Not all that need 'sparkle' be vampire...
|LISTS - MOVIE LISTS|
Four fictional beasts (and one political ideology) which deserve the Twilight treatment...
Twilight: love it or loathe it, you can’t ignore it. Since the first book was published in 2005 Twilight has become a world-wide phenomenon, irritating right-minded readers across the globe and bringing vampire awareness to those least likely to seek it out. Splutters and grumbles of disgust at the thought of sparkling, vegetarian vampires (who can happily spend time hanging in the sun rather than from rafters) have become a staple pub conversation.
Sparkling vampires. I ask you.
Irrespective of one’s own feelings, it is clear that Stephenie Meyer has given an almost unthinkable boost to the vampire mythos. True, the inhabitants of Twilight’s world may not have much of the gothic horror of Stoker’s Dracula, the tension and paranoia of Matheson’s I Am Legend or the action and bloodshed of Collins’ Sonia Blue series, but they have struck a chord with the public in a wholly unexpected way. Everyone from schoolgirls on the bus to business women on the tube (who really should know better) seems to have a copy within arms’ reach at any given moment. With movies, TV shows and books being churned out by the dozen, it's clear that vampires have made it big.
This is all well and good, but why stop there? Why should vampires have all the attention? After all, there’s a wealth of ghouls and beasties who deserve more than just being relegated to a life of 50s’ B-movies and Scooby-Doo villains. Here are my suggestions on how to bling-up the bestiary and get some more abominations back into the public eye.
An obvious choice and so a natural starting point for our discussion. Zombies have always been popular; they’re effectively the Swiss-army knife of monster movie metaphors.
Man’s inexorable march to the grave? Check.
Rampant consumerism destroying our common humanity? Check.
Holy hell did you see that guy’s shoulder get eaten just then? Check and check.
Shaun of the Dead did a good job of making zombie movies cool again while Dead Snow led the charge of the schlock brigade. Unfortunately, I don’t think that this is enough – we need something more to bring zombies to the dizzying heights which, thanks to Twilight, vampires now enjoy.
The answer is clear: rainbows.
I’m surprised that no one has thought of this before. Twilight’s success simply has to be, in part, down to the fact that the vampires sparkle when in the sun.
Given that vampire stories are, at their heart, stories about sex, rape and the loss of innocence, giving them sparkly skin was a sure-fire way to neuter the danger while simultaneously making them ‘all pretty like’ and letting them retain their oh-so-sexy pointy teeth. It is this flawless logic that leads me to Rainbow Zombies: a tragic crew of handsome young zombies who are torn between their desire to feast on the flesh of the living and the urge to spend hours watching girls while they sleep. They attend high school to blend in and constantly have to avoid the rain in order to keep their disguise. Being caught in a downpour will naturally cause their make-up to run, revealing multi-coloured putrefying flesh. This stuff practically writes itself.
Another old favourite, the Elder Gods, are always good for a wheeze. Sadly though, what was once a fine staple of horror has now become reduced to a laughing stock: Lovecraft-themed backpacks and lollipops have taken the Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young and reduced her to a cuddly kid that you can keep your sweets in.
How can we give Nyarlathotep the gravity, the dignity, which should be afforded to the Crawling Chaos? Once again, by turning to Twilight, we can find the answers: make him edgy.
The heroes of Twilight, whether vampire, werewolf, or soppy high-schooler are all laden down with the kind of angst that would make Sartre think twice. Whether brooding about having to avoid the sun or dwelling on their totally-not-creepy-at-all desire for someone literally eighty years younger than they, the Twilight gang can mope with the best of them. This is clearly what the eldritch horrors from beyond time need: eyeliner.
I can picture it now. Shub Niggurath stands amidst a destroyed city. She has devoured the souls of countless thousands, all judged and found to be impure, and now she wants to cry.
Abdul Alhazred, sitting on her shoulder thousands of feet above the earth, offers sympathy.
"It's okay, I'm sure Yog-Sothoth likes you really," he whispers soothingly as tears the size of houses hit the floor, "He just doesn't know what he's missing."
Goodbye backpacks, hello big bucks.
Robots from Outer Space!
The main problem with robots is their lack of humanity, so to speak. Sure, you can be a ninety-foot tall killing machine with hammers for fists and lasers for eyes, but where's your soul?
Robots simply lack that human element of drama that makes for a good monster-cum-hero. If you’re too busy with crushing cars into pocket-sized treats, how can you possibly expect to find time to fall in love with the one HUMAN FEMALE who is inexplicably immune to your mind-reading ray?
