In a world of hunchbacks, a fine figure becomes a monstrosity.
Honore de Balzac
We make our own monsters, then fear them for what they show us about ourselves.
…beauty is the projection of ugliness and by developing certain monstrosities we obtain the purest ornaments.
Art and humanities research begins with a desire to understand the human condition. For centuries, literature has provided the source material for reflection on what it means to be human or monster. While literature continues to enlighten us, for some time film has provided a visual alternative. Film not only offers a narrative similar to literature, it also provides an audio-visual feast for the senses, and in the quick-fix, fast-paced, Technicolor whirl of the twenty-first century, it is this feast which best mirrors our experience of modern life. When we sit down to watch a film, the sensual experience – sight and sound – is familiar, but the cerebral one, the story itself, can take us anywhere. In this sense, film is both an old friend and a new adventure. It is also through film that we have a unique means of preserving the historic past, as well as looking forward, towards an uncertain future. At Intellect, we have begun to offer an opportunity to look at film not just as a single subject but as a universe of subjects, because we believe film offers a rich medium for reflection on human nature. By looking at films from different regions of the world, we are given a window into what makes people and monsters all over the world so different, and also what makes those people and monsters the same. In this way we can each develop a better understanding of ‘the other’: an understanding that avoids stereotypes and acknowledges both the unity and diversity in humanity.
A monster movie, creature feature, or giant monster film is a disaster film that focuses on a group of characters struggling to survive attacks by one or more antagonistic monsters, often abnormally large ones. The film may also fall under the horror, comedy, fantasy, or science fiction genres. Monster movies originated with adaptations of horror folklore and literature. Typically, movie monsters differ from more traditional antagonists in that many exist due to circumstances beyond their control; their actions are not entirely based on choice, potentially making them objects of sympathy to film viewers.
The most common aspect of a monster movie is the struggle between a human collective of protagonists against one or more monsters, who often serve as the antagonistic force. In Japanese cinema, giant monsters known as kaiju often take up this role.
The monster is often created by a folly of mankind – an experiment gone wrong, the effects of radiation or the destruction of habitat. Or the monster is from outer space, has been on Earth for a long time with no one ever seeing it, or released (or awakened) from a prison of some sort where it was being held. The ubiquitous presence of the monstrous on screen evokes myriad interpretations. In certain cases, we love to love the monster. In others, we bond over mutual desire to see it conquered, vanquished. The inherent mutability of the monster provides us with endless opportunities to reimagine, reenvision, and reencounter these creatures. In its entirety, this volume endeavors to examine how 21st-century media presents and contends with the body and mind of the monster. What do they reveal about us culturally, individually, as a community? What can we learn from them?
The monster is usually a villain, but can be a metaphor of humankind’s continuous destruction; giant monsters since the introduction of The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms have for a time been considered a symbol of atomic warfare, for instance. On the contrary, Godzilla began in this fashion yet as time moved on his reputation quickly grew into that of a cultural icon to the Japanese, as much as Superman is a cultural symbol to America, with a number of films presenting Godzilla as a sort of protagonist who helps protect humans from other, more malevolent monsters.
The attempts of the humans to destroy the monster would at first be the usage of an opposing military force – an attempt that would antagonize the monster even more and prove useless (a cliché associated with the genre). The Godzilla series utilized the concept of a superweapon built by Japanese scientists to suppress him or any of the monsters he fights.
Historically, monsters have been depicted using stop motion animation, puppets, or creature suits. In the modern day, many monster movies have used CGI monsters.
Remember: A monster movie is a term colloquially used for a very specific genre of film, usually borderline sf. A monster movie – sometimes called a Creature Feature – must contain the unexpected appearance, normally in a serene setting, of a creature (or many creatures) hostile to humanity. The nature of the creature is usually revealed gradually, and its attacks normally increase in severity. It may be a mutated animal or human (see Mutants), an Alien, a kind of animal normally not hostile (as in Hitchcock’s The Birds ), or any unnatural (but not supernatural) creature.
