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  • Writer's pictureGarrett Brodey

Dracula: One Of My Favorite Horror Films

Dracula is a horror film from 1931 and it’s one of the best films of the Universal Monster films. It stars Bela Lugosi in his most iconic role as the infamous vampire. I love this film and I’ll explain why.  

Like Frankenstein (1931), this is one of the first horror films I ever watched. Those films, and other classic Universal Monster films, is a main reason why I fell in love with horror. This film is my brother’s favorite of the Universal Monster films. We’ve watched this together so many times over the years. He’s a huge Bela Lugosi fan. He dressed up as Lugosi’s Count Dracula numerous times for Halloween and he always looks fantastic. If there’s ever a film that reminds me of him, it’s either Jaws 2 (1978) or Dracula (1931).

I haven’t read Bram Stoker’s novel, but I’ve read it has similarities but also differences. Like Frankenstein (1931), the film succeeds in what it's going for. Which is an eerie and creepy gothic horror film with beautiful visuals. I’ll get into more of that soon.

Bela Lugosi IS Count Dracula. He steals the show and is my favorite aspect of the film. His introduction is so eerie. Lugosi instantly hypnotizes you with his powerful eyes. He’s constantly staring deep into the soul of his victims and the viewers watching the film. I love his look. Like Karloff’s Frankenstein, the look and voice of Lugosi’s Count Dracula has cemented itself into pop culture. Whenever you hear a vampire in a film or show these days doing a Hungarian accent, that’s because of Lugosi. Every line of dialogue that comes out of his mouth gives me chills. I cannot sing enough praise for Lugosi’s performance. He’s so damn good. One of the best horror performances of all time.

Dwight Frye plays Renfield and he gives an insane and memorable performance. Like Lugosi, he’s a huge reason why this film is fantastic. He really comes off as someone going insane. What a performance, what an actor.

The production design in this film is incredible. Dracula’s castle especially is amazing. It looks like a run down and haunted castle. That wide shot of the first room and staircase gets me every time. The cobwebs, dust, and creatures scurrying throughout the castle add a lot to the atmosphere. I love the shot of a huge spider crawling up a wall. It looks so real. Like Frankenstein (1931), the cinematography is gorgeous. The beautiful black and white look and the sets combined create that perfect gothic atmosphere. I’m a huge fan of atmosphere and gothic films and this one is a prime example of both. This is a perfect film to watch on a foggy October night. I watch it every October. 

Like I said, I love this film, however, I do have some issues. For one, the direction by Tod Browning is very weak. There’s zero energy behind the camera so the film can feel dull which makes the pacing suffer. A lot of this film is characters standing in a room, talking, with zero movement from the camera. As if, he’s filming a play. Imagine if James Whale directed this film. Apparently, he was supposed to direct the sequel to this film but that fell through, what a shame. What’s ironic is Universal produced a Spanish version of this film with a whole other crew and actors. They shot their scenes on the same sets at night. That version of the film has way better direction. The camera moves a lot and it adds much needed energy to the film. If only that energy was brought to this film. It would’ve been even better.

My other huge issue is the side characters. Van Helsing, Jonathan Harker, Mina, and Lucy play a big role in this film but they are so boring. Every scene with them talking almost puts me to sleep, every time. I only get interested when Dracula shows up. Whenever I watch this, I really try my best to care for those scenes, but I end up either checking out or go on Twitter until Dracula shows up. It’s a shame because the actors aren’t terrible, but they aren’t standouts. 

I can understand someone watching this film and saying it’s boring or really slow. It is slow but that’s the beauty of it. The film is a slow burn but it’s an effectively creepy slow burn. I have to be in a specific mood to watch this and that’s okay. 

I also have to mention that there’s a version of this film with an original score from Philip Glass and it’s one of my favorite scores of all time. The original version has no score besides Swan Lake in the opening credits. The lack of music can add to the creepiness but it can also make the boring scenes more dull. With Glass’s score, it adds a lot in my opinion. I think it’s brilliant and I usually watch the film with his score. 10/10 for the score alone.

Overall, Dracula is a classic for a reason. It’s stood the test of time due to Bela Lugosi’s iconic performance. I cannot recommend this enough.

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