On scary movies

I am currently watching “The Frankenstein meets the Wolf Man.” (1943) One of the multiple, cheap, and tawdry sequels that are so common in the film industry. The studios made all of those sequels, cheap and tawdry, because there was so much money to be made. No matter how bad the films were, they still made tons of money. They made/make money because people loved to be scared, to experience the vicarious thrill of fear that they do not have in their own lives. All scary films are about fear, and yet modern society is quickly becoming scary enough all by itself. Perhaps scary movies are more about the fears we harbor in our sub-conscience than about the ones we face daily on the freeways, at work, or at school. Most of these “monster” movies are based on the beauty and the beast dialectic, and this movie is no different. The beauty here is IIona Massey, a stunning blond actress from Budapest, and she plays opposite both the monster and the wolf man. The voice of reason and modern science is played by Dr. Mannering, the stand-in for the dead Dr. Frankenstein. The problem with making loads of sequels is that in each movie most of the characters are killed, maimed, or burned–often dismembered or frozen, and so you often need an entirely new cast for each film. Characters don’t carry over from movie to movie unless they can’t die or are already undead. The absurdity of life presented by the irrational story lines of most monster movies is a metaphor for the more abstract absurdity that makes up our everyday lives. The frightening part of the Frankenstein movies is the irrational, murderous nature of the crowd, the angry town’s people who want to lynch anything that moves, shouting, screaming, and whining about everything. The truly frightening part of these films occurs when you can’t see a difference between how the crowd acts in the film and how crowds act in real life. Real life, however, is often much more tragic, much more arbitrary than anything that Hollywood could ever dream up. The survivors of riots, earthquakes, and hurricanes can testify to the terrifying reality of the destructive nature of life on earth. Maybe we go to the movies to watch horror pictures and monster movies because, when the film is over, we know we can just get up and walk out.