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[Who’s afraid of the big bad werewolf? Not Sean Smith (a.k.a. @ssmith). His pitch is for Golems to take on Werewolves in Round 4 of (un) Death-Match. Do you favour a supernatural creature above all others? Send us your pitch to go head-to-head in April. Our guidelines are pretty straightforward: must have supernatural abilities or ge undead and must appear in at least one book. E-mail Deanna  (deanna.mcfadden [at] harpercollins [dot] com) or Katie (krugerkat [at] gmail [dot] com) with your ideas.]

In this hour of anguish and vague light, / on the Golem our eyes have stopped.

When I originally heard about undeathmatch’s free-for-all, I was at a bit of a loss. What could possibly stand against these ferocious (and popular) supernatural beasts that are werewolves? Especially given my frequent voting that helped propel them to victory, and given my comment on the werewolves vs angels debate – angels are likely to get
infected, and then we have a huge mess on our hands. If angels can be infected, then surely other creatures can as well!

Sure, I could use some over the top supernatural creatures like dragons or hydra or Cthulu or The Thing, but that would hardly be fair. So, for the sake of a supernatural grudge match between supernatural humanoids, I would like to introduce a new challenger – the Golem.

Golems are basically stone or clay statues which have very limited intelligence and carry out their orders with until destroyed. Any movie that involves statues that animate after treasure is taken? Golems. While they might not get any points for popularity, or instant recognition, I think these would make good contenders in a battle against werewolves. Why?

First, they don’t feel pain. Break off an arm? They’ll continue to fight. Break off a leg? They’ll continue to fight. Break the head? All right, at that point they are probably out of the fight. But this leads me to the second reason I think golems would fair well against werewolves.

They are (generally) made of rock. No matter how strong werewolves are, they are sure to cause damage to themselves when trying to damage golems. Chipped teeth, cracked nails, overexertion of their adrenaline powered animal musculature…I am sure that after a while they might be able to take out a golem, but there will be a price. And
that’s just the defensive side. Blows dealt by a golem are going to be like being thrown against a brick wall, except in this case, it is the wall lunging at its opponent.

Third, golems don’t get tired. Order them to kill werewolves and they will fight all night, or all day, or all week, or all…you get the picture. At some point those werewolves ARE going to revert to their decidedly not as ferocious human form, which will make the golems job even easier.

Combine the three above, and we can sum up the golems main advantage as endurance. Golems can go the distance, they can take the punishment, and they can also dish it out. In addition to that, they also a final major advantage in that they don’t live (and thus can’t be turned). Werewolves do not get the advantage of turning foe to friend, replenishing their numbers and renewing the battle. There is only kill or be killed.

Sean has been a long time fan of all things spooky-natural. His current tastes lean towards a more grim and gritty form of supernatural entertainment, resulting in a more zombies and werewolves than vampires in his reading and watching. Recent enjoyments include The Walking Dead graphic novels, the novel Frostbite, and the TV series Being Human.

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Wolfman

Benicio Del Toro In Wolfman

Push it hard.

Here I am months later accepting complete and utter defeat. The werewolves not only bested my vampires, but also Tan’s angels, and I’m 100% sure they’d kick ass at any other supernatural being we throw at them.

I never thought it would be possible. How could a drooling, toothy, flea-bitten wolf-man-beast hybrid could be seen the better of my cultured, deceptively gorgeous, literary, smart, and all kinds of other adjectives you know you want me to list, vampires.

Now, that’s not to say that we won’t have a Great Undeath Match Redux when certain authors (ahem, Del Toro and Hogan) publish the next book in the series and try to take those pesky furballs down again. Don’t let anyone tell you I’m not already packing ammunition in the form of vowels and consonants these days. You better bet I am. What? Did I say that out loud?

For now, here are some things I am willing to admit:

1. Kelley Armstrong has an awesome and rightfully justified fan base. Kudos to Katie for picking the right book — it’s not just about the creature peeps, it’s about what the writer does with them, right? Right.

2. Even I am willing to admit that Benicio Del Toro makes an awesome looking werewolf, even if the film’s getting lacklustre reviews.

3. Not even the pre-tween masses who love a little book called Twilight could propel me to victory. Now that’s saying something.

4. I really thought Tan and her angels had a shot.

5. If Dracula, the ultimate undeath match hero, can’t be in it to win it, what hope did we ever have.

So, I tip my hat, my fangs, my irrational lust for Alexander Skarsgård, to you Katie. You are victorious, indeed.

But what now?

