Copyright 2011 by Gary L. Pullman
There’s a limit, perhaps, to the number of horror villains that the genre’s writers can imagine. Fortunately, there are also variations on most, if not all, of them. Mr. Hyde, of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, seems to be a variation on the werewolf. He’s hirsute and ferocious and more than a bit bestial, but he’s not a werewolf per se. The disembodied, winged phalli of ancient Greece and the Middle East, as I suggested earlier, appear to have put in a more modern appearance, albeit disguised and minus the wings, as it were, as the phallic parasites in the movie Shivers. Instead of flying, they slither, and they seem to have been skinned alive; nevertheless, their viscous meatiness suggest that they are members virile, as do their ability to spread sexually transmitted diseases and to render both sexes horny.
John Kenneth Muir believes that the computer that impregnates Susan Harris in Demon Seed is a stand-in, as it were, for Victor von Frankenstein; so, one might argue, is H. G. Wells’ Dr. Moreau, who is busy vivisecting animals in the hope4 of creating a race of hybrid “beast-men,” and what is the entity in The Entity if not a ghost-turned-incubus? Although I myself don’t necessarily subscribe to the notion, some believe that aliens, or extraterrestrial beings, are really demons in disguise. In fact, this seems to be Dean Koontz’s stand on this issue, at least as far as his novel The Taking is concerned. Stephen King’s novel It gives a new shape--and identity--to the ancient god Proteus, with the monster of his novel able to change shape at will or to assume the identity of anyone It’s met. Modern devotees of Wicca have supplanted traditional witches. Ghosts are, often enough, embodiments, so to speak, of guilt associated with past deeds--or misdeeds.
I’m not talking pastiche here, not merely open imitation, for satirical purposes or otherwise, but a creative retooling of earlier horror monster along the lines of Renee Magritte’s retooling of the mermaid icon in his painting Collective Invention. I see examples in a lot of places, including Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Medusa-like Ovu Mobani demon in Marti Noxon’s “Dead Man’s Party” episode. A flash from its eyes paralyzes humans, just as the Medusa’s gaze turned her victims to stone.
Likewise, the half human, half-serpent demon Machida in David Greenwalt’s “Reptile Boy” is and is not a male version of the ancient Greek snake-woman known as the lamia. For one thing, he’s a he, not a she, and he doesn’t eat babies (as far as we know), apparently preferring nubile teens like Cordelia Chase, Buffy Summers, and the high school girl who is chained in the basement of the fraternity house in which his devotees, male college students who belong to the fraternity that worships him, reside. Buffy’s Machida demon is at least as original a departure from the ancient Greek lamia as Magritte’s fish-woman is on the ancient Greek siren, or mermaid, and it is such innovation that keeps horror fiction’s stable of fiends and monsters fresh. Variety is the spice of monsters, as it is of life.