In the modern world that we live in, one attempt to keep the peace and protect the innocent from malevolent beings that would seek harm against them is the Police. Armed with the force necessary to apprehend or take down thugs and murderers, they are the threshold guardians that keep chaos at bay. However, with the monster of my choice, the bogeyman, it is easy for the police to turn a blind eye to the matter, or be completely useless against the evil force. Unhelpful police are a common trope within monster movies to increase the danger of the monster in comparison to regular thugs, or to compare the competency between them and the protagonist. This plays on the “societal fear” that the police might be inadequate protection from harm, and allows the protagonists triumph to be viewed as lucky or extremely competent. (Skal)
Robots have become a token villain in modern popular culture. While robots and other forms of artificial intelligence have enjoyed some time in the role of protagonist as well, they are still an easy tool for filmmakers to use as an antagonist. It is not at all far ‘fetched to imagine a robot going bonkers and wanting to kill all the puny humans who get in its way. It is what we are constantly told by experts and professionals. Professor Stephen Hawking tells us that, “The development of full artificial intelligence (AI) could spell the end of the human race,” while billionaire Elon Musk says, “If I were to guess at what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably [AI],” so clearly informed people and professionals are telling us to beware. It has become so ingrained in our popular culture and society as a whole that it no longer needs any setup or explanation at all. A robot can show up, kill someone and the audience will just roll with it and accept it as normal behavior for that sort of thing.
My supercut illustrates the trope of children smiling evilly, demonstrating “the uncanny.” This phrase refers to something that is familiar and recognizable, but still weird enough to cause discomfort (Watkins). This idea of “the uncanny” can also explain why people often fear the unpredictable, and evil children definitely fall into the category of “unpredictable.”
The Puny Humans Supercut reveals how fictional alien characters’ dialogue exposes our insecurities as a species. The Alien seems to always be superior to humans both physically and mentally, and knows it. We fear being knocked down, being at the mercy of an alien race, and it shows in the dialogue. In this the aliens are aware that they are bigger than us, that they are smarter than us. We would lose our pride being second to another species, and thus become very vulnerable creatures. On earth we are at the top of the food chain, but elsewhere we may be at the very bottom. The dialogue itself was written by humans. In these clips we see an alien talking to a human, but we also see a human talking to another human. The alien is saying the dialogue it was given, acting as a catalyst to vent our fears, flaws, and insecurities as a human race. We know we may not be the biggest, or the most intelligent species out there, and it shows in these fictional characters. These characters bring out what we really think of ourselves, and how we think we stack up against what may be out there.
The image of a frantic girl running up the stairs away from the slasher is more significant than one may believe. There is a reason why it is easily one of the most recognizable tropes known to horror fans. Maybe it has to do with destroying the safety usually felt within the home, or maybe it is meant to wreck the idea of women being able to sustain the household. Many would argue that it is as simple as a girl running up the stairs; however, it is much more than that. Society has always thought that households are where the heart is. It is where one feels the safest. Yet, these women are ironically trapped within this safe space as soon as they run up the stairs. There is no escaping for any of these women once they are trapped in the upper quarters of their house.
The term ‘freak,’ as we see it used most frequently, can be defined as “a person regarded as strange or contemptible, esp[ecially] because of markedly unusual appearance or behavior” (OED). Historically, the term ‘freak’ began it’s long-lived association with the monstrous during the time of the sideshow. In these sideshows, or freakshows as they are sometimes called, disabled bodies were put on display, their sole purpose being for their bodies to provide visual entertainment. This created the ‘us vs. them’ distinction that is at the core of the sense of fear that has grown to accompany the freak. When we look at a freak, we see something humanlike, something that is similar to ourselves, yet vastly different in malevolent ways. Whether the evilness that we see in freaks is due to outward appearance (portrayed through deformities), inward malice (often the case with slashers and serial killers), or a mixture of the two; the freak presents horror movie viewers both with sameness and with unfamiliarity. As Freud explained in his essay on “the uncanny,” we become uncomfortable when presented with something that we cannot place into a category. When we see a freak, we are not immediately sure whether to place them into the ‘human’ or ‘monster’ category, which causes us to consider them as some “other” being. As we study them, the struggle to define them contributes to why we fear the freak.