The Monster is usually rationalized (often half-heartedly) as, for example, a dormant prehistoric Dinosaur species newly awakened as in Gojira (1954); an unintended result of scientific experiment as in Tarantula (1955); a Mutant created by radioactivity as in Them! (1954) or alien infection as in The Quatermass Xperiment (1955; vt The Creeping Unknown); a secret government experimental warfare device gone wrong, as in the remake of The Blob (1988); or a product of ill-advised Genetic Engineering as in Species (1995). In the majority of cases the monster represents a punishment for humankind – for tampering with Nature, corrupting the environment or creating vile Weapons. The featuring of a monstrous creature – e.g., the Vampire protagonist of Dracula (1931) and its successors – is not in itself a sufficient condition for a film to be classed as a monster movie. The monster must occupy our world – a world where cause and effect are operative, and phenomena normally have explanations – and not a fantasy world; for this reason monster movies can properly be defined as sf. The monster is, however, not a natural occupant of our world, and to this degree monster movies approach the condition of fantasy. Even the supposedly mundane soldier ants of The Naked Jungle (1954) are highly exaggerated when compared with the reality.
If the monster movie has an ultimate moral, it is about the fragility of the Age of Reason in which we supposedly live. Unreason lurks in the surrounding dark, just beyond the light cast by our campfires, and may break in. The case can be put psychologically, too: in Freudian terms as the revenge of the id over the conscious ego (see Forbidden Planet), or in Jungian terms as the irruption of archetypes into a world which does not consciously recognize them. The oldest part of our brains, the hindbrain or limbic system, wellspring of our fight-or-flight reflex, is sometimes claimed as the source of our monsters, not so much Unreason reclaiming ground from Reason as the Primitive asserting its continuing strength over the Sophisticated. It is one of the interesting qualities of monster movies that any attempt to unravel their subtexts nearly always reveals a critique of the smugness of “civilization” – indeed, a questioning of the very nature of civilization. Thus one of our most apparently childish genres asks some of the most unanswerable questions of our world.
Various elements that make up the generic monster movie had previously existed in isolation: prehistoric survivals in The Lost World (1925); a gigantic threat to humanity in King Kong (1933); deformed creatures revenging themselves against normality in Frankenstein (1931), Island of Lost Souls (1932) and Freaks (1932). It was only with the sf movie boom of the 1950’s that the generic structure of the monster movie took the shape it retains today, quite rapidly developing inflexible conventions. The most plausible candidate for the first such film is The Thing (1951), with subsequent milestones including The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953), Gojira (1954), Them! (1954) and Tarantula (1955). The boom climaxed with a veritable eruption of monster movies in 1957, including one of Roger Corman‘s first, Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957); Bert I Gordon‘s perhaps underrated The Beginning of the End (1957), with giant grasshoppers invading Chicago; and, unusually, a UK offering, the marvelously insane Fiend Without a Face (1957). The cascade continued in 1958, with variations on the theme becoming more knowing – a sign that generic conventions had sufficiently hardened for audience expectations to be consciously manipulated – in I Married a Monster from Outer Space (1958), The Blob (1958) and The Fly (1958). But generic rigidity soon degenerated into decline and fall. More monster movies were made in 1959-1962 than in the whole of 1951-1958, but almost without exception they were low-budget, cynical exploitationers of no real quality aimed at the teenage drive-in market; an exception might be made of the surreal Japanese Mosura (1961).
The structure of monster movies normally follows, in sequence, the following narrative conventions: the peaceful beginning; the first intimations that something is wrong; half-seen glimpses of the monster; disbelief of the first reports; attacks of increasing ferocity in which the monster is fully revealed; the fight back against the monster and its destruction. Often there is also the revelation in the final frames that more monsters are hatching.
