Thursday, March 31, 2011
Which is better? How do they differ? In what way do they reflect our time, society, us?
Every era has its monsters but some are more frightening than others and some are so deadly as to go beyond frightening.
I think really that monsters have become more frightening. I also think there's a very good reason for this: our world became a hell of a lot more frightening and in turn their depiction changed.
I love to consider all the monsters we've come to know and love: Frankenstein, Dracula, the Mummy, Zombies, werewolves and monster spinoffs from those monsters!
Don't forget about The Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Thing, Godzilla, Michael Myers, Pinhead and Freddy Kruger.
Monsters all, but do they differ? Do they reflect more what we fear in each era?
Dracula, at least the novel I feel was intended to discuss the obsession the Victorians had with female sexuality. Women hadn't been portrayed as wanton sexual creatures in fiction before Dracula. Now they were and everyone took notice.
The Mummy told the story of forbidden love and unimaginable punishment: torture and death for a taboo being broken. Poor old Mummy!
Zombies--and a bit of a morality play there. Zombies as portrayed in the 1940 films were I think more accurate as to what they were intended to be. They were slaves: mindless, obliging work-a-holics who were controlled by a lunatic sugar cane grower for instance.
It was sad, we felt sorry for them. But then they evolved into something else, horrifying cannibalistic decomposing monsters: the stuff of nightmares surely.
Werewolf films had a certain style about them in the 1940's. They were more romanticized than those sorts of films of today. Lon Chaney, Jr. defined Larry Talbot. His morphing into a werewolf after an attack is heart breaking. Later werewolf films were less romanticized and tended to be more frightening or at least more graphic. I think however the recent remake did capture that tragic romanticsm of the original nicely.
By the 1950's the monsters became more sci fi--that poor Creature from The Black Lagoon portrayed our fear of the unknown, and since it existed undiscovered until it kills, it was that much more terrifying because it was on earth with us only we didn't realize. That's horror at its best. The fear that something murderous exists hidden away.
I can recall swimming toward rafts in lakes as a child. Cutting through the dark water as fast as I could because who knew what horrible monsters were down in the murky depts, just waiting, ready to reach up and pull me down?! Boy did I try to get to the raft as fast as I could!
Then there was The Thing, an earlier film. This film took us into the thrilling realm of science fiction completely. Here was an alien monster--something unknown to us, something deadly and it was terrifying! The terrifying unknown again--stimulating our imaginations and scaring the daylights out of us.
It followed five years after the World War. The world was different after the war. Who knew what horrors could befall mankind after a war like that? We were in the atomic age. One fear led to another and U.F.O.'s and the horror of alien invasions took hold--hence pictures like The Thing.
Godzilla is another kind of Frankenstein. It comes about as a result of nuclear detonation. WE created it: mankind--our scientists brought forth this thing and share collective responsibilty for this scary beast. No nuclear stuff, no Godzilla, what a lesson, only we can't go back, Godzilla and all the nuclear stuff is here to stay!
Michael Myers (Halloween) is a real monster, a veritable killing machine who starts out as completely human but then evolves into something very different for the sequels. But his being human is what is far more terrifying. We've seen and read about killers like Myers. They are far too real and far too numerous.
Soon we get Alien a fantastically interesting film because, although a sci fi film ostensibly, it is also a horror film. I love that combination. If you think about it the alien monster and the crew could easily be transposed to a haunted house: the terrorized space crew can easily be switched to people battling demonic monsters.
Freddy Kruger (Nightmare on Elm Street) is another real monster: a child killer. That's his start and it's a brilliant concept. But then the supernatural element kicks in and he is so the stuff of nightmares!
Pinhead, created by the brilliant Clive Barker for the Hellraiser series is a human-like alien. There again that cool combo of horror and sci fi blended perfectly.
