It is clear that the individual who persecutes a man, his brother, because he is not of the same opinion, is a monster.
As long as human beings feel the need to redefine the meaning of humanity, there will be a space for the monster in culture, understood in its amplest sense. The ubiquity of the monster in the British and the American cultural products of the 1980’s and 1990’s demonstrates that in these years the anxieties concerning the definition of what it is to be human run deep in the collective unconscious: the monsters are the symptoms that reveal the existence of those anxieties. The images of monstrosity are used to mark the limits of the abnormal, the intolerable, the subhuman and the barbaric but since they also connote power, monsters also delimit the extraordinary and the superhuman. The monster is entrenched in the cultural space where the current economic system–international or late capitalism–and the unstable contemporary system of moral values intersect: the extreme fascination caused by the varied iconography of monstrosity goes hand in hand with the extreme moral disgust elicited by the human evil monster.
The monster occupies a prominent place in all the ranges of contemporary culture. In fact, the monster of, roughly, the last fifteen years is a truly postmodernist construct, for it ignores the barriers dividing the popular from the elite, genre fiction from the mainstream–barriers artificially set up by the university and the current systems of book publishing and film distribution. The monster is thus a figure as familiar to the connoisseur of contemporary literary fiction as for the avid consumer of low-budget horror films. However, in spite of the monster’s carnivalesque, postmodernist breaking down of cultural boundaries, it cannot be really stated that the contemporary monster is a countercultural construct: on the contrary, it appears to be a figure perfectly integrated within the contemporary cultural panorama. The potential subversiveness of the monster as a countercultural figure is thoroughly negated–counteracted–by the capitalist system, which, being by definition a system rooted on the cult to novelty, makes cultural subversiveness virtually impossible.
As far as the narrative media in which the monster appears are concerned, it must be concluded that the figure of the monster is especially useful to prove that there is a very fluid relationship between film and the novel, not only because of the many screen adaptations of novels but also because of the reverse influence of film on the strategies of visualization of the contemporary novel. The many multimedia texts about monstrosity also indicate that films and novels must be understood as just some of the ingredients in complex narrative texts also encompassing comics, television series, video-games and even advertising. The last technological wave to have swept the Western world, including the development and popularization of computers and video- tape recorders in the 1980s, has brought about fundamental changes in the way that the texts about monstrosity are produced and consumed. Speaking about films and novels as discrete cultural units makes no sense in a world in which consumers are used to enjoying the same story in multiple formats.
Technology is also reshaping the figure of the monster. This is happening at two levels. First, technology is conditioning aesthetics, as I have determined in my analysis of the role of film special effects artists. Infographics is still in the early stages of its development, and so, it is plain common sense to suppose that still unforeseeable developments in this field will radically change the face of the monster in the near future. Moreover, that the process of mutual aesthetic influence between film and fiction will continue. On the other hand, as can be seen with the phenomenon of the American TV series The X-Files–which can be described as an episodic narrative about different forms of monstrosity–the Internet is already playing an important role in the construction of the new narratives about monstrosity: the oncoming episodes are being modelled to the tastes and suggestions of the cybernauts (who, it must be noted, needn’t be American) that daily discuss the content of the series in any of the many forums about The X-Files open on the Internet. Needless to say, since a number of the films I have analyzed in this dissertation are also present in the Internet through home pages or forums of debate, it follows that future sequels or even new films (or novels) may be eventually informed by the opinions of their potential audiences. The process of folklorisation may have found, thus, a new channel thanks to technology.
