Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Monsters Behaving Badly

It's all about transgressive behaviour.  Being a successful movie monster, that is.  My musings here about Mummy movies, yesterday, left me thinking about just why Egyptiam mummys don't make for truly great monsters.  As I mentioned in the previous post, unlike most other classic horror movie monsters, the Mummy presents no sexual threat towards all those women he carries off.  Sure, his interest in them is usually motivated by the fact they are the reincarnation of his long lost forbidden love, but there's never any suggestion that he's going to be do anything physical about it, even if he was still equipped, (the mummification process usually involved various of the vital organs being pickled in jars).  Of course, if he could do something physical with those women, then that would represent some very transgressive behaviour, as four thousand year old embalmed corpse having sex with a living woman would surely count as necrophilia.  But without the sex, what's left for the poor old Mummy in terms of transgressive behaviour?  Things like drinking blood or cannibalism are out as he's dead and needs no sustenance to keep his embalmed body alive, (except regular infusions of the juice from Tana leaves in the old Universal Mummy movies of the forties).

By contrast, other movie monsters indulge in nothing but transgressive behaviour.  Vampires, in particular, are all about sex - all that blood drinking is clearly a substitute for oral sex.  They also spend a lot of time targeting innocent young women, preferably virgins, and violating them with their perverted practices.  This is particularly worrying as the vampire has typically been undead for hundreds of years, making him the ultimate in dirty old men.  But the vampire's depredations are a complex business, the the clear implication that his victim has sometimes been 'asking for it', in that they are sexually promiscuous and/or a willing participant in the blood drinking/sex.  (This is particularly apparent in Hammer's Twins of Evil, where its the 'naughty; twin who first falls under the spell of the local vampire, with her more virtuous sister resisting his advances).  But, more often than not, the vampire's attacks are more akin to rape, with his attentions being forced upon an unwilling victim.  Like rape, it isn't about sex, so much as power: not only is the vampire usually a member of the nobility, but his attentions usually leave the victim helpless in the face of his power.

As for the other popular movie monsters, well Dr Jekyll's transformation into Mr Hyde is clearly sexually motivated.  The good doctor's bestial alter ego allows him to indulge in all sorts of sexual depravities his normal repressed self could only fantasize about.  Much the same applies to the werewolf, who also crosses another boundary by eating people.  But, as we've established, the poor old Mummy does none of these things, leaving him a bit dull and repetitive.  If you need further proof of the need for successful movie monsters to exhibit transgressive behaviour, just consider how dull the zombie (a close cousin to the Mummy) was in film - just shuffling around, looking vaguely menacing as they quietly decayed - until the late sixties and Night of the Living Dead, when they became cannibals.  Since then, they've slowly but surely established themselves as 'king monster' in the movies, (despite the fact that, flesh eating aside, they are still pretty boring, lacking any personality or motivation).



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