ByPeter Flynn, writer at
An advocate for understanding the phenomenological wonder of the moving image. Also Tremors is the best.
Peter Flynn

I love it when people point out that Frankenstein's monster is not actually called "a Frankenstein". Normally, I would say that linguistic elegance takes precedence over an original text when it has been malformed endlessly by an industrialised entertainment system. Luckily, I can now just point them towards this trailer for The Frankenstein Code.

Wow, Frankenstein fans. I'm so sorry. How are you repaid for last year's iFrankenstein with Aaron Eckhart and his sexy mutant knives? With an old man getting de-aged so we can't be treated to the cool idea of grandpa with superpowers. Then there's just the Frankenstein name slapped on there so people don't get scared of new things. Can someone tell me when Frankenstein was apparently the hottest thing on the block, because it keeps getting brought back, and paraded around like it wasn't literally one book in the 1810s. It's the fetch of horror pop-culture. Stop trying to make it happen!

What makes this trailer laughable is it mistaking it's own identity. The Frankenstein Code appears far closer to [Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.](tag:722469) than to anything resembling Mary Shelley's original work. He's not even pieced together from dead bodies! That's like having a zombie who's fully conscious and and only eats brains to read minds and, oh...

Pictured: Points for Creativity
Pictured: Points for Creativity

The problem The Frankenstein Code encounters is that it confuses the "super" in "supernatural" with the "super" in "superheroes". It's quite the disservice to your genre when you're clearly wishing you were another. The worst thing about getting gothic horror wrong today is that there are plenty of others out there getting it oh so right...

American Horror Story

No modesty found in American Horror Story!
No modesty found in American Horror Story!

American Horror Story has no pretences as to what it is. Not once do you get the impression that this show wants to be anything other than what it enjoys. it is also the complete opposite of a tempered, calculated management of a horror property. American Horror Story is incredibly indulgent, and wants the niche horror audience to find it, instead of the other way round. It will be as lurid, crass, sexy and even disturbing as it likes, then it will look at it's fans and say "what? You love this!" Indulgence is an important concept here, as it's the ability to regress, and toy simultaneously with our deepest fears and desires that constitutes our fascination with horror itself.


Promo for Supernatural Season 28 probably.
Promo for Supernatural Season 28 probably.

Supernatural is a strange example, for in it's later seasons, it's become less interested in playing with horror conventions a la Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and more concerned with... well, giving a cinematic universe to religion itself? The show stands at a shocking 10 Seasons, so it must be doing something right. While it is close to the superhero compulsion mentioned above, Supernatural is, at it's core, exploratory. How much more do you know about theological mythology and cultural fantasy just because Sam, Dean and Castiel ran into it one episode. Unlike The Frankenstein Code, Supernatural does not use it's fantastical elements as a hall pass to simply be a cop-procedural. The Supernatural fandom is testament to the fact that if you enjoy yourself, people enjoy you!

Penny Dreadful

The very concept of the penny dreadful speaks to why these shows captivate us now. They're not supposed to be classy or even coherent in their intent. Just as it was with cheaply produced novels that supplied a quick morbid thrill, these stories are based on pleasures formed when we are told that everything should should blow our minds and change our lives, or mould us intellectually.

Just look at the trailer for Penny Dreadful Season 2! No crashing drums, no apocalyptic choirs, just a sureness that you enjoyed the first season and will be back for more.

Penny Dreadful in particular defines why viewers have flocked to gothic horror in recent years. It's not just about monsters and creepiness, it's about audiences indulging their own interests, and coming to master visual and storytelling forms instead of succumbing to them. While it seems The Frankenstein Code would rather show us the legal trademark papers to the brand it has, then beat us over the head till we enjoy it, the likes of American Horror Story, Penny Dreadful and Supernatural construct a distinct style and let us come to them. Also they're spooky. Spooky is important. I really haven't played up the spooky angle enough.


Which show plays up horror the best?


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