A Halloween Message to Hollywood II: Message Harder
Dear Hollywood, as you might recall, I wrote you last year, concerned that you might have been driving you two cash cow monsters (zombies and vampires) into the ground like Popeye pounding Bluto into the earth like a stake because he tried to take Olive Oyl.
In response, you doubled down on True Blood and Walking Dead, then raised with the (admittedly awesome) Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and as a finishing move, you brought back the Munsters like you were a character in Final Fantasy and Herman was Baphomet.
So as I lie here in a smoldering crater fifty miles wide from the Colony Drop of living corpses you hit me with, allow me to appeal to you one more time, not to dump the obvious money makers, but to give some other, less loved monsters a shot. I mean really, this year alone, Liam Neeson punched to death aliens, wolves, and Europeans; why couldn’t he have also delivered viscous beatdowns of…
That is, more than one Big Foot. Don’t ever call them Big Feet; they hate that. If you prefer, you can call them Sasquatches, Skunk Apes, Wood Apes, or Missing Links. If you’re feeling like being a dumbass, you can also call them Wendigos or Yetis, which are not the same goddamn monster, but we all know you don’t actually care.
The point is, that these guys have some serious monster movie potential. They’re man-sized and so can get anywhere a group of backpacking film students can while hiding form the horrible and mysterious creatures stalking them. But they also have a playful side: the physical strength of an ape, which is considerably more than a person’s and can be easily used to tear parts off people, thus maximizing the unnecessary amounts of gore you crave. They can also be tailored to be as smart or as stupid as you need, and can be easily deployed in numbers to take on more heavily armed targets (Yes, I want Predator with Big Foots. Lots of them.).
Of course, Hollywood loves a multi-tasker and boy does Big Foot deliver in that department. The venerable comedy series Harry and the Hendersons proves that the big guy can roll with comedy, but really, you gave up on comedy when you refused to summarily execute those guys that did Disaster Movie (And no, I will not dignify that with a link, I don’t need money that badly). Now, what you want is romance. That’s why you’ve put so much effort into vampires, right? They’re sexable monsters.
Well let’s face it: no one knows what a Big Foot looks like up close. Maybe they’re really just utterly ripped dudes who happen to be hairy. All you need is one badly written, sensual waxing scene and bam! And, since you’ve proven with werewolves that you’re afraid of hairy women, female Big Foots can just have an extreme case of Rapunzel hair. Or, you know, sensual waxing scene. You’ve tried to make every other awkward and anti-sex activity sexy, so why the hell not?
Trust me, you’d better start warming up to the hair, because we’re getting less sexy from here. And if you decide this statement is false later… I fear you, because no one anywhere should see any sexy in…
Okay, a certain demographic will, regrettably find something to mash their monster to in a word that translates from Spanish as ‘goat sucker’, but… yeah, no. These are the people I worry about when I write stuff that’s supposed to be disturbing like Vorpal’s story in Scenes. And we shall never speak of them again.
Anyway, the chupacabra is a monster native to the American Southwest and points south through Mexico, and both South and Central America. Their claim to fame is attacking goats and draining them of blood. Also, turning out to be coyotes with mange. They’re often depicted as capable of both bipedal and quadrupedal locomotion, and looking like spiky versions of the Roswell Greys.
So that’s what we’ve got to work with: a vampiric, spiked up alien in the form of a monster dog. First of all, it might shock you to discover that this one already became a movie and the French knocked it out of the damned park with Brotherhood of the Wolf. The movie is so badass, that even this many years out, I will not spoil it. Watch it. Seriously.
I’ll only say that there’s a lot more ground to cover with a spiked murder hound that BotW didn’t get into. For example: the origin. This thing can come from anywhere, but space is the most obvious answer. Or dark gods seeking vengeance. Or nature deciding that it needs payback for British Petroleum and global warming.
Imagine with me, a film set in the Wild West, where a group of cattle men in what is now south Texas, northern Mexico, set out to confront what they believe to be a friendly native tribe that have suddenly turned to stealing and brutally murdering their cattle. They arrive at the native land only to find horror and death with a handful of survivors giving half-formed accounts of a hideous spirit that has been sweeping down on them each night to kill anyone it can catch and anyone who tried to escape. The cattlemen do not believe, but now the sun is setting, and out on the frontier, they hear noises not of this Earth…
Cue 40 minutes of violence, mayhem, fires, and a glorious slo-mo shot of a tomahawk splitting an alien skull.
And if you don’t like that, I’ve got something extra insane:
The Montauk Monster
Here at The Descendants, I have gotten a lot of inspirational mileage out of the still nebulous events that took place at Camp Hero in Montauk, NY in the early 1940’s, almost all of which is certainly the product of conspiracy nuts, attention seekers and idiots.
Today, the term Montauk Monster is mostly used to refer to the partially decayed raccoon corpse that washed up in that town and triggered a week of speculation and a billion theories about what it actually was, ranging from sea turtle to Australian rodent, to capybara. I’m not going to bite on anyone for this speculation, because that thing was freaky as hell.
