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Where Do Monsters Come From?

A combination of childhood experiences, popular culture and Adobe Photoshop, are the recipe to a perfect monster.

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Catch Hotel Transylvania 3: Monster Vacation in India on July 20, in English, Hindi and Tamil.

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The Oxford dictionary definition of a monster ranges from “a large, ugly, and frightening imaginary creature” and “an inhumanly cruel or wicked person” to “a thing of extraordinary or daunting size.” Sony Pictures Animation’s Hotel Transylvania 3: Monster Vacation releases on July 20. In this film, Drac decides to take a summer vacation on a luxury monster cruise ship with his monster pack. But the dream vacation turns into a nightmare when Mavis realizes Drac is enamoured by the captain of the ship, Ericka, who hides a dangerous secret that could destroy all of monsterkind.

While the film steers away from the cliché of scary and gruesome monsters, it is a starting point for a conversation about the origins of all things creepy. Be it creations from experiences, our mind or a digital software, monsters exist all over.


Mind over Monster

Children, in particular, are victims of fear, especially when it comes to darkness and monsters. A combination of these two often results in sleepless nights and intangible lifelong fear.

Where Do Monsters Come From? 1

Saahil Dhar’s inspiration for his ‘Drone Bat’ is a mixture of images of real bats and ravens, along with experimental helicopter drones. Photo courtesy: Saahil Dhar

Hvovi Bhagwagar is a Mumbai based clinical psychologist with over 15 years of experience in dealing with various kinds of disorders, including anxiety, clinical depression and borderline personality illnesses. She believes that “negative experiences can definitely play a strong role in inculcating fears in a child’s mind.” She further says that children, who are afraid of sleeping in the dark and fear intangible ideas like ghosts and monsters, usually have a history of physical abuse. These same children further grow up into adults with traumatic childhood experiences and turn into the red-eyed-coffee-chugging monsters that suffer from insomnia, or have night fears and have fears of being attacked by some unknown entity.

But what manifests the idea of an ugly creature? Popular culture like stories about Dracula, Frankenstein, among others, have been popularised as figures to be scared of, and eventually, being used as tools to instil fear and form discipline. “Fear of monsters, horror and gore could be evolutionary and linked to our flight or fight response which tells us to flee “danger”. However the human brain can’t distinguish between what’s real and what’s imagined and thus monster like entities activate the threat system and our immediate instinctive reaction (without much thought) is to run,” believes Bhagwagar.


Freudian Fiends

Horror films help in understanding the human psyche. In 1919, Sigmund Freud published an essay titled “The Uncanny” where he characterizes the “uncanny” as that which “arouses dread and horror…certain things which lie within the class of what is frightening.” His essay puts a great emphasis on frightening things being familiar, stressing on the idea of how monsters exist in our psyche. Freud’s essay was directed to imaginative writers and he used fairy tales as an example.

“In fairy tales, for instance, the world of reality is left behind from the very start, and the animistic system of beliefs is frankly adopted.”

Connecting Freud and Bhagwagar’s thoughts, horror movies starring Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, or the Wolfman, today, feel over familiar, probably because, experiences from the past dwell in our minds, enough to create the uncanny.


Game of Spooks

Video-gamers love a good monster. Games such the famous Walking Dead and the decade old Altered Beast highlight gory monsters and mythical creatures like zombies and werewolves.

A professional concept artist and Illustrator, Saahil Dhar, currently studies Game Development at Sheridan College, Oakville, Canada. A novice in the industry of gaming and creation, Dhar’s creations have tinges of something old and nostalgic mixed in with his own perspective.

For monsters in particular, Dhar’s first thought went to “older horror clichés such as werewolves and vampires and how one could condense the general concept of a malevolent transformation into a fresh character.” This combined with a “modern futuristic twist”, including drones, with “ a silhouette with strong, energetic lines and shapes that is painted over greyscale “ is what finally resulted in the emerald green monster, resembling a werewolf, with drone-like- structure around it.

Dhar’s rendition of a monster, created on Adobe Photoshop, speaks volumes on how monsters originate everywhere, including the digital world.


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  • Ishani Chatterji likes to document all her travels using leather diaries, Instagram stories and her Polaroid camera. When she isn't doing that, she can be found indulging in Bollywood movies, watching plays and gobbling sushi.


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