House of Horrors

The next time I tell you that I saw something when I saw it, you believe me that I saw it!

– Wilbur Grey

Day 31. Halloween. There’s no surprise about today’s film, no switch-up, no whim. It’s always the same – for every Halloween, as far back as I can recall, I’ve watched Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948). It’s a tradition I’ve held fast to, however I feel, whatever the circumstances – come the day, this film will be on and I will laugh at the same scenes every time. It’s a ritual, a Halloween rite – it’s my virgin blood, my tana leaves, my bolt of lightning. I need it to make it through the rest of the year intact. It has never failed me, and God willing it never will.

There’s a lot to like about it, even if you’re not a fan of humour in your horror. It’s the last real go-round for the Sons of Shock – Lugosi as Dracula, Chaney as the Wolf Man and Glenn Strange as the Frankenstein’s Monster – and by and large, it sends them out on a strong note, and on Halloween no less. It’s a better monster rally than either House of Frankenstein (1944) or House of Dracula (1945), with a tighter plot and an interesting twist on the formula – the Wolf Man attempting to put his curse to good use by aiming it at Dracula, while the latter attempts to revivify the Monster in order to use the brute as his servant. Of the Universal films that bring together multiple monsters it’s the only one other than Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943) that doesn’t feel somehow forced. Even better, all of the monsters get to interact to some degree.

The real strength of the film, however, is in how it carries itself. The horror elements are largely played straight – you could remove Abbot and Costello’s bumbling Chick Young and Wilbur Grey from the film entirely and still have a perfectly entertaining film. The humour is left to the comedians and the horror is left to the monsters and only rarely do the twain meet.

Even today, it’s still one of my Desert Island Five. I have watched multiple copies of this film into the grave, going from VHS to DVD. It was the first Universal monster movie I ever saw, and my love for those characters – for horror as a genre, even – is due entirely to this film. Heck, my career as a writer is because of this film. Every bit of dialogue I’ve ever written has its genesis in the rapid fire back-n-forth of the characters in this film. This is the film that will be playing on my hologram headstone in the graveyard of the future.

If you’ve never seen it, watch it. If you have seen it, watch it again. And then do it again next year.

2 thoughts on “House of Horrors

  1. Pingback: Fright Festival 2021 | HUNTING MONSTERS

  2. I prefer books to movies so around Halloween read horror. I just finished Ray Bradbury’s October Country. I have read it years ago. I probably enjoyed it more this time.

    On Halloween day itself I listened to Old Time Radio show called The Mysterious Traveler. Specifically the episode Behind The Locked Door. It is pretty spooky.

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