An important variation, signaled by King Kong, is the sympathetic monster, doomed to destruction, sometimes magnificent in its monstrousness, more often merely pathetic as in The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), The Quatermass Xperiment (1955; vt The Creeping Unknown), The Amazing Colossal Man (1957), Not of This Earth (1957) and The Fly (1958). Here the subtext might be that the monster, basically, is us. Humans transformed into monsters by radiation, electricity, Alien infection or the experiments of Mad Scientists are among the long-established Clichés of cinema. Further examples include Man Made Monster (1941; vt Atomic Monster), The Werewolf (1956), The Vampire (1957; vt Mark of the Vampire), The Alligator People (1959) Monster on the Campus (1958), The Manster (1959), The Wasp Woman (1959), Ssssssss! (1973; vt Ssssnake!) and The Incredible Melting Man (1977); there are many more. As long ago as 1926, P G Wodehouse spoofed the monster-making mad scientist trope in his Mr Mulliner story “A Slice of Life” (August 1926 Strand Magazine), whose opening scene recounts how the heroine of the popular film-serial The Vicissitudes of Vera suffers the attentions of “a mad professor who […] tries to turn her into a lobster” by injecting lobster-gland extract into her spinal column. Wodehouse’s imaginary serial title of course alludes to The Perils of Pauline (1914).
Another classic variation is the monstrous creature that can take over, or assume the shape of, human beings, as in It Came from Outer Space (1953), Invaders from Mars (1953), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), Quatermass II (1957; vt Enemy from Space), I Married a Monster from Outer Space (1958), Unearthly Stranger (1963), Terrore Nello Spazio (1965; vt Planet of the Vampires) and the television series The Invaders (1967-1968). Such films still turn up occasionally, as in The Hidden (1988) and They Live (1988). Their subtext, however, is entirely different from that of monster movies proper (see Paranoia) and many would not regard them as the real thing.
After The Birds (1963), few monster movies of any quality were made for some time. Routine additions to the canon from 1963 to 1967 include The Crawling Hand (1963), The Day of the Triffids (1963), The Earth Dies Screaming (1964), The Night Caller (1965; vt Blood Beast from Outer Space), Destination Inner Space (1966) and Island of Terror (1966; vt Night of the Silicates) and The Deadly Bees (1967). Then came the extraordinary Night of the Living Dead (1968), in which the director, George Romero, rejuvenated the genre by adding to it one of its great icons, the army of (scientifically created) Zombies, literally eating society away. In the 1970’s the revenge-of-Nature theme of The Birds was taken up again by a number of other films in which the “monster” was natural, aside from its exceptional ferocity towards humanity. Among these threats were frogs and other amphibians in Frogs (1972); huge carnivorous rabbits in Night of the Lepus (1972); flesh-eating earthworms in Squirm (1976); spiders in The Giant Spider Invasion (1975) and Kingdom of the Spiders (1977); and, perhaps most famous of all, the great shark of Jaws (1975). Phase IV (1974) and Bug (1975), both featuring intelligent insects – ants and cockroach-like beetles respectively – also have points of interest. Most of these films are marginal sf at best, being closer in their paranoia to supernatural fantasy.
In the mid-1970’s monster movies – not just in the revenge-of-Nature subgenre – began bit by bit to make their comeback, often through the work of quirky, independent directors Death Line (1973; vt Raw Meat) and It’s Alive (1974) are both notable for sympathetic monsters. The latter is the work of the deeply eccentric Larry Cohen, whose subsequent monster movies include It Lives Again (1978) and Q (1983; vt The Winged Serpent; vt Q: The Winged Serpent). David Cronenberg also began making borderline monster movies in the 1970’s, with The Parasite Murders (1974; vt They Came from Within; vt Shivers), Rabid (1976) and The Brood (1979), all notable for being both intelligent and disgusting. Joe Dante‘s Piranha (1978) is another witty and subversive independent production. Indeed, it was now becoming clear that the second generation of monster movies, far from being primitive exploitation movies, were attracting some of the most radical and sophisticated directors. Any of these films offers sufficiently complex readings, often political, to give grist for a doctoral thesis. This is only possible when genres enter their mature phase, where, although self-referential decadence (see Recursive SF) can become tiresome, virtuoso variations on a theme are also likely to occur.
