As you might have figured, stretching Halloween celebrations out for a fortnight sits quite nicely with me. Pushing our Halloween themed movie marathon back two weeks from the 31st meant leaving the pumpkin decorations up two more weeks and restocking the crisp and sweet supplies. Alas, the actual pumpkins started kicking the funk a day or two after All Hallows Eve and had to go. Feeling toothy, this years back-to-back-to-backer would be nosferatu centred as we lined up four of the best movies the sub-genre has to offer.
Capes and fangs at the ready we settled in at midday day for film number one. Hammer’s first vampire caper is still arguably its best. Dracula (1958) was Bram Stoker’s novel distilled down to its bare bones. Held up against all the melodrama and glittery skin that now pervades the genre, Terence Fisher’s film is a stripped down masterpiece, the Halloween (1978) of vampire films, unfussy, concentrated, potent. Jonathon Harker buys the farm early and unnecessary characters from the novel are left on the page so that the viewer can focus on the central duel between Peter Cushing’s Van Helsing and Christopher Lee’s never bettered Count Dracula. The climatic showdown is practical and succinct making the preceding horrors all the more believable; no far-fetched chase to Castle Dracula here. The dusty demise of Dracula still draws a gasp, the effects holding up over half a century later.
The FilmsFilmsFilms Movie Marathon Deputy regrets cleaning her neck
Hanging a fang on a roasted ham and smoked cheese, we had a brief stop for lunch after Christopher Lee’s melting face stirred our appetites. Best of all one of our marathoners had constructed a fantastic gingerbread churchyard, complete with iced tombstones. It tasted even better than it looked. Bellies bulging we fired up our next choice, Carry On Screaming (1966). Only one of our number had seen it before, some years ago. I had always been put off the movie by my aversion to the Carry On films and their corny end-of-the-pier humour. My only knowledge of Screaming was the sultry Fenella Fielding in full on vampiress mode. It therefore seemed like the perfect comedic choice to break up the days serious neck nibbling.
Is there anything more awesome than a haunted gingerbread church and graveyard?
Except, as we found out, Carry On Screaming has little if anything to do with vampires. Fielding may have looked like the finest on screen vamp but her toothy tendencies are only alluded to in the loosest sense. The story revolves around her mansion of misfits and their plan to stock the shops of London with real-life mannequins with the help of two hairy Frankenstein-esque creations. Still, if it was a poor choice as a vampire film it was a superb choice as a horror comedy. Unusually Sid James is absent, replaced by Harry H Corbett who is on fine form as the investigating copper tasked with locating the stories missing dames. Joining him in stealing the show is Kenneth Williams, never better hamming up a storm as the demented Dr Orlando Watt. His snide, Groucho Marx inspired quips are worth watching for alone.
I von't to suck your beer....mwaaahahahaha!
We leave the gothic stylings of the nineteenth century behind next, for the culture shock of late eighties California and The Lost Boys (1987). The best of the eighties vampire movie revival, Joel Schumacher’s film has cheese, humour, scares and horror in equal measures. Corey Haim’s wardrobe might have been the most terrifying facet if not for Keifer Sutherland's spot on performance as vampire biker boy David. Equally astonishing is Corey Feldman’s inexplicably deep voice, no doubt put on to up the respectability of the Frog Brothers supposed vampire hunting skills. We all look out for the Peter Pan references, and cheer sweaty saxophone man Tim Capello bellowing on the beach in the unlikely after dark concert scene. Why can’t our seaside resorts be this colourful? The cast is accomplished and the undercurrents of drug addiction are wonderfully realised as Patric dons his shades and gets moody with his Mum. The is-he-isn’t he twist as to the identity of ultimate vampire leader is still a good guessing game for the uninitiated.
The Lost Boys; we still believe!
Three down and feeling fine we swoop into our fourth and final film. And it’s just as well we’re still feeling energized as our closing chapter is Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) a film as bloated as our snack filled stomachs. Faithful to Stoker’s novel it may be, but Francis Ford Coppola's movie is an acquired taste. But if you can lose yourself in the absurd melodrama of it all there’s a lot of fun to be had. I doubt it was Coppola’s intention to draw inadvertant laughter from most of his scenes, but its Bram's staunch seriousness that makes it all the more amusing. Starting with Keanu Reeve’s so bad its good English accent "bloody wolves” and Gary Oldman dressed as the Emperor from Star Wars with a white bum haircut, you’ll be chuckling with amazement by the time we leave Transylvania and land in Victorian England. Every other scene features a pair of bare boobs, while Coppola chucks everything but the kitchen sink at the movie to spice things up, swooshing tracking shots, Mina doing the nasty with a hairy beast in the backyard, surrealistic moments of candlelit dancing and wandering wolves, Gary Oldman’s mug in the sky. There are so many ideas going on its exhausting trying to keep up. Then Anthony Hopkins bat-shit crazy Van Helsing turns up and we really start to get our monies worth. The film got a commercial battering on release but two decades on its hard not to be thoroughly entertained by the whole thing.
Bram Stoker's Dracula ... a whole lotta movie
We reach the end having consumed so many sweets we have fang ache, but the films themselves were a breeze, book ended by two gothic vampire thrillers sitting at opposite ends of the horror movie spectrum; one Dracula outing a tight creepy masterpiece, the other a wallowing, lumbering gothic cheese fest. Still, with only three of the four being true vampire movies, the marathoners agree its time to up our game for the next event. More movies, more stringent quality checks on film choice, movie marathon number eleven needs to be a big one.