What’s the classic werewolf story?

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Recently I’ve been putting together a course on Monsters, and in compiling the topics week by week, I had a moment to pause. Whereas many monsters have seminal texts – Dracula being one example, what exactly constitutes the seminal text for the werewolf? And anyway, why do we need one? There have been some good stories where the themes and characters are decidedly wolfy, such as Little Red Riding Hood, a werewolf is a different thing. Unlike the vampire or Frankenstein’s monster, it isn’t a fixed form, and continually exists in binary form – wolf or human. Despite some of the more recent literature trying to claim that the wolf effect lasts all month long, and can be ‘felt’, the simple aesthetic fact is that only one night out of the month does a hairy snout become a feature of your appearance. Although, as with other monster tales, the story of ‘origin’, ie how they got the ‘curse’ is often told, and the loss of innocence that comes with transformation. Werewolves are unlike other monsters in that they eschew many of the traditional human aspects such as appearance yet remain imbued with a desire for hierarchy (the wolfpack). werewolf

In many ways, it can be said that Louis-Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde is the epitome of the  werewolf tale. It details the glorious divide between the public and private, the civilised and the primal and the division of self that comes with being something other than human. After all, vampires may have been human once, but these memories are echoes, which distort with time, and remain untouched in the past. Werewolves instead have to continuously relive the human experience, altered by their secret identity. Hiding the monstrous becomes a focus of the narrative, unless of course, the story is set in a world populated by other supernaturals, such as Nightwatch, or even Harry Potter. 

The fact that there isn’t a seminal werewolf text (and if I’m mistaken, please feel free to tell me) may be a good thing. Writing and reading a lot about vampires, particularly media texts, there’s only so many times you can read the ‘history’ of the figure and it mention Dracula before you want to tear your hair out. He was not the template for the vampire, only a mixture of folklore and Stoker’s imagination. But that’s all these monsters are. Figments of our imaginations.

Monsters of 2013

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Well, apparently we didn’t get enough of the monstrous last year. And because I spend far too much time thinking about them, here’s a list of upcoming films to sink your teeth into….

Warm Bodies

Ah, the old ‘sentient zombie’ trick. Always a good romance story. WARM BODIESOh, wait, I’m thinking of vampires. Although it looks more like a comedy than anything else, it’s still taking a leaf out the vampire tome and attempting to bridge the gap between the undead and us, despite the tricky logistics. Could be terrible, but a different take none the less.

World War Z

world-war-z-trailer-brad-pittI’m just about to read the book, and everyone who’s read it says it’s excellent. About time we had a decent zombie novel. And film adaptation. Plus Brad Pitt. He’s good at those monster things.

Monsters University

Hey, who said it had to be serious monsters? Making monsters cuddly since 2001, Pixar return with their attempt at continuing the franchise, though no one says that’s a bad thing when Sully is involved…

Monsters_uni_post_2

Only Lovers Left Alive

More vampires! Tom Hiddleston! Tilda Swinton! only-lovers-left-alive-posterThis looks like it will be excellent. Plus the description sounds like this: Adam (Tom Hiddleston), an underground musician reunites with his lover for centuries (Tilda Swinton) after he becomes depressed and tired with the direction human society has taken. Their love is interrupted and tested by her wild and uncontrollable little sister (Mia Wasikowska). (imdb.com)

Byzantium

Neil Jordan returns to form (I hope) directing another vampire film with the gorgeous Gemma Arterton and Jonny Lee Miller. This one focuses on the bond between mother and daughter, so here’s hoping it won’t be a descent into a vampy love story unlike the films of recent years…

I, Frankenstein

Not out til September, this film is apparently about Frankenstein’s creature finding himself caught in a war between “two immortal clans”. Whether that’s vampires or lycanthropes is something else entirely. Bill Nighy’s in it too, which probably means it’ll be good. Unless it’s a child’s film. We’ll see.

Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters

MV5BMjA4MDQwODg2NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNTc5ODc2OA@@._V1._SY317_Gemma Arterton again, and Hawkeye, I mean, Jeremy Renner as Hansel and Gretel…because now they’re witch hunters and that makes sense. Still, the trailer has suitable amounts of gore, despite the premise being witches eat children and are all hideous. Could be fun.

Beautiful Creatures

From the trailer, it’s painfully obvious that this is Twilight with witches. But this time, the ROLES ARE REVERSED. It’s the guy who’s the human, and the girl who’s supernatural. I’ve seen the trailer. It could be good, but will definitely be good if you’re a teenage girl.

In sum: Less vampires, more witches, and sentient zombies. Monsters are definitely undead.