The aesthetics of monstrosity are framed, on the one hand, by the marvelous– that which is extraordinary and fascinating but not horrific–and, on the other hand, by the horrific, which may be likewise fascinating. The monster must be identified with the extraordinary rather than with simply the horrific; the field of the extraordinary is large enough so as to comprehend the grotesque, the terrifying, the disgusting but also the beautiful, as I have shown, and the simply different. Metamorphosis is the key concept in the current aesthetics of monstrosity: constant change and fluid forms are elements attractive not only to filmmakers interested in representing monstrosity with high quality special effects but also for writers interested in exploring the limits of the human body– as cyberpunk writers do–or the limits of human identity, as those who write about gender roles and evil do. As far as the strategies of visualization of the current cycle of Gothic postmodernist fiction are concerned, it must be noted that the process started in the mid-1970s to search for the limits of the absolutely intolerable image (or narrative) representing monstrosity–what Leslie Fiedler called the limits of absolute atrocity–is not over yet. The amount of cruelty inflicted on human bodies in fiction–both films and novels–has been steadily rising since then and shows, so far, no signs of abating, neither in film nor in the novel. Given the perfection attained by special effect techniques and the development of quality prose capable of conveying a most clear impression of evil, it is certainly hard to imagine what more explicit horrors, what more appalling evil monsters can be given birth to in future fiction. Not only the broken body is essential in fiction about monstrosity. The apocalyptic iconography inspired by the possible images of an impending holocaust–nuclear, or due to chemical or biological warfare–is essential in the 1980’s and 1990s: the monster moves in desolate landscapes that belong mainly to a devastated Earth in a near future, though contemporary, everyday settings transformed into an eerie background by the presence of the monster are also common. The future is seemingly a terminal present populated by monsters, while the past seems to have died altogether.
The question of why this expansion of fictional monstrosity is taking place now can only be answered in reference to fundamental aspects of the contemporary world that reach beyond the ambit of culture. There is a widespread feeling that the civilizing project of the Enlightenment–of which the creation of the USA is one of the main achievements–and the ideal of utopia are failing, not because they cannot be fulfilled but because their fulfilment does not guarantee the elimination of evil. Atrocity turns out to be the work of the so-called civilized world rather than the work of an alien, barbarian world populated by monsters. In this sense, we are still living in the aftermath of the events of 1945, including the discovery of the Nazi extermination camps and the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; 1989 might turn out to mark, in due perspective, the beginning of another cycle of monstrosity, somewhat less apocalyptic, less pessimistic, though the tragic war in Bosnia might indicate otherwise.
As I see it, the Western world is living the end of a historical cycle marked by the beginning of the end of patriarchy, the overturning of traditional moral and religious values and the rise of a more humanist discourse based on solidarity. These are aspects that, like Dr. Jekyll, have a positive and a negative side. The attempts at redefining gender roles have inspired many monstrous characters that are hindering the path towards a better communication between men and women. If we take into account the greater number of male monsters, it should be inferred that the redefinition of masculinity rather than the redefinition of femininity is currently one of the most problematic cultural issues in the Western world. An idea that should be considered in depth is whether the Industrial Revolution transformed gender roles to a much greater extent than it is habitually assumed. It is my opinion that an eventual equality between men and women will arrive sooner than it is expected because capitalism is blind to gender: women will have the same career opportunities as men when it is proven that they are capable of generating profits in the same measure, something which is already happening in many fields. It would be perhaps more accurate to think of gender relations in terms of how masculinity and femininity have been forced to adjust to the market conditions imposed by capitalism, especially by the liberal capitalism of the 1980s and 1990s. Late capitalism might thus be patriarchy’s last creation but also its own nemesis.
The replacement of religious morality by the morality determined by the law and social consensus is leaving many gaps in the fabric of contemporary ethics, involving delicate issues that range from how to deal with mass extermination to how to deal with a handicapped baby. The humanist discourse is gaining converts daily but the defense of nature, of human rights and of solidarity between the West and the countries victimized by colonialism is being carried out against the background of man’s increasing violence against the Earth and its inhabitants. The average Western citizen is likely to feel simultaneously threatened by the psychopath-next-door, the invisible conspirational networks of power and his or her own reluctance to face the fact that human beings are much more monstrous and even less human than the fantastic monsters they invent.
At this junction, the monster is indispensable in discussing and redefining the limits of what is tolerable in a society whose level of tolerance is being reshaped by the discourse of political correctness and by the insidious invasion of the individual’s privacy by capitalist power. The monster represents everything that disturbs the average citizen of the Western world: the uncontrollable patriarch who abuses women, children and the men who reject patriarchy itself, but also the uncontrollable patriarchal system of technoscience that abuses the whole human species; evil on a massive scale embodied by imaginary alien races standing for our own evil side and evil on an individual scale represented by psychopathic serial killers; the sudden blurring of gender roles and the fear of sexual reproduction. Yet the monster also represents a route of escape towards fantastic worlds in which the individual can feel the vicarious satisfaction of having fought for his or her survival and victory in open confrontation against the systems of power that harass him or her in everyday life; alternatively, the monster may signify a wish-fulfilment fantasy of escape into a world of harmony and order in which the individual’s isolation is dispelled by the monster’s bringing in peace and emotional communion with all the isolated others.
