Monday, April 28, 2014

Creatures in Horror: The Undead

     The undead. A large category of creatures that can be covered in three broad scopes, seeing as the exact definition is a creature that is animate while no longer being alive. You first have the unintelligent undead, the intelligent undead and the unseen undead. With these three categories, you can cover any monster in a horror movie if they ever cease life functions and rise to cause them some horror.

     The first category is perhaps the broadest when compared to populace within movies. The unintelligent undead are, quite simply put, most known as Zombies. The hungering dead. These masses of flesh-devouring monsters are the burnt out shells of former humans that feast on those with a beating heart. Disease ridden, rotting, mindless... these creatures are the stuff of absolute horror due to their mockery of life. If you watch television, you've no doubt seen The Walking Dead, where the hordes of dead are now considered more of a force of nature that the human drama must unfold around. They are holed up in a prison-turned-colony, where they have to have a half dozen adults tend to a fence where waves of dead crash onto the chain link relentlessly. These adults need to use long piercing objects to pierce the brains of the dead piling up on the front lines, releasing pressure on the chain link fence so that they can continue to live their peaceful little lives. The remake of Dawn of the Dead showed the dead as fast cannibals that spread through bite wounds; these dead are rapid disease that ripples through the population in as aggressive a manner as possible, leaving pockets of survivors to try and find a safe place to dwell. In the parody of all zombie movies, Shaun of the Dead, we have truly mindless dead that will stand still until prompted by outside stimulus, bringing them out of their comatose state to attack you. These mockeries of life are all mindless driver ants that swarm over the living until there is nothing left but the dead.
     Speaking of mockery of life, you have the intelligent undead, namely Vampires. There are a few unique subspecies of undead that are seen in movies or novels that are intelligent enough to form squads or military groups, but for the most part the intelligent undead is mostly filled with the Vampires of modern cinema and story. In 30 Days of Night, you have highly aggressive, very bestial and barbaric creatures that lay systematic siege to an Alaskan town. They move through the town, slaughtering those that stay during the month long period of night time. When they run out of people that have been easy to find, they take a few survivors and have them walk through town, patrolling around them as they call out for help, hoping to draw out more humans to eat. In Anne Rice's universe, the Vampires have magical abilities based on their own dark gifts; they live eternally and host great romances while feeling apathetic towards the rest of the world due to their own lethargic movements. In Let the Right One In you have a Vampire who is a little girl, and has been one for nearly a century. She loves to solve puzzles and ensnare young boys into becoming her personal work horses to bring her fresh blood on a nightly basis, lest she go hunting on her own. The Vampires in almost all fiction are crafty, manipulative and cruel; they feed on the living like parasites, never giving anything in exchange for the blood they take in.
     Bringing it all in one full circle, the final category is nothing but a parasite: the unseen undead. Ghosts and other specters are the ones that fill in this category. The movies tend to make these ones more terrifying than the other two as they can do more with these creatures. From Paranormal Activity to The Unborn you have a force of evil that can hardly be challenged. Possession (as I've spoken about before) is a common trope you see in these narratives, as well as the whole mythical beings version of movies. The Mothman Prophecies is a narrative where the entity is a timeless, spaceless intelligence that can interact with our world. Is it undead? Who knows! But it does bring up the second attribute the unseen intelligence possess: knowledge that is beyond our scope of knowing. In The Haunting in Connecticut there is a ghost that is guarding a horde of restless, destructive spirits, preventing them from crossing the line and hurting the humans that have moved into their tomb. In the Unseen you have ghosts at a farm house where nobody can see them, even as they try and warn the current family that their killer is too close for comfort.
     All of these undead are hard to conceive of and even harder to battle. Some you have to just ride out like a storm, others you have to stay ahead of the game. Then there are some that you just can't best, and have to do what you can to keep them at bay while you figure out what they want. Either way, you tend to be in for an interesting time.
     Sweet Dreams... 

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