What to Watch on Shudder: Dracula (1958) and More

Films that include vampires, waxworks and bogeymen all feature in this week’s guide to what to watch on Shudder…

What to Watch on Shudder: Dracula (1958)

Hammer’s 1958 version of Dracula is one of the seminal adaptations of Bram Stoker’s classic novel. Known as Horror of Dracula in the United States, the film sees the first outing of Christopher Lee as the iconic vampire. Hammer’s interpretation of Dracula really emphasises the seductive nature of the title character. Gone are the less savoury descriptions that can be found in the novel. Dracula is both ruthless and seductive in this 1958 version. Like most adaptations of Stoker’s most famous work, there are a number of difference between the book and the film. Nevertheless, the gothic reigns supreme; the themes of otherness and duality are prominent. Dracula is one of the classic vampire films, and features perhaps the best-known Van Helsing: Peter Cushing. Read a full review here.

What to Watch on Shudder: Waxwork

Anthony Hickox’s Waxwork feels very much of its decade. Released in 1988, the film is probably best described as a camp horror. Waxwork focuses on a group of older teens who are invited to a party at a Waxwork museum which has mysteriously popped up in their suburban town. Featuring some of the great horror icons, the name of the game is to stay alive. Those looking for real chills may be disappointed as the emphasis of Hickox’s film is on comedy horror. There is some gore and trepidation, however film concentrates on fun aspects of the premise. This is supplemented by the who’s who of the horror world; Count Dracula, Jack the Ripper, Mr Hyde and many more. Starring Gremlins’ Zach Galligan, Waxwork is a great choice for a not so serious horror.

What to Watch on Shudder: Child Eater

Writer-director Erlingur Thoroddsen’s short Child Eater certainly does not shy away from the macabre. The film is about a young boy who is having nightmares about a bogeyman, and the babysitter who must protect him. Child Eater combines a number of horror tropes – the urban legend, the monster in the closet, the gory climax – in a most compelling fashion. Refreshingly, the film does not give the ending many may expect. Thoroddsen remade the short as a feature-length film in 2016.

To find out more and to sign up to Shudder, visit https://www.shudder.com.

What To Watch on Shudder: The Mummy and More

There are frights aplenty on horror streaming platform Shudder. Here’s what to what to watch on Shudder this week, featuring The Mummy (1959), Battle Royale, and short Jack Attack

What to Watch on Shudder: The Mummy (1959)

Ahead of next week’s release of action-horror remake The Mummy, check out the 1959 Hammer version. The film was released by the studio one year after Dracula, and features the classic Hammer pairing of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. This version’s plot varies slightly from the 1932 Universal film, but the crux remains the same. Terence Fisher’s film offers plenty of that Hammer charm, even if the ‘brown face’ makes the film feel dated. The title character itself is a pretty horrifying concoction. This is one thing that hasn’t aged.

What to Watch on Shudder: Battle Royale

Battle Royale is a Japanese horror classic. The 2000 film’s influence can be seen most prominently in the The Hunger Games series of films. Battle Royale is about forty-two school students sent to a deserted island, who are forced to compete until only one survives. If this dystopian premise is not horrifying enough, director Kinji Fukasaka does not skimp on the gore. The film is visceral, yet not without a satirical dark humour. Controversial at the time of its release, Battle Royale certainly packs a punch.

What to Watch on Shudder: Jack Attack

2013 short Jack Attack is worth nine minutes of your time. Written and directed by Bryan Norton and Antonio Padovan, the film has won a number of awards at genre film festivals. Jack Attack is about a young boy and his babysitter who decide to carve a pumpkin on Halloween. To say anymore would give the game away. Suffice to say, the film has a freaky outcome with some decent special effects.

To find out more and to sign up to Shudder, visit https://www.shudder.com.

Gothic at the British Film Institute

Last week the British Film Institute launched their Gothic project; the longest running season of film screenings and events ever held. The season commences in August, with the BFI Monster Weekend at the British Museum among other events. The full programme is yet to be announced, but here are some recommendations of films to see during the season…

The Haunting

Robert Wise’s 1963 haunted house movie is a genuinely unnerving experience. Locating the horror both internally and externally, The Haunting hurls its 1999 remake into the shade.


Gothic: The Dark Heart of Film

The quintessential Hammer Horror movie, Dracula introduces Christopher Lee as Bram Stoker’s vampire count. The film is an excellent introduction to Hammer, as well as exhibiting the key traits of Gothic.

The Innocents

Another haunted house film, The Innocents is deeply unsettling. Based on  Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw, Jack Clayton’s film is a masterclass in psychological horror.

The Cabinet of Dr Caligari

Gothic: The Dark Heart of Film

The Cabinet of Dr Caligari is one of the finest examples of German Expressionism. The 1920 silent film is far reaching in its influence. As important as the visuals is the truly Gothic narrative of The Cabinet of Dr Caligari.

The British Film Institute’s Gothic season runs from August 2013 to January 2014. For more information on screenings and events can be found here.

Film Review: Dracula (1958)

Dracula 1958Hammer’s 1958 classic Dracula (Horror of Dracula in the US) gets a Blu-Ray release featuring both the 2007 BFI restoration and the 2012 Hammer restoration.

Jonathan Harker travels to Count Dracula’s castle under the guise of working as his new librarian. After Harker’s attempt to vanquish Dracula, the vampire travels to the nearby town and sets his sights on the family of Harker’s fiancee…

Like most cinematic adaptations of Bram Stoker’s seminal novel, Hammer’s Dracula makes a number of alterations. Characters are combined, and some omitted altogether. Nevertheless, the essence of the novel still shines through. The general premise remains the same, even if the locations and character differ.