Another important point that should be inferred from my analysis of contemporary monstrosity is that the role of the monster is essential in the internationalization of culture. One wonders where the English-language world begins and where it ends, indeed, whether there are still national cultures at all. The boundaries of the English-language or Anglo-American world are fixed obviously by the availability of the cultural products in English exported by the UK and, especially, by the USA. In this sense, it can be said that all the contemporary national cultures in the Western world–and probably in most nations of the world–are the product of the collision between the native, traditional culture and the English-language view of culture as an exportable commodity. It is not an exaggeration to say that, up to a point, we are all English-language and that the British and the American monsters are our monsters, even though these are monsters already sharing their cultural space with the monsters of Japanese popular culture favored by the younger generations of Western citizens.
Monstrosity is also marked in the 1980’s and 1990s by the progressive replacement of the religious supernatural for the technified paranormal. We are now at a turning point in which the idea of monstrosity is shedding its religious overtones and acquiring simultaneously primitive, barbaric and futuristic connotations. Our main anxiety is seemingly a quite Freudian need to establish our true prehistoric origins in the dawn of times and to foresee our final destination in the stars, that is to say, the end of our narrative. The basic questions we address to ourselves through the monster are whether we were born evil–morally monstrous–as a species and whether our collective destiny passes through a monstrous evil act of destruction, such as our own extermination, the destruction of the Earth or that of an alien intelligent race that could bring salvation. These are, obviously, questions that have been asked many times before the 1980’s and 1990s and that have been heard with insistence especially since the publication of Frankenstein and the subsequent rise of horror fiction and science fiction. What distinguishes the 1980’s and 1990s from previous periods is the rotund pessimism of the answers: all these texts about monstrosity proclaim that the human species was born evil and that its history is a narrative about the perfectibility of its power to do evil, culminating not only in the nuclear weapons that can destroy the world but also in the psychotic mass murderer. The problem is that the repetition of these pessimistic answers is blunting their edge: the technophobic, dystopian view of the future and the pessimism about the ceaseless evil done by individuals have become routine and there is a certain impression that, without new narratives offering a gleam of hope, this pervasive gloom cannot be dispelled.
However, these neo-utopian or neo-sentimental narratives seem still far off. As I see it, the pessimistic mood is likely to endure for at least a few more years. No doubt, the almost magical date of the 1st of January of the year 2000 and the events that may have happened by then will greatly condition the future of monstrosity, but, if we take into account that many of the contemporary dystopian texts refer to the first decades of the twenty first century, it could be argued that, so far, the forecast for the immediate future shows no signs that apocalypse has been averted. The discourse of political correctness might no doubt also delimit the future of monstrosity of the next ten years but in my view it will not affect the construction of monstrosity to a very great extent. We may expect many stories about patriarchal, oppressive male monsters fought by women, non-white people and even disabled people but it is unlikely that women, members of ethnic minorities or the handicapped will cease being represented as monsters: being prejudiced is, simply, part of human nature. In order to avoid the onslaught of the defenders of political correctness, writers and filmmakers will have to move onto more radical forms of monstrosity, more alien, less human–moving further and further into outer space and into our inner mental space. Perhaps the most intriguing question is whether the universal presence of the horrific monsters will be eventually balanced by the presence of the marvelous monsters, which are now clearly outnumbered.
An issue that is definitive in the construction of monstrosity currently and that will still be so in the near future is power. The more power is gained by women and the members of other minorities, the more often will they be represented as monsters, though they will also gain the power to represent themselves or the others as monsters. In fact, it can be said that a clear sign of empowerment is the capacity to represent oneself (or the minority to which one belongs) as a threatening, rather than as an abject, monster. As far as women are concerned, the consolidation of the strong heroine should be accompanied by the search for a specifically feminine view of heroism, but also by the acknowledgement of the role played by women in contemporary patriarchal science and technology and, in general, within the current systems of power. The main question that women will have to face is whether power rather than gender conditions the behavior of human beings, that is to say, whether women endowed with the same power as men will eventually behave in the same monstrous fashion of monstrous men. Baring and Cashford, whose work has exerted a great influence on this dissertation, conclude their book The Myth of the Goddess by stating that “it might be that a rhythmic interchange between archetypal feminine and masculine images (goddesses and gods) is necessary in order to evolve. To remain fixed in either mode may arrest the process of movement”. As I see it, persisting in the idea of this rhythmic interchange may prevent us from founding a necessary, humanist mode beyond gender differences to solve the contradictions of a world that was radically altered with the onset of the Industrial Revolution.
