The Universal icon rotates around while the non- diegetic drum beat plays in the background, then the colour is drained from it creating a monochromat0ic effect, then combusts. It graphic matches into a wooden torch being held by a mysterious man with a menacing smile, obviously about to cause damage or harm. Then a pan shot through the trees over the large mass of people, note the music still continues- a loud militaristic beat juxtaposed with sounds of a choral influence. The lightning is consistent, causing sharp noises and spontaneous flashes of light.
All of this is being used to create tension of what is soon to happen. More various shots of villagers holding axes and sticks, their angry expressions tell us they’re pursuing somebody, or about to destroy something. While the film continues the word ‘Transylvania’ fades in at the bottom of the frame setting the seen for the audience, this also reveals to us that Dracula, a mythological character created based on Mary Shelly’s original idea of ‘Dracula’ set in Transylvania. Film director Stephen Sommers has adapted Dracula into the film as the antagonist of the plot.
He resides to be the iconoclast of the story and the arch enemy of Van Helsing who we later encounter. A high angle shot exposes the huge and mysterious castle that towers above the peasantry. It hovers above everything and the fact that it is touching the clouds that are thundering and electrifying shows its power and dominance. The lightning strikes two of the metal gantries and then a jump cut to the eyes of a strange, monstrous creature, they open as if they have never been opened before; like a new birth, then a shot of his decrepit monster like nails, and his disgusting, sordid teeth.
A rolling shot gives a our first look at the bewildering, ‘out of place’ technology of the castle- by this I mean the surges of electricity and high tech machinery look as if they belong in a more modern time period. We then finally see Victor Frankenstein. He says the well-known lines ‘it’s alive, it’s alive! ‘ a machine sparks on que. He runs over to the window where we see a point of view, long- low angle shot from doctor Frankenstein, showing the peasants ramming down the second set of doors, then a return high- angle shot from the leader looking back up at doctor Frankenstein.
In this sequence we see the film catching our attention by using varied shots that describe the scene; building tension with music and facial expressions to keep us engaged and using lightning and explosions to highlight the important words said by the characters. Suddenly Dracula spontaneously appears while Dr. Frankenstein is backing away and then again on que another loud, separated lightning bolt, this sequence was added to make the audience flinch which excites us. As Dracula confronts Dr.
F the shadow slightly covers his face, he wears all black and is voice has a very sinister tone. The ‘over the shoulder’ shot of Dr. Frankenstein shows him wearing all white yet he is smaller, this help the audience form the image of a stand off, between good and evil, personified by Dracula and Dr. F. By now the music has already come to a halt and the tension is now being built by the manner in which they speak, Dr. Frankenstein has a stressed and nervous tone against Dracula’s composed yet hostile one.
Sparks and explosions continue while Dracula continues his instantaneous teleportation, very carefully not like what we would expect from someone that has previously been associated with the lightning and explosions or from the novels and previous conceptions created for him a shot then shows Dracula walking towards the camera whilst lightning flashes, exposing his inner skeletal contour; this keeps the audience ‘on the edge of their seats’ and lends gravitas to the performance.
Summers then uses a constant camera switch between the two characters as they begin to talk at each other this symbolic again of the constant struggle between good and evil. Dracula then says ‘this is a triumph of science, OVER GOD! ‘ the sparks and machinery then explode on que, the constant use if spontaneous lightning adds a sense of danger and excitement to the ambience of the film. A jump cut takes us to the aggressive and raging village mob, combined with a flurry of different camera angles such as the use of long shots to show proportion and the close ups to show the facial expressions of the enraged villagers .
This part of the opening catch’s our attention by introducing good and evil along with the very baleful yet moderate character, Dracula. The use of light and sound gives potency to the sequence by being spontaneous and reflecting the meaning of what Dracula and Dr. Frankenstein say. Sommer’s uses a shot of both Dr. Frankenstein and Dracula standing over the newly created beast but the framing and placement of the characters suggest that metaphorically this creation is being portrayed as a new born child, trapped between the path of Dr. Frankenstein, the path of good a symbol of right, and justice or the path of evil causing havoc and reaping lives under the cruel wing of Dracula, ‘I could never allow him to be used for such evil’ says Dr. Frankenstein, ‘I Could’ says Dracula.