Hammer’s interpretation of Dracula really emphasises the seductive nature of the title character. Gone are the less savoury descriptions that can be found in the novel. Dracula is both ruthless and seductive in this 1958 version. It is a theme that Hammer continued to highlight as their series of Dracula films went on.

Like most vampire films, Dracula is not actually frightening. What the film works with is a sense of foreboding. The Gothic reigns supreme; the themes of otherness and duality are prominent. Rather than terrifying viewers, Dracula makes them uneasy. The title character is more complex than some of the other movie monsters.

Christopher Lee delivers a commanding performance in one of his most famous roles. Peter Cushing is excellent as Van Helsing, while Michael Gough is well cast in one of his early feature-film roles. There is a strong use of colour in Dracula, which is enhanced on Blu-Ray. The 2012 restoration adds a few moments, most notably the very climax of the film. For this alone, fans of the 1958 film should aim to view this restoration.

Dracula is released on 3-disc Double Play, with a host of extra features, on 18th March 2013.

Film Review: Priest

Adapted from a graphic novel, Priest is a mildly entertaining action flick. Nevertheless, the film suffers from the same pitfalls as many of its contemporaries.

In a world where humans faced a constant battle against vampires, a band of priests were charged with protecting the population against the undead. Having defeated their nemesis, the group are disbanded. When a group of vampires attack Priest’s family and kidnap his niece, he disobeys the Church and goes in search of young Lucy…

Priest offers very little to differentiate it from numerous films in the same vein. Moreover, the flaws are all too familiar. There is a lack of character development; it is difficult to respond to the one-dimensional protagonist, and even more so to the villain with no depth or motivation. The dialogue is awful at times, which does not help to generate the necessary tension. The little attempts to add a modicum of humour fall entirely flat.

Scott Charles Stewart’s film is an amalgamation of various genres. Priest points to Gothic horror with its vampires and religious overtones, although it is not at all frightening. The dystopian vision of the future is pure science fiction, while the narrative and even the landscape are suggestive of a Western. Despite the presence of the supernatural, the plot of Priest is incredibly similar to John Ford’s The Searchers.

Perhaps the best part of the movie is the animated sequence at the beginning. Giving a brief history of the battle between human and vampire, the segment has a delightfully rustic quality in its style. It is reminiscent of a similar sequence at the beginning of Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula. References to numerous other films are also palpable. The city scenes are unmistakably influenced by Blade Runner, while the isolated and uninhabited landscape is evocative of more recent fare such as The Book of Eli and The Road.

The highly stylised look of Priest gives the film an artificiality that is presumably the desired affect. Some of the underground sequences are so dark it is difficult to decipher what is happening. Special effects are fine, but unremarkable. The use of 3D seems wasteful; it adds nothing to the film.

Paul Bettany’s Priest is more Blade than Dracula‘s Van Helsing. A near-silent type, the character is more concerned with action than emotion. Cam Gigandet has suffered in some dud roles recently, but his delivery here is especially pained. Lily Collins has little to do as damsel-in-distress Lucy.

Priest‘s main failure is the feeling of déjà vu it generates. From the plot to the look to the flaws, it is all too familiar. The suggestion of a sequel at the end of the film is lamentable.

Film Review: Blood + Roses

Simon Aitken’s debut feature Blood + Roses is a vampire film that prioritises the relationship angle over themes of horror and the supernatural. Visually satisfying, the film is let down by uninteresting dialogue and some monotone acting.

Still affected by a previous trauma, Jane is withdrawn and haunted by dreams, much to the dissatisfaction of her husband Martin. An encounter with a mysterious stranger alters the dynamic of their relationship…

The main problem with Blood + Roses is its poor script. The dialogue has neither the naturalism of believable conversations nor the momentum to propel the film forward. As a result, key scenes lack the drama and tension that they deserve. Nevertheless, writer Ben Woodiwiss astutely holds back the root of Jane’s trauma, which serves to maintain an element of mystery.

Although Blood + Roses is unequivocally a vampire film, the term is never used in the film. Dracula, however, is referenced in passing, indicating the debt this film and countless others owe to Bram Stoker’s novel. The narrative is  concerned with the relationship between Jane and Martin foremost, ahead of any aspect of vampirism. Blood + Roses is a story of their changing relationship; the presence of the vampire functions as a device that shifts the balance of power.

Blood + Roses follows some elements of vampire folklore, and dismisses others. The transformation from human to vampire is understated; the film features minimal body horror. Although blood is in plenty supply (as the title would suggest), there is hardly any graphic violence. The vampire bite is insinuated by the editing rather an than engorging display. The sound is generally good, although the vampire’s first appearance to Jane is over-emphasised in this respect. A more subdued sound would have been just as effective.

The cinematography is good; shots appear carefully composed. The use of colour is palpable in both interior and exterior shots. The red sky of the late evening, in particular, gives the film an eerie look, suggesting the supernatural is at play. The lighting enhances this atmosphere, especially in the dinner sequence later in the film.

Marysia Kay offers an adequate performance as Jane, suitably portraying both sides of her personality. Kane John Scott as Martin and Adam Bambrough as Ted are both very stilted in their roles. Both are unconvincing in their delivery and their range of emotion. As Seth, Benjamin Green exudes a little more personality than the other male characters.

It is a shame that the decent visual style is not matched by Blood + Roses‘ screenplay. Hopefully Simon Aitken will have better material to work with next time.