Saturday, October 6, 2012

Countdown to Halloween Day 6 -- Impostor Among Us

ModifierImpostor Among Us
The Impostor Among Us sub-genre consists of stories where a group of people discover that someone in their group is not who or what they appear. Imposters could be anything from the very mundane like escaped convicts or serial killers, to the extraordinary, like an alien invader or supernatural doppelganger. Sometimes the impostor has assumed the identity of a real person, while at other times they're using a totally fabricated alias. The group is often confined to a single location (sometimes being merged with a Strangers in a Bottle story), but this isn't always the case.  The impetus in these stories is generally to discover which person in the group is the impostor before the impostor's hidden agenda is realized. In cases where the impostor is some sort of preternatural doppelganger, the agenda is often "infect/assimilate all humans," in which case the group has to find a way to stop the force before everyone is converted. When mashed up with Strangers in a Bottle plots, the Impostor is generally the driving force behind -- or at least complicit in -- whatever has trapped the characters together.

This is another sub-genre for which I have a soft spot. In fact, I've long wondered whether my love for this sub-genre is the reason why I love John Carpenter's The Thing so much, or if seeing and loving that film at an early age formed my affinity for this sub-genre -- my own personal "chicken or the egg."

Much like the Strangers in a Bottle sub-genre, one of the things that catches my interest most about Impostor Among Us stories is the plot propelling paranoia of its participants; however, that means that the same pitfall of overplaying the paranoia holds true as well. But while my favorite pure Strangers in a Bottle stories tend to revolve around man-made gatherings of strangers, my favorite Impostor Among Stories lean towards the extraterrestrial/supernatural side of things; watching the characters succumb one by one to the corrupting/consuming alien force as you wonder who has already been turned, and who could be next creates a much different form of tension than just seeing characters die.  If nothing else, it can give the actors the chance to show some range as the replaced or possessed people reveal their newly alien nature.

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