After the box-office failure of Mary Reilly, it seems clear that the cycle of screen adaptations of literary classics about monstrosity is over. News about a forthcoming screen adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau, suggests that there might be a second wave of neo-Gothic films based on other Gothic classics of the nineteenth century, but, in my opinion, they will not enjoy much popularity, especially among younger audiences. The next wave of screen adaptations dealing with the monster is, in fact, based on comics and video-games, despite the relative failure of a number of recent films based on well-known comics and video-games. However, there is still a vast untapped territory in the classics of twentieth-century genre fiction that filmmakers have not explored yet and that should be presumably the subject of screen adaptations dealing with the monster in the near future. Paul Verhoeven is currently shooting the screen adaptation of Robert Heinlein’s 1950s classic Starship Troopers, which promises to be a rather orthodox, high-tech version of the monster films populated by hostile aliens of the 1950s. In general terms, it could be said that films are lagging behind novels as far as the use the integration of the plots into the current technoscientific paradigm is concerned, but that the themes that will be presumably developed are the same: the effects of genetic engineering and biomechanics, the fear of disease (especially AIDS) and death, the anxieties about reproduction and about the creation of intelligent artificial life, worries about a possible loss of the privileges associated to the status of the human species in nature because of an alien invasion or the use of dangerous weapons. The monsters are and will presumably continue being what technoscience creates but also what technoscience cannot control.
The directions for the future of fictional monstrosity are certainly being marked now by The X-Files, a series with which the world of the abnormal and the paranormal has returned to television after decades of absence. What characterizes the series is the conspirational, paranoiac mood–it supposes that the US government not only conceals evidence about alien life but that it has even run secret programmes to create hybrids of alien and human DNA–the constant hesitation between belief and disbelief, and the not less constant search for absolute truth. Although the main message of the series is that there are enigmatic systems of power capable of controlling even those who represent the law, such as the hero Mulder and the heroine Scully, both FBI agents, the series cannot be said to be political or subversive in any sense. If it has found such immediate and widespread success, this must be attributed to the ability of its creator, Chris Carter, to tap a rich vein in contemporary culture that had not been previously channeled towards the mass audiences of television, though it had been finding nourishment precisely films and novels like the ones I have analyzed in this dissertation.
Mulder and Scully seem to have been unanimously accepted as the new model heroes of the 1990s possibly because they are also victims of the obscure maneuvers of their superiors, designed to keep them off the truth. They represent thus the average honest, ‘normal’, citizen who believes that the real monster is not the alien or the freak– if they exist at all–but the powers lurking in the shadows of government. The hero and the heroine (herself inspired by the character of Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs) are intelligent, educated, courageous but little inclined to use violence, good at using technological and scientific resources and emotionally controlled, though not to the point of being unable to feel the frisson of their encounters with the diverse monsters. These are mainly half-glimpsed aliens, intelligent machines, peculiar freakish mutants, and people with paranormal psychic powers often rooted in psychological traumas, all signifying the dark underside of everyday life. The creators of The X-Files are gathering together all the different strands of contemporary monstrosity, covering with their work a very wide range that encompasses the traditional and the futuristic. The series can be said to link the past of monstrosity with its future.
Until now the monster has been dealt with as a figure outside the realm of humanity, but it seems to me that the real use of studying the monster is learning that it is ‘one of us’, our own creation and hence, our own mysterious double. Monsters are not ‘freaks of culture’ but images of our deepest selves. The monster delineates, thus, the human and the subhuman in us, but it also defines our still to be fulfilled aspirations to become, one day, more human than we are now–more human than human.
What, if anything, do the monsters of horror cinema have in common, besides the fact that they are not real? They may be human — just think of Norman Bates, Leatherface, or Hannibal Lecter — but they are not real, in the sense of experientially real. They may even be non-fictional — just think of ‘Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer’ (1990), a film about real-life mass murderer Henry Lee Lucas — but that still does not make them real (the Henry Lee Lucas of the film is just an actor, Michael Rooker, pretending to be the serial killer).
