Length: 2hr 8
About: In Steven Spielberg’s massive blockbuster, paleontologists Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) and mathematician Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) are among a select group chosen to tour an island theme park populated by dinosaurs created from prehistoric DNA. While the park’s mastermind, billionaire John Hammond (Richard Attenborough), assures everyone that the facility is safe, they find out otherwise when various ferocious predators break free and go on the hunt.
This is no normal review. In fact, it’s possibly not a review at all. Everyone knows this is my all time favourite movie and has been since July 1993 when it set me on my path to geekdom.
It’s a film I’ve watched so often, but I don’t think I’ve ever considered it as a horror, or a film to watch as a lead up to Halloween so the fear factor is never going to be there. I’m too amazed and in all honesty, I want to be there too.
So instead, I’m considering how many tropes and themes that come up in horror movies apply to Jurassic Park. I thought I was on a dud mission, but I was very quickly proven wrong.
The creature feature is perhaps the most obvious genre this dinosaur disaster fits into. There’s narrative similarities within Jurassic Park and the Creature From the Black Lagoon, a tonal structure that Spielberg brings organically from Jaws and there’s even an audio/visual reference to one of the greatest creature feature: King Kong, just invade you were wondering what they might be keeping on the island. In the same way Black Lagoon has that embedded wonder, Jurassic Park is all smiles until things go very, very wrong.
One key trope from the creature feature (and arguably other horrors) that is seen multiple times is the Scream Queen. Both of our females give their lungs a good airing when found face to face with the prehistoric reptiles and join Faye Wray, Julie Adams and Susan Blackline as Hollywood Hollering Royalty.
Science and playing God is a staple theme in many a horror movie. Frankenstein, The Fly and Jekyll & Hyde all have scientists take on the god-like role of creator. In much the same fashion as the previously mentioned films, the scientists of Ingen fails to understand the true nature of the monster in their captivity and they rebel against the creator.
Of course, this is on a much grander scale so the stakes are higher and the town at risk is bigger. While the revulsion for the monster isn’t present, it’s clear not everyone is happy with the creators.
Hear me out because yes, there’s no Freddy or Michael but some of the rules still apply. I am, of course, talking about the raptors and their story arc.
The fact that we don’t get a sighting of the raptors until the last 20 minutes or so is frightening in itself. All we’ve seen, is their destruction and lethal potential, much in the same way we don’t see the shark in Jaws or the knife break flesh in the infamous ‘shower scene’, our imagination makes quick work of filling in the blanks with scares and blood. The raptors are isolated, imprisoned separately, from the rest of the park. Too dangerous: they indeed claim the film’s largest body count.
Of course, like Michael Myers, when they find freedom the raptors set their sights on human victims which brings us to the glorious stalking kitchen scene. Replace the predatory reptiles with Ghostface and this scene could fit seamlessly into a Scream movie.
I’ll agree that there’s more than one, and there’s no motivation forthcoming but you have to admit, sometimes the explanation sucks and ruins the movie.
The Harbinger of Doom
A trope I only really became familiar with thanks to Cabin in the Woods. A meta horror that calls out all the tropes is perfect education for film.
So, there are two characters that fit the bill of a harbinger within Jurassic Park. The first is Robert Muldoon, who is vocal about the raptors and their dangers. However, the key role goes to Goldblum’s Ian Malcolm. Not only is his entire persona as a theorist of chaos an ideal fit, he has a passionate speech warning Hammond of his companies’ naivety in playing with Science, even going so far as call it ‘rape of the natural world’.
Both Malcolm and Muldoon give us some foresight into the horrors that are to be faced even if, as Malcolm puts it, he ‘hates being right all the time.’
So it’s an island, doesn’t mean the haunted house rules don’t apply. The clear trope that can be seen is the fracturing of the group, repeatedly. Those that do end up on their own; Muldoon, the lawyer and Arnold, die in rather painful and bloody ways.
Now you’ve read this, you may see Jurassic Park in a different way, or maybe you’re like Ian Malcolm and consider it …
Either way, go check it out on Netflix. There it isn’t butchered like a Michael Myer’s victim on Halloween (yup ITV! I’m looking at you)