The Sign of the Four

Melancholy Girl points out in a comment to my long tale of Silicates that she prefers the “Classic” movie monsters, Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, and the like. And who doesn’t? There’s a reason those guys are classics, why the books have never gone out of print, and why, every few years, someone mounts a new film version of their stories.

It’s because they’re Classics, with a capital C.

At any rate, or rather because of, I’ve been trying to collate movie monsters into four types. Why four? Because four is the number best used for grouping things. You have four seasons, four compass directions, four elements (earth, air, fire and water) and their attendant humours, four cells in a basic Mendell heredity table…in popular culture, you had four Beatles, four kids from South Park, the Fantastic Four, four quarters in a sporting event, four quarters in a dollar, four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and so on. I’m telling you, if you want any theory of yours to be taken seriously, you have to have four divisions.

Check this out, while you’re up. You could almost make a drinking game out of it. I’m not responsible if you do, though.

So anyway, monsters. Here are the four divisions I’m thinking of, based in part on “the ideal Platonic human form,” kind of like the Autons before they revealed their true selves.

1. Utterly unlike. Here we’d put the Silicates, Hill House from Robert Wise’s film, and I think the Alien from Alien. These are beings utterly unlike us, with whom we have nothing in common, who have motivations unknown to us, with whom we cannot reason. I’d also put George Pal’s Martians in here, though probably not H.G. Wells’.

2. Like, yet unlike. These would be the victims of Jack Finney’s Body Snatchers, or those possessed by demons. They look like us, and they are subject to the same physical and physiological laws as we, but their “reasoning centers” are non-human invaders who have motivations unlike those of human beings…though not entirely unlike. Their logic and reasoning can be understood, as they chose our bodies for this very reason–they are comfortable with our physiognamy and feel we are the method though which they will achieve their ends. Thus, we can stop them because we can understand what they’re after and can act accordingly against them. It is possible to reason with them–we can make ourselves understood, at least–but it is likely that reason won’t help. Since they went to the trouble of possessing us, it’s unlikely that a simple “Stop that!” will have much effect on them. Admittedly, this has never been tried.

3. Like, but degraded. Zombies, people who were once human but now are unthinking automatons. Other than the animating spark, there is nothing alien or foreign in them. While we share physiognamy and have the same vulnerabilities, we cannot reason with them. I already talked about them rather at length; I’d rather not go through that again.

4. Variations. This is a kind of catch-all category, and here is where I would put the Classic monsters. Each of them is like the ideal human being, but flawed in some fundamental way that can give us regular people the advantage in a contest with them. Dracula’s difficult to kill, but he can’t stay out afte dark, is repelled by crosses, etc. Frankenstein’s stronger than we are, but his appearance denies him the friendship he desires. The wolfman is cursed to kill those closest to him. The creature from the Black Lagoon is an object of curiousity (if not hostility) to humans. Robby the Robot, from Forbidden Planet, might be seen as superior to man in many ways, but he is forbidden to act against them except defensively. Even Superman, far superior to mankind, is held in thrall to his higher moral code. Also, he’s got some strange vulnerabilities (kryptonite, which doesn’t harm humans at all).

I’m probably going to work categories two and four into longer essays, just because I can and there’s nobody to stop me. Blogging: one easy step on the path to being a supervillain! Nya ha ha ha ha. All I need now are some purple tights, and some henchmen.

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