When the first Universal monsters appeared on the screen, people were terrified. Nowadays, the horror genre continually tries to outdo itself with monstrous creatures. None match the initial fright of when Dracula, Frankenstein, the Wolf Man, and the Mummy appeared on the screens. The black and white images put horror into stark contrast. Many of the movies were based on gothic horror novels like Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein which frightened readers in the 19th century. People were now seeing their nightmares come to life. As we celebrate Halloween, let’s take a look at why these characters are in the spotlight.
In the Spotlight
When Bela Lugosi as Dracula appeared on screen, the audiences were aghast with terror. Imagine Dracula sneaking into your room at night, drinking your blood. What about when the Mummy shambles toward you, one hand outreached to grab you? Jump scares and gruesome creatures are the norm for horror nowadays. There is nothing wrong with using those devices. They are built off the original monsters. The world of cinema was opening up a new vista and culture for viewers. The Universal monsters created a new world of spooky on screen. There was no CGI in creating the movie monsters. There were humans underneath.
The slow build up and the eerie music kept people on the edge of their seats. Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi couldn’t be separated from their movie counterparts. The novelty of horror reflected the trials the United States. The Great Depression gripped America. People didn’t have extra money to attend the movies. Seeing a movie where man defeats a monster uplifted the spirits as well as terrified the audience. The Universal Monsters reflected the fears that people had in their lives. By today’s standards, Karloff’s Frankenstein and Lugosi’s prince of darkness are a bit comedic. With the advance in special effects, it’s hard to imagine them as scary. However, they hold the fright of our first imaginings of superstition and nightmares. They are iconic because the mythos they represent is undying.
Happy Halloween, Readers!