You know what scares the shit out of me? The ocean.
It isn’t the fear of drowning or the concept of being isolated from land, and it isn’t the fear of being eaten by a shark or some shit like that. What freaks me out is “the unknown.” Who knows what the fuck is lurking down there in the depths of the ocean. Scientists are discovering new species all the time, most of which are pretty damn scary looking. You have giant pillbugs and snake-like fish 20 feet long and massive worms that grow out of the ground, as if the Earth itself was a fucking tentacle monster.
That’s what makes Gyo creepy on some primordial level for me. It takes that uneasiness I feel about “the deep” and amps it up to the most terrifyingly logical end.
It ain’t the walking fish that’s freaky about Gyo. That’s damn cool on a SyFy movie Sharktopus vs Alliraptorwhale level– one of those cool visuals that acts as the building block of a good monster movie. Genuinely good monster movies start with that core element of “cool monster” and then use it as a jumping point to play off of a fear that’s far more inborn to the human psyche. Vampires are all about the fear of human sexuality and shit like that. Zombies are about the fear of losing one’s individuality and becoming something completely inhuman. Frankenstein and the Cthulhu mythos are all about man fucking with forces beyond his comprehension and control.
The bit that makes Gyo scary doesn’t come until the end of the movie. I had some ideas running through my head about what I thought was up with this shit, but those ideas were cemented with the scene at the circus. We find that the gas that the infected fish and humans are spewing may be alive. Like, this gas is a sentient collective or some shit. The dude running this circus claims that it may be some alien life form that’s clearly superior to humanity. That’s one way to have things play out, and it could be the initial source of this life force, but I think there’s more to it.
This “virus” is probably the proverbial “primordial ooze.” Yeah, the initial building blocks of life on Earth. This shit’s been hidden in the depths of the ocean, with trace amounts of it circulating through aquatic life. That’s how those Japanese scientists came across it during WWII. They were able to refine it and boil it down to its base components, and when the US bombed the ships carrying it, it was released back into the ocean– the starting point of life on Earth.
Basically, life is “beginning” on Earth all over again. Except life is already present.
Way I see it, this “ooze” gave birth to and then assembled the single-cell life forms already existing on Earth into the earliest multicellular life. As life expanded and diversified, this sentient force likely lost a lot of its power, as this new life developed wills of their own.
The way the humans were starting to coalesce into larger forms, it’s as if this “gas” is trying to create new creatures from it’s “building blocks.” It thinks that all of the humans and other animals are the same as the single-celled creatures it used during the primordial days of Earth. And the way all of the other creatures pounced on and devoured Tadashi, it’s as if the “gas” refuses to acknowledge a will that isn’t its own. It’s likely that a similar struggle began during the early days of life, and this gaseous force lost as more life was created– unable to control the multitude of beings it created.
So, the horror presented in Gyo isn’t just the annihilation of life as we know it, it’s the replacement of life as we know it. That’s some scary shit, scarier than the initial fears that made zombies popular. It isn’t just a matter of your loved ones turning into some decaying, unfeeling vessel of hunger– zombies are still innately human despite that shift in “lifestyle.” In Gyo, we’re being transmuted into something wholly inhuman, and there’s not a damn thing we can do about it. Yet, ironically, it was this very force that led to our creation.
Despite the goofiness of the walking fish, this is real fucking horror.