The bone snatchers: the horrors within
As I’ve said in my previous posts, I have been busy chasing and dealing with the requirements of medical school. That doesn’t mean I have done absolutely nothing as regards anime: on the contrary, I have observed and watched a significant number of movies and series (both anime and live-action).
In this post I shall attempt to explicate upon and expound on my experiences of the horror genre in different media. The title of the article alludes to the 2002 film The Bone Snatcher, a film that I have found and watched after waiting for roughly six years. I was in high school back then, and the film was airing just as we were about to dock in Davao, my home city. I wasn’t able to finish the film because the ship had already docked while the movie was still in the middle: I had to move because I had to carry the bulk of our luggage, and I didn’t want to contend with the traffic among people trying to get off the boat.
I looked up the film at erratic times during the next six years, and I finally was able to obtain it roughly a month ago. After having watched it two days ago, I came to the conclusion that it was a passable film: it wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t exactly A-grade material, either. It was just OK; a lot of critics even think otherwise.
The Bone Snatcher tells the tale of a mining crew stuck in the middle of the Namib desert with a strange creature from beneath the earth. Among the unique things the film offered was the fearful creature itself: instead of large crocodiles or snakes or aliens, their enemy was the Ishikuru, or the Sand Mother. It’s actually a fancy name for an egg that coordinates the actions of millions of ants, and these ants consume flesh, leaving only the bones. (I don’t know whether the creature arose from true African lore, or just the minds of the writers, but I thought the premise was unique.)
As with most horror films, nearly all of them die through the course of the movie, but this one has a relatively positive yet open-ended conclusion. The prospective lovers survive and temporarily separate in the end after besting the egg-creature, but another egg had hidden itself in the crate of the woman, and the movie ends.
It was probably with the glasses of nostalgia and stress that I thought the movie was pretty good back then. I have aged, and I (hopefully) have matured, and it currently just is a decent flick for me. It brought me to thinking about other examples of the horror genre.
Among the most prominent examples in the anime medium is the Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni series. The gore was unprecedented, and the anime received some negative reviews for its bloody and violent nature. Some series, like the one I am currently trying to finish, Karakuri Zoushi Ayatsuri Sakon, traipse between horror and mystery, although the causes are entirely terrestrial.
None have intrigued me as much as psychological horror, however, where the point of horror is not with external causes, but the atrocities and the perversions of what man can do to both himself and to fellow man. The best example in anime that I can think of is Mononoke.
Mononoke evolved from the final arc of Ayakashi ~ Japanese Classic Horror, and it featured the same enigmatic yet endearing character, the Kusuri-iuri, or the Medicine Seller. (By this I do not pertain to Princess Mononoke, which, while great in its own way, is entirely different from Mononoke.)
Many people speak ill of Mononoke because they do not approve of the way the series was illustrated and animated. It is, for me, however, one of the most transparent illustrations of the capacity for human horror and injustice. A story there portrays how one man, because of his cowardice, delighted when his beautiful and loving sister sacrificed herself for his sake; another story (I think it’s my favorite) portrays the monster as her own self-imprisonment and self-castigation: she is in fact the Noppera-bou. She became faceless because she had trapped herself for a long time: she could not speak and she could not see. Despite the fact that I’m not well-versed in the culture of monsters in Japan, I am able to appreciate the ability of Mononoke to scare me not because of bloodshed and gore (although there is that) but because of its ability to make me realize how horrible people can be to others and to themselves. We all have our own demons inside us, and it is at times very difficult to face even ourselves. This is what Mononoke brings to the fore and while it’s a very revelatory experience it is also a very scary one. This is like what Sartre says regarding existentialism. People dismiss it not because it is worthless but because it is revelatory: it reveals to them that no one can save man except themselves, that even if God is present in the world it is only them who can ultimately pull themselves up or dig their own graves. There is supreme freedom in this knowledge, but also supreme gravity: we can rely on no one except ourselves. The realization of what we do not want to face is often a scary thing, and it’s what Mononoke exposes, and it is what makes it an awesome show in an awesome medium.
There are no rogue alligators; there are no giant anacondas or aliens that seek to eat our minds. There is only ourselves to deal with our evils, and to me it’s a scarier thought than oversized animals or aliens. Ultimately, it is ourselves who drive us towards destruction, and it’s a horrifying thought.
P.S. This is the first among hopefully many entries juxtaposing different genres of media together. It’s still formative, but I’m calling the series Quintessential Allusions. This is one on the horror genre (in case you didn’t get it from the title). 😉