I write a lot about my affinity for horror comedies, especially in October. If you read between the lines on that, you could parse that what I’m really into is comedy, and I am willing to accept the horror to get to the comedy. That would be a fair read. However, there are horror movies that I do enjoy. While I’m not a fan of slasher films or gorefests, if I’m going to recommend true blue horror movies, I do have to say that I have often found myself enjoying monster movies.
The reason I can enjoy a monster movies serves as a mirror for my dislike of slasher films. I don’t like when insidious, violent people (or aliens or intelligent beings) are out there killing innocent (or largely innocent) people. So, like, the Predator may not be a person, but he knows what he’s doing when he’s killing people. That stuff bums me out. The thing about a lot of monsters, though, is that they don’t know better. They are essentially man vs. nature films, but only with a big, crazy monster involved.
A monster can do a lot of damage, and can certainly kill people. There are stakes, and they are often massive. A monster can destroy a whole town or city. On the other hand, often they don’t fully grasp what they are doing. This is true of a King Kong or a Godzilla. Honestly, and maybe you disagree with my reading, but I feel that’s true of Alien as well. The Xenomorphs are just violent killing machines, and they hunt like an animal does, but at least in the first movie I wouldn’t say they had human-style intelligence. Neither does the shark in Jaws or the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, though the latter isn’t a horror film.
Plus, monster design can be cool and creative. Part of the draw of Alien is the visceral look. You can’t have a machete-wielding maniac bursting out of John Hurt’s stomach. You can do jump stares and elaborate kills with monsters, but there is a distancing effect cause by the fact you are basically watching a creature running on instinct. That keeps it from being disturbing to me. I’m watching people trying to best nature, only it’s the most unnatural version of nature we have seen in many instances. That’s the power of the monster movie. If I want a scary flick around Halloween, I’m turning toward the monsters. Except The Thing. That monster is gross, and also possibly too smart.