Guest Blog: Horror Expert Dave Alexander on Frankenstein.
It all began with Frankenstein….
Well, technically Frankenstein's Monster – as horror fans love to point out – but I didn't know that as young boy. I just knew there was this terrifying man-like creature with a huge brow, stitches and greenish skin, that people called “Frankenstein” – all thanks to my mom who once a year, just before Halloween, brought home a cardboard illustration of Boris Karloff as the monster in the Universal movie Frankenstein. It was the beginning of my fascination with the horror genre.
The image scared me, yet I couldn't stop staring at it. Was it a person? Was he alive or dead? Or somehow... both? Why were there bolts in his neck? Where was he from? What did he want? Would he come for – GASP! – me? The idea of Frankenstein is so potent, and soon I was collecting all things Frankenstein including a model kit of Karloff in the movie that my dad put together with me (well, he did 90 percent of the work) which resides in my room to this day. Eventually, I was allowed to finally see Karloff in the 1931 film, and it lived up to my expectations, driving me ever deeper into the monster kid dungeon. As I got older, I read horror comics, collected horror toys and watched horror movies. Eventually, I wrote about the genre while getting my Film and Media Studies at the University of Alberta, and that led me to moving to Toronto, where I became the editor-in-chief of internationally renowned horror magazine Rue Morgue, for about a decade.
I put Frankenstein's Monster on the cover more than once and the film/character became of topic of several editorials. Mary Shelley's creation – now over 200 years old – is so incredibly rich in meaning and metaphor, that it's reached cultural immortality. The story lives on because it violates several of the basic categories we use to understand the world by occupying space between life and death, man and machine, the natural and the supernatural, religion and science, etc. – endlessly opening up new avenues to explore.
Both the creature and the mythology are fluid, having been reinterpreted countless times across cultures, mediums and eras. By the 1830 there were over a dozen stage versions of the story, Shelley herself made changes to her own version for the third edition of the novel, Thomas Edison made his own film version before the Universal movies arrived, and there have been scores of cinematic adaptations since then. Name a medium and the Big Guy has been part of it: radio plays, comic books, TV cartoons, video games and so much art. (A personal favourite iteration of the tale is Junji Ito's mid-'90s manga series, which stays faithful to Shelley's story but adds his trademark grotesque visuals.)
What I haven't seen before, however, is Frankenstein re-imagined for the ballet. Initially, I was taken aback at the idea of reworking the very avatar of stumbling, thrashing gracelessness into the the most graceful of mediums. Then, after reading Artistic Director Jean Grand-Maitre’s concept for a very contemporary scientific take on the story of The Modern Prometheus; seeing glimpses of Zacharie Dun's gnarled, tortured take on the monster as something out of a German Expressionism nightmare; and witnessing the sparks and blood exploding in the Alberta Ballet's teaser film, I found myself once again captivated by the possibilities of Frankenstein's Monster.
I look forward to sharing my passion for the story and hope you can join us in exploring this production of Frankenstein . The storm clouds are gathering and before long lightning will strike, creating something you've never seen before. The monster will come calling soon. He is inevitable. Can you feel the hairs on the back of your neck standing up?
Born and raised in Edmonton, where he received a degree in Film and Media Studies, Dave Alexander is a filmmaker, the former Editor-in-Chief and current co-owner of celebrated international horror magazine Rue Morgue, author of Movie Monsters: A Creature Feature Companion, a published fiction writer and the co-creator and editor of a line of hardcover horror-themed books for 1984 Publishing. He's been a guest at numerous conventions across North America, and appeared on television, radio, podcasts, DVD extras and in documentaries as a genre expert.