In the Halloween spirit, I recently watched Predators and Twilight.
And I got to thinking about villians.
To me, a true villian is one who operates in a different but consistent moral frame than the mainstream.
A good villian is as three dimensional of an antagonist as the story’s protagonist.
To me, an important part of a good villian in film is their choices, yes–and also how they come to those choices.

In Predators and Twilight, we get ‘villians’ who I would suggest operate more as “forces of nature”.
And forces of nature are interesting, and their stories are important, but I got to wondering:
which is more scary? a force of nature or a villian? or are they just ‘different types of scary’?

Let me explain how I see forces of nature by citing some examples: Aliens, Jaws, Moby Dick, Zombies, Terminator, some Vampires.

So to Twilight. It is a horrible film. Why can’t anyone make eye contact? Why is the camera swinging around people in some vain effort of ‘gravitas’? It is a mumbling dreary Chilean mineshaft where unlike reality, no viewer comes out alive. Anywho…
We’re set up to believe that Bella is like the prime rib of humanity. She “smells good” to the point of being some panty sniffer’s Golden Calf. And that’s all we really know about Bella in the film other than she mopes, shakes her head and shoulders to convey every emotion, and has only her dim wits in a drearily witted school and ‘new kid on the block’ cred to keep her socially afloat. (I digress)
But James the Big Bad in the film is primarily attracted to her scent. It is only by the tacked on motivation of “upsetting Edward” (a fellow James presumably just met) that James is going to enjoy mowing down on some tasty Bella vittles.
He is a force of nature. He is a vampire, he wants blood, he wants the tastiest blood around. 
Do bears poop in the woods and ride tricycles at whip cracks? Naturally.

Predators is a movie again where the Big Bads are just an alien species who likes to hunt. 
You can almost imagine them thinking, “Sorry, ol’ chap. But I just got to admire your skull upon a stake.”
Predators are to skulls as Ash Ketchum is to Pokemon.

Are these folks no different than Jaws? Just folks out doing what they do…and it just so happens that what they do is munch on you. Does that make them more scary, less scary, or just different scary?  

And what is the characteristic that is missing from a ‘force of nature’ antagonist? Maybe that they cannot be reasoned with. By that measure, was Jack in The Shining a force of nature?

NPR carried a story recently about cinema’s function of creating and reflecting our fears:
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130437185

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