Carmilla – A prequel to Dracula

For the uninitiated, which I was, Carmilla is a Gotchic (read saucy) novella that was originally published in 1872 and is believed by many to be the foundation upon which Bram Stoker wrote Dracula. It certainly has all the elements such as shape shifting, neck biting, seduction, rising from the grave, a vampire slayer and of course the hunting of the vampire to drive a stake through the heart.

In this story, we have a female vampire that is seducing and then taking the life of female victims. Considering the time period this book was written in that alone makes this quite a risqué story. Carmilla is the mysterious stranger who has to be rescued after her horse and cart meet with an accident. Her mother has urgent business and can’t spare the time to stop and take care of her child so she leaves her in the care of Laura and her father. (Apparently babysitting was much different back in the late 1800’s). To add to the mystery Carmilla’s mother has forbidden her from speaking of their past or their destination. She even tells Laura’s father not to ask about them right before she rides off.

As you may expect, once Carmilla is around all sorts of strange things begin to happen. First off, Laura recognizes Carmilla from dreams she had over a decade ago. Additionally, Carmilla begins to seduce Laura, lavishing her with praise and stirring up odd feelings in her. When some old restored photos show up at the house they’re amazed to find that one of the pictures looks exactly like Carmilla. Of course, the portrait was done over a hundred years ago. (You always know that’s a bad sign. There is also the other subtle sign of Carmilla sleeping all day and disappearing at night.)

Ironically there is a malady going around the village where young girls are becoming sick and dying. In some cases the young girls only live a couple of days. It’s not too far of a leap to guess that Laura gets this same malady and becomes increasingly pale and lethargic. Doctors are brought in but they fear something more supernatural is going on. This leads to an investigation, a hunt and stories of more girls suffering in the same way as Laura. Pretty soon it’s obvious Carmilla isn’t who she claims to be nor is she anywhere near as young as anyone thinks.

If anything, this is a condensed version of Dracula and is really quite good. It has the same first person narrative style told by the victim (although Dracula brings in a lot more characters and many different forms of telling the story) and has many of the same elements; which it should considering it was written first. There is a lot of interesting lore to gather from this story, and clearly sets up the vampire legend. If you have a chance and want to get to the origins of the vampire, this is worth reading.

Carmilla on Librivox
Carmilla on Wikipedia

Dracula – The book is nothing like any of the movies

Since I’m already in my Halloween mood, I just finished reading the original Dracula. In actuality I listened to it as an audiobook from Librivox.org. I’ve been listening to it for the past several days at the office while I did my regular work. It’s a really good recording and well worth the time.

It was terribly good fun, but it was almost laughable at how different the actual book is versus what we have come to know "about" the book. Taking a step back, the original Dracula starring Bela Legosi (or any other rendition really) is nothing like the original story. In the main novel Dracula shows up for the first two chapters while revealing his plans to Harker and then all but disappears for the rest of it. He does show up here and there to deliver a few lines but otherwise we "feel" his presence rather than see his person.

Another thing that really caught me was the idea that Dracula is a handsome seducer that merely has to look at women and they fall under his spell. There is certainly seduction in the very early stages of the novel and the idea of sexuality is obviously prevalent, but you don’t actually see Dracula running around bending the will of women and luring them. His actions are very much out of sight and you only see some of the end result.

To take it step further, Dracula isn’t even a main character in the original. We barely see him, we mainly hear of his deeds and the fear he causes. If anything, Dr. Seward and Van Helsing are the main characters with Mina and John Harker having major supporting roles. Everything is about the hunt for Dracula not their interaction with him. Even the "final showdown" barely has Dracula involved. Van Helsing and group cross the vast oceans on a long trek, then make their attack against the gypsies that are protecting Dracula. But once they fight off the gypsies, Dracula is defenseless and is killed without putting up and sort of fight. There is no mortal struggle between Van Helsing and Dracula as we see so often.

I also found it humorous that Dracula is killed with a knife in the heart and not a wooden stake as we are all so accustomed to. And let’s not forget that lopping off of the head bit. That usually gets left out. To graphic for television? Hard to say.

We all know the "legend" of Dracula, but this was a great reminder that the legend and the original story aren’t really that similar. Anyone else agree or am I out on a limb here?

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Paranormal Activity 2 – Do we really have to do this?

I have to say, I’m a little disappointed by this. I knew it was coming, you can’t have a success in Hollywood without the follow up sequel which then turns into a trilogy, but I was really hoping this was just going to stay a decent, "low budget" thriller. I thought this was a great movie except for the ending. I just hated the way the movie ended. I think there were dozens of betters ways to finish it off that would have been more mysterious and more compelling. But that aside, do you think this movie can capture the thrill and success of the original? Since the first movie was touted as being a real haunting which we all knew was false (you did know that right?) will this follow up actually have any suspense? We’ll certainly have to suspend A LOT of disbelief for this second go round. This could be a fun movie if you pretend the first one never existed…



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Paranormal Activity – Movie Review

First off, the jittery camera work and swinging camera motions made me somewhat motion sick. About halfway through the movie I felt queasy and light headed. Just fair warning if you’re susceptible to motion sickness you need to prepare yourself.

I went and saw this movie last night and for a low budget film this kicks ass! To get a sense of what you’re in for it’s a movie length episode of Ghost Hunters or Ghost Adventures. Toss in a little Blair Witch action and you’re good to go.

I won’t go into any of the details of the movie since that would spoil it, but the premise is simple: Micah and Kate are experiencing something odd in their home and Micah goes out and buys a video camera to document what’s going on. He puts the camera on a tripod lets it run through the night. We are watching the footage that has been found after all the events have taken place.

It starts off mostly as a game, Micah wanting to capture something and make his girlfriend feel better about living with him. But something is happening, and the lack of sleep and helplessness starts to take its toll and soon the couple is tired, scared and desperate. They begin to lash out at each other which seems to feed this entity and soon it’s all spiraling out of control.

We’ll leave it there for the details of the movie. Half the experience is seeing it all unfold. I had a great time watching this, despite the motion sickness caused by the jerky camera motions. I’m not thrilled with the ending though, I thought it would have been done better. We won’t go into the details, at least not yet, but I think it went a little too Hollywood and broke with the spirit of the rest of the movie. But that aside this is good stuff and it shows that if you have a worthwhile story you don’t need $100 million in special effects.

If you have any interest in the paranormal, enjoy Ghost Hunters or Ghost Adventures or thought The Blair Witch Project was good then you’ll have a fun time with this one. Lots of bizarre things going on and you’re constantly scanning the screen to see what’s coming.

Definitely worth seeing!

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