I will be the first to admit that I am not a fan of modern day horror movies. Even when they are supposed to be kinda funny, I just don't see the point in all the blood, guts and gore. Nor do I really see the point in watching something that is meant to prey upon my fears to scare me. I just ... never saw that as a positive, really. So it was with a fair bit of trepidation that I started recording some of the "horror" movies on TCM this month. I decided to give them a try because I reasoned I knew nothing about the beginnings of the genre and like most movie genres, I may prefer the classics to the current fare.
I wouldn't go so far as to call this a great movie, but I really enjoyed it nonetheless. I expected a horror movie, but what I saw was something more layered than strictly a horror tale. It had romance, emotion, humor - the whole bit. The ending, instead of being a scare-your-pants-off kinda ending, was actually the ending you would expect on a good drama.
Having said all that, there are plot holes and hilarious bad science premises galore, that you can pick at if you chose. There is some "camp" acting mixed in with a fair bit of good acting. The "camp" factor is cemented when Barrymore goes full-on drag waltzing around the police as a sweet grandma-ma type character who has an assistant that looks like the Bride of Frankenstein (see photo below) complete with white streak, dark eye makeup and way over-acted wide eyes that look half crazy for dramatic effect. If that isn't camp, I don't know what is. And, even though it made it less of a horror movie probably, I loved it all the more. And you know what? Barrymore was TOTALLY believable as the old lady. I had to do a double-take to realize it was him.
The ending, which I won't give away, took me by surprise. Not because of what happened necessarily, but because how wonderfully Lionel Barrymore portrayed his emotions and showed his character trying to suppress them. It was a powerful bit of acting that wasn't overdone (like the Barrymores tend to do as a whole) and it was just, superb.
At a run-time of under 80 min - I definitely recommend this one as a time capsule of what I assume is somewhat representative of the early horror genre. It isn't strictly horror so it has a little bit of something for everyone - drama, crime, romance, horror, sci-fi, emotions, revenge ... even a miniature "half-wit, inbred orphan" that acts like a little nymph when she is shrunk down. Intriguing, no? :-)