I do not read much horror, I will be honest about that from the get go. The reason being is that I write it. I do not want what I write to be influenced by the work of other authors in this genre. I do, however, watch a lot of films and it’s from that perspective I’ll be looking at monsters and - more specifically - what really, really irritates me about the way they are depicted.
It seems more and more people, these days, are painting monsters to be literal beasts but this does not necessary make them scary. It makes them visually interesting at a glance, good for posters and book covers etc, but - other than that - there is no real depth. The beasts created are shallow and soon become uninteresting as the creator simply looks for new ways of having their creation kill the (usually) stupid victims. It gets boring very fast and the stories become similar; a strong sense of deja-vu when you’re watching them as you’re sure you have seen it before. Sure, going back to the seventies and eighties, it was a little easier to have such monsters and keep the audience on their toes. You had Leatherface, Pinhead, Freddy, Jason and (a different sort of monster) Michael to name but a few. These guys worked because they were the first of their kind - at least, the first to hit the mainstream and get a wide audience. I am sure there are some more monsters that were made before these guys but, in terms of slasher films, these were considered the big boys and - since then - all of the creations seem to be ripping them off either directly or indirectly. Like I said before it is stale.
So what do I consider to be a monster? To me a monster is your every day man (or woman) who has been damaged by a poor upbringing, some kind of trauma or even just start life off damaged for no reason whatsoever. I’m talking about the Hannibal-type characters, the Norman Bates… The kind of person you see walking down the street who seem perfectly normal at a glance with only their dark-side becoming evident when you find yourself as one of their victims. And that is what makes these people true monsters. The fact they are normal until they suddenly snap and - more importantly - the fact they could truly exist.
Take Frankenstein for a moment. When chatting with youngsters, they believed the monster of the story was Frankenstein’s creation but it wasn’t. The real monster was the man behind the creation. He defied all sense of morals and set about creating an abomination. Once he succeeded, he abandoned it in the wild for it to survive or (preferably to his own agenda) die. These people exist. Sure, not on such extreme levels (yet) but they are out there, they are running their tests and - scarier yet - they are usually hiding behind a government’s permission. A different kind of monster right there for you, a group of individuals who get to control a whole country and dictate what they can and cannot do… But that’s another topic and one I will not be going into.
So - in summary - the exciting monsters, the ones we should pay attention to, are the complex ones. The real people out there who torture and murder for whatever reason they feel they need to. They’re scary because we can’t understand them. They’re unnerving because they could be our neighbours and they’re frightening because you never know when they’re going to strike until it is too late. We do not know what makes them tick. We do not understand why they do what they do. These are the scary ‘monsters’ and I only wish more artists would tap into this lack of empathy in these individuals to create more monsters to scare us through the years. No more paranormal, no more over-the-top killers… Just subtle psychopathic tendencies hidden by a charm that lulls us into a false sense of security. Make us feel uncomfortable when we pass a stranger. Are they a monster? Are they going to come after me? Are they following me?
That is a monster.
For Matt Shaw’s own monsters be sure to check out ‘Happy Ever After’ and ‘Monster’ which was co-written with best-selling author Michael Bray. All titles available via Amazon.
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MATT SHAW is the published author of over 50 stories. Although known as being a horror author, he also enjoys spending time in other genres too - something he had always planned to do in order to have at least one book, in a wide collection, which would appeal to people from all walks of life. Shaw was first published in 2004 with his horror novel Happy Ever After - the first of his books to reach the number one slot on Amazon and the first of his books to use his trademark style of narrating the stories through the first person perspective. An extremely prolific writer, Matt Shaw is continually writing as well as keeping up to date with his readers via his (some might say) crazy Author Page on Facebook.
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