Disclaimer 1: Yes, this post contains minor spoilers for Kong: Skull Island, which I only point out because if you haven’t seen it, KSI is actually good. Seriously, I just watched it for the first time earlier in this week, and I was floored not only by how entertaining it was but how that movie exists and–only four years after its release–no one talks about it. I’m actually going to write a post about the micro-genre I think that movie exists in, but whatever–for now, my point is if you haven’t seen this movie and don’t want a good scene spoiled, go watch it first, then come back here. And, seriously, get popcorn and beer, watch it with friends if you can. You’ll absolutely have a good time.
Disclaimer 2: The biggest trigger warning for people with Arachnophobia. Navigate away from this post, burn your computer, charter a boat to the middle of the ocean, weigh down the remains and throw them overboard. And if you watch KSI, just know that there’s one scene you need to skip. But, seriously, read no further.
Disclaimer 3: I’m sick. Like, sharp headaches, congestion, dizzy sick. So if I do anything weird, like start a post with three disclaimers, please cut me some slack.
All of that said, hello and welcome back.
Today, I just wanted to add another entry to Monster Showcase. Not just because the monster I talked about in the first one was pro-o-o-obably too weird, but because I was genuinely floored by what Gojipedia calls . . .
This is a species of giant spiders living on Skull Island (yes, if you haven’t seen the movie, those are not bushes–those are tree tops).
Now, the thing is, I know Fantasy, you know Fantasy; there are a ton of giant spiders a-a-a-all over Fantasy. So why would I ever write an entire post about a pretend giant spider from anything?
Because of the worldbuilding.
What Makes It Cool
It’s fucking legs look like bamboo stalks. Because it hunts in bamboo forests.
How fucking awesome is that? A Mother Longlegs hunts like this:
It just stands in place in a bamboo forest, obscured by the canopy, waiting for prey to wander close. When that happens, the Mother Longlegs might quietly spear them with one of its legs, or fire sticky tendrils down and draw them up to its massive pinchers. In KSI, the characters being stalked by it only notice it because it decides to kill one of them. Which invites the thought, If it didn’t decide to kill any of them, would they have just walked through the forest never knowing they were walking through the legs of a 20 foot spider? Would they have just not been aware it was there? And that, my friends, is, like the fear of spiders perfectly embodied. The terror of seeing a large spider scurry behind your wall unit and thinking, “Oh fuck . . . I don’t know where it is!” Sitting down and jumping because a chord brushed your leg. Or just glancing down and seeing a spider (or any large bug) inches away from your bare foot and flipping a table.
I’m getting a little carried away here, but my point is, all of the elements of this weird, giant spider immediately make sense. Its niche, its mutations, all of it comes together to make a very believable nightmare.
But, on top of that, all of those details that I just laid out–the things that make the Mother Longlegs feel real–didn’t come from the wiki.
They came from just watching the one scene this monster is in. From a cumulative 30 seconds of screen time, where everything anyone ever needed to know about this monster was conveyed in-story.
We get a short exchange between characters before this thing even reveals itself. It kills someone and the other characters turn around to attack it. In the confusion, it shoots its weird tendrils at someone, starts drawing them up to its massive pinchers, and another character calls out for everyone to “Cut the legs!” so that maybe if you didn’t realize some of the bamboo stalks were it’s legs, you definitely know now. The monster is killed, the characters continue their trek, and you get to just nod like, “Cool nightmare I’m gonna have tonight. Thanks. Can’t wait.”
All jokes aside, you come away from that one scene able to write the Gojipedia entry for Mother Longlegs yourself.
And that is amazingly clean conveyance. Like, Masterclass Show Don’t Tell.
What I Learned From It
The Mother Longlegs itself is a showcase on how to create a monster that feels like a living, breathing creature.
But its scene is a clinic on how to convey all the things that make it feel real–in seconds.
And that’s what I really want to master. I want to both make a monster that’s weirdly believable and convey all of the things that make it believable in a single scene. Without a character walking up like, “Oy. You heard about them big spiders? They ‘ide in the tree tops and scoop you up.”
Like, no. I want no lead up. No suspense building. Just clean, awe-inspiring design.
Seriously, last word here: just Google “Mother Longlegs” and marvel at the crazy amount of fan art there is of this thing.
Okay. That said, it’s 4:30 AM and I am going to go Flying Elbow Drop my bed.
If you’re new here, I post every Sunday. So stop by next week, when I’m going to talk about something other than Kong: Skull Island–I promise.
Until then, stay safe, take care, and make sure to double check the expiration date on your antibiotic ointment. Seriously, expired antibiotic ointment makes your skin red and itchy so it looks like you have an infection and need to apply more ointment. Slipperiest of slopes. Bye!