Written by Jonathan Wojcik


Alternative Monster Apocalypses

   Halloween is tomorrow! If you're like half the people in the Northeastern U.S, you might not even get a chance to celebrate with electricity. If you're like me, you don't have anywhere fun to go anyway. Let's just talk monsters!

   By now, the Zombie Apocalypse scenario has been tackled from about forty thousand different angles. Not very different angles, mind you, but at least off by maybe half a degree or so. It's not unlike the glut of Alien Invasion films that rose and fell over the course of the last century, just, you know, even less imaginative, because the monsters are almost always a bunch of dead people.

  Don't get me wrong, I'm not bashing the zombie apocalypse trope, it just takes an awful lot these days for it to grab my interest anymore. I've seen hordes of dead people taking over the Earth. We all have. Do we have to keep seeing it, the same way, again and again? It's nice when someone comes in and shakes up the zombie "rules" now and then, but I say we should go even farther. Why settle for a zombie apocalypse, when there are so many other classic monsters that could conquer the globe just as easily - in sometimes more disturbing ways?


   THE MONSTER: just as the typical Zombie Apocalypse tends to follow a basic set of traditional "zombie rules," we're going to define a "ghost" here as it appears in classic horror films - a localized haunting by a human soul, trapped between worlds, anchored to its place of death, capable of limited interaction with material objects and aggressively territorial, doing whatever it takes to just make the living go away, from depriving them of sleep with its unearthly howls to hurling knives or starting fires.

   THE APOCALYPSE: Japanese horror films have already toyed with the notion of ghosts "passing on" their curse, dying so violently that their tortured spirits murder the living just as brutally, creating an endless chain of vengeful phantasms. What would happen, though, if you didn't even need to die violently? What if, for some unknown reason, absolutely everyone who died, under any circumstances, left behind an angry, localized echo of their soul? Sure, their range would be a lot more limited than zombies, but you couldn't see them coming, you couldn't put a bullet in their brain and any territory claimed by a specter would be lost for good. Survivors who stuck together would have no choice but to exile anyone showing the slightest signs of sickness or age, lest their safe areas irretrievably shrink. I'd call it "Ghost Apocalyptic," but Extreme Ghostbusters already made that joke. It was a kick ass episode. They all are.


   THE MONSTER: the cinematic werewolf we're all familiar with. Transforming from man to beast only under the full moon, anyone not simply torn to shreds and eaten by its attack becomes a Lycanthrope themselves, and can neither control nor recall their monthly rampage. Only silver, for whatever reason, can permanently kill them.

   THE APOCALYPSE: there would be some interesting dynamics to this one, since everyone is normal nearly thirty days at a time, but once every lunar cycle, an ever growing portion of the world population would erupt into a twelve hour orgy of violence, infecting many, killing many more and even each other in territorial disputes. Society would march on, but its internal conflicts would be many and varied. Some infected might consent to being locked up every full moon, but many uninfected would rather round them all up and exterminate them. Still others would embrace the monster lifestyle, band together and fight for an anarchistic new world of monthly mayhem. Just the property damage alone would qualify this for an "apocalypse." How would we keep businesses and governments running when we never know who's going to die in a literal dogfight or what's going to get broken next?


   THE MONSTER: If we go pure Hollywood, then Frankenstein's monster is a dim witted, lumbering behemoth of stitched-together corpse parts, and it's lonely. Not really the scariest horror icon these days, no. If we borrow from Mary Shelley's original novel, however, the monster is at least as brilliant as its own creator, but soon learns to resent mankind...and it's also lonely.

   THE APOCALYPSE: this one was actually more or less a video game concept I wanted to develop back in my mid-teens, many years before either Bogleech or Mortasheen. I wondered what would happen if Frankenstein's monster simply set about building a few monsters of its own, and each of those in turn went on to build a couple more. A militaristic empire of patchwork undead could spring up practically overnight, first depleting local graveyards, then slaughtering every living thing in their path to build more "people" and violently enforce the Alpha Monster's ideas for a superior, monster-dominated society. If these sound too much like smarter zombies, think again; there isn't anything that says these guys would have to adhere to the same blueprints every time. Humans build a wall? Build some monsters with wings. Humans hiding underground? Build some Graboid-like tunnelers. Like a more macabre robot uprising, the Frankensteinians could modify and improve themselves for every imaginable purpose in their new civilization, run on the body parts of the living. A Frankenstein rebellion sounds silly at first, but you're not going to laugh when a scalpel-fingered frankenspider is harvesting your organs in one of their human prison camps.


   THE MONSTER: As iconic as they've been for thousands of years, animate skeletons aren't taken at all seriously enough in modern horror, usually relegated to children's Halloween specials and fantasy video games. Is it simply too hard to "believe" a walking skeleton over the fleshier undead? Have we just not established enough attributes for them to run on? Whatever the case, skeletons are long overdue to rise up and kick some fleshy ass.

   THE APOCALYPSE: even the flashiest technobabble would have a tough time rationalizing this one, but where did we even get this weird notion that horror needed believable scientific explanations? Why does it always have to be space radiation, mutant viruses or nanobots? Let's just have a skeleton wake up one day. No reason. No logic. Somebody's bones just start thinking, and their first thought is that they'd really like to get out of all this suffocating meat they're surrounded with. Horrifically conscious of what's happening, the poor bastard seems to claw at his own flesh as his skeleton takes over, strips itself bare, brushes off the entrails and walks away. Now begins the real fun, as the monster discovers how to "wake up" new friends and help them out of their fleshy prisons, maybe with a bite, or maybe just with the eerie chattering of its jaws, a secret skeleton code for "I shed all this extra weight, and you can too!" Faster and lighter than zombies, the skeletons wouldn't have any particular "weak points" either, and might not even be limited by species.

Fun fact: the skeleton of a rat can compress to squeeze the animal through any hole its skull can fit through. Sleep tight.