Was CRUELLA Cruel Enough? Was Dracula?

An issue with these kinds of movies, the ones that seek to provide an origin story for a well-known villain, is that the villain never quite becomes villainous. Nobody would sit through an entire movie watching a character they detest. That’s why it becomes necessary to make the character sympathetic. I won’t say that it’s a flaw, because it is not, but some people have complained that Emma Stone’s Cruella is never evil enough, never nasty enough. This is true. She is not the villain of the story. She’s the antihero.

The same thing applies to MALEFICENT, and to DRACULA UNTOLD. Meant to depict the classical Hero’s Journey, only inverted, the apotheosis of a villain, the central characters in these films never truly transition to evilness. They remain sympathetic. Let’s look at DRACULA UNTOLD specifically. You never see Dracula behaving the way the character does in Bram Stoker’s novel. He is, at worst, flawed, and conflicted. But in terms of outright villainy, he’s no more evil than, say, the Ben Affleck version of Batman. These movies never allow their protagonists to complete a full heel turn. This is why I maintain that, in JOKER, he *had* to kill his neighbor and her daughter, though it isn’t shown onscreen and there is debate about it. Because if he *didn’t* he never becomes a villain. He never becomes the bad guy.

Cruella never skinned a puppy. And Dracula never killed an innocent. Thus they are never, in those respective films, true villains. There’s nothing wrong with that—unless a viewer *wanted* to see them suffer a complete fall from grace. But that’s more a matter of personal taste on the part of the viewer than technical storytelling proficiency on the part of the creators.

By TheCheezman

WAYNE MILLER is the owner and creative director of EVIL CHEEZ PRODUCTIONS, specializing in theatrical performances and haunted attractions. He has written, produced, and directed (and occasionally acted in) over two dozen plays, most of them in the Horror and True Crime genres. He obtained a doctorate in Occult Studies from Miskatonic University and is an active paranormal investigator. Is frequently told he resembles Anton Lavey. And Ming the Merciless. Denn die totden reiten schnell!

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