Tag Archives: werewolves

31 Days of Spoooktacular: Even a Man Who Is Pure in Heart

For 31 Days of Spoooktacular, I wanted to do the occasional spotlight on the monsters that have formed the deep and gristly backbone of pop culture. Through a society’s monsters, you can tell a lot about that society. What scares us, helps to define us. It is no coincidence that, in the wake of World War II and the Emergence of the Atom Bomb, atomic horrors plagued our silver screen.

More telling, is the changes we made to old legends.

The werewolf, in the olde days, in the olde country, was a man or woman who had made a pact with the devil and, through that pact, had gained certain supernatural powers, including, but not limited to, changing into a ferocious beast. The idea was that this was a gift, a boon for giving oneself to evil. They were satisfying their baser urges.

Once it entered modernity, specifically the movies, the werewolf became a different kind of creature. No longer was the lycanthrope a witch or savage, but an innocent who had been cursed by the bite of another werewolf. The transformation could only happen under the light of a full moon, or a around a full moon. The person change against their will and, once transformed, lost all control.

It became a symbol of repression unleashed, of inner savagery, a beastial nature unchained.

In more recent years, it has followed the route of vampirism. Rather than a supernatural curse or a religious affliction, vampirism and lycanthropy have both become diseases. The disease is transmitted by a bite or scratch and produces extreme changes in both physiology and psychology.

It is the last gasp of the mythology to survive in our modern times as a viable thing that exists beyond entertainment, as a lesson. Because that’s what monsters are. Monsters are how we teach our children fear and how to deal with that fear. Be careful after dark. Do not talk to strangers. Stay in church and with your community. Do not go up to make-out point.

We use our monsters to learn what to be afraid of and how to deal with that fear. The lessons we learn from our folktales are meant to leave lasting repercussions that affect our behavior well into adulthood. The werewolf, the vampire, the ghoul, the goblins; they have lost resonance. They don’t function in our world anymore. In spite of increasingly desperate attempts to make them relevant, they are falling behind.

They have nothing left to teach us. They have nothing to scare us with. In a world with bombs and serial killers and viruses; the occult loses all meaning. The werewolf has lost his bite.

-D-

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31 Days of Spoooktacular: Portrait of a Slasher Movie

The slasher movie is, by far, one of the subgenres of horror that most sticks to a formula. And here is the formula:

Pre-Credits Kill+Character Introduction+Cat Scare*+Minor Character Killed Off+Pointless Drama/Comedic Scene+Secondary Character Killed+Hero(ine) and Killer Meet-Up+Hero(ine) Triumphs+One Last Scare=Slasher Movie

This is, for the most part, how every slasher movie plays out. You have the pre-credit sequence kill, which is either part of the back story or is set in modern day and sets off the chain of events. This is where you’ll see characters defiling graves or having sex when they should have been paying attention or telling stories around a campfire about the killer. If this is a sequel, this is where you’ll most likely see a character from the previous movie get killed off (see Friday the 13th Part 2 or Scream 3).

Then comes the cast introduction. During this point you’ll see a barrage of cliches come at you. Don’t worry! Most will be dead in 90 minutes. This is also the point where you’ll meet an ancillary character. Now, the ancillary character can fulfill numerous roles. They’re the Red Herring: “Who’s that?” “Oh that’s crazy Bob, he lives in the woods where we’ll be camping!” The Red Herring will show up lurking, here and there, through-out the movie and then will end up dead at the three-quarter mark.

There’s the Small Town Sheriff. He will say, in one form or another, “Those damn kids!” before the movie is over. Though he’s going to be an asshole throughout the entire movie, he’ll most likely show up toward the middle or end and seem like he’s going to do something to affect the outcome and give the audience false hope. He’s actually going to be murder fodder and everyone’s hopes are dashed.

There’s the Doomsayer. He (or she) is an old and crusty oldtimer who knows more than everyone else, but will be completely dismissed as being either old, crazy or both. The Doomsayer can also play the part of The Red Herring. It’s a toss-up to whether the Doomsayer will show up beyond the Introduction.

Then there’s the Cat Scare. The Cat Scare is when a character hears a noise, goes to investigate and finds a cat. It is almost ALWAYS a cat. And it’s always a cat that has somehow ended up in a cupboard. I have owned numerous cats, but they rarely ended up in cupboards.

Right after the cat scare, Minor Character death. The Doomsayer is a good choice for this, but sometimes it’s the gas station attendant or the lonely hitchhiker or any person who is not one of the fresh young teens.

Then you have the pointless drama and light-hearted comedy to trick you into thinking that that this movie is more than nubile young people being offed with chainsaws.

This is when the secondary characters start dying, one by one and, depending on how many characters there are, depends on how long this process will take.

