Last September, my wife, Elise, and I received the terrifying news. We were told that in nine months, a creature would be bursting out of Elise’s body to menace us for the next eighteen years… perhaps more if it decides not to go away to college. How could this be? Elise hadn’t been exposed to any alien eggs. She hadn’t been visited by Satan after taking a dose of drugged chocolate mousse. At least I don’t think she had. We don’t spend every minute of the day together, you know.
As many, many years of devouring horror movies has taught me, Elise’s pregnancy could have happened any number of ways. After all, a lot of monstrous babies have crawled across the screen. Yet the monster baby is a relatively recent phenomenon. While monstrous children peaked in the early sixties amidst “juvenile delinquency” hysteria with items such as Village of the Damned and the “It’s a Good Life” episode of “The Twilight Zone,” it was not until 1968 that Roman Polanski explicitly monsterized the first stage of life. I say “explicitly” because one could argue that the monster baby was delivered during the haunted summer of 1816 when Mary Shelley conceived Frankenstein. Though we are privy to the Monster’s sketchily described birth in the book, he spends most of it in a state of rebellious and ornery adolescence, pissed off at his inattentive doctor daddy. And we certainly never witness him as a bald little diaper-wearing thing.