However, before Rocket there made his fateful water landing, the Montauk Monster referred to something much cooler, and much more deranged.
You see, the stories about Montauk were a hybrid of those surrounding the Philadelphia Experiment and Project MK-ULTRA. The former was styled to be an experiment with invisibility technology that turned into teleportation and/or time travel, and the latter was an actual, factual attempt to give people superpowers by stuffing them full of psychotropics, because in the 1940’s and 50’s, mad science was a thing governments did (See also such other Descendants-inspiring hits as Operation Whitecoat, HeLa cells, and the Tuskegee Airman Experiments).
Like all good stories, you have to one up the person who told the last one. So in one version of the events of what happened at Montauk, the researchers established a ‘time tunnel’ that linked to the USS Eldridge (the ship from the Philadelphia Experiment) at the moment it was lost in time (before either reappearing with sailors partially phased into the hull, or teleported to Norfolk). Naturally, they started messing around with it somehow using it to expand the MK-ULTRA experiments (with some electromagnetic deal called a Montauk Chair) until…
Something went wrong (scare chord). Either one of the experimental psychics got a little uppity (as in ‘I am now a god, uppity), or a time traveling monster came in through the tunnel and…
Why am I still using words at you about this? The conspiracy nuts have already written all this for you. You have a time traveling monster vs mad scientists with access to a magic chair that gives them mind control powers. All that’s left for you to do is pick from your box of generic characters the audience barely tolerates, but whom you will force us to bare with for twenty excruciating, monster-free minutes until we promise to pretend we’re attached to them so it’s okay for you to kill them. Get to work!
And if you don’t like that…
Allow me, for a moment, to come clean about something: I believe we are not alone in the universe and that there are aliens out there in space. They may not have visited us and they probably don’t look like grays, but I don’t think we’re the only game in town when it comes to intelligent life.
I’ll also say that I wish the Loch Ness Monster turns out to be real and also an ancient aquatic reptile, even though I know it’s a long shot. Also drop bears, because that would be hilarious.
I don’t begrudge people who believe in Big Foot, or Grays, or the slew of cryptids out there. Sometimes belief isn’t about logic so much as hope and holding on to the possibility that mundanity isn’t the only thing we’ve got on this planet of shrimp with sonic cannons built in, girls who grow wires out of their skin, and Jackie Chan.
No, seriously: Why is there no religion based around this man?
That said, I can unequivocally say that it is totally okay to mock, taunt and bully anyone that believes in fearsome critters like the axhandle hound, hodag, or cactus cat. Why? Because that is literally the point of these things. They’re stories made up by drunk lumberjacks to screw with newbies and stretch the credulity of their friends.
It is completely stupid to believe any of that bullshit… right up until a splinter cat rams the tree next to your friend, shattering the trunk into a cloud of deadly shards of wood that convert a strapping man with ax in hand into a fine, red mist among flying bits of wood. Then you hear the whistles of the teakettlers grow silent at the approach of the Glawakus, and you’re forced to admit that shit just got real. Literally.
One thing monster stories have in common is taking the completely stupid and making it creepy by presenting it as an actual threat. This formula (plus, like, good writing skills, I guess) has made Stephen King into some sort of money golem on the backs of evil clowns, evil cars, evil beer, evil cell phones… you get the picture.
Which I why this is genius. These things are monsters, but they’re lame monsters. They’re like reverse Lovecraftian horrors; instead of damaging reality because they should not be, these guys seem like reality could win that fight. Right up until you’re facing down something as murderous as it is stupid looking.
And speaking of stupid monsters…
Allow me to transport you back for a moment, to the time of bustles, waistcoats, and penny dreadfuls, to Victorian England, where people were apparently so easy to scare that it was possible to become a folk monster by jumping really, really well.
For some reason, the people who had to contend with the actual Jack the Ripper found a guy who could jump hella high and used this ability to surprise people to be just as scary as the dude who sent a woman’s liver to a police station, or the police clerks for whom having human organs delivered was such a non-event that they promptly lost it.
Jack went on to star in penny dreadful novels and I even managed to find a steampunk mystery novel about him written in this day and age.
Now I know I haven’t worked very hard to sell the last couple of monsters, as they either sell themselves or their checks bounced (not the chupacabras though. You’d be surprised hos much money they have saved up), but let’s talk about the incredible blank slate we have here in good old Jack (whose check just barely cleared by mt writing deadline):
First, the story is very simple, and in the UK, fairly well known. You’ve got a guy whose description hovers between nondescript and just on the wrong side of the uncanny valley, whose only canonical power is super leaps, and whose motivations are slim to nonexistent. Clearly,t he point wasn’t just to freak people out with his springbok impression, so there’s a lot of room to paint on extras.
For the bodice ripper crowd, he’s in the right era and in undaunted by balconies. He arrives in the heroine’s chambers in a flourish of his cloak and leaves the same way. He carries her across the city, showing her the world from the rooftops, as she’s never seen it before. And he can get into the best gardens for hot outdoors sex scenes.
