April 14, 2018 This Week In Horror Movie History – Gothic (1987)
This week in Horror movie history comes the visually-stunning and hypnotically beautiful film Gothic. A film that made its debut on Friday, April 10, 1987 through Vestron Pictures, and earned over 4.5 million-dollars in theaters, the film shares an account of when the Shelley’s visited the eccentric Lord Byron’s Swiss estate. During this truly bizarre evening, Mary Shelley’s monster Frankenstein was born.
Gothic focuses on several infamous (and real-life) authors, including main characters Mary Shelley (Natasha Richardson: The Parent Trap 1998, Maid in Manhattan 2002), her husband, poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (Julian Sands: A Room with a View 1985, Naked Lunch 1991), and poet Lord Byron (Gabriel Byrne: Miller’s Crossing 1990, The Usual Suspects 1995). The film delves into the imaginations of these characters, as well as the sexual and violent natures that exist within each of their minds. When the trio of friends come together for a holiday in Switzerland, the writers initially begin to innocently share ghost stories, though this simple idea starts to get out-of-control as the friends begin to believe that they have, in fact, created a monster.
Though Director Ken Russell (The Devils 1971, Altered States 1980) could have fared better with a less generic title for his film, Gothic was an extremely unique and interesting visual experience for its day. As a story that, for many Horror fans, has stood the test of time in terms of originality and its very human-like antagonist, Frankenstein has been heralded as one of best stories in all of Horror literature, and helped to shape the Horror genre and has had a massive effect on Horror cinema even to this day.
Gothic does a great job with its minimalist take and imagery, effectively delivering the ideas behind the film without adding unnecessary flourishes. While the film is not factual in its delivery by any means – this is a fictitious retelling of nonfictional events – it is meant to be an enjoyable, visual Horror experience; not a thought-provoking, historical retelling. The sets match well with the storyline, while the atmosphere and overall mood here hold more importance than the story itself. This is the story of how Frankenstein was born, not an in-depth exploration of why. As such, even the house serves as a character, which, when combined with the living cast, creates an unusual and dream-like experience throughout the duration of the film.
That said, the cast delivers quite a fantastic performance throughout. It does not hurt that the story relies upon a small group of characters, heavily focusing on atmosphere and interaction, and the tension that builds from both. Byrne shines as the lead, Lord Byron, and his presence is what makes this film such a fascinating experience. Sands and Richardson – along with Myriam Cyr (Le secret de Jérôme 1994, Species II 1998) as Claire Clairmont, and Timothy Spall (Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street 2007, Mr. Turner 2014) as Dr. Polidori – all equally engage in their roles magnificently and contribute to the aura of this uncanny story adaptation.
From this standpoint, it is not hard to see why Ken Russell’s British Horror film jewel is such an intriguing film experience even by today’s standards. Though the story is not exactly a truthful timeline of events of what happened that night; it is rather a slew of well-constructed ideas of what could have happened that night.
Overall, Gothic is a film that many may find a wide array of reasons to dislike – as it does not fall exactly into line with what one would typically consider a Horror offering – though if you can step outside the box for a moment, it is easy to see why this film has continued to be a cult-classic, Horror treasure for 30 years and counting.