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Monday, June 26, 2017

Eating My Words on Wonder Woman

Oh look at all these words. Oh... yum... gulp... so delicious... so meaty. So good... so good to eat... so scrumptious... I've never eaten words as good as this before. This is delicious. Scrumpf... glomp... chew... oh so good... so satisfying... filling...can't get enough...

So in 2012, I wrote a blog about how we'd never see a Wonder Woman movie, or at least a good one. Let's take a look at some of the points I made and why I was wrong.

" make Wonder Woman translate to today's audiences, you would have to alter her so radically that she wouldn't resemble Wonder Woman anymore. ... Someone's going to leave unhappy -- either the fanboys or the casuals." 

Well, what I didn't count on was that the movie was going to make someone else happy -- women. Not just geek women or romcom women or intellectual women. Just... women. They kept the character... mm, I hate to say it but "generic" enough so that everyone could project on to her. One tweet said "Is this why men watch superhero movies? Because I feel like taking on an army after seeing Wonder Woman."

And why wouldn't you be excited? How nice would it be to not be afraid of men? Someone who didn't have to hold her keys in her fist walking through the parking lot, who doesn't have some bald man staring at her on the subway, who can sit in a bar without some drunk stranger telling her to "smile more". Wonder Woman doesn't let anyone shut her down or interrupt her.

This is the flaw in DC movies -- they try too hard to please everyone and rely too much on focus groups. Hence the movies are bland and messy and deviate too much from source characters (e.g. Suicide Squad, Man of Steel, Superman v. Batman). As a result, the movies have no flavor. They're bland. As colorless as... as... well, as a DC movie (come on guys, you gotta do color correction!) Wonder Woman is not an exception. It's as gray as a warfare first person shooter. But it did the best it could. And one hopes that the Justice League, which has some characters who aren't so grimdark (Aquaman, Flash), will pick up that slack too.

But my point is, they didn't radically change Wonder Woman. In fact, they didn't make much of her at all. Didn't take any risks. Didn't add any flavor. They didn't change a McDonald's hamburger recipe. She was built for a task, she goes out to fulfill that task. No dead cancer mother or alcoholism or past life as a criminal. She doesn't have any flaws (being naive doesn't count) that make her broken. In fact, her role is to nurture the broken -- the Irish guy with PTSD and the Blackfoot exiled from his tribe. If Captain America is the father-figure of the Avengers, Wonder Woman is the mama lion of the Justice League.

"Wonder Woman is intrinsically bonded to its creators predilections towards bondage and female dominance. Wonder Woman is frequently shown either tying up criminals or being tied up."

I had trouble separating the comic book from the character. For one thing, I think I wrote this around peak "but the comics were better" fanboyism. This was when The Dark Knight Rises, and The Amazing Spider-Man came out. Everyone else (I'm looking at you DC and Sony) screwed it up because they deviated too much from the source material. Batman couldn't live up to The Dark Knight, and Spider-Man was receiving a too-soon reboot. Marvel planted its flag with The Avengers, but it still failed the Bechdel Test.

See up to this point, comic book movies always keeping women as sidekicks -- Captain America: The Winter Soldier had Black Widow, Guardians of the Galaxy has Gamora, Thor has Jane, Iron Man has Pepper Potts. And being sidekicks, these women had little definition. Black Widow is "the spy". Gamora is the "warrior-princess". Pepper Potts is the sassy secretary. These are not characters, they're archetypes. When you make a main character that main character has to be "broken" in some way. And if you make a woman broken, you get flak saying "how dare you represent all women as [this condition]".

Wonder Woman fights no criminals, pursues no bad guys. The movie is about World War I and takes a few pages from Apocalypse Now, traveling from the bureaucratic offices to the front lines. But where that storyline became darker and darker, Wonder Woman gives hope. Hope that, with courage and friends, you can take on anyone.

The concept of binding or being bound within the film is removed completely. There are no games and no ropeplay. Wonder Woman herself is never bound (in the comics, that's her one weakness, so it's surprising that doesn't make it in). Moulston might not approve of the film, but he's not here. And the world's moved past that kind of Wonder Woman. Yes, it does stray from her original spirit, but it changes her character for the better.

"How would you even start the story?"

They did it the best way -- simply. They left only the basics. Not too many characters get shoved into foreground because once Diana leaves the island, we never see them again. We stay on Wonder Woman the whole time. Even when we have to deviate with some backstory narration, it takes the form of her bedtime story.

"The problem is there's a stigma around Amazons."

