While modern horror films continue to find thrilling new ways to shock and scare us, the classic tales the genre is built on will never go out of style.
Humanity was always afraid of the dark. Well, not of the dark itself… but the things that may be lurking in it. Over the millennia, we populated the darkness with hordes of monsters, demons, ghosts, and fairies — some benevolent, others, not so much. Over time, fiction writers gave our fears and nightmares a name. And later, filmmakers gave them faces.
In the golden age of movies, several of our mythical antagonists got a “standard” look, a personality, even a face in many cases. And these classic monsters are still with us, more than a century after their first appearance on the silver screen.
The Two Faces of Our Soul
In his novella “The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde”, Robert Louis Stevenson described the antics of Edward Hyde, a cruel, remorseless, and evil character that only emerges after Dr Henry Jekyll ingests a potion he mixed himself. Some consider it a metaphor for the innate duality of human nature, others, a surprisingly accurate depiction of dissociative identity disorder.
The good doctor and his evil alter-ego have made many appearances since the novella was first published in 1886. They were the subject of stage plays, films (the latest being “Madame Hyde” where Marie Géquil and Madame Hyde were played by Isabelle Huppert), radio plays, TV series, songs, even a Jekyll and Hyde video slot machine.
Out For Blood
Inspired by the Romanian legends about the strigoi sucking the vitality out of unsuspecting humans, transforming into animals, and becoming invisible, Bram Stoker wrote an epistolary novel about the Count Dracula moving to London from his ancient castle in Transylvania. Of course, he is subsequently defeated by Professor Abraham Van Helsing and a team of brave, young Englishmen (and women).
The novel had a huge impact on literature (it effectively created the “vampire fantasy” subgenre, for one). And its on-screen adaptations turned the Count into a veritable pop culture icon.
Perhaps the best-known version of the quasi-immortal bloodsucker is the one played by Bela Lugosi in the 1931 movie adaptation of the book. Since then, countless actors played countless vampires in movies, TV series, radio plays, cartoons — even on Sesame Street. And hordes of them have been shot in video games. But the classic vampire character, Dracula, always returns to the spotlight, one way or another.
The latest take on Dracula is a BBC mini-series written and produced by Doctor Who and Sherlock’s Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss. In it, the immortal count will be played by Danish actor Claes Bang.
Wraps and Dust
Egypt was always considered a land of secret wisdom, and magic, with many secrets that can’t be uncovered by mere mortals. One of the deepest mysteries of the bygone Egyptian civilization was mummification — their method of preserving their dead’s bodies for posterity. Many have wondered if the mummies were capable of awakening.
The first stories of walking mummies killing unsuspecting British explorers emerged in the Victorian era, setting a new trend and inspiring writers like Bram Stoker and H. Rider Haggard to write their own. The mummy began its movie monster career in 1932, played by the legendary Boris Karloff.
It keeps returning to the screen ever since, with the latest featuring the reincarnation of an undead Egyptian goddess Ahmanet in 2017’s failed “The Mummy”.