ByAlex Leptos, writer at
Films from across the globe that may have slipped under your radar. With a dose of horror and pro-wrestling. Instagram: @alexleptos_art
Alex Leptos

This has been a busy week for television, with Game of Thrones making its triumphant return earlier this week and the return of Britain's brilliant period crime drama Peaky Blinders on May 5th. But before that, horror fans await the return of cult horror favourite, Penny Dreadful. The Gothic horror series, which revolves around several characters of Gothic fiction and literature, including Victor Frankenstein, Dorian Gray and The Wolf Man, has become a favourite among fans of the scary since its start in 2014. It gives fans everything we could possibly want from a horror series; its got gore, possessions, ghosts, witches, werewolves, vampires and everything in between. The storytelling is deep and intelligent, the characters fascinating and fleshed out, the performances superb and the show has a tendency to not shy away from anything. Penny Dreadful's cast consists of well known faces from Hollywood including Eva Green (300: Rise of an Empire, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For), Josh Hartnett (30 Days of Night) and Timothy Dalton (007 The Living Daylights, A Licence to Kill) as well as fan favourite, Billie Piper of Doctor Who.

If, like me, you are becoming impatient waiting for May 1st to arrive, try these 5 movies, all based on characters also appearing in Penny Dreadful, to get your Gothic horror fix whilst you wait for the return of Ms Ives.

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994)

Arguably the most well known and faithful adaptation of Mary Shelley's original story (despite several alterations and additions to the novel), This version of the monster classic remains a favourite. The film is visually striking and Robert De Niro's portrayal of the creature is emotional and tragic (in a good way!) However, the film does lack in the story department and tends to be a little all over the place and it is sometimes too ambitious for its own good. This is, however, an overall enjoyable but somewhat inconsistent experience. The film also stars Helena Bonham Carter.

Whilst we're on the subject, if you're in the mood for something a little more artistic, take a look into Danny Boyle's 2011 stage adaptation of the story titled Danny Boyle's Frankenstein. It stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller alternating the roles of Victor Frankenstein and the Creature. This was reportedly done so that the two actors could gain a better understanding of each other's characters. This version starts at a later point than the screen adaptations, with the Creature's 'birth' opening the story.

Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

All of this Frankenstein talk brings me to our next entry, 1935's Bride of Frankenstein. This adaptation builds upon a subplot of Mary Shelley's original story; in the original, Victor is convinced by his Creature to create for him a female mate, but fears the possibility of it leading to the breeding of an entire race of creatures that could plague mankind, and Victor destroys his unfinished creation. This movie imagines what would have happened if the female creature was born. The film follows on immediately from the 1931 hit, Frankenstein, with Boris Karloff reprising his roll. According to many, this sequel surpassed the first.

The Oakland Tribune said of the flick,

"A fantasy produced on a rather magnificent scale, with excellent stagecraft and fine photographic effects"

Elsa Lanchester, who plays the titular character, gives one of my favourite performances in any film ever. Her portrayal of the 'newly born' creature is innocent and naive, her bird-like head movements and scared screams are just like that of a baby experiencing the world for the first time.

Today, Bride of Frankenstein is regarded as one of the greatest horror movies of all time, typically hailed as 'Whale's masterpiece'. The film boasts great acting and visuals that were revolutionary for the time and still hold up today as a nostalgic piece of cinema that is culturally, historically and aesthetically significant.

The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945)

Oscar Wilde's novel tells the story of Dorian Gray, who is the subject of a full-length portrait in oil by Basil Hallward, an artist who is impressed and infatuated by Dorian's beauty. Dorian comes to the realization that his beauty will one day fade, and expresses desire to sell his soul and put it into the painting; so that the painting, rather than he, will age. Dorian then pursues a life of varied and amoral experiences, remaining young and beautiful while his portrait ages and reflects his sins, the ugliness of his soul.

Albert Lewin's screen adaptation is the most beloved film version of the tale, it is a faithful adaptation for the most part, with only some changes made to character details. The film is shot in black and white with a creative use of colour, only appearing for shots of the portrait itself; it was a smart decision and adds an eerie element to the movie. The performances are great and it is stunningly photographed. The sexual subtexts and Dorian's transgressions have been toned down, leaving most of it to the viewers imagination. The Picture of Dorian Gray is an elegant and classy horror film.

Dracula (1992)

Francis Ford Coppola's 1992 adaptation of Bram Stoker's classic vampire story is a close following of the original.

A young lawyer (Jonathan Harker) is assigned to a gloomy village in the mists of eastern Europe. He is captured and imprisoned by the undead vampire Dracula, who travels to London, inspired by a photograph of Harker's betrothed, Mina Murray. In Britain, Dracula begins a reign of seduction and terror, draining the life from Mina's closest friend, Lucy Westenra. Lucy's friends gather together to try to drive Dracula away. - IMDb

The film includes fantastic performances from an all star cast made up of Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder, Anthony Hopkins and Keanu Reeves. Like many horror flicks of the time, the film boasts stunning visuals, lavish sets and a darkly vibrant colour palette.

This isn't all pretty visuals though, Bram Stoker's Dracula also has some horrific and disturbing moments, with a particularly unsettling tone throughout. The only real negative I can think of was how bad Keanu Reeves English accent was. You know how the British think Americans think we sound, overly posh and a little ridiculous? Well, Reeve's accent in this, is it.

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The Wolf Man (1941)

The Wolf Man wasn't the first Werewolf movie, but it was the movie that gave us the werewolf mythology that is still widely used to this day.

The plot follows Larry Talbot on his return home from America to Wales, visiting a gypsy camp with village girl Jenny Williams, who is attacked by a gypsy who has turned into a werewolf. Larry kills her but is bitten during the fight, causing him to become a werewolf at each full moon.

This film has all the things that a classic Gothic horror piece would; dark, foggy forests, mansions and crypts, an intelligent script and great performances with a raw and unsettling pre-CGI presentation. The Wolf Man sparked peoples interest in half man-half wolf beings that is still strong to this day.

I think that's enough to keep you busy for the time being.

Watch the trailer for the new season of Penny Dreadful below:

And if you're a fan of Gothic horror and literature and for some reason have not seen the first two seasons, I strongly recommend that you check it out!

For the newbies out there, here is the trailer for season 1:

Penny Dreadful returns for it's third season on the 1st of May.


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