The right way
The wrong way
I worried that characters would become "entitled, bitchy woman with more masculinity than femininity who can't form social relationships". The concept is that this secret island holds Zeus's ripping cool army just in case he ever needs it again. This avoids turning into a land of man-haters (because they've worked with men in the past). It also helps that the set and costume design comes from women. They knew how to make feminine warriors without being booblicious.

As far as Diana's concerned, there's a little of the "born sexy yesterday" trope. But her character's development is more about the transition from classic-style honor-fighting to modern warfare. But she still likes babies and ice cream. She doesn't have the mind of a child so she can hold a conversation without sounding like Sally from 3rd Rock From the Sun (not that I don't hold respect for that character, but she was played for laughs). I saw a bit of Bones in her, but not in a disdainful way.

"The first thing you'd have to do is totally revamp the costume." 

They did, but not very much. For one thing, you don't see the costume until her iconic charge out of the trench. Until then, it's cloaks and robes. After the big reveal, you can see they kept the color scheme, but made it grayed out metal.

There's no explanation for WHY she's wearing it, and that bothers me. In the plot, she stole some armor from the Themyscira vaults, but it has no context, nor explanation why it looks different than everyone else's. But this movie's made me pay more attention to the beauty of the outfits than all movies I've seen in the past thirty-six years (I'm 36) combined. They even manage to have a costume montage in the middle. But its more about where she can store her sword, not what's tantalizing.

Still the best dressing montage there is.

"The biggest problem with Wonder Woman is that her weapons and tools just don't make sense. ... First, [the lasso of truth is] not a very exciting power. Second, it becomes a deus ex machina."

There is actually surprisingly little of Wonder Woman wielding her signature weapon. She uses the sword, shield, and bracelets more. The few times she does use it is either for interrogation (and he is barely tied up) or as a whip. The plot doesn't demand that she use it either. At the time, I was thinking of plots like The Winter Soldier or Iron Man 3 that are full of deception and intrigue. But more to the point, she IS the weapon. She's personified defense and offense, not strategy or intelligence (in the spy sense) or moral relativism or power through any means other than selflessness. Also, no silly invisible plane.

"[G]olden bracelets that can stop bullets. ... They only things they could block are tiny cocktail swords. ... [Y]our wrist bones would shatter as soon as a bullet hit."

The bracelets are glossed over in the plot. I believe in the comics they're formed of the shield of Aegis, which is like DC-adamantium. But she does use them and somehow has the reflexes to stop an incoming bullet. Is that explained? No. Her powers are kept ambiguous, which is a disadvantage because it makes her overpowered. They don't even explain why she doesn't age. I wouldn't be surprised if some audience members thought her "god killer" power was the bracelets instead of within herself.

"[F]our words: aim for the legs. The well-exposed legs."

This still stands, but it's a problem among many movies. It happens several times to Captain America and no one bats an eye, so I guess we're all agreeing to ignore it? Rule of cool?

"Steve Trevor and Wonder Woman had the screwed-up relationship of "I Dream of Jeannie". Wonder Woman's got all this power and ability, yet she feels incomplete without him."

In this movie, Wonder Woman absolutely does not NEED Steve Trevor. Well, she does NEED him, in the sense that he's her liaison into the world of men. But if she got a map to the front or some notes on how British government works, she'd be fine on her own. This is probably the biggest deviation from the comics, but also the most welcome. And it would have been the easiest pit to fall into.

Diana does not have a romance with Steve and Steve doesn't treat Diana as anything but a peer. A fellow soldier and a means to an end. They both want to end the war. Steve doesn't necessarily believe in this Ares nonsense, but he's seen her take on a boat full of Nazis, so he's got the proof and the pudding.

"Etta Candy? Who is she supposed to be? Comic relief? Is she like the Theodore of this triumvirate?"

Etta Candy is a pleasant cameo, but little more. She's really the only other woman in the cast who's not a Themysciran action figure. And they give her dignity. She's not food-obsessed or man-obsessed. They did her right by not giving her a stereotype or archetype. She doesn't have a "thing", unless you count being delightfully British.

"[T]he biggest problem with the supporting characters is that Wonder Woman has no memorable villains."

I think this still stands. I could see the Ares thing a mile a way and General Thunderbolt is just another Red Skull/Bane/Popeye pastiche taking Super Serum (don't you know you never get high off your own stash?) The same thing happens in the first Thor, the first Captain America, The Incredible Hulk, and the first Spider-Man. But it does avoid the "designated girl fight" and doesn't go on too long. Dr. Poison was the most interesting (I imagined her like Dr. Tenenbaum from Bioshock) and it's a shame she got such an uninteresting ending. But we got thrown cars and explosions, so how much can you complain about it?

