“The Weird” was a peculiar mixture of fantasy, horror, andscience fiction that influenced 18th century writing to the modern publishingof the new and digital. The main thing that separates “the weird” fromjust fantasy or horror writing was that it blended supernatural, mythological,scientific language, and magical realism. H,P. Lovecraft one of the founders of”the weird” explained that this genre, is “more than secret murder, bloodybones, or a sheeted form clanking chains,” it is the “half-told,half-hinted horrors” that offer up the opportunity for the reader’simagination to go to even darker corners than those the writer creates. Lovecraft also spoke of the importance of atmosphere to create agiven sensation. In any form of media or writing in “the weird” genre,they all share themes and techniques such as the fear of the unknown, fear forloved ones, symbolism, descriptive imagery, feelings of dread, and atmospheres.
The movie Zathura: A Space Adventure fits into “the weird” canon for thiscourse with unusual happenings, unfamiliar places, alternate timelines,reptilian aliens, and some of the themes mentioned above.Zathura: A SpaceAdventure is a science fiction fantasy story that revolves around a family,specifically two brothers and their sister. They do not get along becausethe older brother is tired of his little brother acting like a child. Themovie takes place at the divorced dad’s house where the boys discover a boardgame in the basement while their sister is supposed to be watching them, butinstead is sleeping. The game they found called Zathura was a clockdriven space themed board game. The goal of the game was to get to thefinal space named Zathura, and during each turn a card is picked withinstructions.
As they begin to play the game they quickly realize thatthe board game affected reality. They also realize that their house isfloating on a rock next to Saturn. Knowing that the only way to beat thegame was to make it to the end, the boys are forced to continue to play. The boys drawing cards have to battle with defective robots, areptilian race called Zorgons, a visitor astronaut, and a sister frozen in acryonic sleep. There are manysimilarities between this movie and our canon’s course. Most specificallythis story is similar to Dawn by Octavia Butler, Fondly Fahrenheit by AlfredBester and Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. These stories usescientific knowledge to create events in the story that help to build on thesense of wonder that stories are known for.
This can be seen inFrankenstein Victor Frankenstein brings his creation to life with the help of alightning storm. This can be compared to Zathura how the board game isbrought to life causing the boys to wind up in outer space. Alfred Bester’sFondly Fahrenheit is a thriller that blends the genres of horror and sciencefiction with crimes committed by an android. This is most similar to thedefective robot in the movie Zathura who tries to kill the boys, but eventuallygets locked in the basement. Eventually Walter can use his reprogram cardfrom one of his turns to make the robot turn good.
Another novel that hadsimilarities with this movie was Dawn by Octavia Butler. Most importantlythe atmospheres and the theme of isolation. Danny the younger brother inZathura felt isolated from his family especially his brother Walter. Thisis similar to Lilith who was kept in isolation for two hundred and fifty yearsby the Oankali before seeing another human or even another living extraterrestrial. Both stories also take place in faraway places specifically in outerspace.There are many twistsand turns in Zathura because with each turn the boy rolls the dice, and a newrandom event happens to their house. This is common in a lot of “weird”tales because it keeps the reader on their toes and adds to the atmosphere. This also plays a huge role in adding to the theme of the fear of theunknown.
Lovecraft said that this genre uses fear of theunknown a lot because, “the oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear,and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown,”(Supernatural Horror in Literature) This movie along with stories like TheHaunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson and Ernest Hemingway’s The Snows ofKilimanjaro all use the fear of the unknown in some fashion. In theHaunting of Hill House fear of the unknown occurs when Eleanor arrives at theHill House and is overcome with instinctual fear that causes her to freeze upand imagines a voice telling her to leave the house immediately. Fear ofthe unknown is present in Snows of Kilimanjaro in this quote when Poe wastalking about Harry’s death, “He had just felt death come by again. You knowthe only thing I’ve never lost is curiosity.” (Hemmingway, 1938). Poe is talking about fear of unknown and specifically death becausewhat is more unknown than death.
The use of fear of theunknown, fear for loved ones, symbolism, descriptive imagery, feelings of dreadand spooky or fantasy atmospheres along with unusual happenings, unfamiliarplaces, alternate timelines, reptilian aliens, make the movie Zathura: ASpace Adventure fit into “the weird” canon for this course. Zathuralike other novels and short stories we have read use action images to capturethe heart of the story and depict the heat of the moment. In Zathura theclimax of the story does a good job in depicting the desperation of the kids inthe heat of the moment.
This is something that weird fiction has reliedon throughout its existence. This use of action images results in adiscombobulating feeling by using otherworldly forces in evil-intentionedresistance to our expectations and values. This is different for everystory especially due to the influence of nationality in the “weird” genre. From Europe to America to the Orient, these authors have broughtdifferent mystical and cultural perspectives to the genre. From the Gothicframework of villain, hero, and setting, to the later nineteenth century workswith a more “human element” or the more modern works of Lovecraft’sday that incorporated more “psychological knowledge,” Lovecraft showshow supernatural horror evolved into a genre worthy of literary respect.