There has long been a place in cinemas for a good old monster flick. People will flock in droves to see what twisted creations imagined by man can be brought to life via practical or digital effects, as well as to behold the carnage they leave in their wake. Predator, Alien, Godzilla, IT, more zombie films than you can count… We can’t help but be tantalised by tales of the other. That which is not human. That which goes beyond the mundane.
After all, what better to inspire fear and awe than something we cannot truly hope to understand? A killing machine that goes beyond the physical limitations of humanity, something that facing alone would lead to our doom? Fight a man and you may survive – maybe you prevail, maybe you escape, maybe you hold them at bay on the other side of a door for long enough for help to arrive. With these creatures, all those possible options that bring us comfort when we imagine ourselves against these foes… Disintegrate.
If you run, they will pursue faster. If you hide, they will sniff you out, then snuff you out. If you attempt to hold them back, you will be overpowered, and if you try to kill them? There willy be a closed casket at your funeral, that is if any body is recovered at all. All these courses of action we can execute in the case of a human aggressor, these comforting escape plans… They are folly in the face of such a threat. There is no comfort, no hope, just the inevitability of our demise.
In the majority of such films, I have noticed one pervasive theme. For all the destruction and death caused by the often titular being, so often there is another antagonist, whose evil is of a magnitude that eclipses these beings. Sure, plenty of characters will die from the monster, establishing it as a legitimate threat to the heroes of the story, but the conflict is rarely ever two-sided. Another force will be in play, either pulling the strings behind the events of the film or posing the greatest risk to the life of the protagonist.
You see, usually the monster is blameless. Morality simply doesn’t come into it – maybe they kill to eat, maybe they kill to reproduce, maybe they kill out of fear, but they almost never kill out of hate, greed or ambition. That falls… To man. The man who betrays others in hopes of survival, the man who seeks to weaponize this monster, the man who wants to capture it… And who will kill to achieve these ends, or cares not if they cause others to die through at the hand – or claw – of their fascination.
Even in the fantasy world of cinema, there is no monster we can conceive of that is greater than ourselves, no more fitting foil for us to detest, no evil that so offends our moral sensibilities. I know I can stare down any beast and prevail, for I have slain monsters far greater. Kaine, you are no exception.