Every October, through the cultural tradition known as Halloween, we celebrate monsters. Their current ubiquity in films, tv, and literature only hints at the long relationship between humans and these mythological forms. Monsters run rampant through folklore, religion, and even the natural historical record.
The popularity of the monsters of cinema can be measured by their subsequent integration into the larger culture. As Connie Zweig and Jeremiah Abrams point out in the introduction to their anthology of essays, Meeting the Shadow: The Hidden Power of the Dark Side of Human Nature, the theme of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde has become so pervasively popular that we may summon it in our mind when someone says to us, “I have not been myself lately”.
What is a monster? They, like us, come in a variety of forms, sizes, and temperaments. Collectively, they display a vast array of shortcomings and talents. The xenomorph Alien queen, Hannibal Lecter, King Kong, George Romero’s zombie hordes, and the sentient, homicidal ‘Chucky’ doll in Child’s Play appear to have little in common, beyond their capacity to fascinate and frighten us. An effective monster usually incorporates a mixture of the familiar and the uncanny; so that we relate to it and yet are repelled by it.
What wisdom can be found in monster movies? Since these creatures spring from the human imagination, they are a continuum of us, they expand upon the the deviance found in mind and nature. In Holy and the Horror: Wisdom-Teachings of the Monster Tale, Kirk Schneider points out that any common physical sensation or human emotion can become monstrous in the extreme: unceasing hunger, unlimited vision, boundless adoration, obsessive quests, and uncontrollable rage – all have given birth to monster characters.
By exploring monsters through the realms of human experience, we see beyond the threats they pose, to the knowledge they can impart. Classic and contemporary monster movies can help us to uncover and challenge our own monstrous inner shadows: those obsessions, compulsions, insecurities, unnamed desires, unwanted emotions, and painful memories buried deep in the darkness. In addition to the classic psychoanalytic interpretations, many monster stories speak to existential questions about life purpose, survival, and generativity.
"Creature Comforts & Sublime Mysteries", is an invitation to go beyond the film viewing experience... this is a celebration! An opportunity to actively engage with these monster movies through interaction, writing, art making, movement and role playing. Anyone interested in monster movies, creative expression, or the human shadow is encouraged to attend.
To RSVP, be kept informed of upcoming events, or to ask questions, please fill out the form on the Contact page.
In addition to an event series, this site will soon host a blog with essays, as well as book, movie and app reviews that further explore the wisdom of movie monster characters.