Well, it’s up to you sweet readers. What Undeath Match do you want to see next? Which creatures would you pit up against one another and defend for their lives? What author has a fantastic book or series we might have missed that truly calls out to be defended, supported and then promoted?

We’re looking for guest posts, guest smackdowns, suggestions, and anything else that you might have to say to us over the next few weeks. Email me or Katie with your ideas (deanna [dot]  mcfadden [at] harpercollins [dot] com or krugerkat [at] gmail [dot] com) and we’ll have a user-generation whale of time these next couple months.

"Remember - short, controlled bursts."

Tan and I couldn’t think of a movie that involved both werewolves and angels. If you can think of one, let us know in the comments! Instead we reviewed a horror flick neither one of us had seen before: Dog Soldiers.

KATIE
Hello my lovely frenemy! Before we get down to reviewing the nitty gritty details, I have to confess that I hadn’t seen this flick before. When considering what movies to review, I did notice this one popping up on a number of lists for top 10 werewolf movies. It was actually passed up for North American theatrical release for a variety of reasons, including the accents. And, I’m sorry, but that’s just a ridiculous reason. Trainspotting anybody? It’s obviously not the high production value Hollywood movie that we’re seeing in this genre. But, for a low budget British horror flick what are your thoughts?

TAN
Ridiculous indeed – horror movies with accents (even subtitles!) are perfectly acceptable to me.

My very first thought having finished the movie was that this was Dead Snow, but with werewolves. Isolated cabin where the undead enemy surrounds the small group of humans, eventually breaks in, tears out their guts, and infects most of the group until there is just one person left. That being said, both are pretty entertaining low-budget horror flicks, so I was happy. I did, however have a small problem with one character: the dog.

KATIE
Aw, why no love for the dog? I, for one, was glad that there was a friendly canine presence because I needed to anthropomorphize something in order to lighten some of the super intense moments. Truth be told, I’m a complete wimp when it comes to the genre (I know, I know) but it doesn’t stop me from watching or reading. And I think Dog Soldiers is a pretty solid flick.

I can definitely see why, despite the production value the movie is on so many top werewolf movie lists. It’s a comedy-horror that’s sort of reminiscent of the cult classic, and one of my personal faves, An American Werewolf in London. There are plenty of genre in-jokes with an ample mix of gross-out gore to add a bit of dark humour to the movie. As you point out, it’s not entirely original and has a plot that follows a certain formula but I found it highly entertaining as a whole.

It doesn’t hurt that Kevin McKidd (Trainspotting, Grey’s Anatomy) is in it either. In fact, the acting overall was neither flat nor over-acted as some lower budget horror films tend to be. At least that’s how I felt. Not necessarily Oscar, or more fittingly BAFTA, worthy but good for a scare. Apparently, it did win an award at The Brussels International Festival of Fantastic Film in 2002..!

TAN
Ok.. here is my beef with the dog:

At the beginning of the movie, McKidd’s character refuses to kill the dog on his training mission, earning him a dismissal from the Special Ops team he is training for because he can’t follow orders. Now, to me, this scene has foreshaddowing written all over it – at some point, this character will have to kill a seemingly innocent dog to save himself or others. But that never happened. I kept waiting for the cottage dog to do something evil.

But, instead of siding with his pack – the werewolves that have presumable raised and cared for this dog – he sides with the human interlopers who are killing them. At the end of the movie, it’s McKidd and his new canine friend, which he’ll probably take with him back to civilization. Couldn’t they have hinted that he was a weredog or something, just to bring the movie full circle?

Here is a question for you: (I’m not sure I’ve seen enough werewolf movies to answer this myself) What does Dog Soldiers contribute to the genre? For me, if a movie is going to make the top ten list, it should contribute something unique to the werewolf tradition.

KATIE
Yes, I definitely got the same vibe from the dog but that’s what added to the thrill for me. The dog was kind of a red herring. I shared that same feeling of foreboding and was certain it was going to turn out to be the werewolf leader or something. Right down to the very end, actually. There was a lot of web talk about a sequel but I think that project might be dead now. Maybe the dog would have played a role in that?

As for adding to the werewolf tradition and whether the movie deserves to rank on top ten lists, I’m not so sure either. I think it scores so well on many a blogger’s list because it’s kind of an homage to the horror genre. I mean, one of the characters is named Bruce Campbell (The Evil Dead). The humour is pretty subtle and dark. Apparently it’s rife with so many movie references that only film nerds catch all of them on first viewing. Maybe it doesn’t add to the genre but it’s kind of a balls out example of the genre at its low-budget best, don’t you think?

