When it comes to the horror genre, rules are made to be broken. This is how you can create a monster that will resonate with the audience.
From Kathryn Bigelow to James Cameron, many of the greatest active directors began their careers as directors of horror films. Basics such as building tension and being creative with sound prove themselves in this genre.
Few directors have been as productive and creative as Alex Garland and his 2018 masterpiece destruction sometimes left us breathless. Its iconic monster, the mutated bear, is the subject of my video essay below.
Check it out and then get additional insights into this movie monster.
Using sound to scare an audience is crucial in creating the scariest movie monster. Garland’s setting is a runaway mutating environment, and the mutated bear has creepy signs that it is not only killing its victims, but mutating with them. The bear’s cry mutates with the cry of its last victim, forever lifting the fear of death. We can see details of these mutations in the set design as well as in the script. For example everyone destruction‘s characters strive to change or transcend themselves.
“Monsters are real and ghosts are real too,” Stephen King once said. “They live in us and sometimes they win.”
The Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jeung theorized that horror films get particularly strong when the monsters suggest our own darkness. That is, they become metaphors for what he called the shadow archetype. This is in direct contrast to what he called the persona archetype, or the parts of us that we share with the world.
Visual Effects Supervisors Andrew Whitehurst and Garland wanted the audience to empathize with the creature. By creating a monster that engenders empathy, film directors can transcend the film and get audiences to grapple with fears that run deep within them.
The destruction Monster asks us to grapple with the idea of our impending death.
We are unique among the world’s creatures in knowing that death is coming for us. By forever interrupting the scream of its victim, the bear takes the moment of our greatest fear (the unique knowledge that will die) and overrides that fear long enough for us to acknowledge it.
The horror genre can teach an audience its deeper cultural stories – the modern story of death is terrifying. Then filmmaking can become a powerful force in culture. When it reveals the bigger stories to us, we tell ourselves about life and death.
Do you have any horror monsters? Let us know what you like about them in the comments below.