Final thoughts: Yes, thumbs-up. I am bullish on Wonder Woman stock. I really hope this gets directors and producers to realize that yes, women-led movies, both in front and behind the camera, can make money. And even better, they make good art.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Disney Princes: The Beast

 The Beast

First Impression: Ooh... it's very hard to recover your rep when you A) skulk in the shadows, wearing nothing but a cloak and pants like The Hulk B) lock someone's father in a tower. But the whole point of the story is turning from monster to man, so...

Wait, my image search came up with more results. Is this the Beast?

Appearance: Resembles a giant buffalo/gorilla/bear/wolf-thing. And despite this, more people prefer his beast form to human, which resembles a French aristocrat with long flowing locks and big blue eyes.

Intelligence: Sources are sketchy on this. On one hand, he's got a huge-ass library. On the other, if you believe the deleted scenes, Belle has to teach him to read. There are all kinds of intelligence--kinetic, spatial, musical, logical--but he really doesn't demonstrate any of these. He's just a schmoe adapting to life with a pretty girl in his house.

Ah, hang on. This looks closer.

Job/Source of Income: Inherited. But waning fast. I can't imagine anyone is out collecting the taxes.

Well, this one looks pretty close too.

Sense of Humor: Little to none. His sense of humor comes from the way he does everything "wrong". Some guys just aren't funny.

Huh, this one looks pretty beast-like. And a little Klingon.

Critical Fault: Verbally abusive and violent. The trope namer of the fixer-upper boyfriend.

But this one's all handsome and Phantom-of-the-Opera-brooding

Quality of sidekick: Despite the fact that his best friends are products from Pier 1 Imports, they stay by his side. But not because they have to, because they could have left his employ before he was cursed. But they didn't. Something to be said for that.

But wait, the image search says this is the Beast. But it just looks like a fat gray guy. Love the Long Fall Boots though.

Relatability: He starts out representing the dark side, the side you wish you could use when someone cuts you off in traffic or brings you into a pointless meeting. And by the end, he's a fine respectable gentleman, and women want to date him.

Is this the Beast too? Geez, so many iterations

Talent: Jumping, climbing, clawing, roaring. Can lick his own balls.

I searched for "number of beasts" and this is what I got -- more beasts!

Does he have a name? No. Still no canon source have given dear Beasty a name. Not even the live-action film took the opportunity. Tsk tsk.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Somebody at Work Keeps Bringing Their Kid In

Somebody at work keeps bringing their kid in and I thought this would be a good thought experiment. My intention is to demonstrate what's going through the heads of those people who want to burn down health care, transgender bathrooms, marijuana regulation, immigration reform, and the like.

Someone at work, an Indian woman, one of the QA, brings her kid in to work about once a month for the past two months. Seven or eight year old boy. Mostly he plays on an iPad all day, but I occasionally see him run around or during an all-team meeting, coming to get his Mom for something. He doesn't make trouble.


This feels wrong. This is a workplace. The intended residents are adults. There is nothing here for a child. People should not be bringing their kids to the office.

Oh, sure, everyone else loves it, they're all charismatic. They love children, they have children of their own. But I've got shit to do, you know? And every time that kid makes the littlest squee, my spine tingles. My parent-sense twitches. I come to work to avoid kids.

Isn't there a daycare? Don't you have another parent you cohabitate with? Can't you work from home on days like this? That's the biggest one--we all have laptops. The system is DESIGNED for you to work mobile and remotely. So there should be no need to come into work when circumstances do not favor it. What, you can't afford wi-fi? I doubt it, with the kind of salary my contemporaries get.


I mean, it's not like I do or say anything during the day that a kid shouldn't hear. Not that I do anything he should--it's a neutral place. The kid is really not interfering with your ability to work. There are bigger things in the environment, like crowdedness and proxies and noise and useless meetings and product managers that don't send you stuff when they promise, that are more of a factor on your ability to work than this kid.

You don't know this person's situation. And if you weren't an asshole anti-social, you might know why. You might get to know this mother-son family, and maybe make a friend in the process. But I'm not here to talk about the future. That's the abstract, that's not my department.

