S.M. Douglas

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Category: The 80’s

The Sequel That Never Was

As it turns out John Landis had an idea for the An American Werewolf in London sequel that unfortunately never happened.

American Werewolf In London Poster

Landis explains his idea in an excerpt from a new book by Paul Davis entitled Beware The Moon: The Story of An American Werewolf In London:

“The movie was about the girl that the boys talk about at the beginning of the movie, Debbie Klein. She gets a job in London as a literary agent and while she’s there, starts privately investigating the circumstances surrounding the deaths of Jack and David. The conceit was that during the time in the first film where Jenny (Agutter) goes to work and David is pacing around the apartment, he actually wrote Debbie Klein a letter. It was all to do with this big secret that David had never told Jack that he had a thing with her. She went back to the Slaughtered Lamb and everyone is still there! I think the only changes were a portrait of Charles and Diana where the five-pointed star used to be and darts arcade game instead of a board. It’s then when she speaks to Sgt McManus, the cop from the first movie who didn’t die, that she finds out that Jenny is still in London. She calls her and leaves an answer phone message, which we then reveal is being listened to by the skeletal corpses of Jack and David, watching TV in Alex’s apartment! The big surprise at the end was that Alex was the werewolf. It was pretty wild. The script had everybody in it from the first movie, including all the dead people!”

Off the top of my head I am wondering how this would work. Consider that the werewolf infecting Jack and David had been killed on the moors and thus could not have been Alex. For that matter, why was Jack in limbo again? After all, the werewolf that killed him was dead? David didn’t kill him, it shouldn’t have mattered that David was still alive except for the people he killed.

Anyone else with me on this? Or am I missing something that explains like a pretty glaring plot hole in the original movie (a movie which I love by the way – so don’t crucify me about this) regardless of what it would mean for a sequel?

Anyway, obviously Landis’ idea was never fleshed out. The upshot being that we got the mediocre American Werewolf in Paris CGI cartoon fest for our sequel – ugghhh!

Of course, I would love to see you read my work. But if you aren’t reading my werewolf book then have at this one! Anything about one of the best ever werewolf movies always looks pretty good to me!

On select nights from Sept. 20 to Nov. 2, guests’ worst nightmares will be unleashed as evil takes root at Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights 23. Universal Orlando’s award-winning Halloween Horror Nights event transforms Universal Studios Florida into a realm of movie-quality haunted houses, incredible live shows and streets filled with hundreds of horrifying “scareactors.”

Follow Up: So far I’ve already received a ton of feedback. The best answer to the bloodline questions above went like this: “The bloodline wasn’t severed with the death of the werewolf on the moors, it was passed on to David. Think of the bloodline as children; if a person is infected, then they become children of this lycanthropic family tree. Killing one werewolf wasn’t enough, eradicating every member of this “tree” was the only true way to lift the curse of the undead. It’s the only way to explain why Jack was still around even though the werewolf that killed him was dead itself.”

Character Influences, Apex Predator, Werewolves, and Tanya

As my readers know, the co-protagonist in my werewolf novel Apex Predator is an irredeemably wicked hot woman by the name of Tanya. What follows are some of the influences that went into creating what is one of my favorite characters.

At the top of the list would have to be the character Marsha Quist/Marcia Lura – from the book and movie “The Howling” (played in the movie by Elisabeth Brooks as pictured here). Though I generally prefer the movie over the book (minus the outstanding prologue to the book), if I had to pick between the two I lean toward the book’s original rendition of Marsha.

Elizabeth Brooks_Howling

This is by no means meant to be a slight against Elisabeth Brooks. She did a wonderful job as Marsha, both visually and emotionally capturing much of what a reader would have conjured up in their brain as they read author Gary Brandner’s work. However, in terms of being an influence on my own Tanya the book’s Marsha was more sophisticated (though nowhere near as formidable as Tanya). The movie Marsha tended more toward the feral and barely under control. Though my Tanya is not one you would want to provoke, she is more multi-dimensional with greater depth to her character.

Nevertheless, multiple influences were behind the concepts that became my Tanya. For instance, the character Sarah Conner (played by Linda Hamilton) from the now iconic Terminator and Terminator II movies is another of those big influences.

Sarah Connor_Terminator

I loved the way the original Terminator showed Sarah Connor’s evolution from vulnerable victim, to resourceful survivor, to victor. Then sometime between the first and second film, and as happens to most heroic champions, she had her downfall. Ironically this happened in spite of her doing what she believed she must – in becoming a survivalist and warrior – to protect her son and humanity. Yet this self-sacrifice had a huge downside for her and her child. In the second film he had become a teenage malcontent hardly worthy of being humanity’s future savior. Meanwhile Sarah Connor had become radicalized to such an extent that she spent much of the same film acting as a sociopathic terrorist who came across as a paranoid schizophrenic at best – before vindicating herself and rising once more to heroic status.