For the crime and horror crowd, he once again exists in a good era for it and is impervious to even your highest fences and walls, capable of bounding over stern-faced bobbies and sleuths in his quest to deliver bouncing murder, possibly just by dropping on his victims from on high like Toad from the first X-men movie.
Ray Park deserves more work. Get on it, Hollywood.
Sure, jumping awesomely is not, in and of itself a good power, but it gets considerably less ridiculous when he’s using those jumps to put more weight into slashing you to ribbons with his cane sword, or getting a good vantage to shoot you with his dual-wielded dueling pistols. Or hey, maybe he’s all teeth and claws and sharp angles when he comes down on you.
But maybe you want to stick to something you know with a more interesting twist, like…
We’ve had this talk before. You’ve tried werewolves. You keep trying them and You. Keep. Failing. It’s okay. I know how hard it must be to make a transforming wolf monster with insurmountable strength, predatory cunning, super-senses, and the glorious treasure trove of shapeshifter guilt into something exciting enough to sell a lot of tickets. I mean it’s an enviable task to make that intriguing, terrifying, or, dare we say sexy? (Okay, no furry jokes here [because they have never been funny], but combine the animal drive to mate with the fact that transforming shreds clothes, often leaving the victim naked when they power down.)
Maybe it’s not dangerous incompetence. Maybe it’s not a fear of breaking formula with a well known monster. Maybe it’s the wolf. Wolves are jerks. They’re probably sabotaging you out of spite and revenge for being hunted to near-extinction, being allowed to bounce back, then added right back to the list of huntable animals within seconds of getting off the endangered list. Yeah, that’s the ticket.
So why not trying some other weres and were-like critters?
Cats are good. Hunting cats were a primary predator or ancient hominid ancestors , and their roars (especially the tiger’s) actually have a frequency that messes with our brains. Plus, the default animal is powerful enough to be a real threat to a skilled fighter or armed opponent (unlike most wolves, who generally couldn’t take a skilled and prepared or armed human one on one and would rather run for the safety of the pack). Adding human intellect and the ability to walk around as a human most of the time and you’ve got one hell of a predator.
But maybe you don’t want scary. Maybe you want psychological and emotional. Good for you, Captain Oscar Bait; I’m here to help. Hailing from Japan, the kitsune is a fox with mystical powers that transforms into a human woman and marries human men, falling in love with them and having children. The dagger here is that if she’s ever found out, she shifts back to vulpine mode and can never see him or the children ever again. (alternatively, the kids becomes foxes too and have to grow up without a father, leaving the dude with his entire family wrest away from him and no sane story to tell the authorities).
Imagine if you will this story told form the kitsune’s point of view: young, in love and blessed with fantastic powers and a secret she can never share with the love of her life, knowing that if it ever comes out, even in an hour of incredible need, she will lose everything and subject herself (and potentially her children) to the lives of common animals.
Want a manipulative, abusive twist to that? You’re Hollywood, the people who green-lit Fifty shades for movies—of course you do! Then we’re off to Ireland, Scotland and Iceland to visit the selkie. These, I shit you not, are seals who, like their Japanese sisters, have a hankering for bipedal motion and opposable thumbs. Unlike the kitsune, however, a selkie can’t just magic herself into a woman. Now, like Cinderella to the kitsune’s stepsister, she has to do things the hard way; and by the hard way, I mean she has to peel her skin off. And there’s a woman’s body underneath.
Also unlike their counterparts, selkies often aren’t depicted as the marrying type. They just like to get all pink and hairless and frolic in the altogether for a bit every once in a while. As this myth probably originated with the Vikings, however, this did, in no way mean they got their wishes respected.
See, according to the legends, men would steal the selkie’s seal skin and hide it, holding it over her as blackmail and forcing her to marry him and forcing her to bear him children. Because tricking and sexually assaulting a mystical super-entity is just as good an idea as you might expect, these stories often ended with the selkie finding her skin and murdering the guy so hard his ancestors died early (that last part might not actually be part of the legend).
Imagine if you will a movie wherein Mr. Selkie-Hubby and his equally vile friends are on a fishing trip on a remote island when, back at home, the little missus is cleaning the floor and stumbled upon a loose floorboard concealing her skin, allowing her to transforming into Deathseal the Fangglorious. The rest of the movie involves Hubby and friends being picked off one by one in ways that will have him begging to pay alimony.
Really though, any animorphism is ripe for fun an original monsters. You don’t even need them to shift into (often stupid looking) hybrid forms (as an aside, I tend to call this ‘shifting to Crinos’ after the term used in White Wolf’s World of Darkness games. Privately, I call things like Freaque’s intermediate mode (the one she’s locked into at the moment) as Crinos as well.) Consider a person capable of becoming a dog, or cat, or pot bellied pig and living as someone else’s pet.
Harry Potter had something like that happen, but it really wasn’t focused on. Think about all the access that damn rat had to Ron’s life and home. All the terrible things he could have done if he wasn’t mentally reduced to a Renfield.
Do you know what gaslighting is? Imagine if your cat was some vengeful woman you screwed over years ago playing the long con on you. In fact THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT’S GOING ON! RUN, DEAR READER ! RUN LIKE THE WIND!
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