Of Gods and Monsters
Mankind is a tenacious creature. All that he sees he ultimately masters. Cities rise and fall only to be replaced by more grand places, mysteries of nature are unraveled though technology and mathematics, and even the constraints of gravity has not held him earthbound. We create and destroy in equal measure, love and hate with equal passion, and the reaches of our intellect is bound only by the depths of our imaginations. Even the natural order which divides our world into shares of light and darkness succumbs to Man’s artificial light. And this is the most telling of all Man’s attributes. That of all things, the one thing Man cannot eliminate is his ancient fear of the monsters that dwell in the dark.
Mankind had monsters before he had gods. There in the darkness of his caves where he imagined the beasts that made the sounds that went bump in the night. Even his earliest gods were but more benevolent versions of his monsters. And that provides perhaps the greatest insight into Man. That his monsters have aways been as important as his faiths, that his fear is often stronger than his hope, and that his monsters say as much about him as any of his achievements. That there, in the darkness, Man has a different type of sight, one that doesn’t see the outside world, but the inside. That these monsters in all their strange and horrible versions represent the thing that Man fears most – his own darkness.
I have my favorites. What I consider to be the best of all the monsters. It matters less to me whether they are grotesque or beautiful, of or not of this world, with hooked claw or ice cold hand. My selections are less about form and more about what these particular creatures say about man. So if you care, follow me down this dark, unlit path. Lets visit with some old friends who are but childhood amusement in the bold light of day, but who by night, give even the non-believers reason to pause …and listen.
The Vampire – that creature of the night who lusts for the warm blood of life. Although the form has changed over the centuries, there exist no creature more feared and more envied than this soulless predator. That the vampire legend is tied so closely to sex should be of no surprise. What force is more destructive, more creative, and more tempting than Man’s cold lust for warm flesh? What great motive, no matter how noble, cannot be reduced to the power of attraction over another? The vampire is everything we fear about the world – death without transcendence, coldness in our hearts, and the possibility that a soul is just something we believe in, but that does not exist. The vampire, however, is also all that we covet in the private darkness of our own thoughts. Everlasting life, power, lust, and freedom from guilt. I love the vampire because in our own hearts we so often wage an internal battle against its seductive whispers.
The Werewolf – if the vampire is a cold and calculating soulless-ness, then the werewolf is passion unhindered by rational thought. The killer in the night, driven to passionate murder by the moon, the werewolf is the world’s first serial killer. A reason why our meek neighbor could transform into a murderous beast. Like the vampire, it speaks to man’s capabilities when reason and morality no longer confine behavior. The werewolf is any man and it can be every man. Who hasn’t experienced anger or rage? Who’s rage filled words or actions haven’t crossed the line? Who hasn’t been tempted to let fury silence reason? The werewolf is such a formidable creature because it demonstrates the power of pure emotion left unchecked. The werewolf reminds us of how thin the threads which hold together our civil society.
Zombies – What is mankind without either reason or passion? While the werewolf and vampire address these issues separately, zombies show us who we might be without either. Mindless wanderers with the sole purpose of consumption. Without mind or emotion mankind is but a decaying meat suit devouring all the living. Zombies also reflect the power of mankind’s numbers. One slow mindless zombie is easily avoided, but in large numbers their shear mass feels inescapable. They are so haunting and horrifying because somewhere in our own powers of reason, we recognize that our species often comes close to unfettered consumption of our world.
The Homunculus – if you’re not familiar with this particular monster of legend it appeared in the movie Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark. These “little” humans are small, but what makes them so fearful is that they represent the insane tenacity of the collective. Mankind has often grouped together to commit insane, irrational and unmerciful actions for the good of the whole. The Inquisition, witch burnings, Nazi’s are all examples of “little” thinkers doing horrific things. For me the homunculus represents how little, spiteful, and fearful minds can join together to become a force of destruction. These little creatures of course live in the dark, whispering their insane agenda with plans to drag others into their darkness. They are mankind’s dichotomy, together we can do unbelievable good or create horrific terror.
Martin Lomax – the “star” of The Human Centipede 2, Martin Lomax is perhaps the scariest of all monsters, because he doesn’t need to be of monstrous form or strength. He is just a man, but one who’s purpose is of greater importance than kindness or mercy. Martin Lomax wants to create and other humans are but the pesky, squirming pieces of his art. That he cannot see the horror of his acts or recognize the abomination of his creation makes him all the more terrifying. Martin represents the potential insanity of man. He is horrible because while his acts are extreme, they are not unprecedented in their horror. How many stories are in today’s news that demonstrate that these monsters are not just on screen, but living next door. How are we to protect ourselves when the monster can be anyone?
You might wonder why a “horror” writer such as me would have a degree in psychology rather than English literature. It’s because I have always been fascinated with monsters. They spawn for one of our oldest emotions – fear. In psychology we come to understand that not all men and women are monsters, but within each of us lies the potential to be one. The study of monsters is the study of human psychology. The monsters we love, and those we hate, and those we fear, all say something about each of us. That thing in the darkness that scares us so, it may in fact be just a picture of mankind or it may a black mirror, reflecting the darkness of our own soul.
