Editor’s note: It’s been a while since I’ve featured other writer’s here but I’m warming up to the idea of it again. I got some pretty good feedback on my vampire article for Geek Force Five and at a recent meeting of the minds for bloggers and whatnot, a rebuttal in favor of werewolves was proposed by GF5 contributor Shawn Lampron. These are his ideas.
I became obsessed with the idea of hirsute monsters around the age of ten or so. I was fascinated as my usually tame local cable channels started to show me glimpses of werewolf movies made in the wake of An American Werewolf in London’s success. With ready access to a local video store, I made my mother plunk down numerous rental charges over the course of a summer as I devoured cheap VHS copies of howling werewolves bounding through the woods, endlessly hunted by those annoying “regular” humans.
For whatever reason, the vampire mythos wasn’t as appealing to me. I went through my Anne Rice phase in high school, but I never fully loved it as much as the idea of the werewolf legend. Also, I was very depressed as a teenager to see that no progress had been made since the eighties, the decade of my birth. Where had they all gone? No books? No movies? That original transformation from An American Werewolf in London seemed to have been the peak of a dying genre. Zombies have become very trendy again, which I applaud, and even Frankenstein’s monster received another shot in the clumsy hands of Deniro. Still, my werewolves were left for dead.
Before examining the evidence and theories behind werewolves in cinematic purgatory, let me just enlighten you to the varied reasons I think this mythos connected to me so fully. Firstly, I connected with this curse. I got it, I really did. The parallels were so obvious to me. Lycanthropy could double as a metaphor for an unbearable rage, hatred at the ordinary and boring so strong that one reverted to the bestial essence from which we came, an animalistic region we all possess. On the other hand, it could function as a perfect metaphor for the trials of puberty: strange hair and uncontrollable emotions. Your body betrays you and you find yourself in situations that are embarrassing and dangerous. Both interpretations were easily accessible to a small-town boy with social stigma.
However, where vampires are ruined continuously by overeager scribes, werewolves are ruined through inattention. Let’s examine some of those very sources that Bryan used: the much maligned Twilight and the movie Underworld. In Twilight, the werewolves are connected to Native American culture. This is a recent connection, utilizing Native American legends of “skinwalkers”, shamanistic figures who could take the shapes of other animals. Not a bad expansion upon the legend and one of the few progressions that have been made in recent years. However, where the vampires are portrayed as cool and effortlessly and irresistibly sexy, the werewolves are seen as rage-filled and barely controllable animals. Indeed, if I recall correctly, one of them had disfigured his girlfriend by mistake. Oops. In Underworld, the vampires had enslaved the werewolves and were in the process of hunting them to extinction. In both the movies, they serve as little more than footnotes, and are again portrayed as homely, lacking basic hygiene, and barely able to control themselves from wetting the proverbial rug.
To an extent, I realize that I’m complaining about traits that are central to the mythos. The rage is wrapped up in the legend and the growth of massive amounts of hair and a canine appearance could lead to bathing complications and issues with socialization. However, every single time, werewolves are subjugated to second fiddle, usually to vampires. Also, each time, they’ve gone nowhere, playing the same tired road of crazed beasts that need to be hunted down by the “cooler” monsters. Where the vampire soup has been stirred by too many chefs to the point that it’s unbearable to eat, the werewolf’s isn’t even on the menu for horror fans.
Quite simply, the werewolf mythos needs to be overhauled. Every lycanthrope from Michael Jackson to Michael J. Fox has gone the same route. Ah, what’s happening to slow transformation to howling. This led one Michael to basketball and another to a zombie dance, but I digress. Where vampire mythology has evolved and been manipulated, werewolf mythology has stayed fundamentally the same. So, let’s pose a few questions to shake things up: What if they retained control of themselves? What if it were more of a mental than a physical state? Does the full moon have to be involved? Does it have to be transmitted through bites? Is it a curse or evolution? How about devolution?
With a few simple tweaks on the legend, perhaps werewolves could become as sexy and hip as the undead. As aggravating as it can be, dear readers, it may be better to see your favorite monster experience this pop boom every few years than have to suffer for a quarter of a century without an iconic interpretation!