Amoeblog

Even Aliens Do It: Monsters (2010)

Posted by Charles Reece, November 7, 2010 11:45pm | Post a Comment
war of the worlds book cover gorey

Most alien invasion movies deal with the central idea in H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds, a radical change in perspective. His Martians look upon us as we might look at microbes through a microscope. Humans are made to face the question of what our cumulative history (moral, social, etc.) amounts to in the presence of a superior, celestial other. Wells suggests there's hope for us, that we're not so insignificant, by having the Martians taken down by bacteria, which were no more significant to us than we were to the invaders. As it turned out, we should've had more respect for bacteria.


An optimistic response to our diminished ontological status would be Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek universe, where Earthlings get over their petty (in the cosmological sense) differences to work together in establishing our species' significance in an ever expanding world. The success of Earthlings in the Federation is because liberal humanism is taken to be an absolute, superior to all the alien moral alternatives found in the universe (Vulcans might be our intellectual superiors, but they don't possess our heart and good old common sense). The wish fulfilled here is that humans overcome all our cultural, socially constructed differences to prove the importance of what unites us, presumedly biology and whatever inalienable rights obtain therefrom (again, liberal humanism).


The more pessimistic spin is seen in Robert Wise's The Day the Earth Stood Still, which involves a representative, Klaatu, from a council of master races (not unlike the Federation) coming to Earth with a warning: do what you want to each other, but should you try any of that human-all-too-human bullshit with us as you travel into space, we have the technology to annihilate you. If we're to be united, it'll be through negation, all of us being fundamentally different from the other, causing us to cuddle together in fear. A similar togetherness led Earth to attack the bug planet in Paul Verhoeven's Starship Troopers, the bugs not possessing the technological power of Klaatu.

district 9 poster

Even more cynical is Neill Blompkamp's District 9 that suggests if there is a unifying human instinct, it's bigotry. The alien arrival doesn't fundamentally alter class and racial divisions, but instead proves shit rolls down hill. The aliens are restricted to the poorest area where they're subjected to discrimination from the most discriminated of humans. Although biological alteration of the protagonist results in his empathizing with the alien plight, it's not biology per se that's the basis for moral insight (as it is in Star Trek), but rather being socially reconstituted as other in the eyes of his (formerly) fellow humans, particularly those from his bourgeois background.

monsters poster

Gareth Edwards' Monsters applies a similar socio-historical determination to extraterrestrial reception as District 9, where the invaders aren't seen as transcendent beings that defy our categories, but are instead reduced to extant concepts of class, nation-state boundaries and otherness. The octopoid aliens (a cross between those in The War of the Worlds and Watchmen) are quarantined in Mexico along with the majority of Mexicans. Fulfilling the Minuteman Project, there's a Great Wall now separating Central from North America. Regardless of the terror and destruction being inflicted on the resident population by the giant octopuses, the only immigrants allowed into the States are the wealthy. An interesting enough premise, but nothing much is made of it except as backstory for yet another bourgeois coupling.

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Evolution of the undead - zombie movies

Posted by Eric Brightwell, October 16, 2009 01:42pm | Post a Comment
ZombiesAhead
As vampires are increasingly depicted as little more than be-fanged, neutered teenage emos; the popularity of zombies has risen to the point, according to some sources, that surpasses that of the traditional king of the undead. Zombies are certainly more popular than most of their undead peers, including re-animated skeletonsghosts, mummies or the Crow.

General Mills' Cereal Monsters Yummy Mummy and Fruit Brute
Although zombies rule right now, their reign may prove short. After all, no individual zombie has risen to the level of familiarity of a Dracula, Frankenstein's monster or Mac Tonight. What zombies possess in ability to strike fear into the hearts of living, they lack in the personality department. Their mythology is simple, borrowing from ghouls, vampires and mummies whilst adding few touches of their own. That may be why zombies still don’t have their own musical subculture like vampires do with Goth -- just a handful of musically dissimilar bands like The Zombies, White Zombie, and Fela Kuti and The Cranberries' songs, "Zombie.” Zombies can't be said to have truly arrived in the pantheon of monsters until one appears on General Mills' line of monster-themed cereal.
REAL ZOMBIES
In real life, zombies are entranced or betwitched servants or thralls of a Vodou/Voodoo/Vodun bokor... or, sorcerer. They can be living or dead. In movies, however, zombies have gradually taken on a variety of aspects borrowed from other undead, mainly the aforementioned vampires and ghouls.
A NOTE ABOUT GHOULS
Ghouls were originally from Arabia and are an evil sort of desert-dwelling, shapeshifting Djinn that eat children and the dead, afterward taking on the meal’s appearance, thus proving the truth behind the old adage, “You are what you eat.” In films, there had been relatively few attempts to depict ghouls. The British film The Ghoul (1933) concerned an undead Egyptologist’s (played by Boris Karloff) attempt to attain immortality and to kill his former servant. It had more in common with the previous year's Boris Karloff vehicle, The Mummy. Other ghoul movies, like The Mad Ghoul (1943), Nobody’s Ghoul (1962), Boy Meets Ghoul (1965), The Ghoul (1975), Ghoul School (1990), Ghoul Panic (2000) and The Ghouls (2003) are unlikely to ring many bells.