The year 1979 was a turning point for monster movies. Although it featured one of the most disappointing ever made, Prophecy (1979), an expensive flop for John Frankenheimer, it also saw the release of Alien (1979), directed by Ridley Scott, which was an enormous success, both commercially and, in the view of some critics, artistically. Thus, although the 1980s saw the continuing release of interesting low-budget monster movies from independents – e.g., Alligator (1980), Day of the Dead (1985), Critters (1986), Society (1989) and Tremors (1989) – it saw also more expensive productions from companies encouraged by the success of Alien. A surprising number were remakes (mostly middle-budget), including two that were very interesting indeed and may come to have classic status: John Carpenter‘s The Thing (1982) and David Cronenberg’s The Fly (1986). Also better than most people expected were The Blob (1988) and The Fly II (1989). Other middling-to-large budget monster movies of the period were Predator (1987) and its efficient sequel Predator 2 (1990), Leviathan (1989), The Abyss (1989) – where the monsters turn out to be good Aliens – and perhaps the best of them, the spider movie to end all spider movies, Arachnophobia (1990), which has a strong element of social comedy.
Indeed, outright comedy – either at the expense of or through the medium of monster movies – is quite common, with one of the first examples being Woody Allen’s Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask) (1972), which in one episode features a giant breast on the rampage. Most monster movie spoofs (there are quite a few) are bad, with Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (1978) being typical in its ineptness. Schlock (1971), on the other hand, featuring a Neanderthal survival rather than a monster proper, is rather funny, as is Larry Cohen‘s The Stuff (1985), about a passive monster disguised as food. Two subsequent monster-movie satires targeting Middle America are Terrorvision (1986) and Meet the Applegates (1990): the latter ingeniously shows life from the monsters’ point of view. This is also true of Monsters, Inc. (2001), whose likable monsters are rehabilitated in Children’s SF terms as merely doing their job of scaring children.
Traditional monstrous excesses are reprised in the remade Godzilla (1998); weaponized bats fly amok in Texas in Bats (1999); giant spiders return yet again in Eight Legged Freaks (2002); tentacular and other horrors besiege a supermarket in The Mist (2007); a huge alien monster and its parasites wreck New York in Cloverfield (2008); and so on, forever. The monster-movie tradition adapts and mutates – with, of course, increasingly sophisticated use of CGI – but never truly dies.
In addition to including a fictional creature, many monster films, though not all, include these additional “classic” characteristics:
1) The movie almost always serves as a cautionary tale. Humans do something they shouldn’t, or perhaps fail to do something they should, and unleash the creature into our unsuspecting world.
2) Often there is a character who warns either about how doing whatever they are doing will unleash the creature or warns that the creature has been unleashed. This person is met with disbelief or even ridicule.
3) The creature often threatens the “love interest” of the hero.
4) The creature is in circumstances beyond its control and the viewers feel sympathy for it.
5) Some kind of new technology is used to defeat the creature.
Now, not all monster movies have all these “classic” themes, but most have at least some of them. Let’s look at one of the earliest monster films, Frankenstein, and see how it stacks up. Frankenstein, released in 1931, was one of a series of classic horror films Universal Studios made starting in the 1920’s and running through the 1950’s. Some of the others include Dracula (1931), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923), The Mummy (1932), Bride of Frankenstein (1933), The Wolfe Man (1941), Phantom of the Opera (1943) and Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954). These were enormous money makers for Universal and most spawned one or more sequels. Even today, Universal continues to merchandise these critters for a tidy profit.
