This close to Halloween, I thought I’d dwell on monsters for this post. I’ve always been drawn to bizarre and dangerous creatures of the imagination–vampires, werewolves, extraterrestrials. You name it and if they are part of the science fiction, fantasy, horror and supernatural canons, so much the better.
However, I once read an article which stated the most frightening monsters are those that are the most human-like. Giant insects, rampaging dinosaurs, deadly viruses, killer tomatoes–yeah, those are all scary but, the point of the article was, basically, the more the menace looks like us, the more frightening it is. Because those kinds of monsters remind us of ourselves. Or a darker version of ourselves.
I tend to agree with that. The Blob was horrifying. The cursed, mobile tree of “From Hell It Came” was scary (albeit goofy). Godzilla and King Kong made you scream in terror. But those monsters which have more human qualities or appearances that exist in the dark tend to be the most interesting to me, as well as the most frightening.
Take zombies, for example. I may have ranted here before how I’m not a big fan of zombies, although I’m writing what I call an “alternative zombie” novel. Go figure. But most, if not all, zombies can’t talk, they can’t reason, they just shamble or (these days) run around eating people. Yawn. Imagine, though, if a zombie could talk, make plans, try to outwit you by its intelligence. The idea of a monster being on our intellectual and creative levels (or beyond) is far more interesting than just a slobbering beast. Although slobbering beasts are fun once in a while too.
An example is from the recent remake of The Time Machine starring Guy Pierce. In H.G. Wells’ book and the in 1960 movie version, the morlocks were just primitive, ape-like creatures although driven by a hive-like mind. Sort of like ants. In the 2002 version of The Time Machine, there are “uber-morlocks,” who are intelligent, can speak, and direct their bestial minions. Jeremy Irons played such a morlock in the movie and it really added a whole other level of complexity and interest to it. Of course, it’s Jeremy Irons, so any role he plays is bound to be good. He looked great too, with long white hair, pale skin, and piercing blue eyes. Yikes.
What’s more scary–the creatures in the Alien movies or the Predators? That’s a toss-up, I admit, but I vote for the Predators, again because they look more human-like, at least their bodies. Their faces–ugh. Remember when Charlton Heston’s character, Taylor, said his first words to his ape captors? Their reaction? See what I mean?
Of course, there are human monsters as well. Serial killers, child molesters, terrorists, etc. They’re compelling when used as fictional characters in novels and short stories, I admit, but to me, they’re way too real, brutal and disgusting. They’re in the news all the time, unfortunately. Give me a fantasy or supernatural monster (human or otherwise) any time. They’re not real. Or are they?
In both my novels, I’ve created monsters of all types. The Sixth Precept, being an urban-fantasy, has many Japanese mythological creatures running amok. Using artistic license, I’ve changed some of the attributes described to them to create more human-like characters. And, I’ve created a human-canine hybrid called a shadow-tracker, which, although it’s like a werewolf, can talk and think for itself. And, in the end, it can change and evolve.
In my upcoming fantasy novel, Blood of the Daxas, a dragon is one of my main characters. But, again, this is a dragon that is intelligent and can communicate. That’s been done before, I realize, but I’ve added a couple of different abilities to this dragon, one of which I hope comes as a surprise to the readers.
The ebook release of Blood of the Daxas is scheduled for next Thursday, November 6. I’ll post more info next week.