Thursday, February 11, 2010

Film Yap: Tragedy of the Wolf

Looking back at the classic monsters of Universal lore, only two have maintained popularity in today’s culture. They are vampires and werewolves. They have evolved from being supernatural terrors to brooding immortals. Ever since Anne Rice, vampires have been recategorized as “emo” but it is my belief that werewolves have always been more tragic.

When human beings become vampires, they seem to instantly feel a sense of ease. Their social norms evaporate and they are proud of their “creature of the night” status. When people become werewolves, they feel immense shame and self-loathing. Vampires have cognitive ability while they are slicing and drinking while werewolves lose all control. You don’t see Lon Chaney smile a lot even when he’s hanging out with Abbott and Costello, which is an impressive feat. As the wolf portion takes over, they become an unstoppable murdering bundle of rage and id. When the moon goes down, the cursed individual has to deal with the moral ramifications.

So much of the horror genre is about the innocent getting screwed over. Random attractive twentysomethings always seem to get killed by crazed serial killers in various locations. They never did anything that was murder worthy. No, being incompetent camp counselors isn’t grounds for mutilation. If that was the case then there would nobody ever working at McDonalds. Now werewolves have the worst card in the deck once again. No werewolf wanted to be a werewolf. Other tragic horror figures like Dr. Jeckyll and Dr. Frankenstein had a hand in their destiny. Their stories were about ill decisions, but at least they had decisions.

Ginger Fitzgerald, Scott Howard and Oz all became werewolves from a cruel bit of fate. Ever since that random moment, they spend the rest of their lives attempting (and often failing) to remove themselves from people in order not to cause carnage. Actually Scott Howard just danced on vans and won the big game. But he was still upset in the third act or something! Also you can’t easily become a werewolf. You have to be mauled or unless you’re Scott Howard you just go through puberty. Okay forget Scott Howard.

Their positions as lycanthropes are irreversible until death, which can only occur after being brutally pierced by silver. Kinda makes garlic seem rather tame, doesn’t it? Yes it does. So the bookends for the werewolf life are violent, but the horror doesn’t just happen there. The transformation process is depicted as insanely painful. It’s not short either; the famous scene from An American Werewolf in London lasts quite a long time. Bones are crunching, limbs are being mangled, hair is everywhere. It’s horrid. What do the vampires in True Blood have to do? Their fangs just pop out. It doesn’t hurt. In fact it looks kinda awesome. It’s like smoking. Yeah, it’s undeniably harmful to those around you, but you look cool doing it.

Every werewolf story has an overwhelming sense of tragedy. They’re constantly depressed, everyone wants to kill them, and at the end of the romantic triangle they somehow end up with the baby. It’s a disgusting lifestyle.

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