I’ve always had a fascination with myriad things macabre and gruesome: Horror literature, horror films, horror-themed music, etc… The myths, legends, and tales of fear and terror have captured my imagination for as long as I can remember. The forms of media and how these stories and images are presented have been expanded and modified, but my appreciation for the horror genre has always been foremost in terms of what amused and entertained me.
As a kid in the 70s, I didn’t have access to the internet and thousands of cable channels, but always found a way to appease my appetite for the ghastly and horrific. Books – novels and anthologies of short stories – were always in my possession via libraries and stores. Hell, even comic books of the 70s catered to my tastes (and – happily – even presented monstrous creatures as heroes, like Werewolf by Night and Ghost Rider – more on that later). Television was limited, but I always sought out programming that featured horror films. This was always specialized weekend programming, usually on a Saturday afternoon or late at night. The shows I recall were ‘Shock Theater’ and ‘Creature Feature’ for afternoon fun, with ‘Count Zappula’ (a local horror film host) and ‘TJ and the ANT (All Night Theater)’ occupying my late night viewing.
Nevertheless, I was a pretty normal kid. My absorption of horror literature and film wasn’t the result of a hermetic existence. On the contrary, I’ve always been an active, social person, as well as an avid sports fan. Still, my interest in horror was greater than most people I knew.
When I state, ‘I am the monster’, I’m tapping into not just my enjoyment of ghoulish themes, but also how I identify with – what I consider to be – the true protagonist of these tales and images: the monster or alleged menace.
Does this mean I root for the shark in Jaws?
Identify with Hannibal Lector?
Of course not.
Feel a kindred spirit with the menacing ghosts in Poltergeist?
To be more specific, I find some themes and stories of terror which include a sympathetic take on the monster or menace to be a nice twist. Not a genuinely cruel or evil presence, but possibly a misunderstood or misfortunate character. Examples would include any number of those afflicted with lycanthropy and beasts or persons that are merely defending their turf or utter existence: Werewolves; Frankenstein’s Monster; King Kong; Godzilla; The Creature from the Black Lagoon; etc… Shit, throw in the mad scientists too. We all identify with the misguided genius.
Vampires? Nah, fuck ‘em. I’ve been a vampire on Halloween, sure, but vampires as sympathetic or engaging characters is a premise I’ve found tiresome for awhile now. Anne Rice, other modern authors, films, and episodic TV shows for many years now have offered the world blood suckers as cute, cuddly, and ‘hip’ in an annoying manner (the recent exceptions for me are the brilliant films ‘Let the Right One In’ and ‘Thirst’). Besides, I’ve never identified with the well-manicured, perfumed seducer wearing a suit and cape. I do like the monstrous personification of the vampire in films like Nosferatu and Salem’s Lot, however. A truly menacing and frightening presence, a nearly unstoppable, mysterious force of nature is the best way to deliver the goods with the vampire character, in my opinion.
I’ve really dug the monster cast as a martyr/hero theme, and as I mentioned before, the comics of the 70s drilled down into that scenario in a timely manner for me. Already a super hero/comic book nerd, the concept featuring a wolf man or demon from hell (i.e. Werewolf by Night and Ghost Rider) as a vigilante unwanted by society was something I dove into (and already a common storyline in comics with Batman and Spiderman being the best examples).
What about the beast carrying away the beauty?
Oh yeah. I’m all over that. I am the monster.