The Horror Films that influenced “Monstrilio”, a story by Gerardo Sámano Córdova

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Hello! I wrote a book. The book is called Monstrilio. It’s about a mother who cuts a piece of lung from her dead son; she feeds the lung, and the lung becomes a monster. There’s horror in it — we’re in Horrorville! There’s also grief, love, family, sex, hairiness, fangs, and queerness. I love films. Horror films inhabit a cozy space in the wicked cabinets of my heart. As I wrote Monstrilio, many horror films crawled out of their cabinets, crisp, long, bristly legs first, and shared their stories.

Check out the full list on Horrorville here.

Pan’s Labyrinth by Guillermo del Toro
Amid the horrors of Francoist Spain, Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) finds respite in a fantastic world with a faun as her guide, and though there are horrors in this world too, Ofelia meets amazing creatures both friendly and threatening. The creation of a parallel world in order to understand (and survive!) the “real” one is a scheme that fascinates me. It allows for the experience of terror, joy, anger, frustration, and love to come alive in a fleshy, visceral manner. Such creatures conjure these emotions with only one glimpse at their scandalously magnificent bodies. These creatures threaten, can be talked with, learned from, destroyed or, if one is lucky, embraced. I knew I wanted Monstrilio, the novel’s eponymous little monster, to live in this realm of embodied emotion. Guillermo del Toro’s creatures have continuously tickled my dreams in delighted awe.

The Fly by David Cronenberg
More monsters! I adore monsters. I love when we get the perspective of a monster, learn what is going on in its mind. We get to experience the tension sizzling between its monstrosity and its power, its need for love, and its desire to be itself. Even after Seth (a gorgeously twitchy Jeff Goldblum) realizes he has spliced his genetic makeup with a fly, he tries to take advantage of and cherish what he’s become. He climbs walls. He’s super strong. He’s extra limber and fast. For a while, before he starts seriously decomposing (or, rather, losing his human parts to turn more fully into Brundlefly) he refuses to see himself as “wrong.” He believes he’s created, in himself, something new and better. It is in these moments of teetering self-acceptance that I find most inspiration. Is a monster created by the prejudice of others, of oneself, or is there truly something inherently monstrous, an ingredient which is unalienable monster? — Bonus echo! There’s a scene when Ronnie (Geena Davis) tells Seth that a test revealed that the coarse hairs she cut from him are non-human. In Monstrilio, Monstrilio’s hairs, too, are deemed non-human.

Let the Right One In by Tomas Alfredson
An exquisite tale of friendship where two kids bond through a relationship forged in otherness. Bloody, violent, and sometimes cruel, it is their love (a huge, tender lump of love) that prevails. When writing Monstrilio, I kept coming back to such a lump of love and the tender ties that bind it. Monstrilio revels in otherness, his shape, horrific or otherwise, and the love that it takes to embrace him.

Hereditary by Ari Aster
Annie’s monologue spooked me in a way that the rest of the film couldn’t. Goosebumps! Not that I wasn’t squealingly scared by what followed, but there was such pain, anger, and despair in Annie (the always stupendous Toni Collette), her voice scratching its way out with nails sharp and splintered, that I couldn’t but want to delve into that kind of horror, the kind of horror that lodges, teeth first, inside. I needed to explore it, peel it apart, and see what would come out. (Hint: someone hungry, furry and fangy.)

The Babadook by Jennifer Kent
This movie flaunts a dapper, top-hatted monster of such awesomeness (those book illustrations!), it’s hard not to want more of him. The movie’s engine, however, is Amelia’s grief, so potent her eyes cannot fully open or her lips attempt a smile. On top of her grief (and, evidently, because of it) she can’t handle her over-eager, screeching, monster-seeing son. She also suffers from insomnia. And a toothache. It’s all too much for Amelia (the terrific Essie Davies): shadows are constantly eating her, she’s half-asleep, her voice is a twitter, and her house is doomingly gray. And all of this is even before Mr. Babadook shows up! Grief is the Babadook and the Babadook is grief. I love this idea. I love stories in which people’s relationships to their monsters are layered. There’s horror, of course, but also a much needed symbiosis, a release, a tangibility given to something that we may feel only lives in our heads. Monstrilio is also inspired by the concept of a “grief creature:” a feeling so awful and overwhelming it gains a life of its own. And with its own life, I like to believe, the creature becomes someone that should be cared for, or at least, seen. It is perfectly fitting, too, that the Babadook became a gay meme icon for a while. I like to think it is his otherness that propelled him to such status. And not only his otherness, but an otherness allowed to exist, to be cared for even if it’s in a basement. His otherness and, of course, his top hat.

Gerardo Sámano Córdova is a writer and artist from Mexico City, where he currently resides. He holds an MFA in Fiction from the University of Michigan. He has studied with Alexander Chee at Bread Loaf as a work/study scholar, and with Garth Greenwell at Tin House. His work has appeared in Ninth LetterPassages North, and Chicago Quarterly Review, and is forthcoming in The Common.  You can follow him on both Instagram and Twitter.