Probably the best known of these films is Frankenstein. Since it debuted over seventy years ago I really doubt that many people today have seen the actual film or any of its four sequels. However, pretty much everybody recognizes the unique makeup that Jack Pierce designed for actor Boris Karloff. With its flat-topped head, facial stitches and neck bolts, the creature’s continence has become synonymous with horror movies. Look around your local store as Halloween approaches and try to count the number of products bearing the image of the Jack Peirce design.
Frankenstein, of course, is based on the 19th century book by Mary Shelly. The story of a mad scientist who conquers the mystery of life by patching together a man from graveyard castoffs had been around for over a century before Universal made it into a movie, yet once the film appeared, Jack Pierce’s vision of the monster became forever linked with the tale.
Does Universal’s production of the film fit the monster movie mold? On most points it does. It is certainly a cautionary tale telling us that man should not play God by creating life. When Dr. Frankenstein ignores the warnings of his old professor and gives life to the creature anyway, it runs out of control, frightening the villagers and killing a little girl (though accidently and not with malice). The creature even threatens Frankenstein’s fiancée, Elizabeth. Still, the audience feels bad for the monster as it seems only to be looking for a little love. The only part of the formula that doesn’t really match is the idea that some kind of new technology is used to destroy the creature: Frankenstein is the victim of fire, probably the oldest technology of them all.
There is a second type of creature movie, somewhat distinct from the first, involving giant monsters. Though you might argue that The Lost World (a 1925 film based on the Arthur Conan-Doyle book about an expedition that finds dinosaurs alive in the remote reaches of South America) is really the first film to feature such oversized creatures, 1933’s King Kong is easily its most famous early member of this sub-genre.
Kong was the brainchild of film maker Merian Cooper. Cooper was originally producing real-life adventure movies and had spent some time filming African gorillas. When he heard the story of Douglas Burden’s 1928 expedition to a remote South Pacific Island to bring a giant Komodo dragon back to New York City, he realized he had the basis of a great story. He switched the giant lizard for a giant ape, threw in some dinosaurs, added a love interest in the person of a beautiful blond and soon had the script for King Kong.
Kong, of course, is the quintessential giant monster movie and fits the formula almost perfectly: a movie producer, instead of just filming the oversized ape, tampers with nature by bringing the creature back to civilization only to have it get loose. Despite warnings from the ship’s first mate about letting the movie producer’s star, Anne Darrow (played by the famous Fay Wray) go on the expedition, she is allowed to get too close to the beast and captures its heart. The beast then captures her body and she must be rescued from him not just once on the island, but also when he takes her to a romantic rendezvous at the top of the Empire State Building. Despite this, it’s hard not to feel sympathy for Kong lost in the strange world. Of course the characters in the picture don’t see it that way and new technology in the form of the airplane sends the creature plunging to his death.
The film is probably the first special effect blockbuster ever made. Though many of the techniques used to make the film pre-existed Kong, this is the first film where they were brought together to such good effect. Kong and the dinosaurs were stop-motion puppets (perhaps 18 inches high) filmed on a miniature set. Though special effects wizard Willis O’Brien had used stop-motion on Lost World, he perfected the art on Kong. A new, larger and more effective back projection system was also used to combine O’Brien’s monsters with the real actors in ways not seen before. Willis also used a similar method, miniature projection, to place previously filmed actors onto the miniature sets with his monsters.
Though the film’s effects are impressive, the movie would not have been a success without a solid story. The “Beauty and the Beast” theme makes Kong a creature we care about, not just another marauding monster to be rid of. The film inspired a number of people to go into movie making including director Peter Jackson, who remade a sumptuous version of the film in 2005.
Another person inspired by Kong was a young man named Ray Harryhausen. Harryhausen was so fascinated by the stop motion effects in the film that he built a studio in his parents’ garage to experiment with the technique. He took a demo reel to show to Willis O’Brien and got himself a job working with him on several Kong sequels.
