Supernatural creatures have always been a staple of the Horror genre. With shows like The Walking Dead and The Strain featuring as some of the most highly anticipated shows of 2014, here at The Edge we thought that we would look at the presentation of certain supernatural creatures in two different shows, and crown the best version of each.
Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Buffy The Vampire Slayer is one of the most important horror TV shows of the 90’s for so many reasons – it focused on a female protagonist who didn’t need a hero to rescue her, and it tapped into the essential idea that school can be hell. While the show has some truly creative, horrifying creatures (Der Kindestod which preyed on sick children springs to mind) it is the exploration of the vampire beyond the typical blood sucking evil creature that made Buffy special. The facial distortions of the vampires combined with some very vicious and well thought out characters, like Drusilla (played to perfection by Juliet Landau) and Spike (one of James Master’s best roles to date). Here vampires have personalities, emotions, connections – and that made them all the more effective.
The Strain is a very different creation. Rather than exploring the vampire as a demonic creature, The Strain presents vampirism as a kind of virus. Created by Guillermo Del Torro, the show does not shirk on the horror stakes, and keeps the audience on the edge of their seat with shock at the creature’s throat appendages that suck out blood. Emotional connection comes from the transformation of characters loved ones, and intrigue comes from what the vampire end game is. The Strain is far more gory and ‘modern’ than Buffy The Vampire Slayer which is good and bad in equal measure – The Strain is more clinical in its approach and the gruesome elements create bigger visual shocks.
Verdict: Buffy The Vampire Slayer creates vampires that are compelling, rather than mysterious, and so wins this one.
This time it is shapeshifters that takes central stage – while the BBC series includes both ghosts and vampires, its presentation of the werewolf is what fascinated me the most when I first watched the show. With a striking visual transformation, the likes of which I haven’t seen since An American Werewolf in London, as a viewer you feel the pain and confusion of the forced transformation. These are humans who have no control over their transformed selves – the werewolves are wild animals pure and simple.
As the title suggests Teen Wolf focuses on a teenage boy who is bitten by a werewolf and has to deal with the trials and tribulations of being teenage and a werewolf. The concept sounds kitschy and Twilight-esque, but the show manages to move past the clichés. The werewolves are able to develop far more control – these werewolves are able to influence their own transformations around the full moon, and manage their animalistic instincts in a way the werewolves of Being Human cannot.
Verdict: Teen Wolf may not be as fluffy as the title suggests, but Being Human clinches this title because of its gruesome transformations.
Determining what characterises a demon in Angel is hard – Demon is quite a universal term and is used to describe a plethora of different creatures in that universe. From the green, singing demon Lorne to the Ancient pure demon Illyria there is no hard and fast rule to determine what a demon is in Angel. This makes for some creative and unique creations, and the word demon increasingly becomes less and less synonymous with the word evil. This is an interesting approach to a category which for most by definition means evilness, and creates a variety of fascinating storylines.
Supernatural features many of the traditional creatures of horror and folk lore, but its central focus is on the demonic. The demons of Supernatural are far more uniform than those featured in Angel – here they are the spawn of Satan the fallen angel, pure and simple. Demon’s must be exorcised through the chanting of Latin, can be kept out of a house with salt, and are burnt by Holy water. Demons and the mythology associated with Satan are central to the first five series of Supernatural and is when the show is at its best.
Verdict: Supernatural grabs the tittle of best presentation of demons, purely for the coherency of the presentation and the inclusion of biblical imagery.
The Walking Dead
The Walking Dead may well mention the undead in its title, and it certainly features enough of the shambling, flesh eating creatures, but the horror comes in equal measure in what humans do as what the dead creatures do when they are faced with living flesh. The zombies featured in The Walking Dead epitomise what you imagine zombie to be – they shuffle about, groan, and have no kind of will save for the desire to eat. The Walking Dead is unflinching in its presentation, with people who have been bitten by the zombies being brutally dispatched and lashings and lashings of blood throughout.
In The Flesh
This BBC Three drama centres around a post zombie apocalyptic world, but unlike The Walking Dead, the dead featured in In The Flesh are very much coherent and aware. While the zombies here were once rabid, flesh eating creatures, medications mean that the undead can now be re-assimilated into society. Contact lenses, medication and make up all disguise the fact that the characters are dead, and the show focuses on the characters regaining memories of what they did while rabid. A fascinating show with a completely different take on the idea of the zombie.
Verdict: Two fantastic shows that take very different approaches to the undead – but In The Flesh inches it here with its fresh look at a trope which can easily become tired.