About the Author
Raymond Esposito was born in Northford, Connecticut in 1966. He discovered his love of horror when he saw The Omega Man at the drive-in. In 1984, he attended the University of Connecticut where he earned a degree in psychology. He currently works as an executive for an international professional services firm. Night and weekends are devoted to writing. He has self-published You and Me against the World in 2012 and All Our Foolish Schemes in 2013. He has written over thirty short stories, the latest of which appeared in Sanitarium Magazine. You can find his blog at www.writinginadeadworld.com and his fiction writing at www.nightmirrors.com
Today Raymond lives in Fort Myers, Florida. He married the perfect women, he raised two perfect sons, and was blessed with three beautiful stepdaughters which he considers the best “gift with purchase” any second marriage could provide. He also shares his castle with their 130 pound “puppy” Zeus. The two often debate the merits and drawbacks of feeding Twinkies to a dog…to date Zeus has won all those arguments.
by Steve Habrat
Is it just me or is every single mockumentary horror movie that is “uncovered” a letdown to its audience? It seems like the individuals involved can’t quite help themselves in the final moments and add some unrealistic CGI scam that throws the whole film off balance. This is a problem that plagued Paranormal Activity, a film that had a stellar build up only to shoot itself in the foot with an out-of-place facial distortion that was achieved by CGI in the final seconds. It actually ruined this film for me. It doesn’t help that they made an unnecessary sequel that further clipped the wings of the somewhat effective original. Then we have horror master George A. Romero’s Diary of the Dead, a film that used the same mockumentary approach. Diary acts as a restart to his famous Dead series that began with Night of the Living Dead in 1968. The film has some tense moments but it embraces camp with some CGI kills and blood spurts that suck the realism right out of the film. This one hurt because the film is supposed to be taking place at the exact time that Night of the Living Dead is and that film relied on it’s shoestring budget to create realistic scares. It lacked elaborate death scenes and silly weapons. Overall, Night achieved more of an atmosphere of realism that Diary can even dream of. Or Cloverfield, an action/sci-fi/horror mockumentary that has a jumpy tone that is ruined by showing the alien/monster up close and preposterously personal. It’s a classic case of never show the monster!
Apollo 18, a film that mixes history and fiction quite successfully, ushers the summer movie season out with a slight whimper. Perhaps you’ve seen trailers for this film, which was originally supposed to be out in the spring, then summer, and then settled for September. The film suggests that NASA put together a final hush-hush space mission in the 1970’s that sent three astronauts to the moon to set up sensors that alert the United States of an ICBM attack from the Soviet Union. Once on the moon, the two astronauts in the lunar module Liberty, Captain Ben Anderson (Played by Warren Christie) and Commander Nathan Walker (Played by Lloyd Owen), head out to complete their mission and also collect moon rock samples. In orbit over the moon aboard Freedom is Lieutenant Colonel Johnny Grey (Played by Ryan Robbins), who is the watchful eye for the two tough-as-nails astronauts below. Walker and Anderson soon begin hearing strange noises and bangs which naturally disrupt their sleep. Their moon rock samples begin mysteriously moving and they hear strange gargling static over their radios. They then stumble across an abandoned Soviet lunar module and a dead cosmonaut near the ship. As the events become more and more bizarre, Anderson and Walker begin to suspect that they are on the moon for an alternative reason—to investigate the possibility of extraterrestrial life on the moon.
The film is fairly uneventful for the first half-hour or so. The astronauts engage in bland conversation and complain about their cramped space in the ship. They groan over the meals provided for them and play practical jokes on each other. The film picks up once the two men stumble upon the Russian lunar module and this actually leads to one of the more disturbing moments of the film. While out investigating strange occurrences, a spider-like alien worms its way into Walker’s suit and burrows into his stomach. Walker slowly begins getting sick and becoming homicidal in the wake of the attack. The infection scene, which culminates in a surgical scene that nods to Alien, also manages to be one of the more fascinating sequences in the film.
Almost every critic under the moon has critically panned Apollo 18. They have criticized it for a lack of depth and complained that the film established no atmosphere or mood of any kind. They also cry that the film isn’t scary. I will agree that the film isn’t the most terrifying motion picture experience, but a couple of scenes will give you the willies. Yes, the film is slow moving and a bit droll at points, but in my humble opinion the subtly adds to the film. A moon rock twitches here and the American flag is shredded there. Apollo 18 does pack a few of the inevitable boo moments, but the film isn’t overly reliant on this cheap technique.
There is really nothing for the audience to connect with here. I’ll admit that. The characters are not relatable and the film is ultimately unremarkable. The climax is brief but thrilling and the few clips we see of the aliens are relatively creepy, mostly because much of them are left to our imagination (are you paying attention Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark?). There is a clip at the end of the film that, just like all the other mockumentary horror films before it, resorts to CGI overload and ruins what was otherwise a tense scene. The filmmakers did a good job mixing stock footage with the low budget stuff they came up with. The film’s premise is inspired and is a fresh idea to the countless other middling alien invasion films that have taken over the box office (Super 8 was the crown jewel). The film is worth a watch but you will never find yourself clamoring to experience it again. It does appall me that this film is actually receiving worse reviews than the abysmal Battle: Los Angles did. Perhaps we didn’t see the same movie. Apollo 18 is disappointing, that I will not deny, but it is also a disposable and fun gimmick. Grade: B-