Relic: Plants Make You Craaaaazzzyy!!!

The Relic by David Moscati

Relic seems like such a classic kind of story, it should be done more often. You get a touch of Indiana Jones, mixed with Theseus and the Minotaur, to equal Night at the Museum. With body parts. Sounds good to me! ( Oh and there are SPOILERS!)

I love stories having to do with mysterious cultures and their monsters/gods. Relic’s monster comes from a thought-to-be extinct tribe in the Amazon, a curse centered around an old idol discovered and shipped to the New York Museum of Natural History. The monster comes along with it, a beast that could be ape-like, lizard-like, or big cat-like (the book including the cover hints at something like a pissed-off gorilla with raptor claws, while the movie has this apey-lizardy thing that looks badass). It makes its home in the labyrinthine tunnels under the museum, stalking its prey. This giant scary ape-lizard hunts you, rips you apart and then noses around in your brain to eat this tiny little delicate part that is almost like a drug to it. It’s like a chocoholic with preternatural strength going nuts in a Godiva store and ripping everything apart just to get to the cherry cheesecake truffles, because they’re addicted to them. Only there’s not as much human carnage.

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The book never gives a great description of the monster itself, almost pulling a movie trick of keeping the beast in the shadows. Even when Margo finally confronts it in the end she doesn’t get a good look at it. I really enjoyed the way the monster looked in the movie (though the movie itself isn’t all the great). It looks truly horrifying, and can definitely rip you in half without batting an eye. The fact that there is almost human intelligence behind all that power and hunger, and you can see why everyone in the museum would be terrified. All of the science behind the monster’s creation lost me a little bit though. It has to do with these specific plants that grew in the area where the tribe was from, and the enzymes from the plant were like a virus that mutated the tissue, or something crazy like that. And that enzyme was similar to the hormone secreted by the hypothalamus that the monster needs to nosh on in order to survive. Basically, the plants mutate animal tissue. Or human tissue. In the book, none of the brilliant scientists ever figure that out, except for one guy that of course wants to use it (enter Book Two). I liked in the movie at least they figure out at the end that the monster used to actually be a person.

The setting itself is great too: a huge, old museum, built on top of an even older structure full of twisty tunnels is the perfect setting for a more modern monster story. It reminds me of the old monster story of the Minotaur, roaming around his maze, stalking his meals while they haphazardly wander around getting more lost by the minute. The monster is obviously not lost. It’s not until Pendergrast produces blueprints that the monster loses some of its power.

All in all I enjoyed Relic. While I am not rushing out to read Reliquary, I think the book stands on its own as a different take of the monster in the maze story, with an actually unique monster in the middle.

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The Thing: Proving I’m Still a Big Wuss

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It’s Halloween. Yay! I love Halloween. Pumpkins, ghoulies, little goblins coming to my door for candy (though I only got 4, bummer!). I got to dress up in some cute witchy couture for work. I love it. So of course what’s a better day to watch a scary movie like John Carpenter’s The Thing?

Any day. I hated watching this movie.

I didn’t hate the movie. Actually now that I have seen it, I will say that it is extremely effective at what it does, and it is very well done, especially for the time that it came out. But…I knew I would hate watching this. I knew that I would get scared. I didn’t expect to feel like I was going to get sick, but maybe that was my own damn fault for eating dinner during the first ten minutes. Before the bloody chunks started to fly.

While Ash in Alien may have complemented the alien for being the perfect organism, that android probably never ran into the Thing. The Thing is actually the perfect organism. It can assimilate you and become a perfect replica. It’s genius. You never know who its going to be, or what. It just can’t be something inanimate. It can sneak among your group, laugh to itself as you accuse each other of being monsters, then pick you off one by one. And if you don’t burn the entire thing…well let’s just say don’t let the body parts run away.

I’m getting nauseous just thinking about this.

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One image sticks out to me, and it’s a mirror of the image that made me cry when I saw the remake/prequel when it came out in 2011. In John Carpenter’s version it’s even more haunting, because it’s dead. We think. Maybe. But it’s this grotesque shape, too many arms, too many fingers, drenched in goo. The face is two faces, like cojoined twins joined at the cheek, sharing one tongue that snakes between them.

God that’s a horrible way to live. Can you imagine if you still had conscious thought while that was happening to you? Well I think that’s what’s implied when we see the same mashed-together faces in the new version. They’re moving and screaming and you can just tell that they’re in agony.

Wow. This is the hardest blog post I’ve ever had to write. I am usually not this big a weenie, and can handle an okay amount of gore. But, while I didn’t cry watching this (like I did with the other one), recalling my revulsion is just making my  stomach really hurt. And I’m regretting those Swedish Fish I snuck out of the Halloween bucket.

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I am a big wuss and I cannot lie.

 

So, okay, in short, excellent movie. Kurt Russell is epic as always. I wanted him to get all Jack Burton on the Thing’s ass. Wilford Brimley minus his mustache took me a minute. But he was also epic. The monster is gory, gross, sneaky, and kind of wins in a way at the end of the movie. But you don’t really know. Because its very ambiguous. I’d like to think Kurt Russell fried the bastard. That’s what I’m going to tell myself when I go to bed after taking some Tums and hugging my teddy bear.

Those of you in my Monsters class may remember when we were asked the question “what is the scariest monster to you?” The Thing is that for me. And it still is.

