seeking the truth about his connection to her, and stop his mad killing spree.

Pyper has created an interesting mythology with the character of Michael. He is a combination of Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Dracula, with a demonic element that overrides the romantic aspect of these tortured monsters. It’s certainly a different approach to appreciating the classics. He reminded me of the HBO series Penny Dreadful, but with a modern twist, especially with the steam punk inspired accoutrements that Michael uses to drain his prey of blood. He’s a character you at times sympathize with as he recounts battles with his evil nature, but his ultimate arrogance becomes his worst burden. Snippets of his journals are fascinating and I had hopes that his back story would play more center stage, but that was left to our main character, Lily.

Lily’s is independent and strong which I enjoyed about her, but she was also my least favourite of Pyper’s characters. Her judgement was questionable and her sexual impulses were at times unwarranted and hollow in most situations, especially as she envisaged having sex with almost all the men she met, including Michael. This was a little surprising as Pyper’s female characters have been more well-rounded in the past. I’m not sure if it was his intention to show Michael’s supernatural power over her, or some sort of sexual dysfunction, or to show her sexual freedom as a modern woman, but I can’t imagine sexual encounters would be on the mind of a woman running for her life. He did however, succeed with her emotional turmoil, her memories of her mother’s death and her coping mechanism of being a workaholic. Between Michael and Lily, you may find yourself hoping the monster prevails instead of his prey since sadly, he is far more interesting.

While it may not find a firm footing, The Only Child is still within the literary realm that Pyper enjoys exploring. With a gothic/modern espionage feel that may not be a familiar place for his readers, it’s still worth checking out for an interesting villain brought to life from the pages of Shelley, Stoker and Stevenson. Here’s hoping there’s a compelling prequel in store.

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Mad Monster Party: The Best Halloween Ticket in Town

Published October 31, 2015 by rmpixie

Mad Monster Party

Mad Monster Party (1967, 1 hr., 35 mins.)

 

After searching for a party to attend this Halloween, I finally found the ultimate shin-dig, but I’m going back, way back, to a classic movie that some of you may remember.

When I was a kid, for several years in a row, Mad Monster Party aired on Halloween night, and I would always watch it as I got ready for trick or treating. Putting on my costume, I would giggle as Baron Von Frankenstein held court with his monster dinner guests, ready to reveal his crazy plans.  Directed by the king of animated specials Jules Bass, this “Animagic” feat is a heap of silly but I still marveled at the skill needed to create this wacky stop-motion film.

Baron Boris von Frankenstein (Boris Karloff) has completed his ultimate goal and is retiring. After mastering the secret to creation with his monster and his mate, he has now created a deadly elixir and would like to share the news with his monster colleagues and announce his successor.  He decides to throw a dinner party at his Isle of Evil where he’ll reveal his destructive formula and his human nephew, the allergy-ridden pharmacist Felix Flankin, as the new head of the World Wide Organization of Monsters.  Francesca (Gale Garnett) his secretary is not pleased with his choice, and when his ghoulish guests arrive, they are also upset a human will be taking over.  After a night of eating, dancing and rough-housing, everyone plots to get rid of Felix, and devilish double crossings throw all plans into chaos.

This is some silly fun that fills the nostalgia void. The characterizations of classic monsters such as Dracula, the Hunchback, and the Werewolf are beyond cute, and the relentless one-liners they spew are ridiculous.  Silly gag after silly gag, my favourite being the Baron’s assistant Yetch and his detachable head, make you chuckle, and the musical numbers are really clever, not to mention all the little horror details like the zombie bellhops and a skeleton band that pepper this old-school gem.

A cast of four was all it took to bring the monsters to life. Along with Boris Karloff, the always hilarious Phyllis Diller played the monster’s mate, Gale Garnett husky tones voiced the sultry Francesca, and veteran voice actor and impersonator Allen Swift mastered the rest of the characters, adding unique personalities such as Peter Lorre (Yetch), and Jimmy Stewart (Felix) to each horror icon.  Pay attention to the film’s theme sung by Ethel Ennis as well.  It’s a jazzy treat sung in a James Bond style.  This is entertainment through and through, and a must-have for any horror collector.

Mad Monster Party is a creature caper that will have you laughing in spite of yourself. It’s campy, sometimes sophisticated, but most importantly, a joy to watch every Halloween.

Have a safe and happy Halloween my creepy peeps!!

 

My favourite number in the movie.  The monsters are so cute!!

Dracula Has Feelings Too!

Published October 15, 2014 by rmpixie

draculauntold

Dracula Untold (2014, 1 hr, 32 mins)

Dracula Untold brings us yet another interpretation of how the iconic vampire came to be.  This time, the story focuses on the historical figure of Vlad Tepes, or Vlad the Impaler, and how he turned from warlord to the bloodsucking bat-loving creature of the night.

Once a child slave and soldier for the Turks, Vlad (Luke Evans) becomes a ruthless warrior and then prince of Transylvania, bent on never being at the mercy of his Turkish captors ever again.  When the boys of his kingdom, along with his precious son, are threatened by his childhood comrade-cum-nemesis, Turkish commander Mehmed (Dominic Purcell), he vows to conquer them and foil their plot to create 1000 boy soldiers.  Vlad enlists the help of an ancient evil, yes a vampire (Charles Dance), to battle the Turks.  Of course there is a catch, and Vlad has to deal with his people’s fears and the lure of his curse.

This big budget treatment of the Dracula legend was entertaining but missed the mark.  I liked the storyline loosely based on historical fact combined with the vampire legend.  The relatively new writing team of Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless tried to infuse some emotional content and sympathy for Prince Vlad’s motivation as he tried to save his family and people.  Humanizing the iconic bloodsucker kind of fell flat, however, especially with some of the scenes involving Vlad’s inner conflict and those with his wife Mirena (Sarah Gadon), whom I thought was miscast.  Gadon seemed too innocent and lacked the maturity that a wife of a ruthless warlord would have.  The role required someone darker and more conflicted like perhaps Imogen Poots or Gemma Arterton because after all, she is the wife of the Impaler.

I did enjoy the scenes with Vlad and the vampire.  They were dark, tense and Dance’s portrayal of the ancient vampire was mysterious, nefarious and left a lot of wiggle room for a franchise.  One of my concerns is that Dance might go the way of Bill Nighy from the Underworld series.  While  I enjoyed those films, Nighy is starting to be typecast, for instance, when he played Naberius in I, Frankenstein, who is basically the same character in Underworld.  It’s a little too close for comfort, and along that same vein, Evans’ look in this film gave me flashbacks of Gerrard Butler in Dracula 2000.  Evans did an admiral job as an action hero though, and he was also real easy on the eyes.  Real easy.  Other attention grabbers included the swirling bat effects, huge battle scenes, and the elaborate sets and costumes.

There were some reviews that wanted more sex appeal from Vlad.  I disagree because this treatment gives us the origins of Dracula and the first few days of his newly found supernatural state.  His monster mojo would come in time, and sexy Dracula has been done, so it was refreshing to see something different.

If you can get past the epic video game look, the liberties taken with the actual historical figure of Vlad the Imapler, and the fact that this is the latest addition to the lineup in the franchise horror machine, check it out.  It’s a decent first big budget film for director Gary Shore, and everyone has to start somewhere!

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