Mac and Me Is Horror Movie in Disguise
First impressions are important even for fictional characters. It seems unfair and your mom tells you not to do it but sometimes you can judge a book by the cover. When you first see a character in a movie from how they look and dress it speaks volumes to what they’re like.
You look at a character like Jason Voorhees, big hulking undead slasher draped in moldy dripping clothes with holes to expose his rotting flesh underneath, top it off with a hockey mask that is noticeably different from the rest of his color scheme. You see him and immediately get the vibe of his character. He’s a human monster come to life, more than your typical shambling zombie looking for brains. Jason doesn’t need a motive, he just wants you dead.
RELATED: Growing Up With Manos The Hands of Fate: Jackie Neyman-Jones Interview
The History Behind Mac and Me
Mac and Me is a movie that without question was an attempt to cash in on the explosive success of Steven Spielberg’s E.T. but that isn’t exactly the topic I’m discussing though the comparison is definitely relevant. Mac and Me was attempting to be a vehicle to make boatloads of cash but I think the lack of a sequel the film infamously promises at the end is a show of just how well that plan went.
The film follows a young extraterrestrial, separated from its family and stranded on Earth. It then finds friendship with a boy in a wheelchair. Sounds familiar huh? The film’s budget was 13 million dollars and it made a “spectacular” 6.4 million at the box office…
The film was nominated for four Golden Raspberry Awards and won Worst Director and Worst New Star (for Ronald McDonald). It also holds a whopping 0% on Rotten Tomatoes.
When I say it was trying to make money I mean it, this is the strongest example of shameless product placement. So much so that the titular Mac is named that because of the McDonalds Big Mac. But Mac and Me Producer R.J. Louis might tell you it stands for Mysterious Alien Creature.
There is a prominent scene in the movie where the characters are at McDonald’s for a birthday party and the fast-food chain is depicted as a bumping place to jam to the point people doing choreographed dances in the parking lot. Coca-Cola is also brought in like an elixir that Mac’s species literally needs to survive and can heal them from a catatonic state.
Hilariously enough Martin Becker is credited on for the alien effects in this film and he had also worked on several of the Friday the 13th films. Very ironic due to the fact that Mac and Me at no point was ever planned to be a horror movie. There are a few reasons why I believe Mac and Me was a flop but if I were to give a crown for most prominent it would have to be the character design. To put it simply and to not throw any mean words at the effects team, the aliens are hideous.
Normally the approach of giving characters big eyes is to allow expressive faces to show emotion and have the audiences empathize with the character. The eyes of Mac and his family are completely emotionless like masks or Chuck E. Cheese animatronics. The aliens barely emote and their mouths combined with their wrinkly skin makes them look like they have gaping assholes in the middle of their faces.
Mac and The Uncanny Valley
The aforementioned wrinkly skin bears repeating as E.T. was wrinkly as well but the difference between these two alien characters is helped by E.T. looking more alien. E.T. has a round body and a long goose-like neck that leads into a very non-human shaped head making him appear very noticeably not human. The aliens from Mac and Me though, are just human enough to fall into the uncanny valley.
The uncanny valley for those not in the know is a feeling of uneasiness or fear caused by looking at things that aren’t human with vaguely human-like traits. The uncanny valley is something that is often evoked unintentionally, for a recent example in action the horrid fever dream that was Cats. The aliens from Mac and Me differ quite a lot from E.T. as stated before but that is where the Uncanny Valley rears its head.
Mac and his family are not human obviously but they are just human enough to make things very uncomfortable very quickly. Not just the titular Mac but his whole family is nightmare fuel, the worst offender of which being the father.
The father is noticeably taller than every human in the movie but the little things about him add up to make him absolutely terrifying. The aliens in most shots look to have pinkish lightly tanned skin tones but the father has this gross-looking moldy complexion like a piece of expired meat with the saggy cheeks and liver spots of a wicked cauldron stirring Hag.
Top it all off with how the aliens move, mother and father, walk with a bow-legged gait and greet everything crotch first. Meanwhile Mac, the one we spend the most screen time with flails around stiffly and mechanically sometimes even shapeshifting and changing anatomy without warning like a jump scare.
Mac and Mew
Another comparison I can make so I’m not just talking about E.T. all day would be Mew from the Pokemon series. Mew and Mac have their designs based around human babies. Pudgy round abdomen, huge eyes, and a large head, where these creatures divert from the source of inspiration in their implementation. The shapes they use, Mew is seen as very cute by keeping the basic idea of a human infant but altering it enough to where it can be believed to be a separate creature.
With long rabbit-like feet in the back and tiny harmless-looking upper arms with little almost vestigial fingers all topped with being a soft pink color like a hairless cat giving the appearance of being alien while still being adorable and safe for kids.
Mac on the other hand takes after his father in looking like something you’d want to keep away from your children. Mac for being a child has some serious baggage under his massive unblinking eyes with twisted bendy ears that look like pork rinds.
I’ve used a lot of words and danced around the biggest one in my argument that I propose in the title of this piece. The aliens from Mac and Me are ugly, nasty, goblin-looking, freaky, weird, unsettling, and a few other mean words.
They are creepy in every sense of the word, but I love them. Mac and Me is genuinely one of the funniest unintentional comedies ever put to film. I’d personally put it up there with classics of “So Bad It’s Good” like The Room. Do yourself a favor and get a few friends, get a few beers, and watch one of the creepiest comedies, and one of the funniest horrors at the same time.