As we have hit the halfway point to Halloween 2023, at time of writing this, I figured I would take the opportunity to talk a little bit about one of the things from my childhood that contributed to my love of horror and Halloween.
Growing up, I wasn’t really allowed to watch PG-13 or Rated R movies until I got pretty close to the recommended age for those movies. Because of this, I wasn’t really allowed to watch movies and shows that I really wanted to (not a complaint, I totally get why my parents did this).
One example of this was when I was around 6 or 7. My mom took me to the local library which had movies you could check out. I was absolutely obsessed with aliens because of movies like Independence Day and Men in Black (I was allowed to watch these because they didn’t really have anything bad in them). I even thought I was an alien. I was absolutely obsessed with the concept. So, when I tried to rent the sci-fi/horror classic, Alien, I was immediately shut down. When I got a little older and finally saw the film I had a “good call, mom!” moment, for sure.
So, as I found movies that were rated appropriately for my age I jumped at the chance to watch them.
In 1997, there was a big push by Universal to re-release the original Universal Monsters series on VHS. While hanging out at my friend’s house one Friday after school, he asked if I wanted to watch a movie he just rented. That movie was the 1931 Dracula starring Bela Lugosi. We made it through the entire film and I was absolutely blown away. A little slow and boring for a single-digit-aged kid, absolutely! But the concept was fantastic and had me hooked immediately. If I’m remembering correctly, we might have also watched Frankenstein (1931) but I can’t remember exactly when that movie came into my life.
The next week, when spending the night with my grandmother (something I did every Friday) I asked if we could rent a movie. When we got to Blockbuster, I asked if we could rent Creature From the Black Lagoon. I was obsessed with swimming as a kid so this totally checks out in a serendipitous way.
Then, after watching these movies a couple of times, they kind of moved to the back of my mind for many years. I still loved the visuals of the monsters but didn’t sit down to watch them for around 20+ years.
Classic Monsters Revisited
During the pandemic, I spent a lot of time soul-searching which included a lot of hobbies. Keeping a long story short, I revisited things that I pushed aside as I started my career almost a decade ago. Horror being one of those things because it’s tough to have an outward interest in the genre while remaining professional in a public context.
My wife and I frequently found ourselves joining in on episodes of The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs on Shudder and absolutely loving the community around the show. Not only did we both get to enjoy watching movies we were unfamiliar with, for the most part, but we got to chat on Twitter with folks also watching live. It gave me a similar feeling to the one I had when I started actively participating in the SEO community.
As I got deeper into the Mutant Fam community and spent a lot of my time watching horror movies, I decided to revisit the Universal Monsters I once loved. My lovely wife gifted me the Complete Universal Monsters box set for my birthday which started me on my journey.
Before acquiring the box set, I had watched most of the core 8 films (Dracula, Frankenstein, The Bride of Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Wolfman, The Creature From the Black Lagoon, The Invisible Man, and Phantom of the Opera) but there was so much more I hadn’t seen. So, I decided this journey needed to be in chronological order.
At the time of writing this, I have seen about half of the films in the series (I’m currently on The Mummy’s Tomb from 1946). My initial impression of the series as I hit this halfway point is that all of these films are excellent, except for the films of one of the monsters.
I have not enjoyed any of the Invisible Man/Woman movies. They just don’t resonate with me. I feel like The Invisible Man was just an annoying, chaotic character and didn’t have any of the redeeming qualities the others had. There was no moment in any of those films where I felt any sympathy for the character(s) like I did for Frankenstein’s Creature or The Gill-Man. Hell, even Dracula!
Clearly, the films get a bit campier as you move deeper through the series and get into more of the sequels. That being said, there are a few that really stood out as special to me. The real standout being Dracula’s Daughter. Not only does this film tell a really interesting story but it is also incredibly progressive and ahead of its time. I highly recommend it!
I’ve also found that some films I didn’t care for as much when I was younger, like The Mummy and The Wolfman, were much more enjoyable as an adult.
Deeper Down the Crypt
I’m hoping to finish this series of films by the end of 2023. If you are interested in seeing my rankings of the films, you can keep up with my progress and updated rankings on my Letterboxd list. The Letterboxd list can be viewed here!
I’ve also recently acquired a series of young adult novels from the early 2000s that act as direct sequels to the initial films. I’ll probably do a separate post about those once I’ve read them but I’m really excited for them.
My daughter, who is currently 3, is also starting to show an interest in these characters so I’m really looking forward to watching these with her once she gets a little bit older.