There's nothing in the employee handbook that says a kid CAN'T come to work. I know that's the "Air Bud" schism, but it's true. And again, it's not impacting your ability. It's a minor annoyance, but I'm sure not as much of an annoyance as it is for the mom who has to monitor him. But to you, it's trivial. In fact today, when you worked from home, you spent more time helping your kids play Zelda then you have spent in total thinking about this kid.

The kid's not hurting anything. This isn't like "Stilwell" from "A League of Their Own" or the kid from "Problem Child". He's not pulling out plugs or smearing cream cheese on your seat. His mom is keeping him wrangled. He's not affecting you in any way.

Here's the deal. The rational should always triumph the emotion. I don't mean to sound like we should make a world of Spocks, but the fact is that at the root of emotions is selfishness. All the feelings I listed above. They're all about how I feel. They take nothing of what anyone else feels into account. And when emotion gets to cancel out rational, people get hurt.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Disney Princes: Flynn Rider

Flynn Rider

(a.k.a. Eugene Fitzherbert)

First Impression: A selfish cad who we're supposed to sympathize with because "this is the story of how he died", which is a cheaty way of creating intrigue. His first line is "Guys, I've made up my mind. I want a castle." This didn't endear him to me because one of my pet peeves is not staying on task during a crucial time. And it's compounded by betrayal of his companions immediately after. Arrogant, deceitful, and trouble-making are not qualities you want in a protagonist.

Appearance: Slender, muscular, handsome, fair skin, dark brown hair and goatee, light brown eyes. Also, watch out for the smolder.
Crap, typo...
Ah, there we go

Intelligence: Street smart, but let's face it -- he grew up at an orphanage. Can he read?

Job/Source of Income: None. I mean, like literally, he is a thief and has no steady job. Now after he gets married, he has a job as Prince Consort and trainer of guards, but really... I mean, come on girls, do you want a man who gets his job after and because he gets married to you?

Sense of humor: Fantastic. I especially like it when he has to drop his facade and realize how out of his shit he his when he sword-fights a horse with a frying pan.

Critical fault: Conceited and steals your stuff

Quality of sidekick: Has a true bromance with Maximus. If your guy's best friend is a horse, why would you ever mind when they go out with his friends. No such thing as a third wheel there.

Relatability: Despite what the first impression is, his charm supersedes it quickly.

Talent: Thief things like breaking into places, escaping from those places, escaping, spending ill-gotten gains. And like all medieval thieves, he has a +1 in Agility and Athletics.

Does he have a name? He has two. As we'll soon see, I wish he would give one to one of the other princes.

Monday, June 12, 2017

My Kindertrauma: The Hippo Song

You know what they don't have anymore? Children's music. I mean, I don't think it was ever popular, but it existed. I guess it's because children don't have disposable income, and parents don't want to listen to that kind of dreck.

Also, there's no avenue for kids to pick up new stuff. When I was your age, we had a thing called the radio to hear new music. By the time they're old enough to operate YouTube they find stuff like Willow Smith and Justin Bieber. The closest equivalent, Radio Disney, well... it doesn't play kid's music. I looked at the Top 30 chart and all the names I recognize seemed aimed at middle-schoolers, talking about romantic stuff that no one that age should be doing. I blame Hannah Montana.

There's nothing for ten and under. But they existed when I was that age. I remember them from elementary school/preschool times and Radio AAHS. Works of Joe Scruggs. Who can forget "Don't Play with Bruno" and "Bahamas Pajamas" by Joe Scruggs. How would I know how colors work if not for Cheech Marin's album? (it happened) If not for the constant playback of "Yakko's World", I wouldn't have all those countries memorized.

But there was one song that gave me Kindertrauma.

I have no recollection of first hearing this song. No doubt it was before I could form conscious memories. This is "Hey Daddy" by Anne Murray. Known to me as "Hippo in the Bathtub".

It didn't help that the lady singing it sounded like a kindly grandma or Carole King, just watching this hippo die. Just a little bit raspy, a little bit charming. Like a serial killer.

And yes, I know a hippopotamus cannot possibly fit down a bathtub drain. This is kid logic, okay? That's how kindertrauma works. And as a result of my kid logic. I was afraid to be in the bathtub while the drain was open. I had to call my parents in and I would get out and they would unplug the drain. This also might explain why I was afraid of getting sucked into escalators as a kid.

