Oh $#!% a double feature! The classic Universal Monsters film series was a cesspool of ghoulish creatures that have charmed the world for the last 80 or so years. They are historically important to both the horror genre and mainstream cinema but in this era of post-modern horror gimmickry, these films seem to lack the fear factor that most people crave. That being said, Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein prove an interesting exception. Sharing themes of humanity’s obsession with death, the ethics of science, and rejection, both films work great as character dramas and as horror and are only enhanced by watching both films in sequence.
The biggest reason for recommending both is how similar yet different both films are. They play as two halves of a larger story, same characters, themes, and all but tonally they are completely different. Frankenstein is a stark German Expressionist style horror film with a very direct plot. In contrast, Bride of Frankenstein is a huge yet campy film that blends the same Expressionist horror with comedy, special effects, and Christian symbolism. Bride of Frankenstein is often considered the better of the two films because it expands upon and reinterprets the best ideas of first film whilst adding things that nobody ever expected. Personally, I prefer the original Frankenstein because it has a spookier atmosphere and stronger lead performances.
There is still that nagging issue about it not being scary, they do not give that adrenaline rush that modern horror films specialize in creating, but that is not necessarily the point of the Frankenstein series. Horror is a complex genre that can jolt people fear as well as underscore themes; films like Rosemary’s Baby, We Need to Talk About Kevin, and the Frankenstein series are less about sudden shocks and about uttering hard questions and have those questions haunt the audience. The crux of the horror behind Frankenstein’s Monster is not just that he kills people but that he is the result of a well-intended yet negligent science experiment. That is not say that Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein are humorless art films but they are very clever, spectacular films that have haunting atmosphere and compelling drama.
Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein are all-around wonderful horror films that show that shocking the audience is only one part of the horror genre. These films are spectacular and macabre melodramas that will baffle and haunt people into delight. Plus at less than 75 minutes each, these films are the perfect length for a double feature at a Halloween party or any late night with friends... or alone with some popcorn, a drink, the devil, and some leftover candy.