Some of my greatest inspiration in writing Urban Fantasy comes from the movies of the 80’s and 90’s. They are absurd, overly stylized and loud, but so is Urban Fantasy as a genre. I make no apologies for my taste in urban fantasy movies. If you’re going to have shape-shifters, monsters and vampires, they might as well be flashy.
Here are 6 movies that tell the stories of supernatural creatures in urban settings with an uncommon amount of pathos, style, and loud synthesizer music.
Nastassja Kinski’s gorgeous eyes alone are paranormal. In this remake of the 1942 horror film of the same name, Kinski falls in love with a guy only to find out that having sex will turn her into a man-eating panther. David Bowie isn’t in this movie, but he sings the synthesizer-heavy theme song, which is pretty great.
Blade has Wesley Snipes at his snarky, butt-kicking best, defending humankind from the hard-partying vampires who would eat them. Blade plays with the old tropes and is creative with some new ones. The movie is scary, funny, and sexy, and to top it off has Kris Kristofferson in it, a wise-cracking, gritty, old-school bonus.
Imagine, if you will, James Spader and Jack Nicholson fighting like wolves over the affections of Michelle Pfieffer. It’s all about office politics, alpha maleness, horses, and yellow eyes. This is James Spader doing some of his creepiest work, and that’s saying something. As for Jack Nicholson, is the idea that he is secretly a werewolf really that far-fetched?
If you are going to write a story with shape shifters of any kind, you have to watch the transformation scene in American Werewolf in London. The effects are low tech by today’s standards, but the whole thing is so meaty and painful, that it will help you know what it must feel like to physically turn into something else. Another thing this movie does well is show how inconvenient it is to be a paranormal creature in an urban environment, which brings me to. . . .
Splash isn’t a horror movie, unless you are the mermaid. This Tom Hanks classic is very good at exploring some of the interesting issues that come up when a paranormal creature faces the vagaries of a modern city. It’s not just about romance, it’s about an ancient, magical being of legend facing modern mores and systems that are much stranger and more alien than she is. Also, John Candy has one of the best speeches ever about being lucky in love.
Okay, I saved the best for last. I watched this movie so often in college that I could recite the whole thing to you word for word. Catherine Deneuve and David Bowie are flawless and cold as old vampires in a gritty 1980’s New York City. They are so rich and beautiful and above the fray, even as they troll clubs for their latest prey. Enter Susan Sarandon, whose earthy beauty knocks the Catherine Deneuve character off her axis. If I could find a novel version of this kind of sleek, wicked, tragic urban fantasy, I would be so happy. Any suggestions?
Hmmm. Maybe I just need to write it myself.
I can think of several others that I haven’t mentioned. What are your favorite Urban Fantasy movies? I must know.
THE ARROW (Children of Brigid part 1) is urban fantasy that finds out what happens when the modern incarnation of an ancient goddess is faced with an evil demon-run pharmaceutical company that is trying to end the world. Read it and tell me what you think!