Vestron Video Vault: GOTHIC is a Nightmarish Fever Dream of Insanity


From the Vestron Video Collector’s Series, the horror classic GOTHIC arrives for the first time on limited edition Blu-ray. It’s time to get dark…

Sometimes a movie comes along that defies proper explanation. It’s rare, but it does happen, and it happened to me a few weeks ago when I watched acclaimed genre director, Ken Russel’s (Lair of the White Worm), 1986 horror film, Gothic. I’m still trying to wrap my head around what I watched, and though I think the visual storytelling was superb, I’m still scratching my head in hopes of trying to make sense of it all.

Gothic stars some notable actors within the horror genre such as Gabriel Byrne (HBO’s In Treatment), Julian Sands (Warlock) and Natasha Richardson (The Parent Trap). On the surface, the film centers around the Shelleys as they visit the house of Lord Byron where they compete to write the scariest story they can conjure up.

However, what I came to learn was that Gothic is actually a fictional retelling of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” and it is told in such a unique way that it feels as though you have taken the crazy train while on an acid trip.

Do I like this movie? I’m not sure. Do I appreciate how it’s told? I suppose, as it’s unlike anything I’ve seen. There’s no denying the powerhouse acting that’s involved, especially from Gabriel Byrne, who I’ve been a fan of for quite some time, but what’s most apparent is how much these characters went above and beyond in over-acting. I’m not sure if this is a sign of the times (the ’80s were an interesting decade my friends), or if this was something that Ken Russell purposely wanted, but whatever the case may be, I was completely captivated by how over-exaggerated these characters were.

Aside from the acting, lets delve into the story. I’ll be honest, I had no idea what was happening in the beginning nor did I understand if these characters were actually friends with Lord Byron (Byrne) or were just sleeping with him or if they all just wanted to sleep together in a giant orgy with copious amounts of laudanum.

The visual assault was intense as there was everything from naked bodies, to mechanical dolls that looked almost human, to untold creatures and nightmarish dreams. It all hits full force and even though I tried my hardest to understand what exactly was unfolding, I found myself lost quite a few times. I think it’s important to note, I had never seen a Ken Russell film before so maybe that’s just his style, but man, was I lost for the majority of the film.

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With all that said, there’s still a lot to like about Gothic. The visuals are astounding and the use of practical effects is everything I could have wanted. Though the storyline is a bit to bat-shit crazy for my taste, I admit that I’ve never quite seen a retelling of “Frankenstein” like this.

One thing that has stayed with me since viewing Gothic has been the subtle creep factor permeating throughout the entire film, especially when Johann Neinrich Fuessli’s painting, “Nightmare,” comes to life. This feeling of discomfort wasn’t necessarily executed by our main characters but more so by an unseen terror and the sheer hysteria that was encompassing the lives of these characters. Putting everything else about the movie aside, I think that feeling of uneasiness was carried out perfectly.

All in all, Gothic has won a place in my mind as one of the most bizarre films I’ve seen in years. I’m not ready to re-watch it anytime soon, but from what I understand, the more you watch it the more you pick up on things that didn’t catch your eye the first time. It’s obvious why this movie has become such a cult classic in the genre and I can see why fans love it so much. I look forward to re-watching it again someday with a new perspective, but for now, I think I’ll hold off until I get the image of Johann Heinrich Fuessli’s “Nightmare” out of my mind.

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Gothic is now available to own on Blu-ray from Lionsgate and Vestron Video.

Seen Gothic? Picking up it from the Vestron video vault? Let the other creepy creatures know what you think in the comment section below.