Phoenix Incident – Found Movie Based on True Events?
King Kong has the rare honor of being one of the few universal monsters not to have been adapted from any existing medium, having been created exclusively to terrify moviegoers. While the original 1933 film wasn’t exactly a horror flick, portraying itself as an adventurous trek through dinosaur-infested jungles with melodramatic romance thrown in for good measure, it still inspired an entire generation of features of creatures like The 20,000 Fathom Beast and even the original Godzillamaking it a classic monster movie.
Which is why it’s no surprise that popular culture’s favorite giant ape has had so many different incarnations over the years, from Dino De Laurentis’ 1976 eco-parable to the Vietnamese-inspired Legendary. Kong: Skull Island. While there’s some merit to all of these different versions of the story, my favorite will always be peter jacksonThe 2005 remake. I’m clearly not the only fan of the film, as it was a massive box office success despite its absurdly bloated budget, but one thing that surprised many viewers was the surprisingly cheeky horror elements of the movie.
While a number of scares were to be expected due to Jackson’s unwavering love for the horror genre (after all, even the the Lord of the Rings films boasted a handful of surprisingly schlocky genre moments), 2005 King Kong took things up a notch from the original. Despite a PG-13 rating, the film contained plenty of grisly violence and a generally darker tone than its source material, with Jackson going so far as to include several nods to Joseph Conrad. heart of darkness in this dark monster movie.
Featuring everything from giant demonic bats to Andy Serkis being eaten live by giant leeches, it’s pretty obvious this blockbuster was made by a horror filmmaker, with the film even including a reference to the infamous Sumatra Rat. Monkey’s Undead/Braindead. However, what I would like to discuss is how the film subtly touches on cosmic horrorwith this gigantic love letter to classic cinema also serving as a rare example of big-budget films succeeding right next door HP Lovecraft.
For those unfamiliar, Cosmic Horror (also known as “Lovecraftian Horror”) is a style of storytelling popularized by American author HP Lovecraft’s weird fiction. These unsettling stories tend to focus on the sickening terror that accompanies the realization of humanity’s seeming insignificance in the grand scheme of the universe, usually focusing on the protagonists who discover something that causes them to reevaluate their place in the world. So how does this relate to a movie about a Great Depression-era film crew battling dinosaurs as they attempt to capture a giant gorilla? Well, fans of Cosmic Horror fiction will likely recognize some familiar themes and motifs in King Kong if they take a closer look.
The premise of the original film was already based on a primitive tribe offering sacrifices to an “Elder God”, the natives attempting to appease Kong with “wives”, much like the esoteric Order of Dagon offered wives to their fish god. by Lovecraft Cthulhu mythos. Unwilling Sacrifice for the Greater Good is already Cosmic Horror 101, but Jackson’s take on the story made it even scarier by depicting the prolonged ritual through which Kong is summoned, as well as his utter indifference to his worshipers – which is yet another similarity to the Elder Gods.
And while we’re on the subject of the Skull Island tribesmen, one of the most interesting aspects of the remake is how it justifies the primitivism of the 1933 version of the islanders by making them a bunch of desperate survivors this time around. . If you pay attention to the implied world-building (or read/watch some of the excellent additional material from the film), it becomes clear that the natives here are not the same people who built the towering stone fortresses and intricate statues scattered around on Skull Island. These cult-like remnants are actually what’s left of the original inhabitants after an unspeakable apocalypse pushed their ancestors out to sea, with the giant walls surrounding their fishing village – and Kong itself – serving as the last line of defense for a once prosperous. civilization today on the verge of extinction.
This fascination with long-lost civilizations and how they allude to the inevitable downfall of our species is yet another popular trope of cosmic horror, and while the film mostly keeps these apocalyptic themes in the background, it always gives King Kong a weird anthropological edge usually only seen in Lovecraft yarns like shadow out of time.
Although it is a bit of an exaggeration to claim that Jack BlackCarl Denham’s increasingly psychotic portrayal, inspired by Orson-Welles, is a classic example of a Lovecraftian protagonist losing his mind after encountering strange horrors, certain details like the character quoting false Arabic proverbs and gaining Strange maps of cursed places are staples of Lovecraft’s Necronomicon-based threads. The portrayal of the director as an over-ambitious entertainer who goes too far in pursuit of fame is even similar to characters like Richard Pickman (from Pickman model), adding to the overall Cosmic Horror feel of the film even if it is not the point of the story.
Finally, the film features plenty of prehistoric monsters fighting terrifying battles as humans are caught in the titanic crossfire, with most of these giant creatures viewing our lead characters as little more than an edible nuisance. In some ways, the film feels like a big-budget adaptation of a pulpy Call of Cthulhu Adventure RPG, with fearless heroes of the 1930s embarking on a perilous quest and battling all sorts of creatures that shouldn’t exist only to learn that their superior firepower is no match for an indifferent universe. Again, these ideas mostly take a back seat, but they still make the experience more interesting.
Many of these elements were already present in the original film, and while it can’t be ruled out that Merian C. Cooper and her writers read a Lovecraft thread or two while making the 1933 classic, I’ll admit that horror was never meant to be the focus here. After all, the premise owes much more to the paleontological thrills of novels (and later films) like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s. The lost World and real-world horrors like the then-recent discovery of the Komodo dragon than any form of cosmic horror. Jackson simply decided to take the creepy elements more seriously in his remake, capitalizing on the fear of human beings coming to terms with their own insignificance in a hostile world and quite possibly coming across elements of cosmic terror in the process.
Many of these supposed references can be explained away as complete coincidences or surface level similarities due to the 1930s setting of the story, but I’d say the video game tie-in to the movie suggests that Jackson knew what he was was doing when he added some of these elements to the story. Developed by Ubisoft, King Kong: The Official Movie Game is a full-fledged survival horror experience curated by Jackson himself, with even more elements of cosmic horror (from unkillable boss monsters to more in-depth looks at the insane past and ecosystem of Skull Island) and a generally spookier mood – allegedly more in line with the director’s. original intention for the blockbuster movie. It’s entirely possible that Jackson initially decided to make a legit horror movie and just settled for an action-adventure when he realized the kind of budget he’d need to tell this story.
Whether or not these elements of Cosmic Horror were a happy accident, I honestly believe that King Kong contains some of the most faithful recreations of an HP Lovecraft story ever filmed, which is another reason why I often revisit this three-hour epic. It may not be a traditional horror movie, but I’d still love to see its luscious thrills and eerie atmosphere (intentionally) recreated in future horror films. Maybe in something like this To the mountains of madness adaptation stuck in development hell since the early 2000s…