Well, during one of my 1990s film reviews a few days ago, I was reminded of how much fun the monster genre is. Seriously, as horror sub-genres go, it’s certainly one of my favourites.
So, I thought that I’d list a few of the many reasons why the monster genre is such a fun, interesting and distinctive part of the horror genre.
1) Non-scary horror: Simply put, monsters aren’t scary. Like zombies and vampires, they don’t actually exist in real life.
What this means is that when you watch a monster movie or read a monster-themed horror novel, then you get to see all of the techniques, features and tropes of the horror genre (eg: suspense, gore, melodrama etc..) but without any of the lingering fear that accompanies more “realistic” or more psychological horror stories.
I’ve written about non-scary horror before, but some of the reasons why this is such a fun type of horror include the fact that it makes the audience feel like they’re really “tough” (since they’re experiencing something in the horror genre, but aren’t terrified by it) and the fact that it can often turn into an absolutely brilliant type of horror-themed comedy. After all, if you’re seeing all of the tropes and features of the horror genre in a context that isn’t scary, then they can come across as hilariously melodramatic.
In addition to this, the monster genre is also a “safe” way to experience something in the horror genre. One of the problems with more “serious” horror is that it can often leave you feeling nervous and/or miserable for hours or days afterwards. The monster genre has none of that. Even if a monster story ends with the monster eating the main characters or wiping out civilisation, then it’s still funny rather than scary because of the unrealistic silliness of it all. So, it’s a way to enjoy the horror genre without any negative emotional side-effects.
2) Disaster without the disaster: Another cool thing about the monster genre is that it allows the audience to experience all of the thrilling elements of the disaster genre, without any of the real-world “it could happen” seriousness that accompanies things in this genre.
Although some things in the monster genre are supposed to be metaphors for real-world threats (eg: Godzilla was originally meant to be a metaphor for the atom bomb), this subtext often doesn’t appear in the monster genre.
Even so, the monster genre has a lot in common with the disaster genre. Whether it is an intrepid band of survivors trying to survive against all odds, or a group of experts trying to contain a disease-like group of creatures or the military/emergency services doing their job in a spectacular way, the monster and disaster genres are very similar. But, since the monster genre involves hilariously unrealistic giant creatures, all of these elements become joyously thrilling rather than dramatically serious.
In addition to this, monster stories often end with the monster being defeated or scared away. Given that the news is often filled with terrible events that we have no control over, seeing a story where some kind of calamity or catastrophe is defeated through ingenuity, courage and/or strength can be fairly satisfying on an emotional level.
3) No pretentiousness: Yet another awesome thing about the monster genre is that it knows that it is meant to be silly fun. It isn’t trying to win awards or impress pretentious critics, it exists purely to entertain. And it is so much better as a result!
Because it isn’t looking for formal mainstream recognition, the monster genre has a lot more room to be inventive, silly and fun. It’s like American horror comics during the 1940s-50s or computer games during the 1990s. This generally results in a much more light-hearted tone, an emphasis on fun and a lot more creativity.
The low filming budgets and/or lack of bestseller status mean that works in the monster genre have to find more creative ways to intrigue or entertain the audience. It also means that they can be a bit more fun or light-hearted, since their target audience consists of fans of the genre.
This lack of pretentiousness also extends to a lack of obsession about celebrity too, which is very refreshing when compared to mainstream culture. Things in the monster genre will often be by lesser-known authors (with a dedicated fan-base) or they’ll include unknown actors and/or actors who are less famous than they used to be. And, in a world that is obsessed with fame, this can be extremely refreshing.
Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