#2. Fictional Serial Killers
Serial killers are fascinating. The idea of a human being capable of the atrocities linked to someone like Albert Fish or Jeffrey Dahmer is difficult to comprehend. What makes a person do that? It's literally insane. And in the real world, that's as close to a monster as you'll ever find, so it's not hard to see why so many real killers have their stories adapted to film -- it's the dark side of humanity. It's intense shit. And then there's Saw. Friday the 13th. Halloween. About 400 others.
Real serial killers will forever be bound by the limits of what they actually did. And then they were caught and the story is shared and we all know it. But a fictional serial killer is only bound by a writer's imagination. Most writers imagine serial killers as a cross between extremely low-budget, inbred circus people and a disgruntled hardware store employee, and if the need arises, they will get supernatural powers just because.
People liked the Saw franchise, but come on. When did that son of a bitch find the time to be that meticulously insane? The killer died in one of the movies and they still made 10 sequels and a line of frozen dinners. What the fuck is wrong with Jason Voorhees? How come he was just an unfortunate little mutant boy in part 1 and by part 10 he had literally killed people in hell, space and New York? Why doesn't anyone medicate Michael Myers? He really needs it. They need to stop putting him in an institute run by Scientologists and put him someplace where people believe in the power of pharmaceuticals.
If I masturbate during a full moon, I think I can shoot lightning.
Psycho came out in 1960, and serial killers have only progressed insofar as they've achieved both higher body counts and crazier ways to obtain them. For every Hannibal Lecter, who is physically capable of not murdering every person who shares the screen with him, there are 30 guys in masks who apparently cannot not kill everyone they meet. I'm no criminologist, but bugfuck crazy and skilled with a knife or not, if you kill everyone you meet all the time, you're going to get caught pretty quickly. Not all police officers just started that day and have never seen a gun, a criminal or the out of doors before.
What Can We Do?
Serial killers are not necessarily impossibly powerful, silent monsters, nor are they super geniuses with degrees in engineering. In fact, most serial killers in real life were average people. Average looks, average job, average intelligence. Not chairmen of the MENSA chapter from hell. So maybe your killer should be a guy who, once a month, takes a hammer, drives across state lines and kills all the mailmen in a small town. Or maybe he goes after hitchhikers, that used to be popular in movies. Crimes of opportunity, rather than methodical, shithouse crazy planning. Just an idea.
#1. Vampire, But ...
Bela Lugosi's finest role was as Count Dracula. He suaved the shit out of that character. And the concept of the vampire really captured people's hearts and minds, as evidenced by the literally one fucktillion pieces of vampire fiction produced each and every day in the world today. Twilight, True Blood, Blade, Let Me In, Fright Night, it goes on. Kids love their vampires. But the title of this entry has a but in it. A big ol' but. A but you want to grab, know what I'm saying? Yeah, you know.
If you look back over that list, you'll be able to see how the straight vampire genre breaks down a little in the examples given. They're all about vampires, but there's more. Blade is a vampire, but he's also half human and he can walk in the day. Twilight is about vampires, but they sparkle in the sunlight and regularly attend biology class. True Blood is about vampires, but if you've been watching this season, you'll notice that they actually managed to start no less than a dozen other storylines at the same damn time, including ghosts, werewolves and some kind of completely preposterous flamboyantly gay voodoo line cook demon.
I'm so gay and angry. Gangry.
Dracula appeared on the big screen in 1931. It wasn't even the first vampire movie, but it's arguably the biggest. After 80 years, the vampire lost its luster and the genre needed tweaking. So now vampires can walk in daylight, or their faces open like butts with teeth in them, or they sparkle in sunshine and are sexually attracted to girls with the personalities of hat racks. Basically they're vampires because we're told they're vampires and often don't meet the rules anymore.
Some people still make traditional vampire stories, and some of these tweaked versions are still pretty good, but there's so damn many of them, it's like finding out the Kardashians have 30 cousins and they're all getting spinoff shows: It's too much for the human brain to deal with. Ease off, man. Relax.
What Can We Do?
For starters, maybe reconsider a vampire film. Wouldn't you rather make a movie about swamp monsters? No one's making those, they're due for a renaissance. If you're still committed to your vampire idea, then at least be aware of the genre. Is your vampire a badass loner who hunts other vampires? For the love of God, stop now. Is your vampire a suave, misunderstood sex machine? STOP. Does your vampire wax poetic ever? At any time? No. No no no.
For more from Fortey, check out The 6 Ballsiest Scientific Frauds (People Actually Fell For) and Man's 6 Most Ridiculous Attempts To Take On Mother Nature.