Similarly, Tanya’s tragic background – forged in the cauldron of war – helps my readers understand how a once innocent peasant girl became a destructive killing machine ranking as perhaps the most cunning and violent of Apex Predator’s major characters. Throughout the book Tanya wrestles against her violent nature. She does the right thing in some instances and in others gives in to the monster within – producing horrific results for the unfortunate targets of her predatory instincts. This leaves the reader wondering whether she will be able to truly become a hero, or revert to the bestial nature that has allowed her to do more than just survive in a harsh and unforgiving world – but to thrive as well. Though my Tanya is different than Sarah Connor, I owe a debt of gratitude to those writers, directors, and actors that gave The Terminator such a complex, interesting, and inspirational woman as its central star.

Now, let’s talk about the ladies of Alien/Aliens; beginning with Ellen Ripley. The character played to brilliant effect by Sigourney Weaver – beginning in 1979 with the now classic “Alien” and continuing for nearly two decades thereafter. Though I could go on and on about Ripley and how much of a strong role model she is for women the world over – I would much rather hone in on something else about the character and the work she appeared in: the 1986 sequel to Alien.

Ripley

James Cameron’s “Aliens” is unquestionably a different movie than Ridley Scott’s “Alien”. Most people remember the sequel for its military style action sequences involving Ripley and Colonial Marines facing off against hordes of xenomorphs. However, in addition to Ripley’s stirring role in besting the xenomorphs, there was something else that made Aliens such a great squel. That being another of the film’s great characters and of them all, who can forget Vasquez. The presence of Vasquez (played by Jennette Goldstein) alongside Ripley makes Aliens not just a great sequel, but perhaps the ground breaking female dominated action/military/science fiction/horror movie of all time.

Vasquez_1

I dare anyone to find such a popular box office smash as Aliens that features a better pair of ass-kicking ladies. They influenced my Tanya in so many ways. Yet, Tanya is a unique personality. However, she in many ways combines the best and worst of each of them; the toughness, intelligence, resourcefulness, sheer will to survive, and strength alongside the stubbornness, disdain for authority, self-destructive, and at times violent impulses that get her into trouble. All of which leaves my readers wondering which tendencies will Tanya give in to next – the good or the bad?

Speaking of bad I would be remiss if I didn’t mention another horror movie icon who influenced my Tanya. The one and only Sybil Danning.

Sybill Danning Set of Hercules

That’s right, Stirba the werewolf queen from Howling II; Eva and Gretchen Krupp (The She-Devils of Belzac) from Grindhouse’s Werewolf Women of the SS; vampiress Frau von Hess; and co-star to Lou Ferrigno in Hercules (she’s seen here back in 1983 with her sword) – as well as so many accolades I can’t even begin to list them all.


Like Dee Wallace (who follows me on twitter) she is a true scream queen and star. Plus, she is hot! I would kill to have a body like hers, and I’m a quarter century younger. She was always hot and is still hot (see the recent picture of her at age 60). This leads me to wonder – maybe she’s not just acting in all those movies. Maybe she really is a werewolf, or perhaps a vampire?
2012-Headshot-Sybil_Danning

Either way, she’s an inspiration. I likely couldn’t have crafted my voluptuous, strong, athletic, and bad-ass Tanya (albeit Tanya is a brunette) without such strong female influences as Sybil. If you haven’t seen any of her films, then by all means pull up the Netflix, grab some popcorn, and get watching! Or, pick up a copy of Apex Predator and see if you can spot the influence of these fantastic characters and actresses on my Tanya.

 

 

In Search Of, Bigfoot, and Apex Predator

Over the past few years I have often discussed my greatest influences as a writer in the horror genre. This week I would like to discuss another one: an oft neglected TV show entitled In Search Of. Airing from 1977 to 1982, In Search Of was narrated by the regrettably now deceased Leonard Nimoy, In Search Of proved not only entertaining – but also surprisingly scary. Especially for young children at that time, such as myself. I loved the show (particularly it’s first few seasons), so much that I couldn’t resist finding a reason to briefly mention it in my new werewolf novel Apex Predator.

Whether consciously or not writers often interject aspects of their own personality into their characters. Though I didn’t shape my novel’s protagonist nor the other characters upon myself, there is a bit of me in each of them.  Before anyone says anything about the villainous Jimmy Donnelly,  please don’t worry. I’ve never done anything remotely approaching the savagery unleashed by that character’s particular appetites. However, parts of my past show up in other characters; including the book’s protagonist – William Brody.

