Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Horror Genres: Literary Monsters

Granted, this one could fall under the heading of Creature Feature but I have a big-ass soft spot for literary monsters. I mean, I do have a minor in English Lit. JEALOUS??

Literature feeds a lot of horror movie themes, most of them stemming from Victorian Era novels.  Indeed Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolfman and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde all stem from this period. Ghost stories were also of great interest as the Victorians developed an interest in seances and resurrections just see The Turn of The Screw by Henry James which still scares the the bejesus out of me.

But if you look even further back you'll find an entirely other history to deal with. These often become apparent as it will give storytellers something to either absorb or deny in order to tell their story. Some carefully select pieces to create their own folklore. Some movies just outright ignore everything ever. (Underworld series, I'm looking at you.) So without further ado lets look at some monsters.

Frankenstein is pretty damn cool because he was fully a creation of the mind of Mary Shelly. The lore goes that Shelly dreamed the basis for the novel while staying at Lord Byron's estate (there where no houses in England at the time, only estates. Like what Madonna owns) Anyhoozle. It's technically Frankenstein's Monster as Victor Frankenstein is the creator behind the Monster. The entire book questions the control a man should have over life and while it is still referenced and studied widely, it makes for one hell of a gruesome read.

Frankenstein also functions as a form of zombie story.  While the origins of zombie stories are based in Voodoo Frankenstein introduced the idea that reanimating a corpse could be scientific rather than purely mystical. HP Lovecraft and WB Seabrook also wrote stories that dealt with zombies though never calling them that. Romero really did define the modern zombie but there's definitely some love owed to the literary tradition.

Dracula, Dracula, Dracula. I've mentioned this sucker (geddit?) so many times on this blog that I don't really want to go into it again. But I will. So Bram Stoker made this guy famous. But of course the story stems from folk lore. The main difference in Stoker's version is that Dracula was nobility which was a very contrary idea in the Victorian era. Vampirism is technically a disease so the idea of a nobleman suffering from a disease was quite a challenging one. Looking at today's pop culture take on Vampires is like looking at at a who's who of the upper class.

One of my favourite parts of Van Helsing was when Kate Beckinsale drolls in some God awful Romanian accent "There is nothink faster than Transylvanian horses. Not even verevolves." It's so bad, yet so very, very good. Kind of like how I feel about werewolves themselves, though forever in my head I hear Kate's "verevolves" (that's right, we're on a first name basis). Werewolves can be traced back to Greek mythology. Lycaon was the son of a Greek God who pissed off Zeus enough times that Zeus changed him into a wolf. Hence we can also use the term "lycathrope" to mean werewolf. The term makes appearances all through our culture though my personal favourite is Webster's The Duchess of Malfi. People without a Minor in English Lit say what?

1 comment:

  1. Nice informative article! I wanted to let you know that I enjoyed it so much, I included a link to it in the latest "issue" of SPATTER ANALYSIS.

    Check it out!