Zombies are so yesterday: Six candidates for America's next top monster
Sooner or later, we will get tired of this.
Shaun of the Dead
When it comes to America's favorite monster, zombies have been on top for a while now. That's been great for dedicated zombiephiles like me, but even the most hardcore fans of the undead know it can't last forever. Sooner or later, some other creature will emerge to take the place of zombies as the next big, scary thing. With this in mind, it seems like a good time to look at the on-deck circle and see which creepy-crawly murdery thing will emerge to terrify us as America's next top monster.
Dracula: Prince of Darkness
The case for: Vampires are a classic monster. Not only that, they were running neck and neck with zombies there for a while, with some even proclaiming them the victor (prematurely). They're sexy, they're genuinely scary when done right and they have a rich, deep history to draw from.
The case against: They're fucking tired. Like I said, it wasn't that long ago that the bloodsucking fiends were everywhere you looked, and people clearly got tired of them. It may have had something to do with the fact they were reduced to sparkly, abusive emo boyfriends in their most popular recent incarnation. It's going to take a little while to wash the taste of that out of our collective mouth before anyone can take them seriously again.
Verdict: Sorry, suckers, you need to bury your coffins deep and wait for more favorable conditions before you can run the scary show again.
The case for: They're big! They can level a city just by taking an after-dinner stroll! Bryan Cranston is going to be in a movie about one very, very soon! These Japanese-inspired giant monsters are also super-flexible, coming in reptilian, insectile and alien flavors (to name just a few) -- and there's not much scarier than a beast the size of a skyscraper wreaking havoc in your hometown.
The case against: There's not a lot of momentum on the kaiju side. There was Cloverfield a few years ago, and Pacific Rim last year and the aforementioned Godzilla, but that's about it. These things tend to build over time, and the lead-up just isn't there. Plus, a lot of people will just never be able to take kaiju seriously, thanks to memories of the rubber-suited silliness of the cheap, exported Japanese monster movies.
Verdict: There's an outside chance, if the Cranston Godzilla film is a huge mega hit. Even if that does happen, this is still the darkest of dark horses.
The case for: They're real, and they're terrifying. I know people who refused to go into swimming pools after seeing Jaws. Plus, those sharks are probably pissed off about all the shark fin soup business, and ready to take revenge.
The case against: Okay, I admit, this is my own personal hobby horse. I love sharksploitation films almost as much as I love zombies, and I would love to see a nation united in fearing the greatest predator of all. Apart from the odd Sharknado or global warming resulting in a Waterworld scenario, they're pretty easy to avoid.
Verdict: Sadly, no chance at all. But I can dream.
Continue for more candidates for top monster
3) Mother Nature
The case for: Well, we are fucking up mother nature pretty good these days, so it's not out of the question to think it might fight back. Killer bees, birdemics, raccoons with chainsaws... the possibilities are endless.
The case against: Apart from a spate of killer animal movies in the '70s, there's less than zero momentum for this. Plus, those endless possibilities work against the chances of Mother Nature taking the pole position, because we want a unified, easily identifiable thing to hate and fear.
Verdict: Unless a bunch of real-world animal attacks happen in a short period of time, it's not going to happen. If the bears do start fighting back when we finally destroy their last habitat, then the odds increase to something like fifty-fifty.
The case for: Math tells us aliens are out there, somewhere, and that's kind of scary. Considering how hostile much of the life on our planet it, there's a good chance that aliens will come to eat us, not make peace and give us even better smartphones. Plus, much like vampires, the alien menace has a long and storied history in every form of fiction, so there's plenty to draw from and build on.
The case against: Aliens don't have the same kind of curb appeal as most of the traditional monsters. Plus, for every Hollywood movie threatening us with alien destruction, there are two that present them as cute, cuddly friends who just want to eat our Reese's Pieces and catch the next ride home. With that kind of mixed messaging, it's going to be a hard slog.
Verdict: There's a decent chance, if they can manage to put together a string of, say, three alien invasion movies that don't suck. It's been a while since we had even one, though, so don't hold your breath.
The case for: Well, robots are taking our jobs, including jobs like killing people. If the phrase "autonomous battlefield drone" doesn't chill your blood with visions of hackers, Skynet scenarios or just good, old-fashioned buggy software fucking up in the worst way possible, you haven't been reading the news lately. Or enough pulp sci-fi, for that matter.
The case against: This one may hit a little too close to home for some people to really enjoy. After all, as the likelihood that you will lose your job to a robot and then be killed by one of its silicon cousins later the same week approaches certainty, going to see movies where that happens suddenly becomes a lot less fun.
Verdict: This is the monster to back. Killer robots are just believable enough to tap into our fears of technology run amok, without seeming too real to be "fun scary" instead of "scary scary." (If you live in Pakistan, this does not apply.)
Find me on Twitter, where I tweet about geeky stuff and waste an inordinate amount of time: @casciato.
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