If there is one thing that film audiences love, it is rooting for someone or the little guy in a battle against a monster. Thanks to the magic of the movies, the monster can take the shape of many different things. In the case of Jaws, the monster was obvious; it was a massive shark with a huge taste for human blood, killing and destruction.
In Home Alone, Kevin may not have been up against an actual monster, he was pitted against two hapless criminals, but to a small boy, his opponent was as big and nasty a monster as you could hope to find. It is clear that Home Alone and Jaws are two massively different films that probably don’t have a lot in common but both films feature a monster that has to be overcome.
One of the most important things in a monster film is to signify how brutal or scary or dangerous the monster can be. In Jaws, this is simple, the shark kills people. In Home Alone, it is two robbers who are having a lot of success breaking into people’s houses and stealing all of their belongings. You also need a premise or situation where the monster can do a lot of damage. In Jaws, it is the holiday celebrations that promise to draw a huge number of people to the beach. With the authority figures determined to keep news about the shark attacks quiet so as not to hamper the tourist crowd, there is a real risk of lots of people being injured or killed, and there will be people who are culpable for this.
Monsters don’t have to be physical monsters
In Home Alone, the threat of the monster is present because so many people go travelling for the holiday season, allowing thieves and robbers the opportunity to break into homes undetected. When you add in the additional premise that Kevin is left home alone due to his chaotic family forgetting all about him, there is double danger. The robbers may be able to break into the home and steal belongings but they may decide to put Kevin in danger as well. While both of these settings are decidedly different, they are quite scary.
With this in mind, and bearing that there will be twists and turns along the way, the battle to overcome the monster begins in earnest in both films. In Jaws, there is the natural wastage of people in the film before, at the very last minute when all hope looks to be lost, the hero of the day ensures that the monster is killed and their reign of terror is no more.
In Home Alone, there are some points of danger and while there are times when the hero is winning, there inevitably comes a point when all hope looks to be lost. There is a slight twist in Home Alone with the fact that the main character, the supposed hero, is actually saved by someone else. There is also the neat touch that the actual hero is someone who is considered to be an outcast at the start of the movie. When it comes to making winners out of losers and heroes from zeroes, you cannot beat a film where a monster has to be defeated.
The differences between these two films are stark but at the heart of both films lies a similar storyline and the need to overcome a massive and at times dogged opponent. There is not one single definition of monster and the differences between these films indicate how well a monster story can be constructed. People like to see good triumph over evil, especially when the evil element seems so big and nasty that a victory seems unlikely. This has been a huge plot style since David squared up to Goliath and it will be a massive plot style for many years to come.
The villains in our Murder Mystery plots are sometimes portrayed as monsters, for example Herbie Ravioli in Little House Of Horrors. He’s a mafia hitman and the challenge for the actor in this role is to overcome that and to try to portray a more redeemable character. This makes him a very interesting character to play.