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It's the booze talkin', Why are there so few sympathetic movie monsters?

05.31.2016by: JimmyO

Recently I happened upon a film I hadn’t sat down with in years. It was David Lynch's black and white masterpiece THE ELEPHANT MAN. While it may not be a horror film, it certainly has a bit of horror thanks to the way people treated the deformed John Merrick (John Hurt). Watching this incredible feature, I began to wonder why horror films generally treat their monsters as, well… monsters. Rarely do we see a sympathetic - or dare I say heroic - character who is not so pretty on the outside. And no I’m not talking about Jason Voorhees momma’s boy treatment in FREDDY VS. JASON. Perhaps something more along the lines of Frankenstein’s Monster in both FRANKENSTEIN and THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN. While his looks were certainly scary at the time, he wasn’t truly the beast in both of these classic tales.

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Now before we get into some examples of movie monsters, I think an interesting place to look for inspiration happens to be superhero flicks. Take GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY for starters. Two of the heroes happen to be a walking and talking raccoon and his pal, a giant tree that says his own name "Groot" continuously. In THE AVENGERS you have a massive green monster known as The Hulk. With the X-MEN, you’ll find a number of strange people with unique powers - mutants - that sometimes have physical deformities. And of course, they are oftentimes the good guys. So here’s the thing, if men and women with freakish powers and visages can help save the world in this type of film, why do we see so few of them as the ones to root for in horror?

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One of my favorite flicks of this nature is an underrated gem from Clive Barker, NIGHTBREED (1990). In it, we discover that there are a mass of mutated horrors that are actually hiding out from the cruelty of the human race. And as the film progresses, we learn that they have every reason to fear a few specific ones. Craig Sheffer may be the film’s main protagonist, but the many colorful characters he encounters in a mythical place called Midian are heroes in the making. I love this film for many reasons. Yes, the strange and haunting denizens that Sheffer discovers are sometimes terrifying, but it is only because of their appearance. The viewer essentially finds more humanity in these misunderstood beings than they do in the human characters.

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And while zombies tend to be pretty terrible for the human race, George Romero has always found ways to make humans pretty darn evil as well. You had selfish characters fighting off the undead in both NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and DAWN OF THE DEAD, but in the third feature, you also had one zombie who you could seriously care about. In the 1985 sequel, Bub (Sherman Howard) was one such flesh eater who still expressed levels of humanity. So much so that he was being tested and trained in hopes to discover what was once a regular man. And let’s face it, you couldn’t wait to see this poor dude get his revenge on some of the more monstrous characters - and they weren’t zombies at all. I liked Bub, and alongside Sarah (Lori Cardille), he was the one I was rooting for the entire time.

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There are certainly a good number of beasts in form only. You have the fantastic LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (2008) - as well as it’s remake LET ME IN (2010) - that featured a love story involving a young and deadly vampire. And hey, while more wacky than actually shocking, Toxie from THE TOXIC AVENGER series is one messed up dude that takes down the evil that men do. And what about Brundlefly in the David Cronenberg classic remake of THE FLY - as well as the original which starred Vincent Price? This human/fly nightmare may suffer from a bit of the mad scientist nuttiness, but he is still the one that garners the sympathetic vote. And speaking of another classic… Who are the real villains in KING KONG? You don't just take this astounding work of nature and put it on display. Well, unless you are humans hoping to make a buck off the gigantic ape. And speaking of monsters, how many times has GODZILLA saved the world from even deadlier enemies?

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Maybe it’s the booze talkin’, but why are there so few sympathetic monsters in horror? We have a ton of unique and bizarre superheroes saving the earth, so why not a few more characters who aren’t quite what they seem on the outside? Sometimes the most profound statement is to show the human side of a something deformed or unearthly. Perhaps after the world met Jason Voorhies, Michael Myers and Freddy Krueger, it was more fun to be frightented by scary things. However, it’s nice to see that monsters that aren’t necessarily beautiful to look at can be kind-hearted and good on the inside. I’d love to see a return to that and find that my heart goes out to the beast once again.

dawn of the dead day of the dead frankenstein Freddy Vs Jason george romero godzilla guardians of the galaxy it's the booze talk in king kong let me in let the right one in Night of the Living Dead nightbreed the avengers the bride of frankenstein the elephant man the toxic avenger x-men

Extra Tidbit: What are some of your favorite sympathetic movie monsters?
Source: AITH

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