Recently, I saw Chernobyl Diaries. For those who were looking for a review, let me reassure you that, outside of the interesting setting, the movie was pure garbage. However, the movie did get me thinking about the state of movie monsters in our society.
Chernobyl Diaries’ dark secret is that the city of Prypiat is inhabited by mutants/escaped patients? I question such a thought because the creatures are not explained as being anymore than just that, “creatures.” The very cliched ending of the movie gives the audience a moment to view the mutants, but the whole overall experience is lackluster. The mutants themselves are the same pale warped dead-eye growling shells of the humans they once were like always. As I left the movie, I couldn’t help but think of ways I could have ended the movie better, which there were plenty, but the one that was most interesting to me was the ending that arose in the form of a very simple question,”What if the monsters weren’t stupid?”
Movie monsters weren’t always stupid. Frankenstein’s monster, while not as smart as his literary version, was still a thinking living being which was what made his tragic story work so well. Fast forward many years to the era of 80’s slasher films, Jason Vorhees was terrifying because of his brute strength, yes, but the truly terrifying thing about the killer was his way of always being one step ahead of his victims. Fast forward to current film, and what do we have? Hordes. Our monsters travel in hordes of shuffling terror that only cause terror because they can’t be reasoned with, not because the hordes’ grudge is too strong to listen to reason, but because they can’t comprehend reason… Because they’re stupid.
To be honest, this monster wouldn’t bother me as much if it weren’t for the fact that movies that have tried to improve on the horde of stupid monsters cliche’ are changed to fall in line with what the studios/people want. Don’t believe me? I was hoping you didn’t. Please allow me to reintroduce you to I Am Legend, Will Smith 2007 action/horror film where he, as Robert Neville is the sole occupant of an infection riddled New York City.
As most of you know by now,
Robert isn’t as alone as we think. Yep, New York City is also occupied by the infected mutant remnants of humanity. The newly nocturnal beasts live in the buildings during day while Robert does his daily routine. The funny thing is Robert’s daily routine, him being the scientist that created the disease that caused the infection originally thinking it was the cure for cancer, occasionally consists of capturing mutants and experimenting on them. Well long story short, things get messy when Robert Neville steals one mutant too many and ends up on the receiving end of an all out mutant assault. Feeling the pressure, and with new human guests to protect, Robert hands his guests the “convenience cure” and pulls the only strategy a genius scientist, who over the course of a little less than three years, was capable of constructing a fortress filled with traps and exit strategies specifically to ensure his survival could think of.
And everyone, except Neville of course, lived content enough ever after.
But what if I told you that wasn’t the real story?
What if I told you the that originally the “savage mutant’s” Alpha male who you might remember like this:
was actually only acting as such because he was looking for his girlfriend who Robert captured at the beginning of the movie? Sounds crazy right? Turns out the original ending was less about explosions and more about humane revelations.
Apparently, this ending didn’t test well with audiences. Personally, I think the “test audience” in question was a group of execs who just said “Too smart. Scrap it.” but who knows. Maybe people don’t want their monsters to think. Truthfully, it’s an understandable want. One need not look further than the original ending of I Am Legend to see that when perceived monsters can plead their case, we as the “humans” are then forced to look at ourselves and ask why we’re so scared in the first place which, of course, is never good. One could read a lot into the mindset of an American society where our monsters of choice’s only identifiable traits are that there’s a lot and we can’t control them.