Never mind complex questions about the nature of being, what makes us human and what constitutes thought. Our autonomous adversaries need to get in touch with their feelings; a book will sell far better if the evil robots that are scourging the earth are sighing every now and again. Perhaps the whole reason that they’re endeavouring to wipe the universe of organic life to begin with is because no one will hold them? Deep within Death-Unit-001’s hideous, clanking, mechanical body beats the heart of a poet. True, this is only the case because Death-Unit-001 pulled the heart out of the poet with its own dreadful motorized claw, but by this point we’re splitting hairs. Once content to simply tear through the sides of buses and grind the terrified screaming occupants into a fine paste, post-Twilight robots will need to pen little poems while sitting under trees (and generally being the reflection of the sulky, misunderstood fantasists who are into that sort of thing) if they want to have any hope of ever making it big.
Forty or fifty years ago, Communists were on fine form – hardly a piece of fiction was published that didn’t have the Red Menace playing some role or other. Science-fiction was wall-to-wall with nuclear wastelands and cities that had been flattened to glass, fantasy books were choked with hive-mind enemies acting in the name of the collective, and asking someone whether they’d like to share your crisps was enough to have you stripped of your job and kicked out of your house. It was truly a wonderful time to be alive.
Sadly the grim spectre of Marxism now seems all but reduced to an amusing shadow-puppet with a fuzzy hat; an ironic villain in a self-aware world, the communist has been reduced to a scheming background figure in cartoons and comics that are too trendy for their own good. What went wrong? Have the public really changed so much that the Bolsheviks hold no fear? How can we once again bring the threat of mutually assured destruction to the forefront of the public consciousness?
Naturally the public don’t want a complex us-versus-them drama where both sides realise that despite their ideological differences they are fundamentally the same. No one wants to read about a tense and brittle peace treaty signed between two warring parties. Disparate groups who gradually realise that they have more in common than they think and embrace their shared humanity, overcoming the oppression and conditioning of their respective nations.
Of course people don’t want this! Where’s the fun in a complex and tightly-plotted tale of respect between enemies? What the commies need to bring them back into the lime-light is a good old helping of simpering affection. If only the strong-willed women of the USSR had the backbone to moon and moan in the manner of Bella Swan. There’d be books about the Soviets flying off the shelves! Red-blooded Passion: Love Behind the Iron Curtain – the hot new book about the tender feelings of a high-ranking red army official for her superior! You’ll be hooked by page after page of awkward adolescent action.
With the high-octane romance action of Twilight injected into a book about Soviet Russia, we’d have the unstoppable trifecta of sighs, ellipses and hats made of bears.
Dinosaurs! Giant Crabs! Assorted Megafauna!
The final brute in our list is more of a conglomeration. If there ever was an old staple of horror movies and adventure books, it would be this: the giant beast. Enormous creatures come in all shapes and generally only one size- BIG.
Mothra, King-Kong, Godzilla; there aren’t many people who wouldn’t recognise these names, so why aren’t they selling? Classic monster movies (and modern greats like Jurassic Park) have everything you need for adventure: Giant beasts! Danger! Screaming! Generally there’ll also be a fair amount of contemplation regarding the origin of the monster in question (spoiler: it’s usually our fault). With all of these wonderful ingredients it’s almost unimaginable that giant creatures have fallen out of favour. Clearly they need a change. They need some kind of PR makeover that will make them look mysterious and deep, boosting their appeal immeasurably.
I’ll admit that on the surface it sounds crazy. Why would a giant all-consuming monster possibly gain popularity by taking away its insatiable desire to consume the living? Once again, Twilight has the answer. As any fool knows, the vampires of Twilight manage to find time between being nigh-invulnerable and lusting after teenagers to swear themselves away from human blood. What tension! What anguish! What a noble sacrifice! What a perfect idea to nick and drop into a monster flick!
Who wouldn’t want to see a group of hungry Velociraptors surround a cowering man, coming closer and closer, their jaws within inches of his face when suddenly-
“You smell so good. Like nothing I’ve ever smelled before. I want you. I want you but I can’t...have...you...”
People would be swooning in the isles at their magnanimous self control! ‘Team ‘Zilla’ t-shirts would jostle for space with the ‘Team Kong’ scarves, young girls would daydream of being carried away by apes and married women would look at their husbands longingly, imagining them with the head of a giant wasp.
These are just a few ideas on how classic villains and beasties could be given the Twilight treatment to boost their popularity. I don’t think I’ve explored even a quarter of what could be done with this fertile wealth of literary imagination. How about a four-part series where skeletons that move of their own accord slowly chip away at the notion that women are independent people who can make their own decisions? A straight-to-DVD mini-series animated by Ralph Steadman about a horrid race of goblins who set out to make a high-school girl become convinced that life isn’t worth living without them (and succeed!)?
The sky truly is the limit. By sticking to the principles above we can restore interest in the fictional beasts we know and love. One thing it definitely, definitely won’t do is make them bland, insipid and appealing to the lowest common denominator.
IF YOU ENJOYED THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE HELP SUPPORT OUR SITE, AT NO COST WITH ONE CLICK ON THE FACEBOOK 'LIKE' BUTTON BELOW:
If you're interested in writing for Shadowlocked (disc and screening reviews, etc, or just getting some extra coverage for your extraordinary writing talent, get in touch with us.