The Progression of Monsters in Films
Throughout our generation, films have had a huge improvement in production over the years. Whether it’s the style of music or the brilliant use of special effects, movies have never looked better. Though the product has changed, there is one thing that still seems to stay the same, the use of monsters and the real meaning behind them. Though some are not as noticeable as others, almost every film includes a monster. Whether is a horror, drama, or science fiction film, there is always someone or something that posses that monster quality to it. There are times where the monster may change its attitude, or someone may even end up becoming the monster. Whatever the case is, the monster is there for a reason, it’s just the audiences’ job to figure out what that reason is.
How would you describe a monster? If we would have answered this question a decade ago, the outcome would be completely different. A Monster can be summed in many words, but most importantly, complex. Monsters can range anywhere from a total nightmare to the love of your life. Though it may sound a bit strange, monsters seem to have a complete new image. The whole meaning behind a monster has evolved into something other than just fear. Monsters don’t always have to have that vicious quality to them anymore to be called a monster and some are also actually taken quite seriously, for example, the Twilight series. They may have blood sucking vampires and werewolves who eat them at time, but they don’t quite come out as big scary beast that people won’t dare to be near. In fact, it’s actually the complete opposite. This proves that our generation has come to except that monsters don’t always have to evil and that everyone has their flaws.
Whether good or bad, the monsters can be anything from a big furry creature to your average human being. There are times where we judge the monster by its appearance, or the way it acts, yet we never seem to understand the real meanings behind these so called monsters. Monsters have been around for years. First came the novels, and then came the film industry. Dating back to the 1890's, the first horror film ever made was said to be Georges Melies' The House of the Devil (1986). Though it did only last three minutes and didn't quite tell a story, it was a clip of what was to come from the horror genre. It was also arguably the first vampire film. In an older review from a man named Albert Dubin, he stated how "Georges Melies used creative imagery to tell a story. Instead of trying to tell a story using early sub titles or realism, he chose the extreme alternative. His films are literally moving abstract picture. This film in particular, was the first to depict the Bram Stroker-lore of how vampires worked. They turned into bats, freaked people out, and have cross-fobia." Just like Melies way of telling a story, nowadays most film makers hardly ever use narration to tell the audience what’s going on, but rely on all the little pieces to come together. Following Melies' film, latter came the likings of Frankenstein and even Dracula. Even though Melies' created the first horror genre film, the first true horror film, The Golem (1920), added a bit more of a scare factor to its sequences. As films started to progress, monsters had transformed into something other than just causing fear. In classic film, Creature from the Black Lagoon, we see how the monster is not all about distraction. In this quote about the creature from Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch states how "He wasn't really all bad. I think he just craved a little affection, you know. A sense of being wanted and needed." Some may say there is a bit of the creature in all of us. So who’s to say that we are so different from the creature, sure we don’t look the part but they feel the same way we do. They feel emotions at times, they feel pain, and they always have a reason for doing these things, it may not always be the right thing but we all make mistakes. We all have different beliefs, were raised in different ways, and haven’t suffered or been through what these monsters have been through. So, monsters aren’t really that much different than us, their just misunderstood creatures trying to find comfort. Monsters not only play a key part in telling a good story, but also help show our weaknesses. Whether if you’re a character in the film or the person sitting in the audience, watching the monster come to life may affect everyone at times. “Monsters are the physical embodiment of our fears. Humanity’s fears can be summed up in three words: injury, pain, and death” (Monsters in the Movies). When we watch a horror movie, we can’t help but feel sympathy for the people who are suffering and have complete hatred for the thing causing them that. The whole ideas of the horror genres are not only made to entertain or scare you, but take you on a journey to something different and unpredictable. Monsters help test are emotions or challenge us to see how we would handle the situation. Will we be brave enough to fight back or play it safe and take cover? Whether you’re the person staring hard at the big screen or the person who covers their eyes when the scary music comes on, the monster plays a good part in acknowledging our weaknesses.
Not all monsters have to be of another species to pose a threat to humanity. In the HBO television film Conspiracy, the real monsters were all the people sitting in that conference room. In this movie we witness where The Final Solution all started. Where the senior Nazi military and government officials discuss how they were going to kill all of the Jews. These people are monsters. They may not possess the same qualities of what a monster looks like, yet they are the real meaning of what some describe as a monster. They don't care about the people they're killing or the families they're destroying, but they're only doing what they believe is right. They are cold hearted creatures who only care about themselves. One of the main generals, Reinhard Heydrich's quotes included, "Will will not sterilize every Jew and wait for them to die. We will not sterilize every Jew and then exterminate the race. That's farcical. Death is the most reliable form of sterilization, put it that way." They seemed to show no sympathy what's so ever about what they were planning to do, yet they took it like it was just another regular day.
Monsters are not only used to show fear, but can also challenge us to see how we may handle the situation. If we stepped into the main character’s shoes what will we do? In the award winning film, No Country for Old Men, directed by Joel and Ethan Coen, the premise of this film shows how a man’s life was taken by his biggest weakness, money. After he finds a brief case full of money, he ends up living his worse nightmare While being chased by an assassin who is literally insane
The story takes place in West Texas, in 1980, where a man named Llewelyn Moss finds himself being hunted by a killer, Anton Chigurh, who has been hired to retrieve the money that somehow ended up in Moss’s hands. What Moss doesn’t know is that the money has a tracker in it, leading Chigurh to find him almost every time. As we view the journey of a man doing whatever it takes to keep the money and another doing whatever it takes to find it, we see how money can change a person and leads Moss down the wrong path and eventually leading him to his death. In the end, the definition of a monster can contain many different meanings. They can be represented by abnormal large creatures or a man in a suit. They each may even have different objectives or attitudes towards things. So what you make think is a monster, can act the complete opposite and vise versa. Monsters have been used in films for years, yet some of you probably have never expected to be one.
Westwood, Emma. Monster movies. Harpenden: Pocket Essentials, 2008. pg. 101
Landis, John. Monsters in the movies : 100 years of cinematic nightmares. New York: DK Pub, 2011.
Pierson, Frank, dir. Conspiracy. Screenplay by Frank Pierson. Perf. Kenneth Branagh, Clare Bullus, Stanley Tucci, and Barnaby Kay. HBO, 2001. DVD
Coen, Ethan and Joel, dir. No Counrty for Old Men. Screenplay by Ethan and Joel Coen. Perf. Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, and Josh Brolin. Paramount, 2007. DVD