The Halloween season is here and in the run up to the big day I decided to
examine what is considered “scary” in the world of horror movies.

Going with Rotten Tomatoes list of the 31 scariest movies, I decided to
compare each film with another horror film from the same year to determine which one I found scarier.

Two classic Universal monsters duke it out in the latest showdown with James Whale’s Frankenstein taking on Tod Browning’s Dracula.

Frankenstein

This iconic horror film follows the obsessed scientist Dr. Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) as he attempts to create life by assembling a creature from body parts of the deceased. Aided by his loyal misshapen assistant, Fritz (Dwight Frye), Frankenstein succeeds in animating his monster (Boris Karloff), but, confused and traumatized, it escapes into the countryside and begins to wreak havoc. Frankenstein searches for the elusive being, and eventually must confront his tormented creation.

While filming Dracula, actor Bela Lugosi (who starred as Dracula) was put in makeup to play the Frankenstein monster in test footage that was later lost. Lugosi turned down the role before seeing Whale’s version of the script.

Pros

Beautiful cinematography. Whale and Edeson craft several eerie and dark moments throughout the film.

Boris Karloff brings both terror and empathy to the creature.

The movie has a great pace that keeps the plot moving.

Great acting from the cast.

Satisfying conclusion.

Cons

Effective thriller, but not scary at all.

Not enough time given to develop the human characters and their relationships.

Dracula

The dashing, mysterious Count Dracula (Bela Lugosi), after hypnotizing a British soldier, Renfield (Dwight Frye), into his mindless slave, travels to London and takes up residence in an old castle. Soon Dracula begins to wreak havoc, sucking the blood of young women and turning them into vampires. When he sets his sights on Mina (Helen Chandler), the daughter of a prominent doctor, vampire-hunter Van Helsing (Edward Van Sloan) is enlisted to put a stop to the count’s never-ending bloodlust.

A Spanish language version of the film was shot on the same sets at the same time during the night with a Spanish speaking cast.

Pros

Some great, scary imagery.

Bela Lugosi is amazing as Dracula.

The rest of the cast is fantastic.

The set design is great.

Cons

Too much of the horror is suggestive. Show don’t tell.

I know it’s nitpicking, but there are NO armadillos in Transylvania!!

Both of these classic films helped to usher in and revolutionize the horror movie genre, but only one can be the winner. For its spooky atmosphere, menacing villain and actual scares, the winner is……

Dracula

Let me know what you think in the comments below.

1 Comment

  • nscovell

    October 18, 2020 - 4:43 pm

    Oooh this is a hard showdown. I personally go with Frankenstein for its artistry and use of space. The movie has more style than Dracula. Also the torment of the monster pulls at my heart.

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