Cinema Review of “Dracula” (1931)

Dracula 1931Rating: Approved
Genre: 
Fantasy, Horror
Film Production Studio: Universal Pictures
Run Time: 
85 minutes
Starring: 
Bela Lugosi, Helen Chandler, David Manners…


BLURB:

The ancient vampire Count Dracula arrives in England and begins to prey upon the virtuous young Mina.

Classic Challenge Cluster (Extra’s) Review by Wendy:

If you read my cinema review of Bram Stoker’s Dracula from 1992, you will know I detested that movie.  After reading my review of the 1931 Dracula, I hope you won’t think that I cannot be pleased. I honestly don’t think that I am all that difficult to satisfy with entertainment (Seriously!?! I enjoyed “Pride and Prejudice Zombies” for goodness sakes!)  With that said, however, when watching different attempts of film adaptation for Bram Stoker’s Dracula, NO ONE CAN SEEM TO DO THIS BOOK JUSTICE! (I apologize for yelling my frustration.)

This black and white version began with such promise.  A man bouncing along the countryside in a horse-drawn carriage rolls into a little village. The local townspeople are appalled when learning of this outsider’s intent to continue his voyage through the night, meeting up with another carriage precisely at midnight to usher him onto Count Dracula’s Castle, his final destination.  The villagers bestow prayers and even a crucifix upon this professionally dressed man in attempts to keep him safe in his travels. I was a little disappointed to learn this outsider is Renfield, not Jonathan Harker, as mirrored in the book, but the change is easily understandable to make the conversion from book to silver screen. 

As Renfield enters the castle which is riddled with spider webs, crawling bugs and rats, Dracula descends a grand staircase greeting his guest.  I was still idealistic of the film’s direction at this point, but sadly my optimism was quickly doused.  Renfield has an ‘accident’ and tumbles down the stairs, the lovely vampire ladies appear, and then Dracula leans over his unconscious body to partake from him? Hmmmm…I didn’t remember in Jonathan Harker’s detailed journal, he ever eluded to any suspicion of being used as a vampire’s snack.  For me, the movie manages to take one wrong turn after another.  Again, the integrity of Bram Stoker’s masterpiece was desecrated by Hollywood’s attempt to convert it onto the Big Screen. 

Events are altered so much from the book that I never made imperative connections with leading characters.  I found myself distracted and disinterested in the new story unfolding in front of my eyes.  Just as in my review of the film version from 1992, the 1931 version also missed one of my favorite aspects of the book…The characters Bram Stoker created felt so real!  Their relationships with each other felt real.  Each role was pivotal in developing the story.  The characters were truly honest, respected, believers of their faith in God, and yet ordinary people. Their supernatural experiences were met with skepticism, similar to how I imagine most of the English population would react.  This Dracula film never obtained the impending aura achieved in the book.  At least this version, made in 1931, didn’t use horrors of the unknown as a feeble excuse to include sensational scenes.  

I will aim to watch more Dracula films in hopes I find one that not only claims to be modeled after Bram Stoker’s version, but actually represents it in spirit and story.  After looking at Rotten Tomatoes’ ratings at the plethora of existing Dracula movies, sadly I have very little hope any exist.

Wendy’s Rating: 2/6
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Movie Review of “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” (1992)

Dracula 1992Rating:
Genre:
Action/Horror/Comedy/Romance
Film Production Studio: Columbia Pictures
Run Time:
128 minutes
Starring:
Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder, Keanu Reeves, Anthony Hopkins…


BLURB:
The centuries old vampire Count Dracula comes to England to seduce his barrister Jonathan Harker’s fiancée Mina Murray and inflict havoc in the foreign land.

