I thought I’d explore something a little different for Friday Fun today: the demise of scary monsters.
As some of you are aware I’m nuts for zombies. I think movies and books based on them are great fun. I also think they’re one of the last of the remaining “classic” creepy monsters. (They became an instant classic upon release of George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, didn’t they?) But witches, ghosts, vampires, mummies and all the other what I’d consider standard Halloween monsters? They’re just not scary anymore.
VAMPIRES VS. ZOMBIES: WHO’S THE SCARIEST OF THE UNDEAD?
I really started thinking about this the other night after I read the foreword (or was it the Introduction?) to The Living Dead, a zombie short story collection. The author (or it could have been the editor) explained how vampires used to be the gold standard for the scary undead/the dead resurrected.
But then they were “humanized” by authors like Anne Rice and her Vampire Chronicles, or, most recently, by Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series or L. J. Smith’s the Vampire Diaries series. Now, instead of being bloodthirsty killing machines, they have heart and souls and struggle to battle their demons within.
But zombies…well, zombies are still terrifying because all they want to do is feast on flesh. Also, they’re not self-contained. Meaning, they tend to bring with them apocalypses. They don’t affect one person or area, they have the capacity to infect as they go and they accomplish that rapidly. So not only do they kill people, but they also destroy routines, ways of life, and the world as everyone knows it. Which makes for a horrifying experience on numerous levels. (Not to mention great escapism.)
The more I thought on that, the more I realized that, yep, that’s why zombies scare me. Anymore, vampires are like humans, but zombies are true beasts.
At least for now. There might come the day when authors and screenwriters start giving them hearts and souls too. (But hopefully not sex appeal like they have with vampires! I just can’t see finding a zombie with rotting flesh falling off his bones sexually appealing!)
THE HALLOWEEN PARADOX
Then recently I was directed to an article examining classic Halloween characters. In addition to giving a brief history of Halloween’s customs and origins, it also details the various monster symbols found nowadays everywhere during Halloween in a way I hadn’t previously seen done.
But that’s what really caught my eye. The article was able to categorize the following “monsters” as “Halloween characters” – Witches, Jack-O-Lanterns, Vampires, Werewolves, Mummies, Ghosts, Mad Scientists, and Skeletons.
It dedicates a section to each symbol, gives a brief history of the symbol’s association with Halloween, then includes charts which details Most Famous, Origins, Year Created, Notable Appearances, and Modern Trends. Following the chart is a synopsis about the classic Halloween character.
For instance, Casper claimed the Most Famous ghost spot. His story of how he came to be was then detailed.
Count Dracula cinched the Most Famous vampire spot. And I chuckled at this reference to the Twilight vamps in the Modern Trend section of that chart: “Girly sex symbols that glitter in the sun and care for the feelings of teenage girls. Twilight killed the testosterone in blood sucking.”
The symbol I found most interesting was the one it turns out I knew the least about: Stingy Jack, under the Jack-O-Lantern category. I knew the pumpkin symbol took its origins from Irish folklore, but I had never heard the tale of Stingy Jack and how he was doomed to remain between both worlds of good and evil because he couldn’t get into either Heaven or Hell. Interesting!
But like I started out saying, the one thing this article really made me realize was that the classic Halloween monsters, which were all scary when they were first introduced to audiences, have since morphed into non-threatening pop culture icons. Or, more simply put, characters.
I have a feeling zombies will get there too. They’re already fodder for a lot of comedy. But it’ll be interesting to see which scary creation comes along and becomes the next classic Halloween monster.
Which monster frightens you most? (It can be one mentioned above or one not mentioned.) Leave a comment below telling me.
Disclaimer: In preparation for FTC regulations which go into effect December 1, 2009, I am hereby disclosing that I was compensated to write about the article linked to “classic Halloween characters.”