See you soon… Your EverLovin’ MonsterGirl!
Steve Hasbrat (Theater Management) over at Anti-Film School has graciously given me the opportunity to join their 3rd Annual Horror Movie Spooktacular in time for Halloween. And I get to chat about five movie monsters that I consider to be my favorites. If you know me by now, you’ll understand that asking me to narrow down anything to a mere 5 is quite a challenge. But I venture to say that if I cheat and mention a few who would have made the list, angry villagers won’t be hurling flaming torches at my porch if I do…
A little bit about Anti-Film School’s blogging philosophy from their About page!
“Founded in July of 2011, Anti-Film School is a film website that reviews both new and old films while also heavily focusing on grindhouse cinema, exploitation flicks, cult cinema, B-movies, and classic horror. Since its launch, it has gone on to receive 100,000 views, become a member of the Large Association of Movie Blogs, and be featured on Total Film online under “3 Cool Film Blogs to Visit,” GuysNation, Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights, Furious Cinema, and the Grindhouse Cinema Database. It is all tied together by a retro drive-in aesthetic. We apologize in advance for any missing reels, the sticky floors, shady audience members, stale popcorn, and broken seats.”-
Oh those woe begone days of broken velvet covered creaky seats, your feet sticking to the floor from spilled coke and milk duds… the smell of popcorn, salty sweat and the tallest person in the theater sitting directly in front of you when there’s loads of empty seats left…! I wonder why that always happens to me all the time…?
When you think of existentialism, well, when I the MonsterGirl nerd of all time, thinks of EXISTENTIALISM, Camus, Sartre & Kierkegaard immediately come to mind. When Steve asked me to think of 5 movie monsters that endeared themselves to me, I started to think of what it was, that essence of the thing, that impressed itself upon me so much about each monster’s character. It’s that they are Monsters in Search of an Existential Crisis.
Descarte said “I think, therefor I am.” Existentialists say “I am, therefore I think.”
This philosophy emphasizes a radical skepticism and the uniqueness and isolation of the individual experience, an individual who is inhabiting an indifferent universe. Existentialism regards human existence as unexplainable and completely free. In this universe there is no guiding Dogma that can help us. We’re all faced with equally unfortunate choices which ultimately lead to doom and despair. All human endeavors are meaningless and virtually insignificant, so when faced with the fact that existence, humans feel despair. Existential angst is when we are aware of the awful pointlessness to our existence. So life is an unknowable concept with strange forces that spring from this mysterious existence, with nothing that has any meaning, and fighting it is futile. Cheerful stuff…
Without further ado, here are our 5 monsters stuck in an existential landscape of despair, angst & searching for an identity in a cruel cruel universe.
What is it about monsters that we love? What truly remains with ‘us’ classic horror fans is something deeper and eternally soldered into our collective psyche’s. Something about ‘the monster’ has either caused us to ‘identify’ with them or has triggered a profound fear response that lasts a lifetime.
All monsters, you could say are inherently existential figures because they come from a place of alienation, the unknown and live outside the realm of perceived normalcy. ‘5 Monsters in Search of an Existential Crisis’ seeks to understand how these particular characters are either the epitome of the existential ‘deviant’ (not to suggest deviancy in the context of being perverse but in the sense that they deviate from the norm of ‘accepted’ human nature, like a freak or a sword swallower or a drag queen), or have been placed in the middle of an existential environment.
When you think of the quintessential films that introduced themes of existential alienation into the narrative I think of Jack Arnold’s masterpiece The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) written by the late Richard Matheson, Don Siegel’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) and of course William Cameron Menzies’ Invaders from Mars (1953).
But poor Grant Williams was not a monster, he was only a transcendental man on a journey, projected into a monstrous world where the ordinary becomes a nightmare landscape for him. Films based on stories where the alien, be it from space or here on earth, are a figure used to criticize rationality, conformity, tolerance and lack of empathy and often creates discord between science and the military. They raise the question of fear of losing one’s identity amidst the cold war environment, or just to show that there are sinister threats from without & within!
Writers like Charles Beaumont, Richard Matheson, Ray Bradbury were great at conjuring these “Outsider’ themes. I’d love to have included It Came From Outer Space (1953) with the amorphous Eye creatures that happened to be friendly aliens who crash land in a desert cave.
I love these existential fellas, scary as they may be. Like Grendel who is the consummate existential literary figure and he was hideous, yet he’s one of my favorite characters in literature. Grendel struggles with the eternal question, am I a monster or a hero?
While these movie monsters may be hideous to some, I find them compelling and heroic in their journey to claim their place in a hostile world. Except for those nasty soul eating land crabs whom I love just because they’re so cheeky, cheesy and entertaining as hell!
For me the quintessential existential man/monster, (and that’s not a pants monster ) is Mary Shelley’s literary Prometheus re-imagined by Jame’s Whale’s flagrant masterpiece. A man made from the scraps of robbed corpses and brought to life by the electrical secrets of heaven. Yes, Frankenstein’s Monster portrayed by the great Boris Karloff manifested a truly complex enigma of conception, creation, and existential angst who’s both fearsome yet sympathetic.