Classic Challenge Cluster (Extra’s) Review by Wendy:

Prior to reading Bram Stoker’s dark tale, I had not watched this particular version of Dracula.   While I was reading the book, my anticipation to watch the film adaptation only grew until the time when I finally allowed myself to see it.  With Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder, Keanu Reeves and Anthony Hopkins, this production of Bram Stoker’s Dracula from 1992 had some amazing actors!  Without reading any of the actual reviews, I still checked out it’s Rotten Tomatoes rating…

Rotten Tomatoes Scores

Maybe all of the hype surrounding this movie greatly raised my expectations? Maybe I didn’t watch the same film all these other movie reviewers rated?  Maybe I was watching the film adaptation too soon after very recently reading what Bram Stoker penned so his description of events was freshly painted in my mind, but seriously?  To say I was ‘let down’ would be putting it mildly.  The little note pad I used to jot down my thoughts while reviewing a movie, quickly filled up six pages! What explanation could there be for my opinion being so very opposite of so many others? I cannot answer that, but I will elaborate on my dismal viewing experience of this movie. 

I sincerely wish they wouldn’t have claimed it was Bram Stoker’s Dracula.  To me so many liberties were taken in changing not only events but personalities and the integrity of several characters. I found myself annoyed and eventually angry that the entire feel of the story was transposed.  

I will start with one visual discrepency I just couldn’t get past.  Why, oh why is Dracula’s hair ratted up on top of his head, parted down the middle, and then what would possess anyone to make it look like he has a giant butt displayed on a misshapen head?  While reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula, I felt the writer eluded to Dracula being odd, but not openly creepy and non-human; Especially during the initial meeting between Dracula and Jonathan Harker!  Dracula tried to hide that he was a vampire.  He was a very cordial host to Jonathan, his guest.  His Transylvanian castle was worn and quite dated, but Jonathan easily recognized the wealth and luxury under its antique appearance.  One more big problem I had…the movie fabricated the plot line of Dracula becoming instantly obsessed with Mina after seeing Jonathan’s photograph of her…yeah, no. 

Everything about Renfield was wrong.  He wasn’t Jonathan’s predecessor, he didn’t wear strange contraptions on his hands, and yes, he was in an asylum, however he was under the care of his very professional doctor.  Renfield was a patient staying in the asylum where the respected and compassionate Dr. Seward also lived on grounds.  The facility was supposed to be represented more like a hospital and Bram Stoker never depicted it as a dingy dungeon with cruel caretakers spraying insane residents with water hoses! 

The movie has an R rating and I understand in the 90’s pushing boundaries (some that even needed to be pushed), however I do not appreciate subjecting the virtue of several characters and frankly the purity of the entire story for the sake of making a film more edgy.   The lady vampires Jonathan comes in contact with while in the castle were just an excuse to include a racy, sexual scene.  The mutation that finally shoved me over the limit was the outrageous way the relationship between Mina and Lucy was portrayed.  While reading, I never imagined their characters as flighty, provocative or overly dramatic.  Bram Stoker described both Lucy and Mina as humble, respectable, and sweet ladies who were close companions.  I liked the honesty of their friendship.  To me one basic element in the book was how real, unpretentious, faithful, and very respected the entire cast was looked upon.  It only exaggerated the horror in experiencing supernatural events because each individual involved was an upstanding citizen in English society. 

I didn’t actually finish watching this movie.  I was annoyed one too many times after watching Mina and Lucy kiss.  I think I only made it through about 37 minutes.  I presumed for how notorious we view Dracula the vampire and for how epic Dracula the novel is considered, the movie adaptation would have been much more admirable.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t see it that way. 

Wendy’s Rating: 1/6
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Movie Review of “Pride and Prejudice Zombies” (2016)

Pride and Prejudice ZombiesFive sisters in 19th century England must cope with the pressures to marry while protecting themselves from a growing population of zombies.
PG-13      Action/Horror/Comedy/Romance
Lionsgate/Screen Gems
108 minutes
Starring: Lily James, Sam Riley, Jack Huston…


Classic Challenge Cluster (Extra’s) Review by Wendy:

Pride and Prejudice Zombies was surprisingly fun and entertaining.  The story was altered from its classic origins, weaving into history, a looming zombie apocalypse.  The end result was actually believable…Well…as believable as daily fighting zombie’s in historical English life could have been.  

