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monsters

Patrick McCormick Why modern monsters have become alien to us Catholic v61 p37-41 N '96The magazine publisher is the copyright holder of this article and it is reproduced with permission.Further reproduction of this article in violation of the copyright is prohibited. Late autumn has arrived and with it comes the dark magic of Halloween--and, of course, themurky thrill of monsters. Yet our appetite for a good monster knows no season. Ever since ancienttimes we have been fascinated with all sorts of tales about monsters and intrigued by myths andlegends about those wild half-human beasts who haunt the edges of our forests and lurk in therecesses of our oceans. The sphinxes, minotaurs, and sirens of early mythology gave way to Beowulf'sGrendel and Saint George's dragon, then to the mermaids, trolls, and one-eyed giants of our fairy andfolk tales, and finally to those 19th-century Gothic classics. Nor are these stories on the wane, for themonster tales that made Lon Chaney, Boris Karloff, and Bela Lugosi stars of the silver screencontinue to draw megacrowds six and seven decades later. In 1994 Kenneth Branagh and Robert DeNiro brought us the latest reincarnation of Shelley'sstory of Frankenstein's tortured creature, and Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt starred in "Interview with aVampire," the first installment of Ann Rice's homage to Stoker'sDracula. Meanwhile, Andrew LloydWeber's musical production of Gaston Leroux's "Phantom of the Opera" continues to pack inaudiences from London to L.A. Much of the initial appeal of monster stories comes from the fact that they, like their twistedsiblings, "creature features" and "slashers," both terrify and fascinate us with their ghoulish brand ofhorror. It's the rattling-the-tiger's-cage kind of thrill that Scout and Jim Finch got from sneaking ontoBoo Radley's porch under a pale moon. Reading or watching great monster stories, we get toaccompany the frightened hero...

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