I appreciated elements of the cinematography showing both the werewolf and human perspectives throughout. Also, despite the production value, those were some freaky ass werewolves. There’s something about elongated limbs that reminds me of aliens (which scare the bejesus out of me more than any supernatural creature because I can’t discount the possibility of their existence). The photographs in the credits were a nice touch, too.

Does it belong on a top ten list? I’m on the fence. I’ve watched it twice in one month already though and want to watch it again to see if I can catch any more of the references and in-jokes. I think it’s a movie that has great cult appeal.

TAN
You know – I think you’ve just convinced me to watch this again with an eye to catching these movie references.

All in all, I enjoyed this movie. Maybe not as much as I loved Cursed, but I can see why people like it so much.

My vote is 7 out of 10.

KATIE
Maybe we’ll have to compare notes at a later date on the movie references. LOL! As far as I know, according to the DVD commentary (which I haven’t listened to yet) the references and subtle head nods in the film include: H.G. Wells along with movies The Evil Dead, Zulu, Aliens, The Matrix and Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan.

I enjoyed the flick too and give it a 7.5/10. It’s no American Werewolf in London–which is being remade–but I enjoyed the thrill and humour overall.

Deanna recently pointed out an article at The Independent that basically says angels are the new vampires. The writer seems to think that the days of Nosferatu are numbered and that they’ll be replaced in pop culture by the winged. When asked why the upsurge in angelic literature, one interviewee supposed it was because “people find (angels) very approachable.”

Approachable. SRSLY?

There are so many things wrong with that sentence. First, I’m not looking for an undead creature to go to Glee club with me, even if they do have a millennia of experience in a choir of angels. Second, have you seen the creeptastic angels in Legion? Approachable? Hardly.

Photo credit: airpark from Flickr

So, are angels the new vampires? I’m going to throw you a curve ball here and say yes. And here’s why: because they’ve both got image issues.

Let’s look at the facts. Historically speaking, angels represent two extremes: there’s the white gowned, haloed goody-two-shoes on one shoulder and the horned, pitch-fork bearing devil on the other. Never the twain shall meet.

One-dimensional? You know it.

You want to talk about hierarchy of angels? Well, here’s the word straight from HR: angels are all essentially cubicle employees. In fact, Douglas Coupland could write a book about them. When it comes right down to it, they’re merely cogs in the wheels of the universe doing the same basic jobs but for different corporations: Heaven Inc. and Hell Corp.

In Heaven Inc., angels work in cubicles constructed of cloud walls where motivational posters float with positive statements beneath pictures of unicorns and rainbows. And that “Hang in there!” kitten struggling to stay on a branch.

Conversely, Hell Corp. employees work surrounded by walls made of fire. They don’t have posters at all (you know, because of the fiery surroundings) but instead are made to read e-newletters about employees of the month. Pat Robertson is January’s lead contender. And Fox News is streamed into desktop monitors 24/7.

Disgruntled? You bet. How do you think Hell Inc. started in the first place? It was the result of a failed corporate coup by Lucifer and his lackeys. You know the kind of guy he is, the one who calls in a bomb threat just to get a day off work. Well, here’s the flaw in the plan: most bosses aren’t omniscient. In the words of the Trump: “You’re fired!” (see what I did there?) Since Heaven Inc. was the only place hiring at the time, to continue employment Lucifer had to found his own competing firm: Hell Corp.

The point is, angels are all serfs to a corporate CEO. And the only two career choices they have are Assistant to the Manager (Heaven Inc.) or Assistant to the Manager (Hell Corp.). I’m going to channel fellow blogger Deanna here for a moment and just say, “Yawn.”

Werewolves, on the other hand, represent the more realistic rift between two extremes. Might I add: without the aid of props like blazing swords and fluffy wings? They’re slaves to no one’s agenda. They are the risk-takers who do things we can only dream of—and I’m not just talking about cool but ultimately slacker jobs like “resort waterslide tester.” They’re the supernatural creatures you envy. The ones that others want to emulate but with whom they would never, ever even dare try to make an outright direct comparison.

So, yeah, angels can be the new vampires. I’ll give them that. (If you follow this blog, you know what happened to vampires in the last round.) Heck, angels can be the new black for all it matters in this conversation. The point is that no supernatural creature can contest their equivalence to werewolves. Werewolves are simply in a league of their own. I say step up to the plate, angels. Show me what you’ve really got ’cause it’s game on.

[Vote werewolf today at the top left of this page.]

