#3 Frankenstein (1931)
In a recent conversation (…) I attempted to express why horror moves us, or at least me. “It is essentially a conservative genre — the order, once disturbed, must be restored–”
– Dennis Cozzalio
I never got into the whole “sexy vampire” thing Anne Rice unleashed upon the earth a few decades back. Vampires are pagan parasites, no matter how suave. I tend to cheer the vampire slayers, from Van Helsing to Blade to Buffy – all of whom display a very conservative, if often reluctant, devotion to thankless duty.
And I’ve been totally zombied out since Shaun of the Dead (2004), the movie I stupidly thought would slay the undead genre for good. I’ve always despised the genre’s “master,” George Romero, and his ham-fisted leftist politics. (Night of the Living Dead  is a commentary on the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War, haven’t you heard? And Dawn of the Dead  mocks “mindless” suburban consumerism. Deep!)
(Interestingly, the remake of Dawn of the Dead  was scripted by a more conservative guy, and it shows.)
So yeah, enough with the zombies already — despite RightWingTrash’s J.R. Taylor’s assertion that “the vast majority of zombie films are inherently right-wing. There’s no better case for having guns in the house.”
I’ve always been more of a Frankenstein girl.
I have nothing particularly deep to add to the millions of words already spilled praising and analyzing Frankenstein (1931). There are gay interpretations (culminating in the novel and film Gods & Monsters ) and semi-Marxist readings of the Universal Studios classic:
The film was released during the Great Depression and it offered a kind of supernatural escapism, a release from the grim reality of the present. At the same time, it explored contemporary anxieties in a metaphorical way. James Whale grew up in poverty in England (he was born in Dudley). The monster is dressed as a labourer, which marks him out as working class. The concept of the working class victim manipulated and destroyed by the aristocratic Henry Frankenstein can be seen as a criticism of contemporary society. The 1930s were marked by industrial unrest in Britain and America.
However, author Mary Shelly’s original intention was obviously to pit the burgeoning spirit of her age – the iconoclastic, godless inventiveness of the Romantics – with an ancient one, which has for centuries cautioned man against daring to aspire to God-like powers.
In the film, Dr. Frankenstein’s post-creation cry — “Now I know what it’s like to be God!” — was cut by local censors in 1931, and by the studio for the 1937 re-release.
In many ways, Frankenstein is about the eternal clash of progressive vs conservative, radical vs reactionary, as explored by Susan Tyler Hitchcock in her fine book, Frankenstein: A Cultural History:
These two archetypal myths are essentially human — and essentially contradictory. One inspires a human being to cross over into unknown realms, and congratulates any who does so. The other limits human pursuit and experimentation, threatening punishment to anyone who dares. These two ancient myths represent two very different world views with different assumptions about right and wrong, good and evil, the nature and purpose of human existence, and the future of humankind.
On the axis formed by these two contradictory myths hang the culture wars of history and of the present day. They reverberate through every debate over life-and-death matters such as cloning, genetic engineering, euthanasia, and abortion. Progressives applaud the human drive to extend knowledge. They can be represented in Prometheus, who risked his own safety to give fire to humankind. Conservatives respect boundaries beyond which human understanding cannot or should not go. They more closely resemble Adam, tempted and fallen but seeking reentry into grace through obedience.