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July 9, 2012

The Mike's Top 50 Horror Movies Countdown: #24 - Horror of Dracula

Previously on the Countdown: Number 50 - Happy Birthday to Me  Number 49 - Prince of Darkness  Number 48 - House on Haunted Hill  Number 47 - The Monster Squad  Number 46 - Hellraiser  Number 45 - The Fog  Number 44 - Creature From the Black Lagoon  Number 43 - Zombie  Number 42 - Tales from the Crypt  Number 41 - Bubba Ho-Tep  Number 40 - Phantom of the Paradise  Number 39 - Dog Soldiers Number 38 - Pontypool  Number 37 - Dark Water  Number 36 - Army of Darkness Number 35 - The Legend of Hell House  Number 34 - Poltergeist  Number 33 - The Abominable Dr. Phibes  Number 32 - The Phantom of the Opera  Number 31 - The House of the Devil   Number 30 - Evil Dead II  Number 29 - Dead of Night  Number 28 - Carnival of Souls  Number 27 - Nosferatu  Number 26 - Candyman  Number 25 - The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
Horror of Dracula
(1958, Dir. by Terence Fisher.)
Why It's Here:
First of all, can I just have this poster? It's like the awesomest thing I've ever seen, and I don't even speak Dutch.
(OK, stop rolling your eyes.  I was kidding about the Dutch thing.)
Hammer Films are an acquired taste to modern horror audiences.  The studio produced movies that were essentially remakes - though no one ever seems to call them that - of Universal's classic monsters, and struck gold when they cast Christopher Lee as Dracula and Christopher Lee as Van Helsing.  The first film that offers this collaboration, Horror of Dracula, shines despite a meticulous pace and a lack of abrupt shocks.  This is dramatic - heck, even melodramatic - horror, but it's the kind that keeps me riveted.

The Moment That Changes Everything:
Lee's Dracula career - which went through a lot of ups and downs - began with a bang.  The opening seduction of Jonathan Harker by a gorgeous vampiress is ended quickly by the menacing figure of the actor, who stakes (no pun intended) his claim to the role with passion. 

It Makes a Great Double Feature With:
As I mentioned, Lee's tenure as Dracula was not completely positive.  He refused to speak in the first sequel he appeared in, and has lamented many of the later films openly.  But among some of the slips is Freddie Francis' Dracula Has Risen from the Grave, which features the keen eye of one of my favorite directors and my favorite Lee-as-Dracula moment of biting on film.  I wrote a bit about the scene in a guest piece for The Bloodsprayer one time, and I'm still pretty sure that scene makes the movie.

What It Means To Me:
Hammer films have always been the kind of films that inspired me to love horror.  They're not just here to get to the viewer on a visceral level - though they did offer vibrant colors, excellent music, and a lot of blood for their era - they're interested in telling an old fashioned horror tale.  And no film shows just how much they respect horror standards as Horror of Dracula does.  Some see it as slow and bloodless, I see it as horror poetry.

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