Pinhead first appears in Clive Barker's novella The Hellbound Heart (1986), in which he only appears in the story's beginning, and is portrayed as a sexually ambiguous follower of the "Engineer":
'Its voice, unlike that of its companion, was light and breathy-the voice of an excited girl. Every inch of its head had been tattooed with an intricate grid, and at every intersection of horizontal and vertical axes a jeweled pin driven through to the bone. Its tongue was similarly decorated.'
—The Hellbound Heart, Clive Barker, ch. 1
I don't know about you, but I think Pinhead does it for me. I find him the most frightening of all the monsters.
Okay so we considered all this. Now for my conclusion. I feel the best thing that can happen to the horror genre in general is to keep new monsters coming: different monsters, highly original and each terrifying in its own, unique way.
Monsters make horror what it is and writers and filmakers create those monsters. And it's good because it's what horror fans want!
We want to be scared!
Thursday, March 24, 2011
Three vampires and each a little different. Vampires we've learned over time differ because readers and fans differ. We don't all like the same things.
Who says fictional monsters can't differ? Yes, we have our purists and that's fine but variety is the proverbial spice of life.
I would say I go for the Dracula as depicted by Gary Oldman in the brilliant Coppola film, Dracula. That characterisation is for me completely. We get to see a before to the character: how he came to be the way he came to be!
Purists (myself included when the mood suits) will say that the horrifically monstrous vampire, Nosferatu, as depicted in the film (s) by the same name is the Dracula.
I say if you take Nosferatu's creature and you blend him with say Gary Oldman's or even Bela Lughosi's, you will get the Dracula that I happen to think Bram Stoker envisioned.
Now, Edward Cullen has an entirely different appeal as does Nosferatu. Edward Cullen and the handsome boy vampires as depicted in Twilight and Vampire Diaries are something else again, but these books (and film) although 'cross overs' in many ways do tend to be aimed at the Young Adult market.
I say why not, too? If teens enjoy reading about their own take on vampires, why shouldn't they? Reading is reading after all, and who knows where that interest in vampires will lead? There will be budding authors among them who will quite possibly redefine their own vampires in fiction they might go on to write.
Let all the undead flourish in their own way! 'Live' and let 'live,' I say! And why not?
Vampire lore is all around us. They are the part of legend from all over the world. Every culture has stories of these strange beings.
They exist because we do, because man has always dreamed of things impossible, things different from himself. I think it is our yearning to overcome death, to defeat it and live forever that vampires exist at all.
Oi! YOU! Death, hop it!
Thursday, March 3, 2011
You know, I never met one I trusted. They don't like regular hours. They're always calling in sick. A more unreliable species of beings I have yet to come across!
I think writers depend on them far too much and don't develop their own RMS (Replacement Muse System).
The best writing advice I ever received came from a friend who happens to write a very successful crime series. She told me to never wait for inspiration.
That quite floored me. I couldn't get over it. But the more I wrote, the more I realized she was entirely correct.
Let me explain what I mean: writing a novel is a job. It's a job I like but it's a job. If I waited for some miraculous voice of artistry and creation to call to me, I wouldn't get it done. I'm aiming for two novels a year so I think you see what I mean!
SO WHERE DOES INSPIRATION COME FROM THEN?!
My characters are my inspiration. I know them so well that I listen to them. They lead me through the story. Sometimes I find I don't agree with a detour and I go back, but most of the time. MOST OF THE TIME: 99.9 percent OF THE TIME THEY'RE RIGHT. They might lead me to a strange and surprising place, but guess what? I find that if I look around I like it!
Creativity is a gift that writers have. We can truly press ourselves and continue on without waiting for a 'muse,' because THERE ARE NO MUSES. There is only the writer and his/her imagination. YOU are your own muse.
Writing is hard work that needs constant honing and refinement. But most of all I have found it needs real push, self-motivation and the desire to get your work out there and published.
And no matter what you keep going, you keep pushing and working and you don't stop, because even when you are published you'll find the really hard work begins. But hey, that's what a writer's life is all about, right?!