★ ★ ★ ★
RISING FROM THE SLAB
I wasn’t very interested in horror movies as a teenager. I liked gritty dramas. Looking back they seem way more schlocky than any of the low-budget monster films I get excited about now. Nothing is more cheesy than earnest. As a young child it’s pretty safe to say I was obsessed with monsters. Monsters and God. Catholic Father. Atheist/Witch/Nurse Mother. Protestant Primary School. A mixed bag of religious ideas made it easy to incorporate new mythologies.
I hadn’t seen many monster movies. I had seen King Kong and heard stories about the theme park ride where you get to be in the train car that he destroys. It didn’t really occur to me when watching Kong that he was a monster: more a historical giant, the Big Deal. He was distant from the large house on the rocky outcrop. The one that was constantly being struck by lightning. The one that loved so much to be struck by lightning. This is where Dracula and Frankenstein were. I knew about these figures from children’s books. Funny books. Jokes about vampires and mad scientists. I knew that the jokes were jokes, but they masked something real. Something not to be toyed with.
I was scared of vampires. It’s a question that children ask each other. It’s a clear identifier. What’s your favourite colour? Which team do you support? Who is your best Spice Girl? What scares you? It wasn’t just other children asking. When I was eight our teacher asked the class to draw pictures of what scared them. I drew a man with fangs stood over a large woman asleep in bed. He wore a black cape and looked very happy. I knew he was evil, and that his dreadful happiness grew from the fact that he really didn’t care about my morality or anyone else’s.
Every night I would say prayers, asking God, my friend, to protect me from vampires. I would imagine one appearing in my room. Standing over my bed. He would be so well dressed. Slicked hair with the tight V shape at the hairline. Black clothes, palest skin, and dashes of red everywhere. I would be awake when he arrived. I would know he wanted to bite me but he would wait. Everything was under his control. There was no move I could make. I was doomed. I knew I wanted to be as sharp as him. I knew I could not know what happened beneath his surface, know how he desired. I knew I would never feel what he felt until I was bitten. Then I would not care about God and would only care about blood. I had him visit me every night because I wanted to know. I wanted to know but I was so scared. I was so scared because I wanted to know.
Frankenstein was different. There are two things here: there is the Mad Scientist and there is the Monster. I wanted to be a scientist really badly. For a long time I was convinced there was a massive wall cavity in my parents’ house and I repeatedly tried to persuade my dad to break into it so that I could build a laboratory. I had visions of dank spaces with bubbling chemicals in strangely shaped glass jars, small threads of electricity dancing between metal wands. A place where my great work could finally commence. But alas, even if my dad had been an enthusiastic idiot, we would have only smashed the wall to find ourselves in the bathroom. The great work never got underway and my science career faltered early.
I wanted to be the scientist because of the monster. Perhaps you can’t have one without the other but I knew where my heart was drawn. I loved the monster, that massive gorgeous lug. I remember rising from the slab. I remember perfecting my monster walk. I remember it being on the list of things that I could do. It was all an act. All the things I loved about the monster were things I knew I could not have in my real life. I was small, I was growing up, I was being reluctantly socialised, I was desperately wriggling in the tight grips of the world around me.
He is unquestionably big and he was born fully formed. Out on the edges, in the ruined laboratory, all expectations are banished. When being lifted amongst the lightning, nothing else matters. All that matters is that he is alive. Terribly and gloriously alive.
Photo by Anna Ricciardi
Tom Moore works with Lost History & Found Flowers, Low Spectacle & High Fashion, New Monsters & Old Hollywood, True Crime & False Lashes, Fresh Guts & Worn Clichés, Breaking Hearts & Accelerating BPM. Drawing is séance. Film is spell casting.
They have exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery London and the ICA. Their films have been screened at the London Independent Film Festival and Donau Festival. They teach drawing in Berlin.
For more on the work of Tom Moore
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