In the early 20th century, Universal Studios was the undisputed master of the horror motion picture. But by 1940 the well had run dry. Having strip-mined folklore and the public domain for nearly every creature and criminal imaginable—Dracula, The Mummy, even The Hunchback of Notre Dame—they were in desperate need of a fresh idea.
Then, epiphany. In 1943 Universal unveiled a new breed of horror film: the versus. Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man featured two of cinema's most popular anti-heroes going fang-to-neckbolt, vying to be christened King of the Monsters.
Even to this day such contests draw the crowds (as the gross of 2004's Aliens vs. Predator will attest). Audiences, it seem, savor the thrill of pitched battle between two unstoppable forces of nature, attacking one another without quarter, without mercy, without a thought of self-preservation.
Case in point, today's match. Brian vs. Jason.
A quick glimpse at their respective websites may offer clues to the fight to come. Brian Taylor maintains Candykiller, a name redolent of bogeymen and homicidal maniacs. Perhaps his strategy will mirror his domain: first the candy--a simple, unassuming layer, perhaps, with plenty of elements to work with--and then, on the next volley, a killing stroke, as final and fatal as a slash of the cleaver.
His opponent, meanwhile, writes Jason Santa Maria. Steeped in religious overtones, the name summons to mind The Exorcist, The Omen, The Amityville Horror ... tales of ordinary citizens besieged by sinister, demonic forces. Did Jason so name his website because, like Rosemary, a malevolent power gestates deep within him? Or simply because that's his actual name? We may never know for certain.
Each comes to the match well-versed in the tropes of horror. As a young designer, Brian created the packaging for a brand of children's candies called "Skull Crushers," white chocolate skulls from which red filling burst. And one could easily imagine his current project chanting "One of us! One of us!" Jason is a self-professed "horror film nut," celebrating each birthday with a slasher-themed party. While his website is currently decked out in Lovecraftian garb, it has, in Octobers past, paid homage to Poe and been spattered in blood.
Do they feel confident, heading into the match? "Hell yeah," says Brian. "Bring it on. I could do with working under a bit of pressure." Jason, in contrast, responds with an emphatic "Lord no." (Again with the religion!) "I've never really done much like this. I'm hoping Brian comes down with the flu. But if that happens, I swear I had nothing to do with it."
False bravado? Feigned modesty? Ten rounds will tell the tale. Who will survive to terrorize another day, and who will reduced to gibbering madness?
Lock the doors. Dim the lights. Santa Maria prepares to draw first blood.
Brian Taylor, Scotland native, is best known online for his work on Rustboy. After years of toiling as an illustrator and graphic designer for various agencies, he eventually went rogue. He now creates toys, writes books, designs prints, sells paintings, and maintains the website Candykiller. His favorite horror movie is The Exorcist, though he wouldn't say no to The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.
Jason Santa Maria of Brooklyn, NY is a graphic designer, typography nut, photographer, lapsed vegetarian, and letterpress enthusiast, as well as the Creative Director of Happy Cog Studios. Though he started in print design, he now works primarily on assorted web-related adventures. His personal site is the eponymous Jason Santa Maria. He loves the film Halloween and lives in constant fear of rollercoasters.
Matthew Baldwin is a freelance writer, horror aficionado, and weblogger. He lives with his wife and son in room 217 of the Overlook Hotel, and would give anything for a drink. He'd give his god-damned soul for just a glass of beer.
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