The basic story line of the Bennet girls remained the same.  Each daughter is still navigating society’s class discrimination in search of a wealthy husband who will hopefully make a decent companion.   In this version however, they now have the bonus of being kick-ass zombie killers!  I still love Mr. Bennet!  He is the one responsible for training his beautiful daughters to be surprisingly skilled fighters.  I just felt this entire ridiculous scenario added another layer of intrigue to Jane Austen’s Classic English Tale. 

The cast is remarkably well suited to each character portrayal.  Personally, I favored this Mr. Darcy over the one in cast of Focus Feature’s-Pride and Prejudice movie from 2005.  Lydia Bennet still makes her share of social blunders, but I found I didn’t hate her character quite as much in this portrayal.  Mrs. Bennet’s disgraceful need to shamefully raise her family in social standing is greater amplified and the consequences of her actions are highlighted.  

Not to be considered only a spoof, another aspect of prejudice was introduced against the zombies.  The movie wanted us to consider the undead as having the ability to continue to function in society as long as they were prevented from becoming full-fledged, flesh eating monsters.  Hmmmmm….that may or may not have turned out as a realistic idea.

Overall, I found myself laughing out loud while watching this movie.  I must say I thoroughly enjoyed it!  As long as you begin it with an open mind and not take it too seriously, I recommend seeing it.  This is a perfect example of keeping our narrative CASUAL. 

Wendy’s Rating 4/6

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Review of “bite.” by Wattpad Author Lady Angel of Twist

BiteTitle: bite.
Author: Wattpad Author angeltwist or Lady Angel of Twist (listed both ways on Wattpad)
Status: Completed
Parts: 41
Genre: Romance, Supernatural


BLURB:
Back when Y2K was a thing, Lorna was a typical 90s girl looking forward to the 21st Century. She has a family, boyfriend and a dream to finish college. However just before the dawn of the new millennium, Lorna finds herself the victim of a vampire attack that leaves her dead in the ground for ten years.A decade later and Lorna wakes up as a fully-fledged vampire and learns she is now the member of a powerful London coven that is closely guarded by the British government and their strange genetically modified vampire soldiers, known as the’ Archangels’. After an accident Lorna finds herself bonded to Michael, one of the mysterious Archangel soldiers, and together they are charged with finding out about the disappearances of both humans and vampires around the UK. As they search the country for answers they discover secrets that could tear apart the fragile truce between humans and vampires.

Wattpad Book Review by Wendy

I’ve had this book in my Current Reads queue for quite a long time and never actually got around to reading it.  Reading Dracula must have inspired me to read more in vampire genre?  Whatever the reason, I am glad I read it.  bite. is entertaining and thankfully not overly predictable.

Wattpad Author angeltwist (Lady Angel of Twist) has an interesting approach to creating the vampire family tree.  I fully embraced this new perspective.  Her whole concept of creating ‘baby vampires’ (probably not what you are thinking) is unique.  It feels like a believable part of vampire life, culture and family. The concept of Lorna inheriting physical traits of her vampire parents enforces their lineage. Although stolen from her human family, Lorna’s new vampire parents feel mostly genuine in welcoming her as their own.  I only say mostly because I think the author could have more consistently represented the protectiveness that I imagine, these two mom’s would have had after waiting 10 years to see their ‘baby’, especially in times of alarm.  I applaud angeltwist’s brilliant design in leveling all vampire descendant’s origins; Meaning, these two vampire moms create their family unit the same way any heterosexual vampire couple starts their family. There is just something comforting to me when both parents can revel in optimistic anticipation of bestowing their own biological traits to their descendants. 

angeltwist did include a realistic prejudice, however she presented it tactfully only enhancing the story, not imposing on the plot.   The story is a little busy, but still easy enough to understand.  The grammar is a bit under par and I found myself having to reread sentences sometimes to make sure I came away with an accurate understanding of the text. (Am I the only person who edits sentences while I am reading them?) This was a fun read, not overly heavy and yet still included some more meaningful thoughts.