By 1953 Harryhausen was ready to strike out on his own by doing the effects for the aforementioned Beast from 20,000 Fathoms. The producers of the film got the idea from a short story called “The Foghorn” written by Ray Bradbury. Bradbury’s story centered on a revitalized dinosaur that’s attracted to a lighthouse’s foghorn, thinking it’s a possible mate and when he finds out it isn’t knocks the structure down in frustration. The producers of the movie liked the idea and decided to build a movie around it, but didn’t tell Bradbury they were using it in order to save paying him the proper fees. By the time they had the first draft of the script written they’d forgotten from where they had stolen the idea and hired Bradbury to do a re-write. Bradbury, of course, recognized the idea as his own and forced the producers to give him the credit (and the money) as the source of the story.
The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms fits almost perfectly into the monster movie structure: tampering with nature, warnings ignored, sympathetic monster and science prevails. The picture was a huge success leading to a rash of giant monster movies and a career in visual effects for Harryhausen. After that he worked on 15 monster movies over the next thirty years and his name on a film became, to connoisseurs of the monster genre, as important as those of the lead actor or director. His works include some of the finest monster movie ever made including: It Came from Beneath the Sea, Earth Verses the Flying Saucers, 20 Million Miles to Earth, The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, Mysterious Island, Jason and the Argonauts, One Million Years B.C., The Golden Voyage of Sinbad and Clash of the Titans.
Giant Monsters weren’t the only successful creature films of the era, however. While the public was concerned with atomic bomb (giving movie producer ample excuses to grow ordinary animals to preposterous proportions, as in Deadly Mantus, The Giant Gila Monster and Tarantula), the space race made aliens a hot topic. A number of monster/alien films appeared in the late 40’s and 50’s. The best included The War of the Worlds (based on the H.G. Well novel), The Day the Earth Stood Still, and Forbidden Planet. Numbered with the worst were Robot Monster (where the robot alien invader was a man wearing a gorilla suit with a space helmet) and Plan 9 from Outer Space produced by the infamous Ed Wood.
The 50’s seem to be the start of a phase where many of the monsters seem less sympathetic and more mindlessly malevolent. Perhaps this was a reaction to the McCarthy Era/Communist scare. The American public seemed less tolerant of what was different and more fearful of anything strange.
The 50’s also produced Japans classic entry into monster films: Godzilla. A three-hundred-foot-tall aquatic lizard who was made gargantuan by an atomic blast, Godzilla has stamped his way through 28 films from Toho studios. Japanese filmmakers decided not to use the stop motion approach, instead opting to put an actor into a latex Godzilla suit so he could demolish some of the most beautiful miniature sets ever constructed.
Over the years Godzilla has changed from trashing Japan to being its protector (some argue that the Japanese relationship with the outsized lizard is symbolic of the Japanese relationship with the United States). He often teams up with other giant monsters or finds himself opposing them as in Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (a three-headed dragon like monster). He has even spawned a hole sub-genre called Kaiju (literally strange beast) which includes rival studio Kadokawa Picture’s Gamera, a 300-foot-tall biped turtle.
The next major change in monster movie history doesn’t really take place until the 1990s. By that time computers were becoming powerful enough to do image processing at the quality level necessary for motion pictures. The result were visual effects that are almost impossible to differentiate from reality. One of the first major pictures to employ this was 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day. The first Terminator film had used stop motion to animate the robot (once it had lost its exterior flesh and blood shell). Terminator II was all digital, though, enabling many startling effects never seen before, including a liquid metal robot that morphed seamlessly from person to object to person before the viewers eyes.
Jurassic Park (1993) was the first film to use digital computer effects to make dinosaurs come to life. No longer was a filmmaker hamstrung by the limitations imposed by stop motion. The computer, given enough time and memory, would visualize almost anything in perfect detail. Digital effects were also more flexible than previous methods. For example, in 1933 a scene from King Kong showing Fay Wray trapped in a tree while a battle between Kong and T-Rex rages in back of her was accomplished by stop-motion and back screen projection. The scene is wonderful, but the camera is by necessity locked down in a single location. Miss Wray is in the scene with the monsters but they are always in the background while she is limited to the foreground.
