Most horror-movie monsters are unleashed from somewhere deep within our collective id—the repressed fears which linger in “the dark, inaccessible part of our personality,” as Freud described it. We’re taught early in life that ghosts, vampires, and demons don’t really exist, but horror movies lure such terrors out into the open, agonizing the audience with a horrifying “what if…?” The one and only Godzilla, on the other hand—progenitor of all kaiju beasties and a pervasive influence on Spielberg, George Lucas, Guillermo del Toro, et al.—is frightening and poignant because it represents the disturbingly real. A manifestation of nuclear holocaust and a warning against the self-destruction that humans can wage, Godzilla remains shocking in how boldly it visualizes Japan’s recent war trauma: less than a decade after Hiroshima and Nagasaki became the first cities to suffer a nuclear attack, Japanese audiences were ravaged by a beast awakened by atomic testing. The sins of humanity repeat themselves perpetually.
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