Dan’s artwork pays tribute to all the great monuments of horror, including the many allusions featured right here in these pages: Carrie, Night of the Living Dead, The Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Mummy, Re-Animator, even the chupacabra. A few of these instances are direct imports from the ’80s, because, as he tells me, his inspiration mostly comes from Cold War-era pop culture and horror films of that time. “It’s fun to mashup all the weird stuff I like [from that time period] and make something new.”
One of the most interesting ways he makes his artwork new is in the way he subverts existing subversion. The final girl trope is already a subversion of horror cinema. It’s the answer to decades of helpless female victims who were powerless to defend themselves against the monsters on screen. Instead of being another faceless victim, the final girl is granted the agency and the power needed to defeat her attacker, even when she’s out-muscled and alone.
But in Dan’s world, final girls don’t just defeat the monsters, they dominate them. They’re not two steps ahead in a heart-racing chase through the woods, they’re twenty steps ahead in a calculated, spy-like battle of wits, forty kills ahead when facing off against an entire horde. They do so in aprons and high heels and sun hats. They win without breaking a nail.
When not dominating the supernatural evils of the world, they’re domesticating them—which to a monster, has to be a humiliation worse than death. The chupacabra isn’t slain, it’s on a leash and going for walks around the neighborhood. The reanimated corpse isn’t out for revenge, it pines after its bubbly captor, who herself is smitten with her new prized experiment. The tribe of mud monsters aren’t suffocating the gardener with poisoned twigs and soil, they’re absently wondering how they went from geological horrors to hapless house plants that are fine with being pruned.
“I try to tell as much of a story as I can in a single image,” Dan says. “I like to think of each drawing as a snapshot from a movie or comic that doesn’t exist. So, if a drawing looks like it’s a piece from a larger story, then I think I’ve done a good job.”
Art copyright © 2023 Dan Fris