I remember in second grade, I heard it again, and it still sends shivers up my spine. Nowadays, I have enough rationality to understand the concept of spatial equilibrium. But that's the thing about kindertrauma -- its not about what you know, it's about what you felt as a child. And for some reason, what you feel as a child is so intense it follows you all your life.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

The Sliding Scale of Infidelity

I was talking about this with my wife the other day. Apparently there is some new sex robot that can replicate emotions and give responses. I'm sure it's not much better than a furby. But it reminded me that we are facing a paradigm shift in technology + sex and it's going to go common soon.

I can't remember where I read it, but there's a quote that says "As soon as a new technology is invented, people will figure out a way to use it for sex". It happened with paintings, the telephone, the video tape, and so on. I don't know if the same debates occurred back then, but I know that today's technology allows to get into some very gray area regarding infidelity.

Case in point, there's a scene in Bad Moms (2016 starring Mila Kunis) where the husband is on the computer masturbating. The wife thinks it's just porn, but he's webcamming with another girl. I don't know if this is a camgirl or a normal citizen. It's someone he's established rapport with, that much is known.

The wife (and mine) considered this cheating. But no fluids were exchanged. They were never in the same room together. In fact, they had never met IRL and lived in different states.

To be clear, I'm not saying this ISN'T cheating. I'm saying it's an interesting debate. I understand both sides of the issue. On one hand, feelings were hurt. On the other hand, how different is this than pornography or strippers? To what degree of intimacy was exchanged?

And that's just today. I don't know what it was like in the past days--I guess women didn't feel like they had voice enough to protest their husbands sexual escapades. But now that we've got stronger women PLUS accelerating technology, a hand must be raised.

And it's interesting that this "accelerated technology" is pretty much devoted to giving humans artificial experiences. I grew up in a time when the greatest advance in VR was A) that thing at the State Fair where you shoot dragons or your friend in Blockoland or B) Virtual Boy.

Right now, sex dolls are still tossed in the uncanny valley, but eventually, they will make a human-passable gynoid. Is a nearly human gynoid worse or better than watching a camgirl?

When I try and evaluate "am I masturbating or am I having an affair?" I think of it on a scale from 0 (monogamous, no fear of betrayal) to 10 (you've been unfaithful to me, I want a divorce). Here are some things that are going to have to be placed on that scale:
  • A full-size sex doll with no electronics or moving parts
  • A sex doll that can have a face projected onto it (any face you want)
  • A sex doll with moving parts and electronics (meant to be as close to a human as possible)
  • A non-humanoid robot that can give a handjob
  • Virtual reality porn
  • Virtual reality porn with a peripheral
  • Virtual reality porn with a haptic suit
  • A sex game on a Kinect (or perhaps virtual sex on the Kinect)
  • Attaching a fleshlight to an iPad.
  • Anything you can make with a 3-D printer
  • Interacting one-on-one with a camgirl (compare to getting a lap dance with a stripper)
  • Interacting one-on-one with someone on ChatRoulette
  • Using a remotely-operated sex toy (they've got everything from kissing simulators to virtual vajayjays).
  • Putting on Google Glasses and face-swapping your partner with someone else.

To me, none of these sound terribly appealing. Maybe the most likely one I'd get is something VR for the cell phone. Nothing too expensive. I've got kids, I've got to hide it, you know. I can't put on a haptic suit every time. But the thing about VR is it does feel a leetle beet too much like having sex with someone who's not my wife. Also, someone could walk in and I'd never know it.

For me personally, I think a big part comes from "is there a human on the other end or not"? Although this is not an end-all/be-all. Men can fall in love with a non-feeling object. We're living in a world where people marry their pillows, for God's sake.

Ultimately, it comes down to what's okay between you and your spouse. And these days that may not be so cut and dried. So that means some uncomfortable communications are going to have to occur, and it's better they occur sooner than later.

Monday, June 05, 2017

On the Origin of Supernatural Characters

So this is something I've been thinking about for quite some time, but my passion for finding an answer hasn't reached the level of putting down words until now.

So let's imagine you've got a horror movie. And your movie needs a scary killer. Something palpable and not en masse (not zombies or plague). Something like a big spider or a hillbilly cannibal or a pale kid ghost. Here's the question: do you give that bad guy an origin?

Here's why I ask. Is it scarier when you don't know where the bad guy came from? What his/her/its motivations are? What its nature is? Or is that just lazy writing? I've heard criticisms both ways. The first that explaining the bad guy makes him less scary. The second from critics, who say that because you don't know what it wants, it's not scary. You don't know where it came from or why it's there or the reasoning behind its strength and weaknesses. Why does Jason seem to be able to teleport? Why does Pennywise only appear every twenty-seven years? How did a white-boy criminal learn the voodoo to put his soul into a doll?

