Monstrous Ecology

A quick soapbox moment, August has been a busy month and what little bit of time I have had for myself should not be spent watching mediocre films.

So that Netflix had something to suggest when people looked for A Quiet Place, they produced The Silence. The shameless similarities are well documented, it’s practically an Asylum film*, a piggyback on the popularity of a blockbuster to parasitically gain a sliver of notoriety, so I won’t go too deeply into the similarities, but here’s the brief synopsis:

The world has become overrun with monsters that have some hypersensitivity to sound, and they hunt and kill anything that makes a lot of it, they appear to be blind, so anyone capable of living in silence has a chance to survive. One member of the family we follow is deaf, so sign language becomes an essential part of day to day life, and little mistakes cause death, plain and simple. One film is most definitely better than the other, and I won’t start on why, but The Silence raised one hell of a bugbear for me.

So many films are simply bad at designing monsters, and in many cases it’s because drama defies logic. I remember years ago hearing someone remark that dinosaurs would never have roared at random during a hunt because it’s simply bad stealth, announcing your intent to kill someone is the business of certain serial killers who enjoy the fear and dominance of predation, not something that depends on killing to eat. That’s shoddy dinosaur behaviour, but it’s only a narrow leap of logic away from the truth; The Silence’s subterranean bats on the other hand, require some tremendous feats of thought.

Creatures wholly dependant on sound and echolocation make only sounds that support their hunting efforts, and they are adapted to make sounds at a pitch and frequency that make echolocation incredibly effective. We – humans – understand very little about our surroundings by screaming at them. For a start echolocation requires short sounds that are over by the time the echoes return to us, rather than a drawn out howl that drown out the feedback. Of those humans that have mastered echolocation as best as a human can, they make small clicks and pulses, incredibly quiet, but shockingly effective.

The creatures in The Silence shriek, and they shriek constantly. When they move they make a loud fluttering, they scream at each other, they attack anything in the way with a loud clattering sound. These are not echolocation sounds, these are not hunting sounds, these are horror film sounds, and the dimmest understanding of the logic is enough to make such monsters unwatchable and boring no matter how good an actor Stanley Tucci is. A prime example: in an early film moment when the bat-things are attacking a car, and somehow one of them hears activity nearby that the others don’t, and hears it over the sounds of senseless screeching and battering.

And yet later on loud noises are enough to drive them insane?

Let us also briefly touch upon the notion of horror movie predators that delight in leaving corpses for people to find, still with plenty of edible flesh on them. For a creature that appears to have survived centuries below ground, that’s some profoundly wasteful eating habits for a creature that requires a vast amount of calories to both fly and keep screaming like that.

Anyway, rant over. Feel free to discuss other examples of illogical creature design with me, this particular irritation doesn’t appear to be going anywhere, not as long as we continue to sacrifice the basics of logic in the name of a good story. A plot hole or two is fine, but I will not climb down into that particular crater.

*Actually the screenwriter, Shane Van Dyke, has worked on Asylum mockbusters before! There’s interesting. Dude does not understand how deafness works.

2 thoughts on “Monstrous Ecology”

  1. I really like this post and understand the logic.

    Personally, I think I like how Michael Crichton wrote the T-Rex in Jurassic Park. The T-Rex roars because his sight is based on visual stimuli. So it roars to scare its prey in a mad frenzy. I don’t know if this is true in regards to the actual T-Rex, but lets be honest; no scientist alive has the actual answer to the T-Rex’s hunting methods. Everything is just educated hypothesis. Which lets Jurassic Park seem legit.

    I for one admire monsters that are humans turned beast. Like a werewolf or the kothoga monster from 1997’s The Relic or even Frankenstein’s monster. A human that turns into a monster might lack any logical hunting skills. In fact killing not out of hunger, but in a blind rage. Thus not caring how it captures it’s kill.

    Or then you could argue that some creatures that are displayed in movies are creatures from other dimensions or periods of time. Where and when sound doesn’t mean much to it’s survival.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m willing to admit a little bias against Jurassic park, as the kid who never stopped loving dinosaurs the inaccuracies only irritated me more and more. That is a better justification than Jurassic world’s “we make dinosaurs look how people think they should” hence the lack of feathers and six foot velociraptors.

      Humanoids are a different article for sure, one I might get to in the future.

      Liked by 1 person

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