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 through technology and mathematics, and even the constraints of gravity cannot hold 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. His fight against darkness 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 responsible for the sounds that 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 always 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 night, 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. 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 would have a degree in psychology rather than English literature. It’s because I have always been fascinated with monsters. They spawn from 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 black mirror, reflecting the darkness of our own soul.
Categories: A to Z Blog Challenge