Freddy vs. Jason was just the tip of the blade. Today’s horror movie audiences are going to be stabbed in the eyes again and again with new mix-and-match horror icon flicks like Alien vs. Predator or Van Helsing until the genre gets smart again.
I don’t mind a good monster mash, but the stuff I’m seeing on the screen lately is more like a boxing match than a graveyard bash. These types of stories are nothing new — in fact, they’re almost a hundred years old. After the 1930s, Hollywood was smart to capitalize on the success of Universal Studios’ Dracula and Frankenstein very early in the game, culminating in such campy hits as House of Dracula, or Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein. Back then, too, they were smart enough to know the story was irrelevant and that the whole affair was a glorified conceit — they typically went for the laughs rather than any pretense toward seriousness. And while it’s true that today’s monster mash is still nothing more than an excuse to return some famously fun monsters to the big screen, I think they’re making a huge mistake by taking the “vs.” in their titles way too seriously and packaging them as some sort of combat film. You get the sense watching these pictures that the special effects crew is still playing with army men when they’re not programming CGI.
Hollywood movies try to maximize their profits, so they tend to blur genres together to get as many different audience personalities into the theater as possible. Every big studio production is a sort of “mash” in its own right. This explains why a movie like Van Helsing comes across as an action/mystery/adventure/horror/love story for kids (though it doesn’t necessarily explain why the writing was so bad). But a real monster mash is a genre film tried and true because it appeals exclusively to a genre-savvy audience who knows these characters well.
Besides, as a film genre, horror is more than a century old and there’s plenty of material out there they could put to better use than, say, the Predator, which, while a good commando flick, was merely an Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle and not a famous monster horror movie by any measure. There are lots of monster mashes I’d like to see. Some of them could even make good comedy stories. For example, just off the top of my head…
Regan (The Exorcist) vs. Damien (The Omen)
It’s evil against evil when the antichrist incarnate battles the rebellious demon Pazuzu. The day care center would never be the same.
Hannibal Lector vs. The Mummy
Is mummy meat too dry or is it simply cured? And how will Lector match his literary wit with a creature who speaks only in grunts and hieroglyphics?
The Hand vs. Thing Addams
An arm wrestling match unlike any you’ve ever seen. I can see the final shot now: one of them, popping up from out of a grave. But which one is it?
Chucky (Child’s Play) vs. Fats (Magic)
Some ungodly is bound to happen when these two smart alecks are in the same room: Who’s the dummy now, big boy?
Young Frankenstein Meets Dracula, Dead and Loving It
Watch good horror comedy battle bad in this opaque attempt to resurrect Mel Brooks’ career.
The Green Slime vs. The Blob
Hot gelatin on gelatin action! Let’s see, red plus green equals…um…viscous terror!
Norman Bates vs. Norman Bates
Watch Anthony Perkins try to slice Vince Vaughn trying to slice Anthony Perkins. Schizo slashers in the shower!
Okay, so I can only think of silly examples, but that’s what monster mashes should be: silly fun. They’re charming in the nostaglic way that old friends are, even if they’re dripping with evil. A good monster mash reminds us of what we love about the movies of the past, not what we dig about the technologies and fixations of the present. And they’re ultimately about the characters, not the big screen fireworks. Bring them back from the dead with some decency, Hollywood!