Friday, January 24, 2014

Vampires, Werewolves, and Zombies

The photo at right is just a reminder that, yes, Ansel still rules the roost.

But on to the topic at hand. A few weeks ago, I watched a movie on cable. Sorry, I don't recall the station. The movie was one of those annoying found footage things in the mode of Cloverfield (which I loved) and The Blair Witch Project (which sucks out loud), and it relied heavily on stop-motion models that, sadly, looked like something Ray Harryhausen might have created while on a bad acid trip--in the third grade. Despite these serious flaws, the movie, Troll Hunter (originally Trolljegeren, Norwegian with English subtitles), is nothing short of brilliant. "Brilliant" I say, because the existence of the trolls, complete with information about their biology and ecology, is delivered with an air of nonchalance. The hunter of the title knows what he's doing, and he's spilling his guts to the junior journalists in this tale for reasons that ring true for anyone who has ever experienced bureaucratic stonewalling. Even the cheesiness of the troll artwork and the cliche of the found footage (complete with unsatisfying in medias res ending) could not diminish the brilliance of this story.

Then, after ruminating for a few weeks, it hit me: Troll Hunter had another strong point in its favor as a fantasy movie. It contained no vampires, no werewolves, and no f@<#ing zombies. I'm sick to death of all three. How do the networks and movie studios keep churning this shit out? How many questions are left unanswered in the VWZ trinity? Last year (2013), I went to the World Science Fiction convention in San Antonio. I met a half dozen people who were trying to push their self-published zombie novels. To my horror, even the smart and personable Paolo Bacigalupi (2010 Hugo Award winner best novel for The Wind-Up Girl) has written a young-adult zombie baseball novel.

Zombies. Why'd it have to be zombies?

I guess the zombies bother me most of the trinity. The brain-eating walking dead spawned by George Romero and others are really nothing like the traditional zombies of Voodoo tradition. Zombies have been done to death and beyond. Seriously, is anyone really afraid of shambling corpses? Even if they run like the dead in Zombieland, would something like that really scare you if it came at you, open-mouthed or muttering something about brains? No. Of course not. You'd nod, say, "nice costume," and that would be it. Even if--against all possible logic--this were a Real Thing, if a walking corpse could attack you--how dangerous is a rotting corpse, anyway?

Seriously, if you want to write fantasy, and you're determined to work from traditional horror or fairy-tale elements, please don't write another goddamn V,W, or Z story. Even witches, ghosts, dragons, angels, and demons have been less exploited in recent years than the trio, but there are lots of other areas to explore: goblins, trolls, ogres, fairies, elves, manitous, brownies, pixies, nixies, sylphs, unicorns.

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