While they talk the monster tilts his head trying to focus on the right the decision and we can see that this is a challenging thing to do. The monster is also being used to represent the audience confused, torn against both Dracula and Dr. Frankenstein. Various shots of the monster’s attempt to escape build tension and climax of what might happen and feeds on our imagination.
Then we get a close up of the servant, Igor the true embodiment of ugliness in its highest form on the outside and on the inside, he betrays the trust of Dr. Frankenstein and shows how humans are lesser than Vampires in different ways. The introduction of good and evil shows the depth of the opening sequence and can ensure the viewers attention by helping them to understand how each character is representation. Sommers use of non-diegetic sound effects contribute to the opening significantly because it engages the audience.
Instead of having plain sound that we can create ourselves he uses exaggerated noises that are out of the ordinary and thrilling to watch. For example when Dracula impales himself with the sword the slurping of flesh is more stimulating than having the ordinary sound of a person being stabbed. The lighting used in the opening allows more adventurous and powerful shots to be used and created. When Dracula bites Dr. Frankenstein lighting used creates silhouetted images, this technique may have been used because of the gruesomeness of the attack and the shadow used makes the atmosphere more sinister and terrifying.
Lighting is also used to highlight key words for instance when a character says something important to make sure the audience knows he is important the character is lit in high-key making it obvious and easy to notice. Another way in which lights are is in conjunction with sound in order to shock, creating the lightning or spark effect. After Dracula is thrown into the fire by the monster he emerges, a burning skull attached to his body can be related to a strong evil, or a satanically influenced notation as burning skulls are a symbol of death and hell.
Throughout the duration of the opening Dracula has been portrayed as a serene but malignant man. His elegancy conveys his personality, very gentle and graceful in his appearance but also a ‘monster’, he shows this side both when killing Dr. Frankenstein and in his metamorphosis into the bat like creature. Using Dracula as the antagonist gives gravitas to the film because of the continual usage of the popular character and his complex personality.
A long shot is used to show the number of villagers that seem to reach the hundreds, pursuing the monster and the now dead Doctor the tattered wind mill. range of different instruments such as drums are used to generate sound like thunder storms. The villagers then run towards the still camera as the monster stumbles into windmill, breaking many bottles of the highly flammable liquid Absenthine. Then the undertaker orders the flaming torches to be thrown at the windmill, a mid- shot of the ‘Holy Bible’ that begins to burn, symbolises evil triumphing over righteousness. The windmill starts to explode filled with iconic Christian symbols.
This then reveals to us that he only has the mind a child a new born, innocent of why he is being chased and out casted. Then as he screams ‘WHY?! ‘ this shocks the villagers. Then a stereotypical woman faints as she is so frail and innocent, followed with a long shot of the vampires speed eagerly towards the villagers and the mill, omnipotent and powerful, the ground under the monster burns away and he plummets into the burning pit, like an underworld, it is ironic that the safe haven, the place he fled to has become a hell.
The vampires speed towards the burning wreckage and land gently on the ground, showing their elegancy and superiority over humans. The pace of the sequence keeps the audience ‘on the edge of their seats’ and gathers high tension which over all should be enjoyable as it hints the rest of the film should also be as tense. The scene ends with a fade. The opening of Van Helsing introduces an array of different themes such as religion: it uses many iconic symbols and relates to issues like good and evil and how intermingled with the matters of holiness and satanic influence.
It captivated the audience with its range of different sounds parallel to the opening scene, both non- diegetic and diegetic. The use of camera angles showed different aspects of the film and magnified the actions of the different characters making it clear on the different emotions and feeling they had. The mise en scene added greatly to the scene as it showed authenticity. The juxtaposition of the actions of a new born baby with those of a monstrous being was original and helps us to understand the character.
The speech each character used defined the class they belonged in, for example the villagers grunted and yelled whereas Dr. Frankenstein had a more complex vocabulary. The final use of stereotypical behaviour showed humans as easily aggressive, traitoring, weak and prejudice because of the way they treat Dr. Frankenstein, whereas the Vampires were portrayed as superior beings to humans. The aspects of the film ensured that the audience would be fully attentive and want to see more.