Say you're in a room with some people, maybe it's a focus group, and you're all asked to imagine a movie monster. What do you suppose the chances are you'll come up with the same mental image as anyone else in the room? If you ask me, the chances are pretty slim. Hollywood and the last century of cinema have given us such a menagerie of monsters, encyclopedias are hard tasked to cite them all.
I'll bet a lot of people think of those monsters from the mid-twentieth century that rampaged through countless sci-fi and horror films. Those gargantuan creatures that rose from the depths or descended from the skies to lay waste to whatever stood in its path. Creature features I believe they were called. As a child, I'd gape at the television on weekends while King Kong or Godzilla or some other colossus lay waste to a scale model city. Sure, I was all too aware that it was a guy in a foam rubber costumed stomping on scale models, but I've always had a healthy suspension of disbelief.
I cast a wider net when classifying movie monsters, though. The giant gorillas, the giant ants, and fifty-foot-tall women certainly count, but I also include the monsters that are my size, or at least closer to my size, like Frankenstein, Dracula, and the Wolfman. Beyond that, there are the animals run amok, like sharks, spiders, and snakes. Then, you've got the mythical creatures that step out of the shadows like Sasquatch, Loch Ness, and even dragons.
Heck, if you come right down to it, a monster can be just about anything so long as it's not a ghost or a robot--and even then there's probably exceptions. It's a vast playing field.
When it comes to preferences in genre fiction, I'm a mark for three major things: haunted houses, time travel, and monsters. If I ever come across a film that has all three, I'll have found my mecca. But I think it's safe to say that monsters are the most plentiful.
For a long time, my favorite monster was arguably Godzilla. I say "arguably" because the fickleness of a boy's tastes is rampant. As I matured though, my monster of choice became Frankenstein (a la Boris Karloff). That was the monster that first showed me the humanity that lurks in all monsters. Misunderstood, harangued, and even victimized, Frankenstein was less a monster than those two tormented him. Later years, in reading Mary Shelley's novel, I gained an even better appreciation for the monster's viewpoint. Granted, he was more villainous and conniving in the book than the movies, but his humanity was readily apparent.
If I look at monsters I don't care for, they're usually the ones that lack humanity or any spark of true life. Mindless automatons and indiscriminate forces of nature, like some of Romero’s zombies or the Blob. In those cases, it's just as easy to replace the creature with a tornado or some natural disaster. I like my monsters to exhibit something a little more than an instinctual, insatiable appetite for destruction.
So, this week is all about monster movies--good and bad. You'll see plenty of guest posts from authors and bloggers, offering up their opinions on their favorite monsters and monster movies. I hope you all enjoy, and feel free to leave comments, and even write your own blog entries about monster movies this week. Just send me a link once it's posted and I'll add it to the compendium of links, which I'll be posting on November 1st.