Gothic Horror is a term used to depict fictitious work that has incorporated a lot of horror scenes as well as elements of the unreal world, exploring the conflict between good and evil and dealing with the supernatural in some sort of way. The episodic novel Dracula written by Bram Stoker in 1897 and the movie Blade by Stephen Norrington created in 1998 bring to the fore many conventions relating to the Gothic Horror genre despite their vastly different contexts. Gothic elements of imprisonment, eccentricity and death are clearly represented through each of the texts.
Stoker and Norrington present these conventions through a variety of literary and film techniques, paying particular attention to character and setting to explore the elements of the genre. Through these interactions, the audience can feel a sense of Gothic Horror in which the composers of the two texts aim to convey. The setting is a prominent aspect of Stoker’s novel, as it creates the mood and atmosphere and affects the characters of the novel. The castle in Dracula is the main setting that the reader is introduced to and sets the journey on a mysterious, evil and suspenseful road.
Jonathan believes that “the castle is a veritable prison” and he is the prisoner. Dracula’s castle is situated in a rural location, said to be the superstitious west were all the mythical creatures from vampires, ghosts, witches and wolves are found. To reinforce the concept of imprisonment, all the doors in the castle are locked and Jonathan is restricted in his freedom to wonder around it. The quote “doors, doors, doors everywhere and all locked and bolted” suggests that Dracula doesn’t want Jonathan to engage in his activities to learn more about him and his condition.
This restricts the reader from gaining further knowledge of the detail and mysteries of the castle, leaving us helpless in suspense and fear, not knowing what lies beyond the locks. Additionally, “the castle is on the very edge of a terrible precipice and is surrounded by sea and wolves”. This further implies that Jonathan cannot escape as death lurks below and therefore must serve all the orders of the count if he ever wants to be free. Consequently, the underground night club setting can be parallel to Dracula’s castle as it is situated in a secret location, underground were the female vampires lure their victims in (femme-fatal).
The clever use of quick-editing within the start of the scene creates suspense to the audience and leads them to the fact that something bad is near. Moreover, the use of diegetic sound, the fast paced “boom, boom” music is very loud, creating a sense of fear and tension towards the viewer. Blood is also conveyed within the scene, where it begins to spray out of the sprinkles, affecting the behaviour of the people in the club as they grew fangs and turn to vampires, another gothic convention.
A sense of imprisonment is also conveyed as Dennis; the character lured in the nightclub is trapped and surrounded by all the vampires. The low ceiling adds the effect of suffocation and the low angle shots give the vampires their dominance. At this point, the audience can conclude that Dennis is going to be murdered by all the vampires but just as the music stops and the sprinkles come to a halt, Blade arrives. It is therefore clear that imprisonment is conveyed within the two texts but in different ways.
Another convention of Gothic Horror presented is Stoker’s novel is eccentricity. This is expressed through Dracula’s interactions with the solicitor Jonathan Harker. When Jonathan meets Dracula he encounters horrific and eerie scenarios. The composer uses descriptive language to enhance the physiognomy of Dracula. Jonathan says “the count seems very strong; his hand seemed like a steel vice that could have crushed me if he had chosen”. This questions Dracula’s humanity as he possesses strength of which humans don’t, making him seem strange and odd.
Further characteristics described by Harker are “his mouth, cruel looking with sharp teeth, red lips. ” Here, the reader can finally infer that the count has inhumane characteristics and his descriptions match those of a vampire. Furthermore, eccentricity is expressed within a key scene in the novel where Jonathan spies of the count in his room, hoping to gain some sort of secret and instead, experiences something peculiar. “At first I could not believe my eyes…just as a lizard moves along the wall. This quote describes Dracula spiralling down the wall of his room, and uses a simile to compare him to a lizard, giving him animal behaviour that is bizarre and weird to the normal human thought. Consequently, the reader can conclude that Dracula is in fact a vampire and holds abnormal behaviour which is another convention of the Gothic genre Although the convention of Death is similar in both texts, it is presented differently. Within Dracula, the death scene occurs to Lucy Westenra. The setting is very dark and mysterious, taking place in a cemetery which is a key gothic element. She seemed like a nightmare of Lucy; the pointed teeth, the bloodstained voluptuous mouth”. This clever use of simile implies that Lucy has finally become a vampire and therefore is un-dead. Lucy is finished off with a stake through her heart, “Arthur placed the point over her heart, as I looked I could see its dint in the white flesh. Then he struck with all his might”. This form of death is very gruesome and adds a lot of fear and suspense. In contrast, the Death scene in Blade occurs on a Beach where Dragonetti, the elder vampire is murdered by Deacon Frost and his crew.
The scene establishes its setting through a widescreen shot, showing the viewer figures on the beach, only their silhouettes presented to us. This use of low modality adds suspense, fear and mystery as the viewer wants to know who the figures are. There is a dominance of the colour blue which implies to the viewer that is dawn, still calm, kind of lonely which is another gothic element. Deacon Frost speaks to Dragonetti using colloquial language and the camera shows a mid-shot between them. Dragonetti is stripped of his fangs and killed off by the sun, exploding and turning to dust.
This is another gruesome form of death and provokes the viewer’s to feel sympathetic, even though Dragonetti is on the evil side. The weather is another gothic convention used effectively within the scene to illustrate death. The character of Blade and Dracula can be significantly contrasted. Stoker’s Dracula is a metaphor for pure evil. He represents the devil, being very intelligent, ancient and having the power to control weather elements and transform into any life figure. “Between me and the moonlight flitted a great bat, coming and going in great, whirling circles. …this quote reinforces the fact that Dracula can transform into practically anything, making him dark, evil and immortal. Alternatively, Blade represents hope for all humans, against the vampires. He is a modern day Hybrid (half-vampire, half-human), the hero for the humans and enjoys killing off vampires. Within the movie he is referred to as the “day walker”, as he possesses all the strengths of a vampire but not their weaknesses. Blade is also more modernized, action packed and violent. His costuming is very modernized and dark, giving him a kind of satanic hero look.
He carries a range of skillful weapons which is different to Dracula as there is no mention of any weaponry used by him in the novel. Through a comparative study of both texts, both Dracula and Blade significantly convey the conventions of the gothic genre effectively. Although similar, they have distinct differences and effectively present the gothic conventions of imprisonment, eccentricity, blood and death through their characters and setting using a variety of literary and film techniques. It is obvious that both texts were constructed successfully and convey the conventions of the Gothic Horror.