By Alex Perry
A local aficionado of the horror genre recently received funding for an in-depth look at the many faces of Frankenstein’s monster.
Bill Camp, an adjunct professor at Paul D. Camp Community College, received the Rocky Wood Memorial Scholarship for Non-Fiction Writing Award from the Horror Writers Association. The $500 scholarship will support “Franksploitation,” Camp’s study of Frankenstein in film.
“It feels pretty good,” Camp said in a phone interview, both for the validation and the means to increase his DVD and book collection. “You can’t beat that when you’re a bibliophile like me.”
Camp holds a master’s degree in English education from Old Dominion University, a Master of Education in educational psychology and a bachelor’s degree in English writing from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, where he was appropriately born and raised in the town of Erie.
The Suffolk resident and lifelong horror fan plans to consume as many Frankenstein films as possible for his latest project. After he sent the Horror Writers Association his plan, he drafted an Amazon Wishlist of more than a dozen Frankenstein books and movies to illustrate his scope.
There’s the 16-minute short film “Frankenstein” by Edison Studios in 1910 and the more recent and less faithful adaptation “Victor Frankenstein” in 2015 with actors James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe. Episodes of the 2004 “Frankenstein” miniseries, the radical departure of “Frankenstein’s Army” in 2013 and even “Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet Frankenstein” are on the list.
According to Camp’s Education Plan, the intrigue is in exploring how Shelley’s original novel took on “a life of its own” to become the popular and universally recognized mythology that it is today. His study separates the movies into faithful, loose adaptations and parodies of the source material.
“My non-fiction book project would analyze all three of these categories, and examine exemplary films that would fit into each,” Camp wrote in his plan. “I will present what aspects of the Shelley novel filmmakers chose to accentuate in certain films and what they chose to ignore or push into the background. I will also (consider) the time each film was made in a cultural analysis point of view.
“This will expose some of the psychoanalytical aspects of the Frankenstein tale and its impression on popular culture. I hope to find out what some of the subconscious appeals the Frankenstein tale had on society at various periods in history and in several different cultures.”
Camp grew up in Erie as a “monster kid,” according to his blog post “I am a Monster Kid, and What That Means.” One of his earliest memories was seeing the 1976 “King Kong” with his grandfather as part of a two-night television event. He later discovered the “Monsters” book series by Ian Thorne on all the classic movie creatures at his local library and read them cover to cover.
Camp understands the immense popularity of Dracula, the Wolfman and Godzilla, “the king of the monsters.” As for Frankenstein’s pop culture endurance, Camp thinks that it’s the intrinsic themes that have kept this monster alive for so long — those elements of “us vs. the other,” edified in the classic line from Shelley’s original novel: “If I cannot inspire love, I will cause fear.”
“I think that translates a lot into what happens in society and life today,” Camp said. “You can go almost anywhere with it, and a lot of movies have.”
Camp will be presenting more of his horror insights at this year’s Monster Fest on October 6 at Chesapeake Central Library, 298 Cedar Road.
By Alex Perry