Friday, March 16, 2012

"...I am quite dead."

     Although werewolves are some of my favorite monsters, the movie version of The Wolfman has never been a favorite of mine. Even the remake seemed to be a let down. I think the Oedipal connotations didn’t work for me. The movie always seemed more about sending a message of sons dethroning fathers rather than presenting horror; the story was put second to the message, and the message wasn’t that clever. This novelization, however, seemed to steer away from that message, present more demonizing aspects of the werewolf curse, and focus on the insanity of the father. I enjoyed this novel, and it gave me more respect for the movie. Plus, I had forgotten how much I love the line “Look into my eyes, Lawrence, you’ll see that I am quite dead.”
     I suppose werewolves can represent the bestial Id within a person, but The Wolfman runs that idea further and delves into Freud’s theories. Lawrence and his father apparently fight for the mother’s love, and Sir John’s Id murders her. Then, Gwen enters the picture (whom I always related to a secondary mother figure), and the Oedipal problems arise again. This time Sir John’s Id kills his son. Everything spins out of control until the end when Lawrence and Sir John fight for supremacy. Although werewolves lend themselves to this story, I always felt the underlying messages cheapened the greatness of the tale.
     In this novel, as opposed to the films, Sir John’s insanity is brought out, or at least I didn’t notice it so much until this reading. Sir John never meant to kill his wife, and that drove him mad. In the films, I always felt he, at least halfway, killed her deliberately. The same with Lawrence’s brother. In this book, thoughts, actions, and details were drawn out more, so I got more of an impression that Sir John had lost his sanity, and reason to live and let his inner beast have control, compared to the movie where I felt he was fighting to be an alpha wolf.
     The religious descriptions given in this book worked well. Although I never felt that in the movie the werewolf curse was anything more than a disease spread by bite, the book made me think that although it may have been like a disease, the curse was demonic in nature. This made the werewolf even scarier. For an overdramatic comparison--there’s being chased by a rabid dog (maybe realistic and scary in its own way) and then there’s being chased by Cerberus (a bit unrealistic but mysterious and more terrifying). A werewolf bred from a biological issue is not as scary as one bred from ungodly energy, at least not to me. The movies do not use such religious undertones. Instead, they rely completely on the superstitions of the gypsies, and those superstitions even seem to be heresy compared to the actuality of the werewolf disease--they don’t really provide any insight or help in dealing with the problem. Making the wolfman demonic makes this story more terrifying.
     This story is a classic. The wolfman is a monster legend, and I love him. Even though I loved bits and pieces of the movies, those versions of this story never really satisfied me. Reading this book has reminded me why I like the wolfman and the potential monsters have. I look forward to rewatching the remake to see if I notice any more differences or if I have remembered the story incorrectly.


  1. I actually enjoyed the book and hated the movie. I haven't really read anything with werewolves until this book. I tried reading Twilight once, but I made it through the first ten pages and couldn't stand the writing. I do like werewolves, they intrigue me, and this book, with excellent detail by Maberry made me want to read more, unJacob werwolf stories.

  2. I really wanted to love the movie when it came out. I think I just expected too much, because after I read the book I watched the movie again and it really wasn't terrible. It wasn't great, but it wasn't terrible. How sad is it that the novel tie-in to the movie is so superior to the actual source material?

  3. Listening to the comparisons, at some point I'm going to have to see the movie. Granted, having already so enjoyed the book, not expecting the movie to be much more than a disappointment. But maybe expecting the worst will help me see it in a better light.

    Interesting Freudian take on the novel and its themes, too. Habitually, I try to avoid reading Freud in works; for some reason, as literary criticism goes, his bothers me. But werewolves at the core are very Freudian in nature, so I suppose it's inevitable.

  4. I haven't seen the movie yet, though I have it sitting next to me as I write this comment. Since I've read Maberry's take on the screenplay, I'm anxious to see how I feel about the movie. I think I'll like it, and it may be the opposite of your experience. Now that I know some of the character motivation, I'm sure I'll follow the visual story and then add character background here and there without conscious effort.