Sunday 26 May 2019

Back from the dead: the immortal power of fiction and fancy dress!

Bela Lugosi - still the definitive screen Dracula eight decades on
Bela Lugosi - still the definitive screen Dracula eight decades on

David Looby

The Count is back! In truth, he never went away.

The enduring power of Bram Stoker's Dracula has rubbed off on generation after generation of readers and film lovers. So it was with a sense of the circularity and paternal pride that I applied the white and red make-up and tried to stuff the fangs into the Little Fella's mouth for his school fancy dress day on Friday.

The excitement levels were through the roof as he saw his reflection in the mirror, (he hadn't copped this wasn't supposed to happen). The Whirlwind Wonder was her ever-creative self, wanting a bloody maid costume.

Having searched several supermarkets and toy stores, feeling increasingly like a failed father at every turn, she eventually settled on a scary prom queen number.

Sick throughout his childhood, Stoker went on to write what is widely regarded as the most successful horror story of all time. I read Dracula for the first time in my teens and was swept along by the fiendish drama. The battle between good and evil is an age old trope, but Stoker managed to infuse his novel with colour, tragedy and a real humanity. Despite the melodramatic language, the gothic fantasy provided a transporting, exhilarating read, which has - over the decades since its release in 1897 - inspired countless film directors and authors.

I sunk my teeth into Dracula last week and have been hooked ever since. A prequel written by Stoker's great grand-nephew, it's clear that writing is in the blood.

Despite my best efforts it normally takes me months to finish a book but I'm flying through this. It is an atmospheric gem, dripping with darkness and replete with creatures that go bump in the night. There was a time when I set myself the goal of reading all of the classics of literature but life got in the way. But there are few more enjoyable things in this life than a good book.

Growing up Halloween was always a special time of the year. Presaged by the arrival of darker evenings, chimney smoke and warmer clothes, it brought some colour into our lives long before the days of hand-held devices. A black plastic bag with a hole just big enough for my head to squeeze through, a pair of plastic fangs that starved the lungs of air and some Sudocream was the sum total of the Halloween costume I rocked. Having an American mother meant Halloween was a bigger deal in our house than in some of our neighbours, but the old traditional games, like bobbing for apples and cutting the flour, not to forget finding the ring in the barn brac, were always great fun.

These traditions continue to this day and I unashamedly embrace them. I've made a graveyard cake complete with bulging eyeballs, chocolate soil and marshmallow headstones. Home has been transformed into a haunted house with fake cobwebs obviating the need to clean the real ones!

The children have been planning their costumes for weeks. The children even have their zombie and hissing vampire faces perfected having been cautioned that they need to perform on the doorsteps if they are to be rewarded with treats. Instead of plastic bags theirs cost up to €20. What scared me most shopping for them was the Christmas chocolate boxes and decorations on display, as Time chimed home with alarming alacrity.

The arrival of the darker nights has gotten me motivated to embrace reading and writing and I even managed my first letter. The old traditions are best.

Gorey Guardian