Made to be Monsters: ‘Darkman’
Welcome back to ‘Made To Be Monsters’, the series where I talk in-depth about my favorite films and why I think they’re secretly about the transsexual/queer experience. Remember: I am not trying to argue for the genuine, intended text of these films, and this is all in good fun.
You can find all previous and future entries into the series here!
Recently celebrating its 31st anniversary, Sam Raimi’s Darkman marks the second time the writer/director has been featured on this series! What can I say besides that this man has a finger to the pulse of Other’ed cinema, to the stories of societal outcasts and the journey of boy to Man. Although this film, released in 1990 to moderate financial and critical acclaim, has faded into the background for most superhero fans, I maintain that it is one of Raimi’s best, a true horror film within a comic book skin.
The story of Peyton Westlake (Liam Neeson), a scientist turned vigilante after being disfigured by a mobster, is a story of slow corruption, of a loss of identity resulting in further loss of humanity. It helped launch Liam Neeson into the American spotlight, as well as to prep Raimi for the Spider-Man trilogy twelve years later. And in the current landscape of Marvel and DC dominating the comic book film landscape, it’s a refreshing, darker take on the subgenre.
It is also, for the sake of this series, a film entirely concerned with the subject of identity, both literal/physical, and internal. A film that supposes an individual who is physically changed and must thus consider the question of what constitutes monstrosity in the eyes of the society, as well as in the eyes of the individual. A film that states that Darkman is “everyone and no one”, and solidifies its protagonist as another solid transsexual monster.
Darkman is an interesting departure from most of the films I’ve written about for ‘Made to be Monsters’. In most of these, I argue for why being perceived as monstrous is inaccurate or wrong in some fashion. But in the case of Peyton Westlake, we’re dealing with a character that is an actual, intentional monster. The character of Darkman is an intentional homage to the run of 1930’s horror figures by Universal, many of whom are…