The James Clayton Column: Lovable monsters and the suffering of Adrien Brody

James quakes at the sight of the mutant creature in Splice, and concludes that the world’s worst monsters are rarely the most obvious…

Despite all the head spinning, green vomit and profanity, Regan MacNeil of The Exorcist was a pretty sweet little girl. She may have been a deadly devil child rattling the bed and defiling crucifixes, but every kid goes through a ‘difficult’ phase, right? It just so happens that Regan’s involved satanic seizures and possession by Pazuzu.

Likewise, I bet the eponymous diabolical infant of Rosemary’s Baby was a beautiful miracle of fresh life despite his mother’s howls of horror.

Babies are amazing creatures that should be cherished and adored, even if they do have devil horns and bear the marks of Satan.

What I’m getting to is a couple of key issues that I feel need addressing. Firstly, nappy companies need to push for equality and cast some hellspawn in their commercials so that the Children Of The Damned don’t grow up feeling like fourth class citizens.

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The crucial point: most often the object of abject revulsion in the classic horror movie isn’t actually as bad as the on-screen characters hype it up to be. In fact, it’s frequently the case that they or it are cute and lovable.

I see Frankenstein’s monster and want to give the Boris Karloff-shaped big lug a hug. Likewise, Lon Chaney Jr.’s Wolf Man looks like he needs a cuddle and a shoulder to cry on. King Kong is just an oversized monkey with feelings.

These aren’t abominations! These are sorrowful souls who need a bit of sympathy and affection!

And they’re not even ugly. Regardless of your sexuality, cast your eyes across the ‘monstrous’ leads of Carrie, An American Werewolf In London and The Creature From The Black Lagoon and after a bit of time you might begin to find them weirdly attractive.

Get over the shock of pyromaniacal telekinesis, excessive body hair and the gill bits and you may find that you want to befriend these ‘baddies’. In fact, you want to take them to the prom. In fact, you want to take them out for dinner and talk about having a family.

Even in their goriest guises, the nasties of the silver screen are always likable creatures (I’d still shake hands with an Alien xenomorph and tickle the thing from The Thing).

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No one likes to go to the cinema to look at something that leaves them so disgusted they want to tear their eyes out and erase their memory banks.

If I wanted to experience true unbearable horror, I’d put my head in a public toilet. That might be why I get cold shivers every time I think of Trainspotting and visualise Ewan McGregor taking a dip in a U-bend.

Curse those sick-minded moviemakers, then, that want to push things to extremes and make horrible villains that are actually really ‘orrible. I mean, so horrible that I have no desire to see the film because I fear that I’m going to be so repulsed by what’s on screen that I’ll want to drink bleach afterwards.

In my movie viewing experience, only a couple of sights have prompted this kind of adverse reaction, and they were the baked bean-stuffed man in Se7en and Jar Jar Binks in The Phantom Menace. Having squirmed through its trailer, I’ve come to the conclusion that, if I went to see Splice, then my personal sick list would grow a little longer.

Crom have mercy! What the hell is that thing? The people who’ve made this film have created a monster, and not the kind that I want to free from a dungeon or go for a swim in the Black Lagoon with. It’s unsettlingly hideous, a hybrid organism born of genetic experiments in which an unholy chimera comes out of a cocktail of human and animal DNA. They call it ‘Dren’, an onomatopoeic name that echoes the sound of the audience puking in the aisles.

It scares the crap out of me, which makes me reluctant to pay £8 for a cinema ticket and has me hiding beneath the covers and watching The Wolf Man to try and comfort myself.

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Why? Why upset us so? Why have your created this creepy thing that will make babies cry and encourage further resistance to advancement and innovation in gene science? We might be close to a cure for diabetes, but Splice‘s performance at the box office could ultimately end up holding stem cell research back for centuries.

It’s a good thing that a cheery film followed the trailer (it was Black Death), otherwise I would have been inconsolable for hours. To add insult to injury, the promo reel presented Adrien Brody looking distressed. Ever since I first watched him shuffle through the desolate streets of bomb-devastated Warsaw in The Pianist, hollowed out as a human being with only a can of gherkins for company, Brody’s presence brings me to the verge of tears.

I can’t cope with seeing this poor man in pain. The family strife and soul searching of The Darjeeling Limited was bearable and I just about managed to make it through Peter Jackson’s King Kong as poor Adrien had his date nicked by an oversized monkey with feelings.

This summer’s Brody flicks might be too much, however. I’ve got to watch him flee the hunter aliens of Predators, tormented by cloaked terrors with mandibles and high tech weaponry. It’s The Pianist all over again, except this Holocaust takes place on an extraterrestrial game reserve and Brody is armed with a rifle instead of a tin of pickles.

The difference is that I don’t mind the appearance of the Predators when they manifest themselves (admit it, you want a pet baby Predator), but I have no desire to look at the winged humanoid concoction of genetic pick ‘n’ mix that is Dren.

I also don’t want to see Adrien Brody going through more torment. The Oscar he got for his performance as Wladyslaw Szpilman was pretty poor consolation when you reflect on how the musician was reduced to a completely traumatised, emaciated shell of a person.

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See, real monsters don’t sprout fur and fangs in the full moon light. They condemn their fellow humans to ghettos and concentration camps.

Adrien, I can’t stand to see you in pain. I’m going to adopt you and Regan – seeing as society rejects kids who can do three hundred and sixty degree head swivels – and shield you both from further suffering. If you can cope with the odd demon freakout, you’ll never be disturbed by Dren or SS troopers again.

James’ previous column can be found here.