I would argue the unknown is the key to fear. Think about it: you’re ten, alone in your room in the middle of the night. Every little noise scares you because you can’t see everything. The same is true with monsters in this movie; monsters are scary until you know them.
When looking at appearances, it is easy to see what might make these monsters scary. Large, hairy, tentacles, big teeth, claws, horns, and the ability to blend in are just a few of the qualities that make these creatures appear frightening. However, there’s a lot more to it.
“It’s all about presence, about how you enter the room.” They’re in; they’re out. The kids never really know what happened, just that it was unpleasant. This is the real power in the scare. Unfamiliar situations are generally scary. And loud growls help, too.
Boo is not afraid of Sulley because she thinks he is a big “kitty”. It is something she knows, so he is not scary. However, when he growls at the robot kid in the simulation room, she finds out he is a monster and is afraid.
But let’s back up to when Boo first comes out of her door. Sulley is actually the one who is afraid of her. Because the monsters think the children are “toxic”, he doesn’t want to touch her. However, he finds out the truth quickly and is unafraid of her.
All the monsters are afraid of her based on ignorance and unfamiliarity.
When Boo first stays in Sulley and Mike’s (Billy Crystal) house, she is afraid of the closet because that’s what she associates with Randall. She is afraid of Randall because he blends and she can never really see him.
After knowing Sulley is a monster who won’t hurt her, she is not afraid of him anymore. Yes, she sees him growl and hides. But when the machine is about to suck the scream out of her, she calls for “kitty” to save her. Even though he is a big scary monster, that machine is scarier.
Boo’s fear of Randall turns out to be far less than her love for Sulley. She proves this by growling at Randall after beating him up.
In the end, the monsters aren’t lurking in the darkness. They are in the light making jokes to harvest the children’s laughter.
Psychoanalysis of Monsters, Inc. offers a more negative look at these characters. Interesting ideas though. Have a look if that’s your thing.
Love the tropes of the characters in this movie. Looks both at character development in Monsters, Inc. and Monsters University.
Come back next Thursday!