King Kong: When Peter Jackson Tried to Bring Horror to Blockbuster Cinema

And that is only the apex predator of an ecosystem filled with Jaws-like killer prehistoric fish, huge blind carnivorous lizards, and the bugs… all the bugs. Giant earwigs, cricket-like creatures, larger and larger bugs with stinging tails and snapping claws, growing bigger as each wave of monsters is machine-gunned away. And then of course, there are perhaps the most terrifying monsters of Skull Island, the giant fleshy, toothy worms that look like prolapsed anuses, consuming Andy Serkis limb by limb in one of the most horrible death scenes in cinema.

Of course, eventually, King Kong leaves the horror tropes behind. Typically in the horror movie, our surviving heroes will escape from the evil island/haunted house/spaceship and get to safety, only to discover that somehow the monster has come with them for one final fight, more dangerous than ever.

In King Kong, the protagonists take the monster with them, after drugging him up suitably, and his final fight in New York shows him scared, bewildered, out of his depth. Ultimately, Kong dies tragically and alone. Mankind, as always, is the real monster.

A Horror King’s Legacy

King Kong itself was seen by many as a noble failure in its time, making back more than double its budget at the box office, but failing to reach the astronomical heights of the Lord of the Rings movies. It also notably was the first Peter Jackson film not to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars after all three Lord of the Rings movies received that notoriety. To some, the movie was a vanity project: an anomaly fueled by one auteur’s obsessions, including horror.

Yet at the same time in the mid-2000s, the entire blockbuster film environment was about to undergo a transformation of its own. Jackson’s fellow horror alumni, Sam Raimi, had also stepped into more mainstream, big budget waters, this time to create, of all things, a faithful comic book superhero adaptation.

Like Jackson’s Kong, Raimi’s Spider-Man movies still have his grubby horror genre fingerprints all over it (the tentacle POV shots when Dr. Octopus wakes up in Spider-Man 2 is stolen directly from Raimi’s own Evil Dead movies). And their success paved the way for an adaptation of the less-well-known Iron Man comics, opening the door to a future where blockbusters headlined not their big name stars or auteur directors, but their IP.

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