Older horror movies, or Monster Movies, if you prefer, seemed to favor a sympathetic monster as the villain. The thing that eventually tied all the Universal Frankenstein pictures together was the Monster, not the creator. It did not matter if the actor in the makeup was not the same, it was the Frankenstein Monster that people came to see. The Gillman from The Creature From the Black Lagoon made a total of 3 films, all tied together by the Creature (Gillman) because audiences could identify with the monster. Film monsters are often either sympathetic, in the case of Chaney's Wolf Man or Karloff's Frankenstein Monster or fulfill some fantastic desire, such as vampires seem to have become since the Victorians made them sexy. In fact this very point is put forth in the film Nightbreed by the character Rachel, explaining to Lori that humans seek to destroy the Breed, but we really envy them as when we dream we dream of flying, shapeshifting, or living forever. Sympathetic monsters, Mr. Barker you did not invent them, but you certainly did a great job of making them simultaneously sympathetic and badass.
Nightbreed is, in fact, a good example of my first point concerning slasher films. As part of his grand point, Mr. Barker's villain in Nightbreed, aside from the prejudice of humanity, which is in no way subtly used, is the psychotic psychiatrist Decker.
|Seriously, how does he see? See how scary that shit is? It's like the mask sees 'for him'...|
There is nothing, absolutely nothing, zilch, zip, nada, 0.00%, S.F.A. sympathetic about Dr. Phillip Decker. He kills, he blames others, he is driven by sick needs we are not supposed to admire, understand or accept.
That's great. Truly.
The slasher genre features psycho killers, which are by their very natures not sympathetic. By employing such monsters we are faced with truly terrifying beings. Once, perhaps, that would have been the role of demons or things from beyond space that man was not meant to know, but since the late 1970s it has been the slasher-killer who fulfills that role. What makes them so scary?
They have no conscience, no feelings of concern or remorse and a moral compass that, if not missing, is not capable of pointing north. We may be able to fathom, to some degree or another, the motivations of 'normal' or 'classic' monsters, but the motivations of the sociopathic madman are (or should be) a mystery to us. Dracula seeks blood to prolong his life, the Wolf Man is driven to kill by his bestial nature, the Mummy and the Gillman seek love, but what does the slasher seek? To kill, pure and simple. Some screenwriters and directors have tried to provide plausible motivations for this lust for killing, such as revenge, unrequited love, or mental handicap (not the most popular of reasons due to its decidedly non-p.c. nature). Sometimes the explanation is just a simple, "He's crazy" and that's that. Whatever the reason, a good slasher villain is not a sympathetic monster who can win our hearts and make us feel for them. A good slasher villain inspires in us fear, or awe, or occasionally admiration for their talents (that is just sick), but never sympathy. I have seen portrayals of slashers that seem sympathetic, such as a film where the killer was wronged in the past and has come to reestablish order in the universe by punishing those who tormented him in the past, but those are not so much sympathetic monsters as they are justified escapist monsters. What differentiates the avenging slasher from the sympathetic monster is that the slasher does not apologize for what he is.
Ah, the key to the lock. Look at these two and note the difference: The one on the left does not apologize for his evil or monstrosity, the one on the right is tortured by it.
|I keep this picture in my wallet|
|I defy you to watch this film and not want to kill every one of these annoying gits|
I mean, umm...look, a singing crustacean!
|Unda da sea, unda da sea, I'm a distraction, so you don't notice, de Punk is kra-zee.|
|Just a few of the tortured women who made it all possible for the modern survivors to keep their hair and lipstick perfect while being chased by a psycho killer. Sisters, we will never forget you.|
Monsters sans sympathy...until next time, keep your pumpkins lit.