Here at (un) Death-Match, we like our contests. Maybe you do, too. If not, suck it up, princess ’cause we’ve got another one starting today. Only this time we’ll be pitting my gorgeous werewolves against Tan’s creepy angels (have you seen the trailer for Legion yet?)

Up for grabs: five prize packages with our two book picks (Bitten by Kelley Armstrong and Fallen by Lauren Kate). What do you have to do? Leave a comment here or tweet using the #undeathmatch hashtag about why your creature of choice should win this battle royale. Remember, we need to be able to contact the winner so that means you have to either sign in when leaving a comment (so we can reach you by e-mail) or follow us on Twitter (so we can DM you). Contest closes midnight ET on Monday, January 18.

Now, what are you waiting for?

This is a pretty big month for Undeath Match at the box office. Deanna, Katie and I are all pretty excited about the release of Daybreakers, Wolfman and Legion respectively. (But really, were all pretty excited for all three of these movies!) So we just had to know which of these movies you, our Undead Devotees, are most excited for. Check out the trailers below, and vote in our mini-poll.

Daybreakers

Wolf Man

Legion

Bitten by Kelley Armstrong

Bitten by Kelley Armstrong

Now that the feathers have settled around the pro-angel holiday season, I thought I’d get down to business here. Let’s start off the New Year in celebration of werewolves by taking a look at Kelley Armstrong’s book, Bitten.

As I’ve written before, werewolf stories are about what it means to be human. It’s that struggle between the inner self and external societal pressures. It’s man versus beast. In a word, it’s epic.

Bitten has a little bit of something for everyone: part whodunnit, part horror, part fantasy, part romance. Although this sounds like a recipe for disaster, in the capable hands of Armstrong it’s done bloody well (pun totally intended).

The werewolves of Armstrong’s fictional world are not the hulking, mindless man-beasts of classical literature and cult horror films. These are people who turn into wolves at will, hold down steady day jobs, have relationships and endure the trials and tribulations of regular life. Only, as with any canine society, their lives are contained within a Pack order.

In the world that she’s created, there are Alphas but they are both from within the male Pack and the single female protagonist. Although male werewolves are generally born into the world, the only way a female werewolf can exist is by being bitten. A weaker character than Elena Michaels wouldn’t have stood a chance. If she managed to survive the transformation she wouldn’t have been able to deal with the implications of what it means to be a werewolf in a modern world.

Instead, we have Elena who basically says FU Werewolves and tries to regain her old life. In her journey, she isn’t looking for a hero or a white knight. She’s just looking for a return to some sense of normalcy. And she wants an equal partner in her life.

That’s where Clayton Danvers fits into the picture. As Kelley Armstrong herself wrote in a guest post on this site, Who Says Werewolves Can’t Be Sexy? Indeed. Move over Eric Northman. Clay is the complex soul with the nice package (if you know what I mean). Sure, he’s a little possessive in this first book but he’s no Edward Cullen/Jacob Black. His behaviour falls more within the reality of Pack rule.

Anyone who’s had a dog in their life will tell you there’s a pecking order that’s established and that dog humping everything in sight isn’t because it has a fetish but because it’s trying to dominate. That’s sort of the way things play out in this novel among the characters. There’s nipping and play-fighting and moments that seem sexually charged or motivated but it’s all part of the life of werewolves in this world.

Of course, in this world, there are villains and they are the Mutts who prefer solitude to Pack rule. When humans are murdered on Pack territory, Elena is called back to help hunt down the lone werewolf who’s responsible for the crimes and gets much more than she bargains for when she returns.

But that’s all I’m going to say about the plot. If you haven’t done so already, go read the book. If you have read Bitten, what are your thoughts? Were you as awe-struck by Armstrong’s mighty pen as I?

And remember to vote werewolf! No sitting on laurels (or haloes as the case may be).

The people have spoken and werewolves have taken down vampires in Round 2 of (un) Death-Match! It was a valiant fight, Deanna, but vampires can only marginalize so many people before the rest of society takes a stand. The clear victor here was werewolves, the people’s creature: strong, loyal…unsparkling.

Now we’re heading into round 3. So, naturally, the first question is: what supernatural creature will be going head-to-head with werewolves?

And…the answer is…

Angels.

What the what?! Oh, come on! You’ve got to be kidding me.

Angels?! At Christmas time? Werewolves might as well be going up against the freaking Easter bunny. Look people, let me just remind you that this isn’t a cute competition, OK? I know it’s hard for you to look into the eyes of an angel and vote against it, but seriously, this is a match of ferocity and sheer terror. Not, well, this:

Keep dreaming, little angels. It'll all be over soon.