Monstrous swarms have been a threat to mankind since at least the advent of sedentary agriculture. This threat has been noted since the time of ancient Egyptians, who had carved these locust swarms in hieroglyphics as far back as 2000 BC (Dollinger). To them, these swarms represented a very real and physical danger of starvation and death, an existential threat that always loomed over their harvests. Lacking a biological explanation, ancient people turned to the heavens searching for a reason for these swarms. Perhaps the most famous depiction of a monstrous swarm comes in the Book of Exodus, in which a plague of locusts is sent by God to punish the Egyptians for enslaving His chosen people (Exodus 10:13-15). It is this idea, of monstrous swarms being considered an act of divine punishment in the same vein that of fire and brimstone, which forms the cultural foundation for modern fears of monstrous swarms.
Many exorcism movies involve a supernatural being unbound by natural laws emerging into physical existence. Demons take control over individuals like puppeteers. They control and manipulate their target’s mind and body. They are able to possess their thoughts, eyes, mouths, and limbs. Through this power they can also inflict pain and agony. The distinction that we can identify to determine whether the person in front of us is the monster or the individual himself is if the actions they produce are physically possible. For example, in many films a common trope that is portrayed is the ability of a monster to change the voice of the possessed to a low and coarse tone.
In zombie films or TV shows, one of the main components of the story and the course of the work is survival. This survival is kept interesting through wild and gruesome action series and suspense created when the characters, protagonists if you will, are put into situations that make the audience cringed and jump. Dolf Zillmann said, in his criteria for a successful suspenseful work, that there must be “a selection of liked protagonists as targets for feared outcomes.” (Zillmann 135). A common character type in the zombie genre is one that is emotionally harder than the rest of the characters, has a better understanding of the situation he or she is in, is equipped with knowledge of weaponry or fighting skills, and is compelled to do what needs to be done. That character, more simply put, is the “badass.” This character is unique, because he or she puts aside any fears they have for zombies and performs incredible feats in order to kill zombies or go through anything that dares threaten them. Ben from George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead was the first sign of this trope, as he walked up to 4 zombies and beat them to death with a hammer because he knew that it had to be done. Ben’s character has since involved and is commonly used in many zombie movies or shows, as displayed in characters like Alice from the Resident Evil series and Tallahassee from Zombieland. All of these characters understand that they are in danger when they go to kill zombies. They are less afraid and more accepting of the situation to a point where they have more courage and survivability than the other characters in their respective films or shows.
This trope is an essential part of the success of zombie movies because it highlights one of the most important aspects in the genre: characters who are liked by the audience. The audience wouldn’t bother to sit through a zombie film if every character was an unfeeling placeholder who just managed to “get by”. There would be no connection or emotion or sympathy or admiration for the character. The zombie “badass” provides just that. The audience is thrilled when this “badass” beheads a few zombies or saves the life of another character, and fears for him when he is cornered by a horde of the undead. This is what Zillmann was referring to. “Like characters” are characters that make the audience feel something, which is why when they are trying to survive through a zombie ridden setting, the audience feels anxiety when something goes wrong. The audience wants this character to live because they admire his courage and determination to do what needs to be done. This connection made through with the audience and characters in a zombie movie is part of what makes them so suspenseful and successful, and the “badass” is no exception.
A person’s darker more animalist side is often represented in their werewolf form. This other side is a way of reasoning the behavior of a human by making their actions more easy to reason. A monster is more plausibly capable of such actions described being done by werewolves than humans. There’s an “easy acceptance of the moral face” that werewolves present in their actions that is excused for the man behind the wolf (Otten 223). The shift from human to werewolf can be seen as taking away a person’s humanity while also representing a “realistic assessment of the range of choices available to human beings” (Otten 223). They may either hold onto their humanity, or sink to the primal actions associated with monsters such as werewolves.