Universal Horror

A friend of mine who is a big film and book nerd asked me to make some horror film lists for him since it wasn’t a genre he knew well. It’s been a fun process (I’ve been a horror film fan for about 35 years!). You can read my top ten here.

It took me too long to think of beginning here. Almost anyone you can think of in the horror genre was influenced by these films. The exceptions would be folks trying to make a quick buck and just more recent ignorant filmmakers. Horror gets a bad rap, and its fans are often dismissed as troglodytes. I had to constantly listen to sci-fi fans who thought they were better than anyone else because they read something that may have accidentally had “science” in it. Even some recent directors have referred to their work as “elevated genre” because they don’t want to be associated with the horror genre.

Each of these films is worth seeing. Each character became iconic.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923)
The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
Dracula (1931)
Frankenstein (1931)
The Mummy (1932)
Invisible Man (1933)
The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
The Wolf Man (1941)
Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)

Honorable Mention: The Man Who Laughs (1928) I haven’t seen this. I just could never find it, but it’s always been of interest since Conrad Veidt’s character’s make-up is said to have influenced the design of the Joker in Batman comics. Lon Chaney was supposed to play the role originally. I’m sure it’s available today.

Related: Universal’s This Island Earth (1955) featured a great alien design with its Metalunans. And as thin as genre lines can be (and I will shamelessly cross them in my commentaries), this movie feels like sci-fi rather than horror.

Frankenstein (1931)
The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)

These three are my favorite monsters of the Universal era. They are wonderfully designed films and characters. The Gill-Man has little to no backstory in the movie if I remember correctly and I always liked that. Dracula is great, too, but I’m more interested in the feral vampire than the dandy. When I was about fourteen, I would have included Phantom and Hunchback because I was obsessed with makeup artists. Lon Chaney did all his makeup and he was a major influence on Tom Savini, who was a hero of mine as a young artist.

It’s been some time since I have seen Invisible Man, but that story never grabbed me as much. I have a feeling that it rewards more watching it as an existential picture or something.

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