Wendy’s Rating 3/6

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Review of “The Darkest Part of the Forest” by Holly Black

The Darkest Part of the ForestTitle: The Darkest Part of the Forest
Author: Holly Black
Pages: 336 (hardcover)
Published: January 13th, 2015
Genre: Fantasy


BLURB:
Children can have a cruel, absolute sense of justice. Children can kill a monster and feel quite proud of themselves. A girl can look at her brother and believe they’re destined to be a knight and a bard who battle evil. She can believe she’s found the thing she’s been made for.
Hazel lives with her brother, Ben, in the strange town of Fairfold where humans and fae exist side by side. The faeries’ seemingly harmless magic attracts tourists, but Hazel knows how dangerous they can be, and she knows how to stop them. Or she did, once.
At the center of it all, there is a glass coffin in the woods. It rests right on the ground and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives. Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children. The boy has slept there for generations, never waking.
Until one day, he does…
As the world turns upside down, Hazel tries to remember her years pretending to be a knight. But swept up in new love, shifting loyalties, and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough?

Chronicle Review by Audrey:

The fae world is very well known, and has been adapted into many different versions over time. I happen to love the mythological side of things and I am always looking for new things to read and discover in this genre.  The Darkest Part of the Forest is one book where, as I write this, I want to go back and reread it. No, it may not be some life altering novel that will fracture the with-standings of time, but it is enjoyable and we all need a bit of enjoyment.

Hazel and Ben are siblings that connected with me because their relationship reminded me of mine with my own brothers. They have inside jokes and when they are together they do their own thing. This relationship connection makes The Darkest Part of the Forest more authentic and brings my ratings of it, that much higher. When new characters are introduced in the story, this cherished bond between existing characters doesn’t change, it may falter, but it seems to come out stronger in the end.
We all know of those couples that just make us smile because of their innocence or how cute they are together.  This book is full of those sweet moments, and it brings out a light-hardheartedness that is needed in times of despair. What is a story without these kinds of bonds? 

Time and consideration were put into each and every character, making the plot stronger, the climax more intense and the ending that much more complete. I could tell while reading, that Holly Black composed each detail to maintain an integrity throughout the entire book.  I was content when I finished it, not ecstatic but nor was I disappointed. Of course, this isn’t what every reader is hoping for, but for me I was satisfied with the conclusion. 

RATING: 4/6

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Review of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”

DraculaTitle: Dracula
Author: Bram Stoker
Release Date: May 26, 1897
Genre: Gothic, Horror
Pages: 554


BLURB:
DRACULA is an 1897 Gothic horror novel by Irish author Bram Stoker. Famous for introducing the character of the vampire Count Dracula, the novel tells the story of Dracula’s attempt to move from Transylvania to England so he may find new blood and spread the undead curse, and the battle between Dracula and a small group of men and women led by Professor Abraham Van Helsing. DRACULA has been assigned to many literary genres including vampire literature, horror fiction, the gothic novel and invasion literature. Although Stoker did not invent the vampire, he defined its modern form, and the novel has spawned numerous theatrical, film and television interpretations.

Classic Challenge – Book Review by Wendy

I was excited to read Dracula.  I admit, I am one of those fans of a certain overly promoted series of books revolving around vampires and werewolves. I never went full out fan-girl and never backed either Team Edward or Team Jacob, but I loved their supernatural world, the characters and their relationships….preferably the book versions over the movie versions. Either way, that story and those relatable characters were easy to visualize, much in the same way that I connected to the story and characters in Dracula.  It could very well be because Dracula seems to be a basis of vampire legacy and pieces of Bram Stoker’s story have been told, retold, altered and embellished since its inception.

