Un-Natural Selection: Evolutionary Concepts in Horror Cinema

Evolution doesn’t seem scary.  It is the processes of change in heritable traits of biological entities over successive generations, which give rise to biological diversity between and within organisms. This isn’t something likely to make you cower behind your popcorn box at the multiplex. However, the horror genre has frequently borrowed from science to create cinematic nightmares and evolutionary concepts provide a rich source of raw materials. In this piece I outline four key themes in horror cinema:  ‘super-evolved monsters’, ‘abomination’, ‘devolution’ and ‘monstrous mutation’ all of which are informed by evolutionary science, and along the way I’ll suggest a few films for your Halloween viewing pleasure.

Like the harbinger of doom in any good slasher movie I must offer some warnings. Firstly, horror films frequently misrepresent the reality of evolutionary science; the underlying themes are influenced by evolution, but no film discussed is scientifically accurate. Secondly, this isn’t an exhaustive review; I’d welcome you to consider these themes in relation to your own horror favourites. Thirdly, some of the hyperlinks link to scenes of a graphic nature. And lastly, there may be spoilers ahead. You have been warned! Continue reading Un-Natural Selection: Evolutionary Concepts in Horror Cinema