Carol Weekes. I first became aware of Carol's work when I listened to an episode of Pod of Horror, in which Norm Rubenstein heaped praise upon a novel by Carol called Ouroboros, co-authored with Michael Kelly. Upon reading it, it became my favorite read of 2009. Now, in 2011 she has two more works out: The Color of Bone (Dark Regions) and Terribillis (Atomic Fez).
It Has to Do with the Teeth
by Carol Weekes
When Gef asked me if I’d like to write an article about monsters and monster films, I jumped at the opportunity – literally. Monsters make you jump and scream. They hide in unsuspected places, waiting for their opportunity to snag you. Yes. I’ve been frightened by far too many varieties of monster over the years, both in film, fiction, and even the daily news: some are darkly fantastical, and some are chillingly real. From serial killers with minds as broken as shattered glass to those evocative, unsettling things that wait within shadows…phantom dogs, beings that are almost but not quite human, or science gone amok, the Monster hovers in the background of our lives, hidden in the shadows but always there, waiting.
I grew up on horror films. My father was a horror aficionado who delighted in nothing more than watching a frightening film with me; unbeknownst to me at the time in my eight or nine years of life, he’d seen these films before and knew where the really scary parts waited. He loved nothing more than to slap a playful hand onto my shoulder with a sudden ‘A-ha!’ shriek of delight at the same moment a shadowy door would fly open or the Monster would surge out, teeth gnashing, distorted eyes bulging…and I would scream. I would scream because I was terrified and darkly delighted over this strange thrill, the horror story. It was akin to finding myself drawn to the very top of a rickety roller coaster track, getting that first awful glimpse at the plunge awaiting you, and realizing (too late) that the track ahead was broken maw just as the car plunges forward.
But the worst kinds of monsters are the ones with teeth. Gyrating, darkly wet, eager teeth always waiting to find, bite, suck, and probe into your flesh. Dozens upon dozens of excellent monster films exist, but for the sake of a short article, I will focus on only a few that terrified me when I was young and turned me into what I am today: a horror author. How could I resist?
My terror of monster’s teeth began with the hideous 1959 classic film HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES, directed by Terence Fisher and starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. The focus of the film was a hideous monster hound of magnificent proportions, black as soot, glowing eyes, and a mouthful of hungry, ripping teeth. This film sparked nightmares of canines coming for the throat in me for years. My developing mind could imagine too well how those teeth would burn, itch, painfully tease before shredding your esophagus. Shudders.
Who can rule out the teeth in JAWS, that 1975 horror classic directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, and and Richard Dreyfuss? Perhaps it has to do with the fact that my good old dad, who also liked to take me fishing when I was a mere five years old, told me to never dangle my toes over the edge of the boat because hungry, large fish called muskellunge, with needle-teeth, were always there… waiting for fleshy pink toes as bait. The teeth of the shark-in-question were savage, oozing, strips of dangling flesh still prominent. The ominous tone of Robert Shaw’s voice as he relates anecdotes of close encounters with the opaque-eyed sea mnsters blended with the close-up shots of those mechanical gnashing teeth make me want to run, screaming, to this day. No one went into the water with ease after that film and book’s release, nor do they to this day. A true monster classic.
And then there came the 1979 archetype of the proverbial monster with fangs, ALIEN, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Sigourney Weaver. We see close-ups of this extraterrestrial head, its lips quivering and its teeth gyrating as it darkly caresses Weaver’s frame crammed into a dark, damp corner of the ship – the orifice within an orifice, gyrating, its gums slick, black, and filled with oozing slime, those teeth just shivering to bite. Would those lips be hot? Cold? Acidic? They promised something beyond blood and pain.
I could go on an on, (it’s so tempting!) but I’ll end with one more film where teeth chased me into the night and the worst of my dark dreams: 1975’s SALEM’S LOT based on Stephen King’s exemplary novel of the same name, directed by Tobe Hooper and starring David Soul and James Mason. The Marsten mansion with its jutting towers and blind-eye windows hoisted up on the hill like a brooding beast was bad enough. James Mason aka Kurt Barlow/Richard Straker with his piercing eyes and clandestine black car whose trunk transported abducted children home for ‘the monster to eat’ just added the rotting icing to that toxic cake. But worst of all was The Monster vampire with its glazed, opaque eyes and mouthful of distorted, elongated, ravenous teeth. One didn’t have a choice about ‘facing the monster’; it was there, its appetite insatiable in all of its pestilent glory, ready to clamp on to an artery with the fervor of a bear trap.
To this day, I still think of the teeth. It’s all in the teeth – the horror of being pursued by the monster, bitten by the monster, ingested by the monster: touched by the monster.
Becoming of the monster.
Those four examples are just a smidgeon of the nightmares that have filled me with a rush of shadowy glee. The teeth, along with the rest of the hideous body, are always there in the shadows; in rivers, ponds, closets, the back of the school bus, your car trunk, your sock drawer, and yes, in the bottom of your box of morning cereal, waiting behind the prize that you seek…waiting for your fingers to detect that first feel of ‘something not right in that box’ before they bite and begin to feed.