During Apex Predator’s first act Brody is investigating a gruesome murder that happened in the same metropolitan area where he grew up. There is a forest bordering the suburban neighborhood where he was raised; and this forest had an impact on his character’s development, as it did on mine. As a child I spent countless hours in that forest and in front of the television. During those years the forest taught me something, and at times the lessons it taught inspired me to become a horror novelist.  One of those instances occurred when my childhood best friend and I swore we found Bigfoot prints in the mud along the tree line. Now, where do six year old’s get such an idea? Why, the television of course.

Some of you might remember that it once seemed as if Bigfoot was everywhere. In Search Of spoke of him; the Six Million Dollar Man fought the creature; and the Saturday afternoon horror special’s eerie Led Zeppelin scored intro all too often led into another showing of the Legend of Boggy Creek.

In Search Of’s creepy take on the beast might have been the scariest. The first three minutes of Season One’s Bigfoot episode led to several nights of nightmares for my young self. Those minutes reenacted a Bigfoot attack on some miners in the Pacific Northwest. The rest of the show (included below) isn’t bad, but I encourage you to watch at least those initial scenes. Try and overlook the show’s groovy title music. Consider what a young child who watched the episode might have been thinking the next day when he or she ventured into the woods. What might that child have been imagining was also out there in the trees – watching and waiting for a chance to strike:

Horror, Science-Fiction, and Action: Doing it Right in the ’80s

I have previously discussed just how good the early ’80s were in terms of horror films. In addition, I have discussed why the best horror film of all-time was a pioneer in terms of effectively blending the horror/adventure genres. Let’s build upon those discussions and look at several 1980s films that successfully brought together three of my favorite genres: horror, science-fiction, and action.

The year 1984 produced a bevy of entertaining films that rank it as one of the great years in movie-making history.  No list of 1984’s best would be complete without The Terminator.

terminator-poster

We all know the plot and particulars of The Terminator. What really made the movie resonate was the way in which a classic science fiction trope of time travel was layered onto an early ’80s slasher style unstoppable villain. From there, the film’s centerpiece was arguably not the final confrontation between the Terminator and Sarah Connor, a good action sequence in and of itself. Instead, the Terminator’s mid-film assault on the police station harboring Sarah Connor has since become one of the iconic 80’s action sequences. This in a film filled with above average action scenes that include the gunfight at the disco Tech Noir and a car chase featuring a dueling shotgun battle. James Cameron wrote and directed Terminator and perhaps it is no surprise that he also crafted Aliens.

aliens-poster

Released in 1986, Aliens accomplishes the tricky feat of being a sequel that is ranked by many the near equal of its predecessor.  1979’s Alien was a horror movie grounded in science fiction. However, Aliens can best be described as an action movie with strong horror and science fiction elements. Though the action and violence are stunningly done it is in the in-between or “down time” scenes where Aliens really shows it’s teeth, leaving the viewer with an almost constant feeling of dread. Put simply, there is an unrelenting intensity to Aliens that few movies can achieve.

If heavy action is a central element of Aliens it’s taken one step further in our third and final movie in this list: 1987’s Predator.

predator-poster

Is the testosterone too high at times?  Sure. Can the dialogue be somewhat stilted or even schlocky? Of course. Nevertheless, what is perhaps the quintessential Schwarzenegger film is still fun and entertaining nearly thirty years later. So much so it is almost impossible to pull your eyes away given the film’s rapid pace, solid special effects, and the way the viewer is immersed in the jungle where the action takes place.  This last point is important. Director John McTiernan does a wonderful job of using the jungle as a secondary monster to the titular Predator stalking his prey.

I have staked my upcoming novel Apex Predator (to be published early next month) on the concept that blending genres is a great way to produce an entertaining experience for readers or viewers alike. Few decades can match the 1980s in terms of producing multiple films that stand the test of time and combine horror, science-fiction, and action so well. This list could have easily been expanded if for no other reason than 1982’s The Thing. Nevertheless, I’ll leave that one for another day. In the meantime, can anyone guess the only two actors to have played characters killed by the Terminator, Alien, and Predator?

As many of you know by now, Robin Williams died yesterday at age 63 (apparently suicide being the cause of death).

My first exposure to his work was via the TV Show Mork & Mindy. From there, and though Mrs. Doubtfire gets so much attention, three of my favorite performances of his were in Good Morning Vietnam and of all things, two of his darker roles; in the 2002 films Insomnia and One Hour Photo. In addition I would be utterly remiss to ignore the 1980 film Popeye, in which he played the titular character. The movie was in heavy rotation on HBO and was a staple of my childhood.

Rather than go into a long introspective piece on the greatness that was his particular brand of comedy I would like to show you some examples of why he was such a riveting entertainer:

 

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