Or you could say that the lack of definition enhances the fear. The time when things are the scariest are when you don't know. You don't know if something's in the dark. You don't know why the devil inhabits this little girl. You don't know what the Blair Witch is. You don't know why the Babadook has a little book (why can he get published and not me?). You don't know why the It in "It Follows" is following you. Is it a gypsy curse? A confused ghost? Is the film itself just allegorical?

Let's look at some scary movies to see if we can find an answer. You can't count some franchises like Friday the 13th, Nightmare Before Christmas on Elm Street. I applaud these movies for keeping things as fresh as possible, especially Freddy. But you can't have this many sequels and not have backstory come out. To the point where it stops being horror and starts being action and/or science fiction (e.g. Resident Evil, Jason X).

"Dear! Are you going out in that?!"

I give Halloween a pass because A) it started the eighties horror rennaissance B) I consider only the first two part of the mythos. Number three had no Michael Myers. Four + Five + Six add some weird cult/curse/prophecy thing that was so tainted with studio interference and poor production that I can't bear to include it. Seven and Eight you could make an argument for, but they're essentially milking a dead cow for nostalgia. And the Rob Zombie movies are real reboots (and add way too much backstory).

Anyway, my point is that Halloween (I & II) do not explain where Michael Myers came from, why he kills, etc. All Dr. Loomis can say is that he's absolute evil (not very professional, but effective storytelling). He's like a force of nature. He's there, but you don't know why, and you don't know the reason for his mask, or why he wants to kill family. It launched an entire decade of genre so it should be effective.

Some others that are scary, but do a decent job of explaining the character's origin are The Exorcist, The Shining, The Ring, and Psycho. Yet, there is an element of the unexplainable in all these. Norman Bates's psychosis is abnormal, so as much as the psychiatrist bores us to death tries to explain, you still don't get the unnatural connection to Mother. Umbrella Corporation still seems to be in business after seven games and a thousand zombie outbreaks. Hasn't someone complained to the Better Business Bureau by now? Why does Samara care more about getting her tape out than avenging her death? How does a hotel go from Indian curse to directing a father to murder his family?

So then we have movies that have nil or just about nil story/background/characterization to the bad guy. The Babadook and It from "It Follows" have obvious allegorical meanings, but that's metaphysical. Where did they come from in the universe of the movie? Why does the Babadook look like Ryuk with a little hat and coat?

Is their ship name "Babaryuk"? Or "RyukDook"?

Why does the It from "It Follows" follow? If It from "It" follows "It Follows" and It from "It Follows" follows "It" then it follows It follows "It Follows" follows "It" following It from "It Follows" follows "It". I don't know what I just said. None of those words have any meaning anymore to me.

The Blair Witch has no identity or origin as the kids look for her. The fear comes from what they find during their journey into the woods. And the movie was criticized for this. For as scared as people were, there were as many that said "a pile of rocks and popsicle-stick men aren't scary". And if you didn't catch the blink-and-you'll-miss-it "standing in the corner" line from the beginning, the ending is lost on you. For them, the absence of meaning behind these actions was silly rather than scary.

In Jaws, there's no explanation why the shark has entered populated waters. It contradicts what's known about sharks. We know it's bigger than normal and it's behavior is aberrant. Why? No one knows. But this didn't change the fact that it was scary. What it could do was more important than why it did it.

Okay, lightning round now: Night of the Living Dead - no explanation for zombies (the "comet" line is pure conjecture). Paranormal Activity (the first one, see above explanation about franchises) - no explanation. Funny Games - no explanation for why the serial killer preppies are doing this (but then it gets negated by the metaphysical remote control interruption). Cloverfield (doing web searches for the ARG doesn't count). The Birds. Five Nights at Freddy's. Silent Hill.

And then a few that are on the fence: does Texas Chainsaw Massacre count? Do we need more backstory if it's based on a historical figure? Do we need to know what planet Xenomorphs originate from? Or how they survive with acid for blood and the evolutionary reasoning for two mouths? Does "Death" in Final Destination need something more or is that just torture porn anyway?

I think it's more important what the characters do than where they came from. If there's meanings in the actions of the bad guy, that makes not only an effective bad guy, but an effective movie. Random shit happening is just random shit. If you can't attach meaningfulness (and in horror movies, meaningfulness means threat or doom), then it's not scary.

The funny part is that "Cabin in the Woods" -- arguably the best horror movie in the past decade -- is nothing BUT explanation of the scary killer.