So the monsters of horror cinema are depictions of monsters, representations of monsters. But what else are they, as a group? Perhaps nothing: after all, Dracula, Jaws, the Thing (both versions), Carrie, Chucky, Freddy Krueger, and the rest are a fairly diverse lot, to say the least. According to horror film expert Mark Jancovich, “Different groups will represent the monstrous in different ways, and representations will develop historically.” In her book ‘Skin Shows: Gothic Horror and the Technology of Monsters,’ Jack Halberstam makes almost exactly the same claim: “The body that scares and appals changes over time, as do the individual characteristics that add up to monstrosity, as do the preferred interpretations of monstrosity.” Can not we say of them this much at least, that their primary purpose is to horrify viewers? Sure, they do not always succeed — lots of times they fail — but is not it the fact that they try that makes them horror film monsters? The dinosaurs of Jurassic Park may or may not be depictions of monsters, but Jurassic Park is not a horror movie, and the dinosaurs are not intended to horrify us. We may feel terror at the sight of a Tyrannosaurus Rex tearing some fellow apart, but, to quote Stanley Louis Cavell, “terror is of violence, of the violence, I might do, or that might be done me. I can be terrified of thunder, but not horrified by it.”
This is all, of course, to highlight the question, “What is horror?” And that is a very big question indeed. In 1919, Sigmund Freud published a paper in which he characterises the “uncanny” as that which “arouses dread and horror […] certain things which lie within the class of what is frightening.” Now defining uncanniness regarding horror obviously precludes us from defining horror regarding uncanniness, on pain of circularity. Nor would our intuitions support any claim to the effect that these terms are synonymous (most dictionaries define “uncanny” somewhere along the lines of “eerie,” “mysterious,” or “seemingly supernatural”). But if we can at least find some independent reasons for thinking that psychoanalysis has the tools to explain the timeless appeal and efficacy of horror fiction, this will justify our use of Sigmund Freud’s theory of the uncanny to shed light on the nature of horror films, and, by extension, the nature of horror film monsters.
Such “independent reasons” are readily available. Though sneered at by the highbrow, largely ignored by mainstream academics, and censured by society’s self-proclaimed moral guardians, it can hardly be denied that horror fiction (including cinema) serves a variety of psychological functions in society. The briefest review will suffice to make the point. Like tragedy, horror promotes emotional catharsis in audiences; like fantasy, it offers viewers an escape from the tedium of everyday life; like comedy, it provides a relatively safe (because relatively disguised/distorted) forum for the expression of socio-cultural fears. All of this is borne out by the fact that psychoanalysis has produced, by far, the most common and influential analyses of the horror film to date. Sigmund Freud’s hypothesis, that a sufficient condition of uncanny experiences is the return to consciousness of repressed infantile complexes, has been famously, albeit rather loosely, adopted/adapted by film theorist Robin Wood: “One might say that the true subject of the horror genre is all that our civilization represses or oppresses.” And note too, that the relationship between psychoanalysis and the horror film is mutually supportive. As Andrew Tudor points out, “the [horror] genre itself invokes psychoanalytic considerations, at times borrowing its imagery from the symbolic apparatus of dream interpretation as well as allowing fictional characters to advance pseudo-Freudian accounts of their own and others’ motivations.”
As we shall see, not everyone is convinced that psychoanalysis has the resources to provide a satisfactory account of the horror genre. Besides which, it is possible to invoke psychoanalytic concepts in this context without focusing on Sigmund Freud, much less his (admittedly sketchy) theory of the uncanny. To make matters even more complicated, partly as a result of its sketchiness Sigmund Freud’s theory of the uncanny can be applied to the horror genre in some different ways. But this multitude of alternatives need not intimidate us, at least not until they are all shown to be mutually exclusive. To the extent that the account of horror film monsters presented here is plausible (however one wishes to cash out the notion of “plausibility”), to that extent will the means used to arrive at this account be justified.
The article to be defended here, in four parts, is as follows: (1) paradigmatic horror narratives work by reconfirming for audiences infantile beliefs that were abandoned long ago, such as the belief in the ability of the dead to return to life; (2) horror film monsters are best understood as metaphorical embodiments of such narratives. As such, they are capable of reconfirming surmounted beliefs by their very presence; (3) these metaphorical embodiments are conceptual, not merely cinematographic, which is to say that they exist in the mind, not just on the screen; and (4) although the metaphorical nature of horror film monsters is psychologically necessary, their surface heterogeneity is historically and culturally contingent. Not only is it the case that “the monster is the reification, the embodiment in a symbol, of an unconscious content in the mind”; it is also the case that “the monster […] is an embodiment of a certain cultural moment — of a time, a feeling, and a place.”
