Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Razor's Edge

Yesterday's post got me thinking about other things that make me shudder. Then last night, about 2:30 AM, after waking from a dream, for some reason I thought about this very brief scene from Francis Ford Copolla's 1992 film, Bram Stoker's Dracula.

I won't get into vampires here, except to say that, for the most part, their immortality has caused them to outlive their usefulness. Vampires aren't frightening. Especially the "sexy" or "funny" ones that seem to be everywhere these days, and through whose undead hearts I would dearly love to drive a stake.

I didn't find Bram Stoker's Dracula to be especially frightening, either. Stylish, yes. A masterful and lovingly crafted return to the original story, yes. But nothing that kept me awake at night or caused me look uneasily over my shoulder when there's nothing but a dark room at my back.

Except during the scene when Keanu Reeves is shaving while he talks to the Count. Reeves cuts himself and, as he attends to the nick, Dracula (played by Gary Oldman) picks up his straight razor and briefly turns away to lick the blood from its blade.

(Oldman throws in a delightful flourish during this little bit of stage action, by actually turning the blade against his tongue, so that the razor's edge momentarily passes against it.)

It made me cringe the first time I saw it, and the entire theater erupted in a collective "ewww!" I've since seen this movie on several other occasions, and it happens every time. Why? It's not because blood is especially revolting. (There isn't even that much blood visible.) It's because when we see that we can't not think about doing it ourselves, and in the process slicing deeply into our own tongue.

I have a good friend who can watch people take axes to the head or be sliced through the middle -- in films, mind you -- and never bat an eye. But show him someone getting their hand cut or injured in any way and he has to look the other way. Why? "Because you can't imagine what it feels like to be cut in half," he says, "but everyone's hurt their hand. You know how much that hurts."

Why not watch the scene right now and see for yourself? It's about one minute into this trailer.

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