The Darkness Inside

I remember seeing the cult film Cat People — the original 1942 version —when I was in college. If you missed it, it’s a tense, horror tale about an average Joe married to an exotic and very troubled beauty. Irena, played by Simone Simon, is from Serbia and she in convinced that when she gets emotional she turns into a panther. It’s an ancient curse based on the folk tales of her homeland. It’s a clever film that allows the viewer to fill in the blanks and respond to shadows and scary noises.

The monsters that lurk in shadows offer fiction writers a great opportunity to explore the dark side of otherwise good people. Robert Lewis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll lets his dark side take over. His alternative persona, Mr. Hyde, acts on the violent impulses that were hidden beneath his benign exterior.

Do we all have a monster inside?

I don’t think I turn into a cat at night, but a jaundiced view of humanity and a slightly twisted imagination seem essential characteristics for mystery writers. Is that a monster inside? Maybe it is, but just a little one.

The same aggressive tendencies that feed violent impulses are the fuel of other passions. Without some darkness, without some little bit of monster, we’d all be pretty dull.

One of my all time favorite episodes of the original Star Trek TV show is the one with the malfunctioning transporter. The atom-scattering teleportation device splits Captain Kirk in two. The ‘good’ Captain is weak and indecisive, but has good intentions. The ‘bad’ Captain is aggressive, forceful and, basically, Kirk on steroids — not a happy thought, with Trek-ian roid-rage.

I guess this is one of those old lessons that are at the heart of many monster tales — take care when you are exploring the darkness inside. Visit, but don’t let yourself get lost there.


  1. Lew B

    I remember that episode! Shatner is doing a one-man show on Broadway, or is about to. I wonder which Shatner will show up.

    • Candy

      I can only hope that the EVIL Captain. The ‘good’ one was sooooooooo dull. I guess there’s something to be said for balance — a few hot pepper flakes in the stew go a long way.

  2. Beth M.

    We all could have a bit of a monster inside the question is do we ever let it out or should we ever visit our dark side? If we do could we control “The Enemy Within”? I’m not sure I want to visit my dark side – my cup of crazy is full enough as it is! 🙂 Fantastic episode by the way.

    I don’t think I can boldly go or imagine Shatner doing a one-man show on Broadway – at least it’s not a musical!!!

    • Candy

      I’m not sure I could bravely pay Broadway prices for Shatner’s one man show, but as for the darkness inside… I think it’s an asset. Without it, we aren’t whole, but with too much we are — destructive. It all goes back to balance — the darkness (violence, anger, aggression) in the mix makes altruism, joy, generosity, make sense. Without the dark, the light is dull.

      As for Shatner… I sure hope it’s NOT a musical!

  3. Andrea Flory

    Off on a slight tangent, I find it interesting that where we see contrast – black vs white, good vs evil – the Chinese see yin and yang, two opposite and necessary parts of a whole.

    I’m with you Candy. We are both and we need both. I suspect maturity involves learning how to control the darkside, or at the least, channeling it into something creative rather than destructive.

    p.s. I was always a Spock fan 😀

        • Candy

          With a hidden spark of humanity/passion lurking just under the surface. I finally got fid of my VHS tape of ‘The Naked Time.’ That’s the episode when they all catch a disease that lowers their inhibitions. Spoke get s a bit too human for his comfort in that one. LOL… my childhood taste was good.