What makes horror film monsters at least potentially horrifying (what makes them monsters, to begin with) is the fact that they metaphorically embody surmounted beliefs; to the extent that they succeed in horrifying viewers, however, it is because the manner in which they embody surmounted beliefs is invested with cultural relevance. James Iaccino, submitting the horror genre to what he calls (following Jung) “archetypal analysis,” arrives at a similar conclusion: “As civilization progresses to higher stages of consciousness, newer interpretations of those age-old [horror] myths become necessary so that the links with humankind’s archaic past can be appropriately maintained.” James Iaccino thinks it “quite appropriate to refer to the new archetypes as techno-myths, reflecting the technological advances that our society has attained”; our “cultural relevance” condition, in contrast, encompasses not merely the technological, but also the political, racial, religious, and sexual dimensions of society. And here, what gets reflected is often anything but an “advance.”
This same bias towards the present can be detected in an otherwise innocuous comment made by Barbara Creed: “The horror film is populated by female monsters, many of which seem to have evolved from images that haunted the dreams, myths and artistic practices of our forebears many centuries ago.” Point well taken, but why speak of changes in the face of the (here, female) monster in evolutionary terms? At the very least it is misleading to suggest that representations of monstrosity from ages past can be understood as “primitive” in comparison with those of today (cf. James Iaccino’s talk of civilisation progressing to “higher stages of consciousness”). One might put the point as follows: although the face of the monstrous varies from time to time, and from place to place, there is no reason to believe that in doing so it becomes any more horrific. Placing a value-neutral “cultural relevance” condition on the efficacy of horror film monsters respects the fact that change does not always imply advancement. A number of post-1960 horror films (e.g. ‘Targets’ , ‘Martin’ , ‘The Funhouse’ , ‘The Howling’ , ‘Frightmare’ , and ‘Popcorn’ ) have thematized the impotence of classic monsters when confronting today’s supposedly more “sophisticated” audiences, But it is hard to believe that Freddy, Jason, Michael, and their contemporaries would have been more horrifying to pre-1960 audiences than were Dracula, The Wolfman, Frankenstein’s Monster, and the Mummy.
What follows is an attempt to show how a psychoanalytic explanation of monstrosity regarding uncanniness may be compatible with a postmodernist interpretation of monstrosity in terms of socio-historical conditioning. Jack Halberstam is mistaken when he claims that “monstrosity (and the fear it gives rise to) is historically conditioned rather than a psychological universal”; when it comes to horror film monsters, the domains of history and psychology are not mutually exclusive. By presenting (in broad outline, it must be admitted) a “two-tiered” theory of monstrosity, the goal is to blur — if not collapse — the sharp distinction that is usually made between universalizing accounts of the horror genre, those assuming “a social ontology wherein human agents are pre-constituted in key respects,” and particularistic accounts, those assuming a social ontology “centered on active social agents who […] use cultural artifacts as resources in rendering coherent their everyday lives.”
Among the advantages of aligning our psychoanalytic explanation of horror film monsters with George P. Lakoff’s conceptual theory of metaphor is that we now have the resources to explain away the apparent incompatibility between universalising and particularistic accounts of monstrosity. On the one hand, we know that the primary types of horror film monsters — reincarnated monsters, psychic monsters, and dyadic monsters — are psychologically necessary, in that the uncanny narratives they metaphorically embody correspond to a specific, and limited, set of infantile beliefs (namely, those which have been surmounted). What all horror film monsters have in common, besides the fact that they are not real, is that they all fall under the “surmounted beliefs are horror film monsters” conceptual metaphor. On the other hand, due to the need for a conflict of judgment regarding the possibility of reconfirmation in a depicted world, particular tokens of horror film monsters (i.e. those at lower levels of the inheritance hierarchy) are historically and culturally contingent. All horror film monsters metaphorically embody surmounted beliefs, but not all of them manage to reconfirm those opinions by their very presence; that is why not all of them manage to fulfil their primary (that is, their horrifying) purpose.
If you want to know more, read Monstrous Nature