The “Dracula” Conversation

 

 

I am a member of GoodReads.com as are several of my friends.  One, a gentleman named Tim Stamps, whom I have known since my college days at Eastern Kentucky University, recently posted a review of Dracula, on which I commented.  Thus began a brief conversation which I think you may find interesting for several reasons.   I have quoted it below, editing out any non-relevant personal matters (after having obtained Tim’s permission to post it).

 

Tim Stamps’s Reviews > Dracula

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Tim Stamps‘s review

Apr 06, 13
I could only read this during the Winter months, when the weather is cloudy, dark and gloomy. When I read fiction I prefer the classics, to learn how people thought in earlier times. The actual character of Dracula was the most un-interesting of the characters in the book. It turns out that Stoker only knew Vlad’s Dracula name but knew nothing of his past, and the character is actually based more on Jack the Ripper.  Also it was interesting to read a book made up of supposed diary entries and newspaper articles – although most actual diaries and articles written by everyday people are nowhere near as long and detailed, especially back then when paper was scarce. I understand Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein in the same format, and other books of that time did the same.  If you can find a copy, listen to the first half hour of this Coast to Coast show: http://www.coasttocoastam.com/show/20…
 message 1:      by      Phil          –            rated it 4 stars
Phil Slattery      Tim, if you like reading classic horror tales like Dracula, then you should definitely read Frankenstein. Others you may want to check out are The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, the works of Algernon Blackwood, Lord Dunsany, Arthur Machen, and Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu.  I have been writing horror lately and have established a blog on it that often discusses past writers of the horror genre. You may want to check it out at www.philslattery.wordpress.com.  You may find some of the authors I discuss of interest. One who is known more as a writer of science fiction than of horror (though the boundary is often indistinct at best) is H.G. Wells who wrote The Time Machine, War of the Worlds, The Island of Dr. Moreau, and others.
Tim Stamps      True, I definitely plan to read Frankenstein. Also have been planning on getting into Wuthering Heights and the Brönte sisters books. I’ve always been a fan of H.G. Wells, also Orwell’s dystopian works – still trying to get around to reading Huxley’s Brave New World (when I find my copy) – I can also add ebooks to a kindle, but the kindle doesn’t exactly replace paper.   I’ve depended on the movies too much – finding lots of extra details in the books that the films leave out. (I don’t really spend much time reading actually.) I’ll explore your site.. thanks! By the way, are there any horror films you really like?  Or gothic tales.  There don’t seem to be many recent ones that play into fears as well as the older ones. Some of the classics: “The Innocents” (version of Henry James’ “Turn of the Screw”), George Romero’s “Martin”, “The Exorcist”, even “The Shining” and the early “Halloween” pictures.  Recent films like “The Ring” and “the Sixth Sense” have potential.   I read in your blog that to be a great horror writer you need to understand the psychology and emotions of fear. Perhaps horror screenplay writers nowadays need to go back to the basics – just slashing people up and showing gruesome killings isn’t enough to heighten the sense of fear.  They seem to have forgotten Hitchcock and his methods of manipulating people’s emotions, although that was a time when people actually paid attention to dialog. I don’t know what it’s going to take to make a great horror movie today. Is it even possible?
Phil SlatteryTim wrote: “True, I definitely plan to read Frankenstein. Also have been planning on getting into Wuthering Heights and the Brönte sisters books. I’ve always been a fan of H.G. Wells, also Orwell’s dystopian w…”
Yes, you are right in all accounts, except that modern screenplay writers need to go back to the basics.  They cannot go back to someplace they have never been.   They need to learn the basics first. Stephen King identifies three types of horror:  horror, the gross-out, and terror (the exact lengthy quote can be found on GoodReads).  Modern, popular, mass-market screenplay writers use the gross-out form to excess. The great horror writers of the past (such as Lovecraft, Poe, Blackwood, etc.) never described anything gross.  Yet their tales are terrifying.   There is an art to horror, and Hitchcock’s concept of suspense (i.e. terror lies not in seeing something happen, but in knowing that something is about to happen) is one of the best means of achieving horror.
There are great horror movies today, but one has to veer away from the mass-market and Hollywood to find them.  Independent films and small companies are your best shot:  someone who cares about the art.  Netflix and Hulu TV are good for finding these (and finding them cheaply at that).  The series American Horror Story is quite entertaining, though it can be bloody at times. Foreign films can be an excellent source with Japan, Korea, England, Australia, and Spain coming immediately to mind. I noted that your profile says you are in the Seattle area now.  Lion’s Gate Films in Vancouver, BC makes some good films (outside of the horrifyingly gross-out Saw series).
I have seen some good horror films lately, but am having a hard time recalling their names, therefore I am reviewing some lists of top horror films on line, but of course that isn’t helping much as the lists are mass-market oriented.  One that pops out now is the original Swedish version of “Let the Right One In”.  “Dagon”, a Spanish film based somewhat loosely on a Lovecraft story (“The Shadow over Innsmouth”) is not bad. The New Zealand film “The Devil’s Island” has some interesting ideas behind it, though it is quite bloody.  That’s all I can think of on the spur of the moment.
Tim Stamps      hi Phil, Sorry about “Seattle” – don’t know how that happened (I must’ve not filled it in – the site just guessed or something.) Anyway, actually I am (still) in… I love watching foreign horror… for 70s-era foreign horror, Dario Argento comes to mind, although he leans toward the gross-out variety.  Lovecraft-written films are always great. I’ll check out these you mention (and any others you run across) – if you come up with a list of interesting foreign horror for the last 3 decades or so let me know. I have one plug: watch for “Nobody in Particular”, a crime-drama I helped out on, being re-edited – should be out sometime this year.
Thoughts?  Comments?
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