The only fight these two stand a chance to win is a tickle fight. And, despite what vampires will tell you, werewolves aren’t ticklish. Nonetheless, I suspect it’ll be a losing battle for the defending champions this week what with the holidays and all the angel propaganda taking place.

Anyway, here are the books being defended:

Fallen by Lauren Kate

Fallen by Lauren Kate

Fallen by Lauren Kate

vs.

Bitten by Kelley Armstrong

Bitten by Kelley Armstrong

Bitten by Kelley Armstrong

If you’ve been following the site from the start, you know the drill. If not, place your votes on the upper left of this page, come back and vote often.

Before we unveil round 3 of (un) Death-Match, I thought I’d squeeze in one final anti-vampire post just to put the last nail in the proverbial coffin. Here are the top 10 completely irrational phobias that vampires have, making them the hypochondriacs of the undead world: (Thanks to @ssmith on Twitter for being my muse on this one.)

Proceed with caution. You might get your hands dirty.

10. Photophobia (sunlight): Sun goes up, vampires cringe. Have they never heard of sunblock? This fear is unsurprising, really. As I’ve said before, vampires are pretentious. Since they come mostly from aristocracy, historically speaking, tans were a sign that you worked out in the field. Who ever heard of a peasant vampire?

9. Alliumphobia (garlic): It’s a good thing for them that vampires aren’t able to digest any real food because some of the best recipes I can think of include garlic. I’m pretty sure this has everything to do with image again. They want people to fear them for their presence, not recoil from bad breath.

8. Aichmophobia (sharp objects): Every kid is taught to not run with sharp objects. In the case of vampires specifically, maybe they need some PSAs with safety reminders on how to carry wooden sticks. I can only imagine how they’d react to a splinter.

7. Staurophobia (crucifixes): Or maybe it’s actually symbolophobia, the fear of symbolism. Like what sparkles represent in the decline of terror in vampire lore.

6. Hydrophobia (water): Holy water to be exact. Combined with the previous fear, I suspect they’re also theophobic (aka afraid of religion). Which is probably another reason why they can’t win round 2, what with the holidays upon us. Want to date a vampire? Forget about ever checking out Vatican City. And trust me, the Sistine Chapel is something you want to see IRL.

5. Enochlophobia (crowds): If we’re being honest here, it’s not just the angry mobs. Crowds are simply too bourgeois for vampires.

4. Arsonphobia (fire): The very thing that defines human civilization is the thing that vampires shun. Without fire we would never have come out from our caves. Kind of a slap in the face to human society to shun our humble yet innovative beginnings, isn’t it? You think you’re too good for our fire, vampires? Well, maybe our blood is too good for you, too.

3. Argyrophobia (silver): True, werewolves have a similar fear of silver. In bullet form. Kind of a big difference between that and a little bit of bling.

2. Traumatophobia (injury): Considering all the fears above, no wonder vampires only come out at night. They must be nervous wrecks.

1. Commitmentphobia: A word of advice to vampires here. Nobody likes a person, undead or not, who commits a dine and dash. In the words of Beyoncé, “If you liked it then you shoulda put a ring on it.”

So, there you have it. A roundup of why vampires should truly be henceforward known as wimpires and lose to the awesome prowess of werewolves.

Keep posted for details of round 3 of the (un) Death-Match smackdown tomorrow.

Here's an Idea Bella: Run. Fast. With Both Feet.

Katie and I became slightly enraged talking to one another (not AT one another) about New Moon. As it’s been well documented, I think this film is one giant sparkle away from complete suckage, but who am I to begrudge the tween girls their indulgences. Wait…that’s exactly what we do below. So, without further ado, Katie and I go head-to-head with the Twihards. We fully expect backlash. Indeed, we do.

DEANNA
Good afternoon friend. So, I hear you’ve had the pleasure of seeing New Moon. There’s just one thing I want to point out before we start our undeath match unreview — that director Chris Weitz has been saying all over the place that if people just don’t like and/or get the film it’s because it’s not made for them — it’s for the “fans.” Personally, I think this is just one giant cop out.

Thoughts?

KATIE
Um, wow. That’s, like, a supernatural-sized cop out. Would you care for a slice of humble-pie with that statement? I get that he was burned pretty badly by his work on The Golden Compass but, come on, dude. That’s like saying people who hate the Twilight series of books just aren’t “fans” of the genre. A good movie is a good movie. And a bad one is a rotten tomato.

Period.

Likewise for books. And, for the record, that doesn’t mean a bad movie or book can’t be a commercial success.

Read the rest of this entry »

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