Will love among the recently deceased contain the same addictive properties as amour among mortals and the eternally undead? That’s one way to interpret recent news that Summit Entertainment and “Twilight” producers Marty Bowen and Wyck Godfrey are teaming up to produce a new supernatural romance about ghosts in love called “In the Flesh,” based on Laura Whitcomb‘s young adult novel, A Certain Slant of Light.
Another perhaps more generous take on the announcement is that this project is being fast tracked into production out of a solemn concern for public health: With the final installment of Stephenie Meyers‘ supernatural romance swiftly approaching, a nation of “Twilight” junkies will suddenly be deprived of their pop culture drug. So if anyone’s going to mollify the masses, it may as well be those who got them hooked in the first place.
Admittedly, there is something kind of refreshingly retro about the prospect of ghosts becoming the next zombies or vampires or goblins. The suspension of disbelief required with each new narrative about soulful succubi or brainless blood-hungry clods can frankly get kind of wearying. At least the mythos of ghosts living among us and longing for mortality offers a kind of existential comfort: We don’t actually go anywhere, we’re simply evicted from our bodies.
Whitcomb’s novel is narrated by a ghost named Helen who suddenly discovers a boy in the high school English class she’s been haunting can actually see her. This is the first time in the 130 years since her death that she’s been perceived by anyone still wrestling with the mortal coil. And as anyone who’s ever been in love can attest: Being truly seen can be powerfully seductive.
This is far from Hollywood’s first dalliance in phantom love. The most famous is, of course, “Ghost,” the 1990 blockbuster in which Patrick Swayze stars as a man whose love for his pottery-making wife (Demi Moore) is so strong, he refuses to leave the land of the living even after he’s killed in a mugging. Along similar lines, “The English Patient” filmmaker Anthony Minghella made his directorial debut with “Truly, Madly, Deeply,” about a woman (Juliet Stevenson) who is heartbroken by the sudden death of her boyfriend (Alan Rickman) until he returns as a clingy and inconsiderate ghost. Classic kelpie love stories include “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir,” in which Gene Tierney plays a young widow who falls for the apparition (Rex Harrison) haunting her seaside cottage. And then there’s Steven Spielberg’s contribution to the genre, “Always,” which explores the complicated love triangle that emerges when an aerial firefighter (Richard Dreyfuss) dies on the job and is then assigned to mentor a living pilot who has romantic designs on his former girlfriend (Holly Hunter).
With the exception of “Ghost,” few of these made much of an impact on the cultural zeitgeist. As far as we know, none of these films inspired women to build shrines — digital or otherwise — dedicated to the star-crossed spirits. Nor were moviegoers camping out to attend the first screenings. Then again, that may be because none of them takes place in high school — perhaps the most underrated ingredient in “Twilight’s” recipe for success.
What are some of your favorite examples of paranormal romance, either on page or on screen? And how do you predict mainstream audiences — and “Twilight” fans in particular — will respond to this big-screen adaptation of A Certain Slant of Light?