Monster stories are tales as old as time. They appear in countless works ranging from fiction to non-fiction to religious. The number of monster movies is near infinite. These creatures are the ones that go “bump” in the night. And guess what? They are evolving…
In other posts, I have noted that the horror genre has a cycle. What goes around will come around again in the future. The slasher movies and stories of the 80’s, 90’s, and early 2000’s are snuffed out. The ride of the Zombie-Vampire-Werewolf craze is on a downhill trend since its rebirth in the early 2000’s. Ghosts and demons are about to hit a mid-life crisis before fading back into the Earth. However, a new egg was laid about 5 years ago and the shell is starting to shatter. Monsters are about to take over the horror genre scene.
Back in the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and 60’s, monsters were mainstream where much credit can be given to Godzilla and the other kaijus. Dinosaurs were again roaming the Earth, King Kong was kicking it in Manhattan, and gargantuan aquatic creatures were wreaking havoc on all seafaring folk. Audiences during this era craved cryptids! Hollywood and the Toho company churned out monster movies as if these creatures were raining down on the world from the heavens.
What was the drive for these creatures? Well, we can thank the influential H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937) for setting the stage. It is the epitome of cosmic horror that captivates an audience, and monsters exude cosmicism. Monsters provide the factual terror that humanity has absolutely no power on the vastness of the cosmos. We cannot command or contain the Universe. We potentially have the power to destroy monsters, but lack the control over the creatures’ initial existence on Earth. Humanity is at the mercy of the cosmos and whatever terrifying creatures it decides to hurl at our little terrestrial planet.
Monsters show the reality of humanity’s insignificance in comparison to the entirety of the cosmos. – Me
Becoming aware of the human race’s meagerness in the grand scheme of it all is absolute horror. If tomorrow dinosaurs should reappear and take control of the planet, humanity would be a micro-blip in the Earth’s history. That is how, through literature, Lovecraft was able to terrify his readers. His human characters regret gaining knowledge about the existence of monsters, because the characters learn “there is something bigger than I and I can’t control it”. This inevitably leads the characters to destroy themselves physically or emotionally because they cannot handle that kind of awakening.
Back on the subject of monsters and the horror genre cycle, the heyday of these creatures was in the mid 20th century. There was a shift in the 70’s and 80’s that caused the monster craze to die off. The shift was the Devil, which is probably the one thing more terrifying than any monster in this universe. Movies like Evil Dead, The Exorcist, Rosemary’s Baby, The Omen were the horror kings of the 70’s. Briefly, “modified humans” (Zombies-Vampires-Werewolves) grew rapidly during those later years and into the early 80’s, but ultimately failed to the slasher flicks of the 80’s and 90’s. Demons and modified humans had a resurgence in the early 2000’s, but that craze is winding down and the cycle of the monsters is about to begin again. Godzilla destroyed the movie scene this past summer. Cthulhu and the other Elder Gods are oozing through literature and the Internet, while dinosaurs are just waiting to hatch.
Here’s hoping that this monster mania lasts a few decades, as it may bode well for the series that I am about to produce. I can’t give a lot away, but I will let you in on a secret: There is a vile monster that will stop at nothing to eat every human being on the face of this planet.
If you are keen on my love of monsters, check out this post: Here Be Monsters.
What a great review of the time line of the horror genre, Amanda! Since I follow this only peripherally – aware of the werewolves and vampires and zombies but not interested – it’s nice to be forewarned of upcoming monsters! I frankly prefer monsters, but possibly because I was an impressionable kid when monsters were last popular. I can’t wait for your series!
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Thanks, Noelle. I adore Zombies, but the market is saturated so I am saving my Zombie novel for the next cycle – because Zombie always come back (from the dead).
I started writing the first novel in the series. Hoping it is out the summer of 2015! (fingers crossed)
keep me posted!
“You are off the age of the map, mate. Here there be monsters!” said Captain Hector Barbossa in the Curse of the Black Pearl.
Surely, monsters should come back. And now I wonder, was any movie ever made about Chthulhu? Dracula, Frankenstein, Godzilla, King Kong, the monsters in Beowolf, etc all enjoyed cinemas, but that scary, sinister, incomprehensible, imponderable presence, Chthulhu–I never heard of its movie!
Something else you have said makes me wonder: how many themes do we have in the horror genre? How many things inspire fear in people? I think plenty, but the genre seems to revolve around only a few.
Oh! and there is another monster! Bagul. The one in that Ethan Hawke’s 2012 movie, Sinister. He eats children. That movie was a blast.
I agree with you about the Devil. Whatever it is, it is the mother of all monsters! His popularity diminishes as that of God; but in a fine story, I think a goodly dose of fear can still be elicited by his presence.
Lastly, I’m waiting eagerly for that series you mentioned. I should be able to review it by the time you publish it.
One more thing: have you wondered why we, as humans, tend to identify with victims, with helplessness, in real life, in literature, and everywhere else? We like to be winners and even brag loudly about it but somehow, when we watch movies, read books, or tell stories, we identify with the abused, the oppressed, the helpless? Is it that somewhere within us we are aware of how helpless we all are on this planet?
Like you say the monsters make us feel.
*I misspelled ‘edge’.
‘. . .off the edge of the map . . .’