If you really like to get into the Halloween season, chances are you enjoy curling up for a scary movie now and then. With decorations up, sweet fall treats around, and the full mood of the season settling in, it’s just the perfect time to throw on one of your favorite horror flicks, ideally with a few friends over. And chances are you have a few go-to favorites as well, if you’re a true Halloween junkie.
But it’s fun to pick out a few new scary movies (or shows) as well. This is why we recently highlighted Castlevania, which as we said is fated to be loved by cult fans, particularly during this of all seasons. But here, rather than looking at another example of brand new content, I’m going to make the argument that this particular Halloween season is built for classics. And we can all thank Universal for that.
Currently, Universal is in the early stages of a film series rollout that will include reboots of its legendary monster properties. The Mummy this past spring was the first project to be included, but more noteworthy characters are on the way: Dracula, Frankenstein, the Invisible Man, the Wolfman, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon are all getting new movies, and there could be a Jekyll & Hyde film as well. That might just sound like a generic motley crew to you, but if you’re a fan of classic horror at all, those names may call some older films to mind. And with all of them set for reboots in the coming years, Halloween 2017 is a perfect time to watch the originals.
The 1931 version of Dracula is probably the most iconic of the bunch, with lead actor Bela Lugosi having played a large role in establishing how we think of the Dracula character even now. This is one concept that Universal has actually already rebooted. 2014’s Dracula Untold brought the character back to life in a sort of blend of historical fiction and fantasy, though it was largely dismissed as a missed opportunity. The Roger Ebert site was somewhat kind, noting that there were glimmers of a brooding and icky horror epic scattered throughout the film. But it didn’t quite match what we think of as a true Dracula tale (and it’s a little bit unclear if it’s part of the Universal monster series to come). By contrast the 1931 version is a reminder of the foundations, not only of Dracula but really of all vampire fiction. If you’re the type to appreciate the classics, it’s well worth your time.
The only film that can match the 1931 Dracula movie in influence and prestige is probably the Frankenstein project from the same year. If Bela Lugosi defined how we think of Dracula, it’s fair to say that Boris Karloff did very much the same thing for Frankenstein’s monster. We’ve since seen that same monster interpreted every which way, as a darker horror figure, a comedic and misunderstood goon, etc. But even the very look of Frankenstein as a zombie-like monster of a human with a tall forehead and scary, lifeless eyes stems from Karloff. And the film itself, in which Frankenstein’s monster escapes into the world and must be hunted down and confronted, is terrific. Sure, its dated quality means it isn’t necessarily scary anymore, but any fan of the horror genre should appreciate it as a foundational piece.
I will say that 1933’s The Invisible Man may be my personal favorite of this bunch, and it’s a shame because it’s probably the most forgotten. The hope is that Universal can bring some attention back to this clever story, and the studio has already gotten started in a way. They’ve partnered with game designer NetEnt in an effort to recreate the story of The Invisible Man via slot reel, for one thing. It’s not quite as silly as it sounds, with the game conveying the sense of mystery and creepiness that belongs with this narrative. Universal has also already announced that Johnny Depp will star in the remake, which could bring some excitement. Regardless, I’d recommend going back to this original. Even in black-and-white from the ‘30s there’s something very spooky about a man who turns himself invisible and goes mad as a result – and the character’s mummy-like costuming adds a lot to the picture.
There are old versions of films featuring the other monsters in Universal’s lineup as well, but these are the three that can rightly be described as classics. Best of all, they’re actually very accessible. All of them can be rented or purchased for just a few dollars at places like Amazon, iTunes, and Google Play, and Dracula and The Invisible Man are actually available for free on Vimeo.
For a true fan of the season, not too many things beat a classic black-and-white horror flick on a long night among Halloween decorations. And with these projects all set to be rebooted in the near future, now’s the time to revisit them.