The Wolfman: Still Better Than the Movie

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You’ve heard it a million times before: the book is always better than the movie. I wasn’t quite sure if the same held true for a movie novelization book, based on the actual screenplay of the movie. In the case of The Wolfman, novelized by Jonathan Maberry, the old adage still holds true. And to make sure I could actually say that, after I read the book, I watched the movie.

Let me start with the book, and of course the monster, our dear old friend the Wolfman. The idea of the werewolf is one of the instantly-known monsters, right up there with vampires and witches. The story is set in the late 1800s, giving it that distinct Gothic feel that classic monster stories deserve, at least in my opinion. I felt that Maberry really tried to make the story feel older, and give it that decidedly Gothic air. The language he used for the most part felt right for the time period, but still simple enough and not too flowery for modern readers. There was only a phrase here or there that made me stop and think, “Hmm, that doesn’t sound like something he would say.”

Lawrence Talbot’s transformation into the monster was painful to read, and rightfully so. When the man’s bones break and reform, his limbs and mouth elongate, I was squirming in my seat trying not to picture it in my head or hear the sounds that must have made. And once the transformation was complete, there really isn’t a shred of human left. He turns into a giant wolfy monster man that is as comfortable on two legs as he is on four, that is made to slash and kill and feed and not give a damn who or what he’s slashing and killing. And I am glad for that. Werewolves should be that way, not just giant versions of what’s in the wild. I don’t always agree when the lycanthrope can still think semi-rationally. They are killing machines, working for a cruel mistress in the moon, and they really shouldn’t give a rat’s ass about anything except blood and food. Now I have to mention the movie here for a minute. I loved how they portrayed Lawrence’s transformations, especially when he’s in the asylum strapped in the chair. You hear those nasty popping sounds, see the stuff crawling under his skin, and the blood that comes out when his jaw reforms and his claws pop out. But once he’s fully transformed…I don’t know, I thought his face would be more terrifying. I guess this is another nod toward the original, but I didn’t think with all our moderness that in the end the Wolfman’s face would still kind of look like a guy in wolf makeup. And I thought Anthony Hopkins’ makeup was better, but maybe it was because he was grey and not black. I don’t know. I will stick with my own imagination on this one, because that is a much scarier version.

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In the end, I think the idea is there, and the story really pays homage to the classic, and captures all the scary elements that you think of when you think of werewolves. It’s dark and bleak in that classic Gothic way, and delightfully gory to boot. But don’t bother with the movie. Read the book, and let your own mental images of the Wolfman color your dreams.

P.S. Fun fact for those who have seen the movie: Talbot Hall was filmed at the same location they used for Pemberley in Pride and Prejudice. Maybe instead of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies it should have been Pride and Prejudice and Werewolves. Darcy as the Wolfman? Food for thought 🙂

Now picture this all busted and dark and gloomy.

Now picture this all busted and dark and gloomy.

ALIEN: So Iconic it needs all caps.

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I am about to probably give up a little bit of my geek cred when I say this, but I have to do it: this is my first ever time watching Alien. I always avoided it because I’m just not that into scary and gory, and what did I think of whenever I thought of Alien? Chest-bursting, acid-drippy, wet glistening grossness. So when I finally sat down to watch it, and had my blanket about an inch from my face just in case, I discovered that, although I still (delightfully) got scared, the goopy goreness wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought. Maybe I’ve been desensitized a little bit by this point in my life. There was still grossness, to be sure, but it was grossness I could handle. And I’m glad I could, so I could finally see this iconic flick and enjoy it for what it is: a classic Sci-Fi terror-fest in space.

Yay we made it, yay!

Yay we made it, yay!

The alien really is a perfect organism, as Ash the android scientist puts it. Its various life stages pull at so many different base fears, it’s genius really. First it starts as a creepy egg, that ominously flowers open to let the spider-looking face-hugger out to, naturally, latch onto your face, sticking its nasty alien juice tube down your throat. Then a pint-sized monstrosity bursts out of you, rending your chest into a soup of meaty death. The bugger gets big, bleeds acid, and kills you so quick you don’t even know. Or it strings you up in tons of alien goo and saves you for later. What the hell is there NOT to fear in all that? Even the form of the alien is something instantly recognizable yet foreign; because the alien is a Xenomorph, when it comes from a human host it has just enough qualities to suggest humanity, even though it also has enough alien features to be super scary (like that extra mouth/tongue thing, that’s probably the ickiest part to me).

"Come on man, I just want a hug!"

“Come on man, I just want a hug!”

It was nice to actually see the original inspiration behind so many good Sci-Fi horror stories, including the Dead Space games. Those games scared the crap out of me. I didn’t need my mom in the room like I did with Silent Hill back in the day, though it helped when my boyfriend was home. The monsters in there, called Necromorphs, mutated out of dead tissue into something monstrous and alien and very very nasty. The first one happens on a mining vessel in deep space. Sound familiar? Dead Space is the video game that the Alien franchise really deserved, and not embarrassments like Aliens: Colonial Marines. I’ll talk more about Dead Space when we watch The Thing in a couple weeks. These games are really the love child of Alien and The Thing.

That’s a scary thought, isn’t it?

"Okay okay I'll play your game!"

“Okay okay I’ll play your game!”

Anyway, I’m glad I finally saw Alien. It was a fun get-my-pants-scared-off kind of movie, that is still as poignant today as it must have been when it first came out in 1979. I was 1. My boyfriend was 4. Alien was the first movie he ever saw in the theaters. It really explains a lot.