Insect Scream Queens: A Look at Insects in Horror
It Will Make Your Skin Crawl
Whether its their ability to reproduce/evolve quickly, their alien like appearance and movements, or their association with disease and death; we've been conditioned by society to fear bugs. All the reasons why people are scared of insects are the same reasons why I love and am fascinated by them. Along with my love for horror, it's surprising up until recently I have just finished reading "Insect Princess"; a horror manga about insects. Although I was very disappointed with the plot, the art was enough for me to complete the full three volumes. "A dark romance about a high school boy who falls helplessly in love with a beautiful girl who has to eat people to survive." Just like the main character you can't help but fall in love with her too. But falling in love means not only her human side but her insect "monster" half as well.
Your viewpoint on insects might also change when watching the 1986 film, Phenomena, starring Jennifer Connelly (Sarah from Labyrinth (1986). The story "focuses on a girl at a remote Swiss boarding school who discovers she has psychic powers that allow her to communicate with insects and uses them to pursue a serial killer who is butchering young women a and around the school." In countless of horror scenes that depict dead bodies infested with maggots and swarm of flies, it is easy for these bugs to get a bad reputation but this film takes it a step further explaining the science behind forensic entomology. This scene helped open a whole new world for me; where I wanted to study and learn about them more. Just like all of Dario Argento's films, Phenomena is beautifully filmed and makes you feel like you are in a dream sequence throughout the entire piece.
Just like how insects don't fit their conventional roles in these two works of horror, so do the two main female protagonists. Women in horror have always been just the victims or sexual objects. This appears true in both stories but women are also the hero and the villain. One is like a praying mantis who will devour the male after they are done mating and the other is like a queen bee uses pheromones, a chemical scent that, allows her to control her hive.
My goal isn't to make people fall in love with insects but to simply see them in another way than they are used to. I am always interested in how film portrays insects. Whether it was Charlotte, the compassionate heroine of Charlotte's Web (1973) or the misunderstood Ohms of Nausicaä Valley of the Wind (1984); my love of all things creepy crawlies stemmed from early childhood. As a person who also grew up to love horror, it allowed me to watch films such as Arachnophobia (1999) and be fine with owning a pet tarantula. For most people though, they will watch it and instead develop arachnophobia. Most insect horror movies follow the formula of infestation or giant mutant bugs that will leave the viewer disgusted or in fear and become conditioned so that when they see a bug in real life they will want to try to kill it or run away screaming. "Insect Princess" or "Phenomena" portrays insects in a way that makes the audience fall in love or be intrigued by them. We need more horror content like that.
I also wanted to mention that I really enjoy and recommend any story where a person turns into a creepy crawly. Check out Junji Ito's "Slug Girl", David Cronenberg's The Fly (1986), Kafka's "The Metamorphosis."
Thank you for reading! If you have any questions, comments, or recommendations please email them to me at [email protected]