This movie gave me hope. Monsters, a simple alien invasion story, gave me hope.
I've been worried about horror. It's not just the zombies, or the publishing houses that are built on zombie fiction, that worry me. It's the fiction, the stories. Horror, film or text, is now horror first and story second. Writers approach horror first with the scare, blood, rape, or monsters, before they even think of a story. But horror is nothing without real people, real surroundings, real language. Good horror is a good story first. Some of Stephen King's best-known works aren't horror; he's a great storyteller who happens to like scaring people.
Monsters is about two people, a man and woman, travelling through Mexico trying to get home to the US. You can almost taste and smell the tortillas a young Mexican mother makes for them; you notice the dirt and grit on the government signs warning of restricted areas. You can feel the tension between the two leads as they try and fail to always show themselves at their best.
They just happen to be travelling through a land colonized by 300-foot tentacled aliens who are dead ringers for Lovecraft's Cthulhu.
But it works. The monsters are on CNN, and in the US and Mexico, life goes on. Judging by the signage on the roads leading to America, we can see there is another government agency created to deal with the threat, and that agency has its own logo, and each of its initiatives has its own logo as well. On the Mexican side of the border, there are religious shrines built in honour of the victims (think of pictures of children in their Confirmation clothes). There are protest signs against the collateral damage the anti-alien bombing causes. In the background of almost every shot there is a gutted building, destroyed either by bombs or aliens; the movie is never clear in that respect.
The movie makes wonderful educational point for writers and directors: any disaster that does not utterly destroy our civilization will instead give us signs, walls, protocols, curfews, a new vocabulary to explain what we see every day, and a new economy to deal with all those people who need things, or need to get somewhere fast. But we will still drink, eat, care for our children and each other, and get on with life. Describe those details and you tell a story the audience wants to hear. Describe those people, and you won't need the monsters all that much. We'll see them through the eyes of those characters you worked so hard to flesh out. That's how horror works.
Oh, and if you want to add buckets of gore after you've successfully created your character and background, that's okay too. Just thought I'd add that. I'm not anti-gore, I'm anti-suckage.
I've been writing stories for years. I think I'm a good writer and I'm willing to bet you'll feel the same way. So here they are. Enjoy them, comment on them, tell your friends about'em, reblog them, retweet them, reread them. I have four stories in my archive so far:
"One day on the Mountain", a story of Lycanthropy, a father, and a son.
"The Boy", a story of a very ambitious and sociopathic fifth grade boy.
"The Easy Girl, A story of infidelity and unpaid sexual debts. This story is very dark.
"Brick The Mighty", a story of an aging superhero.
Although this is primarily a blog of horror, I also write about things that are important to me. I have more stories tucked away; they just need editing. There's even a few novels. There will be more to come.
PS. Feel free to leave a comment. I love comments.