After all the non-essential personnel are removed, the hero or, more frequently, the heroine meets up with the monster. If the monster is masked, this is where he’ll be de-masked. If the killer is actually the boyfriend, long lost-brother or the mother of a deformed little boy who drowned in the lake, this is where the shocking twist is revealed.

After the Killer is dispatched, the Hero(ine) and her/his Boyfriend/Girlfriend walk away from the body. Then the body moves, or the little boy comes out of the lake or the second killer steps out of the shadows or the Hero(ine) turns around with a crazy look in her eyes and you know SHE’S the killer now. This is the Final Scare. It can be either followed with a re-assuring shot of the Hero(ine) waking up or a freeze-frame of the Final Scare.

Bam. You don’t ever need to watch a slasher movie ever again. Because you just did. All of them.

-D-

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31 Days of Spoooktacular: This is Thriller

I’m going to be honest right here and right up front. I didn’t “grow up” with Thriller. It’s only been in recent years that I’ve been such a huge fan of the song and the music video (the full version).

If ever there was a way to condense Halloween, and the spirit of the aforementioned, into 14 minutes, the Thriller music video would be the way to do it.

First of all, it’s directed by John Landis, the director of the best werewolf movie ever made. There is no argument to make. You can bring up Ginger Snaps and The Wolfman and Dog Soldiers or even one of the Underworld movies if you’re a goddamn lunatic who prefers leather and Kate Beckinsale to balls-to-the-wall fear, but An American Werewolf in London is the best werewolf movie ever made. Done. Period. Fullstop. Stop arguing. I’m tired of it. You can see his directorial touch in the scenes at the beginning of the music video, when Michael Jackson turns into a werewolf. John Landis equals Halloween awesome.

Second, I’m going to describe a scene to you: Zombies dance a choreographed dance around their leader who wears a black and red leather suit. This scene, which should have been ludicrous and absurd, is iconic. It has become embedded into our pop culture in a way that shrieking violins and opaque shower curtains have. Sometimes, zombies just have to dance.

Third, Vincent Price. For the 50’s and  60’s, Vincent Price was the voice of  horror. No-one is arguing with me. And, if they are, they’re just being difficult. He was the spooky voice that meant a murderer seeking vengeance was nearby or the Invisible Man’s return was close at hand. You cannot have Halloween without Vincent Price and Thriller had Vincent Price.

If you want to kick off the season right, watch the full version of Thriller.

NOW.

-D-

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It’s on the Air

You can’t sense it, but I can. I step outside and I can smell it, hovering on the fringes, hanging back from the senses; that lingering odor of decay in a basement that promises something hidden under the floor. You don’t notice it.

But it’s coming.

It’s in the way the shadows are cast now; Longer, darker, stretched thinner like tension in a darkened alley when you see a slow movement behind that dumpster. You don’t see it, not like I do.

But it’s coming.

In the back of your mind it tickles; a fingernail running down your spine, the breath of a whisper on your ear in the middle of the night. It’s the hum in the air around a downed power-line. You ignore the feeling.

But it’s still coming.

Be prepared….

It’s almost Halloween.

-D-

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Scaring Myself

I’ve always been interested in looking at the types of horror that I write about, because I think it says a lot about the kind of person I am, about what makes me tick.

I have a tendency to steer clear of anything that’s spiritual. Ghosts do not scare me. Haunted houses scare me even less. If there’s one type of horror I stay away from, both as a reader and a writer, it’s the Haunted House trope. Beyond the fact that I don’t think ghosts are scary, the solution to a haunted house is so mind bendingly simple, that I lose all interest in following the trials and tribulations of the characters. Just move out of the goddamn house! You’ve got a problem, it stays tied to one geographical location, then MOVE. Problem solved.

(Small digression, favorite haunted house novel, The House Next Door, which basically obliterates all my complaints with the genre. Check it out.)

I also tend to stay away from the Classical Monsters tropes: no vampires, no werewolves, no mummies. There’s just very little that can be said about those monsters. They’ve become so embedded in our pop culture, that they’re no longer truly scary. And, lest you forget, horror is about scaring people. This seems to be something modern filmmakers have forgotten.

If I can think of a new angle for werewolves and vampires, then I’ll run with it. But for the most part, I think those guys have been thoroughly tapped out.

My own personal fiction focuses more on either madness or some Lovecraftian terror. By Lovecraftian, I don’t necessarily mean ancient Gods living beneath the ocean, but strange, metaphysical horrors that lurk around and under the shadows. That appeals to me on some level because there’s at least a vague potential for it being a real thing. Not to mean that I think these creatures and demons and the like do exist, but so little is known about the universe, that the notion of weird little pockets of unreality at least sounds plausible. And that’s what makes things scary to me, their real world plausibility.

And this follows with stories about madness as well. Insanity is a very real, tangible thing. I mean not for me. I’m sane.

Right?

Dylan Charles

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