A similar scene from Jurassic Park III shows how powerful digital effects can be. Two dinosaurs confront each other in violent battle. The camera here is not locked in position but moves and zooms to cover the action. Actors are no longer stuck in the foreground, but scurry through the thick of the battle, dodging the monsters’ feet.
As O’Brien once inspired Harryhausen, Harryhausen has inspired many of today’s digital visual effects technicians. The monster movie is alive and well in their hands. Some claim though that CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) has made it too easy to make monster movies, leading to films that seem to only be driven by their special effects. 2004’s Van Helsing is an often-mentioned example of this problem. Though the film brings back Frankenstein, the Wolf Man and Dracula, they seem too synthetic compared to the original characters.
Hopefully as producers become more familiar with CGI, we will see more creature features where this powerful tool is used to advance the story, not replace it. There have been some hopeful signs in the last few years: Peter Jackson’s King Kong, though a bit long, is true to the original story and the structure of the classic monster movie. The Korean film The Host explores a family’s attempt to find their daughter after she is kidnapped by a slimy creature living in the nearby river. Cloverfield (2008) re-imagines the giant monster film for the YouTube generation, as we see the whole story through the lens of a video camera held by one of the victims during the creature’s attack on New York City.
Still, this Halloween might be a good time to find your way to the video store or library and check out the monster movies of the past. The original Frankenstein series, King Kong and The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms hold up pretty well. Want a space monster? How about Forbidden Planet from 1957 or the Alien series that premiered in 1979? If you want something on the lighter side try Mel Brook’s Young Frankenstein (1974) or the kid appropriate Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein from 1948.
Any of these should give you a screaming good time.
Occasionally, monsters are depicted as friendly or misunderstood creatures. King Kong and Frankenstein’s monster are two examples of misunderstood creatures. Frankenstein’s monster is frequently depicted in this manner, in films such as Monster Squad and Van Helsing. The Hulk is an example of the “Monster as Hero” archetype. The theme of the “Friendly Monster” is pervasive in pop-culture. Chewbacca, Elmo, and Shrek are notable examples of friendly “monsters”. The creatures of Monsters, Inc. scare children in order to create energy for running machinery, while the furry monsters of The Muppets and Sesame Street live in harmony with animals and humans alike. Japanese culture also commonly features monsters which are benevolent or likable, with the most famous examples being the Pokémon franchise and the pioneering anime My Neighbor Totoro. The book series/webisodes/toy line of Monster High is another example.
Horror movies access the deepest fears of imagination. From B grade to breathtaking, horror fans consume fright, awaiting the latest, greatest titillation. They build collections and boost fandom at conventions and events. Lifestyles and careers spring out of this dark inspiration. What need does horror fulfill? Is it more than just bloodlust? Horror fans reveal what draws them to the macabre. An honest, in-depth, behind-the-scenes view into their obsessions, fears, ethos and philosophies. What fuels these unique individuals?
Watch the documentary I Heart Monster movies filmed over 1 1/2 years between 2010-2012 about what it means to be a horror fan. Several celebrity interviews including Sid Haig, Tom Savini, Doug Bradley, Bill Moseley, Dee Wallace, and many others regarding their work in horror films and their experiences with fans.
For more information, watch
The History of Horror Films: 1890’s – 1920’s
The History of Horror Films: 1930’s – 1940’s
The History of Horror Films: 1950’s
The History of Horror Films: 1960’s
Enjoy six movies, six languages, six stories with us where we’ll see the Politics of Monstrosity, the Dimensions of Monstrosity, the Geopolitics of the Serial Killer, and The Language of Monstrosity.