Out of My Mind: Month of the Macabre

Greetings, one and all!  It if finally October, which means that it is time for all things strange and spooky.  Unless you happen to live in Germany, in which case it’s time to…do whatever Germans do during Oktoberfest.  I wouldn’t know because the last time I was in Germany, I was far too young to take part in the festivities.  Heck, the last time I was in Germany, it was still two separate countries.

Getting back on topic, this is the time of year that we focus on tales of horror and suspense.  Every year during this month, there is more of a focus on horror-themed movies, books and even video games.  I personally have a tradition of trying to read a classic horror novel every October, followed by watching an old horror-comedy like Young Frankenstein or Arsenic and Old Lace.  Of course, you can’t talk about horror without talking about monsters.  Actually I guess you could, but where would be the fun in that?

While modern horror tends to be about how terrifying people can be, or about how horrifying the nature of reality itself is, the oldest horror stories were about the creatures that lived in the shadows.  These stories all featured tales of the various monsters, spirits, and demons that existed just to kill or maim.  A lot of these tales were based on old world superstitions, and started off as legitimate warnings to people to avoid suffering a terrible fate.

As people stopped believing that these supernatural creatures existed, they stopped being scared of them.  This led to fewer and fewer horror stories featuring the ghouls and ghosts that had been seen in stories for centuries prior.  To this day, the few modern movies and books that feature monsters are not really in the horror genre anymore, but tend to be comedies, fantasies, or even romances.

An interesting trend that began in the 1960’s or 1970’s was the idea of combining a lot of well-known monsters into one story, an idea that TV Tropes refers to as the “Monster Mash”.  The latest example of this (as of the time of this post) would be the Hotel Transylvania franchise, which goes back to the point about monsters not being seen as horror figures anymore.  What I find interesting are the monsters that tend to be used for these “Monster Mash” films, books, and games.  It seems like it always consists of the following:  Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, the Wolf Man (or rather, A Wolf Man, but we’ll get into that in a later post), the Invisible Man, the Mummy, Mr. Hyde, and sometimes one other monster like the Creature from the Black Lagoon or the Phantom of the Opera.  The Bride of Frankenstein is sometimes included as a token female monster, and I always found it odd that they never included any of the other female monsters from the horror genre.

What makes this interesting to me is that these monsters have no real connection to each other (outside of being monsters), and thus have no real reason to be hanging out with each other.  Some of them are not even really monsters, except in the sense of “man is the true monster”, and that’s really an idea that wasn’t explored until later in the horror genre.  The only reason that these particular monsters are grouped together is because they were the monsters that were made famous by Universal Studios from the 1930’s to the 1950’s.  Technically they had some horror movies before this period, but the silent movie era monsters rarely show up in newer media.

I’m going to spend a week (at least) discussing each of these monsters in turn, and how they fit in to the whole “Monster Mash” sub-genre.  Tomorrow’s post is going to focus on my personal favorite out of these monsters, which is fitting because he was one of the first of the Universal Horror movie monsters (if we don’t count the movies from the silent film era).  That’s right horror fans, tomorrow we’re going to be talking about Count Dracula!

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