Bram Stoker weaves together an intricate retelling of this complicated story through journal entries, letters, diary pages, published news articles and doctor’s notes.  The first four chapters begin with Jonathan Harker’s journal entries and kept me captivated.  I was at a loss when the story changed from primarily his perspective in the Transylvania castle to the characters back in England!  For me, the book hit a lull for a time initially after this transition, but only until I found myself again engrossed with the events and emotions of the English personalities. The story is cleverly written and I loved seeing how events unfolded to incorporate the full story.   Even though the unspeakable horrors Jonathan experienced and witnessed in Transylvania are addressed, we never did get all the details or learn how he managed to get out of that evil castle, ALIVE and return to England.

I agree with Audrey, the very proper and antiquated speech can read like another language at times.  While reading, if I need to regularly refer to a dictionary my fascination tends to fizzle-out and my mind wanders.  Although I love Dr. Van Helsing, he can be quite a wind-bag (no disrespect intended).  In fact one of his own quotes from this very book sums up much of his monologue tendencies…”Alas, but that sentence is a puddle is it not?” 

Because I have read, watched and heard plenty of vampire stories, I had an idea of how this book would end…Wow! I was so wrong! I LOVED that I incorrectly predicted the ending to this legendary folktale. I won’t recap the ending in case there is anyone reading this who hasn’t yet read Dracula, but I will say it was a welcomed surprise.

Wendy’s Rating: 5/6

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Review of “Dracula” by Bram Stoker

DraculaTitle: Dracula
Author: Bram Stoker
Release Date: May 26, 1897
Genre: Gothic, Horror
Pages: 554


BLURB:

DRACULA is an 1897 Gothic horror novel by Irish author Bram Stoker. Famous for introducing the character of the vampire Count Dracula, the novel tells the story of Dracula’s attempt to move from Transylvania to England so he may find new blood and spread the undead curse, and the battle between Dracula and a small group of men and women led by Professor Abraham Van Helsing. DRACULA has been assigned to many literary genres including vampire literature, horror fiction, the gothic novel and invasion literature. Although Stoker did not invent the vampire, he defined its modern form, and the novel has spawned numerous theatrical, film and television interpretations.

Classic Challenge – Book Review by Audrey

Vampires have been apart of folklore for what seems like forever. Reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula was interesting for me as I was finally able to understand what has been considered a major basis for the many interpretations of vampires.

The beginning of Dracula starts out slow, setting the scene for the next half of the book. The slow nature and outdated wording, of course made some of the moments feel endless and long-winded (especially the infamous Van Helsing). I found myself nodding off, but even when I had my doubts, the book always pulled me back in. A thing I loved about Dracula was the mystery and story that, we as readers, had to figure out and pay attention to as every detail was important. As the book progressed and unfolded, the connections in the details kept me intrigued and anticipating if my intuitions were correct. 

Of course, with any book, the characters are an important component, and I could not have asked for better dynamics or personalities as they completely shaped the story.  The intelligence and precautions of Dr. Seward and Van Helsing, the unique experience and knowledge from Jonathan and Mina Harker, the resolve and wealth of Lord Godalming and Quincy’s tenacious initiative combined with the bravery each character displays are all needed in the attempts to combat Dracula’s plans.  Adding in the love between Jonathan and Mina with the protectiveness each man feels towards Lucy and Mina, and the courage displayed throughout is remarkable.  All the characters meshed together to form their own family that I loved.  Oh, and don’t let me forget about Renfield. His crazy and devotion definitely brought humor when it was due.

Dracula is hard for me to review, because there is just so much to say about it, and I do not think that I could do it justice with words. I loved this book, and the ending brought surprise and mixed emotions as the outcome was definitely unexpected.

Audrey’s Rating: 5/6

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