My Least Favorite Monster
Growing up, I was not the kind of kid who easily scared from "monsters." As I reached late adolescence and began to seek out scary movies for thrills, I remember being a bit unnerved by Freddie, Jason, Chuckie, et al., but they never really kept me up at night.
"Monsters" in this "boogey man" sense weren't the thing that scared me.
What did scare me were ALIENS. Not the kind with nesting jaws that Sigourney could bitch-slap with an exoskeleton, but these seemingly peaceful faces and unclear motivations:
|not Michael Jackson|
The book that most directly delivered this adrenal shock was "Communion." The book's author, Whitley Strieber, tells a harrowing tale of being in his remote upstate cabin (creepy) in bed on a dark night (scarier) when he heard strange noises ("that's not a bobcat") until he saw the face of a non-human (i.e. alien) in his window!
Aside: In a bit of quirk, Mr. Strieber refuses to call these entities "aliens" but rather prefers to denote that they are non-human and visitors. I suppose going to Streiber-con and calling the almond-eyed fellows aliens is like coming to my city of residence and calling it "'Frisco" or pronouncing that street in Austin something that is not like "Gwadaloop."
In case you don't know, "visitors" don't like hiking all the way out to our neck of the woods just to play peeping Tom to writers in cabins. Invariably they wanted to, as I recall it, communicate with Mr. Strieber and tell him about the vast world of the super-terran expanse: speak of its inhabitants, its threats (reptilian aliens), its opportunities (like Star Trek). As I recall (it's fuzzy after 22 years) there's some experimentation, some suspended animation, and some sexual manipulation (very frightening when you read this just past your decade birthday).
After reading this book I had several intense nights eyeing my window in suburban Houston. Despite the fact that it overlooked a sheer wall and was on the second story, I did not feel that spatial height or suburban sprawl were defenses against these visitors (although Win Butler of the Arcade Fire might disagree on that second point) and I had a few nervous nights pondering what I would do if I were trans-spatially peeped by these big-eyed voyeurs.
But in thinking of the Signal Watch's monster challenge, I'm intrigued by the fact that I didn't have a worst monster of the boogeyman variety. I think that's because my "monster" was nebulous in that he wasn't a proxy to a human ideal, system, or fear. Most monsters say something about the world in that they map to a world-view as a proxy. Dracula says "Beware the Hunnic bloodsman, he comes to seduce your proper (Victorian) ladies." As Lauren has reminded me often, the vampire is the polyglot, continental homme du charm, surely something to be feared. Frankenstein certainly stands in to our unnerved relationship to technology and "progress." In some way we recognize conventional "monsters" by the fact that they map to reasonable motivations that we ourselves recognize.
Communion is much more like a Lovecraft scenario: We're small, insignificant, and lucky something much larger doesn't come down an eat us. Heck, change "eat" to "drown" or "rip us apart by means of bear" and it's downright Biblical. I think this is what makes my "monster" so scary: it's a proxy to pure un-knowing, and that's very scary indeed. It doesn't map to a motivation we can readily grasp and if it were true there's nothing we could do about it.
If a vampire were on the loose, you could stake him; Frankenstein's monsters have a negative reaction to scalding oil, and even Justin Bieber will one day face the Damocles' sword of puberty. But what would we do about vastly more intelligent beings out there who can pop in as easily as a Ronco knife salesman? And what if they weren't, you know, groovy cats who wanted us to take up a vegan diet and join the commune of intelligent life?
This bifurcation was perfectly realized in the early seasons of "The X-Files." While the first season featured Boogeymen (The Jersey Devil, et al.) the addictive mythology arcs of the series focused on "others" with lack of intelligible animal motivation (e.g. black oil, the clones). Ultimately it was the questions of the realm of "pure unknowing" that carried the show through its 3rd and 4th years (and, uh, beyond, but I've blocked that out).
So, for these reasons, for being a portal to pure fear like Yog Sothoth himself, the Strieberian Grays are my least liked monster.
My Favorite Monster
As I said above, I'm not prone to being afraid of monsters. Consequently, it makes it hard to have a favorite monster. There's no evil scamp who can scare me like no other and I love (him/her) for that.
But I think I'm going to have to say it's Wolfman from "Monster Squad:" a movie I loved that I've heard tell is being re-made (more strip-mining of my childhood, hat tip Jamie Zawinski) and will, I'm sure, star Bieber and some Wil Smith-spawn. I like Wolfman not because he scared with impunity, but because of the impeccable comedic stylings that Carl Thibault expressed through him. Thibault made an "Ow my Balls!" moment work and make me laugh until I couldn't see straight.
Some members of the Corps will remember that I attended a screening of Monster Squad with JackBart this year. And, indeed, everything Steven says holds up.