More than any other genre
product, the horror film screams out for interpretation. Scary movies manage to
stimulate strong and varied interpretive reactions because they exploit a very
primal human need: the need to understand and assimilate disturbing anomalous
experiences. If you smell smoke while laying in bed in the middle of the night,
your very survival may depend on the ability to correctly interpret and
adequately respond to this anomalous sensation. If a sudden scream rends the
silence of your normally quiet home, you better be able to interpret it
accurately and do something effective about it. Horror films specialize in the
presentation of anomalous images and sounds. Monsters are anomalies by
definition, and always awaken our innate urge to assimilate their terrifying
abnormalities into the secure community of understandable
It has become commonplace to state that film criticism (or any form of aesthetic criticism) reveals more about the critic than the film being criticized. Since each viewer assimilates a horror film into the world of their own unique personal experience, differences of interpretation abound. Far beyond the intention of a director to convey a specific message, this personal, varied reaction is precisely what keeps certain films alive long after their initial release. Films like Browning's Dracula and Whale's Frankenstein still retain their ability to evoke individual responses by challenging us with their disturbing imagery. They grow beyond their time and place of origin, and, like living beings, take on a significance unforeseen by their creators.
In this section of The House of Wax you will find essays and artwork inspired by horror films. My interpretations (like all interpretations) are reflections skewed (and perhaps screwed!) by the distorting mirror of my own individual experience. I can only hope that some of the kinks in my reflections match some of the twists in yours!
Tod Browning's Dracula
Learn why this movie is more than just one third worth watching!
Exploding the Self Destruct Lever
Was there really a self destruct lever in Bride of Frankenstein's lab?
Behind The Mask--See Chaney's
Learn why the unmasking sequence still terrifies audiences today!
Meet Dr. Pretorius!
Find out what his real turn-on was!
(Newly Revised for quicker
Read Tarot Cards with James Whale
See how Tarot card symbolism influenced Whale's Frankenstein films!
Return to The House of Wax