Monday, October 24, 2011

Creature Week - Mutants!

With Halloween a week away, I thought I would do something fun with this week. Like many of my theme weeks, I will be showcasing something new each day. The theme? Monsters! Haha, not a far stretch for anyone who knows my interests and my artwork. But instead of showcasing my work each day, I wanted to share something else. So to start, I thought I would do some fun little creature features.
Looking to liven up the Halloween season? Why not add some horror movies, books or comics to the mix! Each day I will feature a new kind of beastie, monstrosity, and creepy crawly with my favorite examples of their appearances in popular media.
Today: Mutants!

Mutants are a less often used horror trope these days. During the height of the cold war, as fear of nuclear war gained very real potential, horror movies expounded on the fear with mutated creatures born out of nuclear experimentation. The atomic age brought in new wonders, and horrible terrors.
The mutated monster made a brief return as the fear of science turned from the atomic to the genetic. Irradiated insects that terrorized cities in The Beginning of the End turned to bio-engineered bugs haunting the streets in Mimic.
Now that mutant is often used in more gimicky settings, as the comical monster and a parody of what it once was. It's heyday of the 50s long gone, I still think the mutant can have a relevant place in the horror monster lineup. Much of horror and scifi these days lacks the social commentary it originally had, but in all honesty what is wrong with just using them for fun. If done well, with tongue firmly in cheek, I think the mutant can easily make a return. Filled with homages and inside jokes, a modern mutant film could take any of the old school fiends (from giant reptiles to flesh-hungry sea creatures) and breath new life into them.

In recent years there has been some resurrgence of the rogue giant animal genre, but to be honest, most are rather poorly made and rushed to DVD. But there have been a few notable mutant creature flicks I could draw attention to if you're looking to add a little mutie fun to your Hallow's Eve festivities.

Pirahna 3D
Now don't get me wrong, this movie is terrible. But that is half the point. As a fan of the terribly lauded films that hollywood often churns out, I love movies that are intentionally bad. Pirahna 3D pulls no punches, it is fully aware that every frame of over the top gore, senseless nudity, and ridiculous dialogue was made in complete parody an tongue and cheek ludicrous-ness purely for the entertainment of viewers like me. Viewers who have grown up watching every bad creature feature to come before it.

To put it simply, this movie is so stupid you can't help but love it. It ranks up there with Squirm, which would also be listed here if the worms were mutated, but really they were just really pissed off. But these slugs are messed up! Instead of describing the film further I just give you this:

Perhaps one of the best mutant monster films I have ever seen. What starts as a dark giant monster film quickly becomes a rather disturbing commentary on South Korean society and the history of other countries' involvement with them. Whether you are a fan of horror or science fiction or neither, this is one of those films that takes an obvious genre trope and uses it to say a whole lot more. And it works. If something like this were attempted by hollywood it would have easily fallen on its ass early into the script stage.

My preferred medium, especially in horror, as it often escapes the cliched and gimicked effects of films. There are many great mutant creature books though, almost impossible to really choose from.

I am hardly reaching for the peaks of literary heights here, but the Deathland novels have always been a guilty pleasure of mine. They are incredibly formulaic and rather simply written which makes diving into three of four of them while on a trip great mindless fun. Each one contains the usual lineup of scenes: barren wastelands, disjointed descriptions of ruined cities, gun fights and kidnapping. But at some point in every book will come the appearance of a mutant of one kind or another. The human muties have great names like Suckers and Stickies, depending on their particular affliction. This is typical action-movie like fare, not deep thinking writing. The pacing is fast, the action is violent, and the mutants are humorously gross. If that doesn't sell you, I am convinced that these novels are the true inspiration for the Fallout games, that should get more people reading them!

On a completely different level is the novel Swarm by Frank Schatzing, an massive environmental thriller that doesn't so much contain mutant animals, but mutated actions. The behaviors of thousands of species of animals are being affected by a sudden shift in the world's ecological state. Unlike other novels I have enjoyed, like Clickers (mentioned a number of times before on TN), these creatures aren't propelled by some sinister force. It is simply life trying to survive, and we are in the way. Originally written in German, the translated version of this novel can be a bit to get through, but I found it wonderfully enjoyable and rather disturbing in its plausibility.

The Conqueror Worms
I have been a fan of Brian Keene's work for many years now, especially the novels he very subtly connects to the greater mythos of Lovecraft and other cosmic horror authors. And while I feel sorry for his recent trouble with publisher Leisure Press, if it weren't for their easy to find and inexpensive paperbacks, I would have never picked him up in the first place. The Conqueror Worms is unlike his other works, but is also one of his earliest and best works. It tells the haunting stories of those trapped in a world suddenly overwhelmed and consumed by giant mutant earthworms, and I mean giant! It sounds ridiculous. It is ridiculous! But Keene writes with such grit-filled terror that you can't help but get lost in the veracity of the horrific events.

No comments:

Post a Comment