At the Galway Film Fleadh this week I saw It Came From Connemara!!, a documentary about the great Roger Corman’s time producing films in the west of Ireland, specifically Connemara in Co. Galway – a short drive west of my adopted city. (Fleadh is Irish for festival or feast.)
It Came From Connemara!! – NSFW trailer here – is a fun, fond look back at that productive and sometimes controversial stint in the late 1990s and the lasting effects of Corman’s presence on the Irish TV and film industry. (The friend I saw it with worked there as an extra, and the audience included many of the crew from those years.)
In a Q&A at the screening, director Brian Reddin said that Corman, now 88, is still a keen and active filmmaker, and that one of his recent titles is called Sharktopus Vs. Mermantula. This reminded me of a word I invented a couple of years ago and mentioned in a post on neologisms but which has yet to take the world by storm: portmonsteau.
Portmonsteau is a portmanteau word that blends portmanteau + monster. It fills a small semantic niche, but a useful one not least because there is a vogue for portmonsteau films* at the moment, Sharknado being among the best known if not revered. Others include the self-explanatory Piranhaconda, Cobragator, Arachnoquake, Dinocroc and Dinoshark. Some of these I found on Corman’s IMDb page.
I’d say in many cases the names came first and were a central part of these films’ marketing. Genre filmmaking has always begat weird little subgenres and pseudo-subgenres. Portmonsteau films are one such, and some survive better than others: Sharktopus didn’t just battle Mermantula (mutant hybrid of a mermaid and a tarantula, I guess), it also faced a pterodactyl/barracuda entity in Sharktopus vs. Pteracuda, another Corman production (trailer).
You may have noticed the overlap with extreme weather or natural disasters in coinages like Sharknado and Arachnoquake. It’s no accident: portmanteaus recur in descriptions of these events, too, as we see on social media (and sometimes in news media) whenever there’s a severe storm or cataclysm: frankenstorm, blizzaster, hurricarnage, snownado, snowmageddon, snowpocalypse…
Severe weather and natural disasters, like monsters, are a staple of B-movies, so this lexical cross-fertilisation was probably inevitable. It may also be what lends snowmageddon and co. a rather tactless and flippant air when they refer to destructive events in the real world. But there’s no danger of offence being caused by terms like Sharktopus and Piranhaconda – whatever about the films themselves.
Zombienado vs. Sharktopocalypse, anyone?
* Not to be confused with portmanteau films.