Monsters University and World War Z have been released in Australia this week so it’s a complete monster mash at the box office. The question for this week’s GWP roundtable is: What's your favourite movie monster?
Vampires, killer dolls and Amanda Bynes are all acceptable.
The Host (Gwoemul, 2006) - not only does this big budget South Korean flick bring an auteur style to the genre but it also revitalized the epic monster-movie concept. On top of this it is one of the highest grossing films in the box office, so a definite crowd pleaser. With memorable complex familial hang-ups, a great special effects palette and an unforgettable monstrosity, The Host is an intelligent and thrilling monster movie I will never forget.
Lycanthropes are one of the enduring movie monsters partly because they're terrifying, but largely because they're a brilliant metaphor for the (sometimes) monstrous dual nature of human beings. From origins in the late thirties as part of the classic Universal Monsters, it was first told on the big screen as a doomed love story. Since The Wolf Man it has become SO much more than that. As a metaphor for corporate animalism (Wolf) or the perils of puberty (Ginger Snaps), werewolves have always been a relevant way to examine the human condition. Then you have flicks like An American Werewolf In London, The Howling and Dog Soldiers which are just entertaining, original takes on the famous flesh-eater. Now as werewolves find new life on the small screen with Hemlock Grove, Teen Wolf and True Blood, the TV world is catching on to what cinema has known all along: werewolves are the shit.
The monstrous results of man playing God (aka Frankenstein) have always been the most fascinating, frightening monsters in cinema for mine. The contrasting poles of these twisted creations can be grotesque or beautiful reflections of their makers. The most are alluring and heartbreaking example is Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer), the antagonist of Ridley Scott’s masterpiece Blade Runner. Shirtless in the rain, talking moonbeams, holding doves is how he rolls….Wait, I’m not liking how this makes me sound. Um… Creature from the Black Lagoon…just because he likes busty 50s chicks. Phew.
My favourite monster movie is, and I think always will be, John Carpenter's The Thing (1981). This is a film that generates enormous suspense while only sparingly revealing the 'monster' that terrorizes Kurt Russell and his company. It hides out inside the skin of the human characters, occasionally bursting out in gloriously gory fashion, trying desperately to evade the threat against it. We are never sure, like the characters, who is one of 'those things' and some of the most potent scares I have ever experienced are drawn from establishing this. What is also so fantastic about Carpenter's film is his use of puppetry and prosthetic effects, which these days would be substituted for CGI. A classic I will never grow tired of.
My favourite movie monster is the legendary actor (and Screen Actors Guild co-founder) Boris Karloff in the original version of The Mummy (1932). Though there would be various remakes /spinoffs of this film over the years, Karloff's incarnation of the role is arguably its most iconic. He plays an ancient Egyptian priest who is revived and reincarnated in 'modern' times, and seeks out to resurrect his long-lost love. This film probably wouldn't be considered particularly scary by those who enjoy full-on horror films - but for me, with such a ridiculously low 'scaredy-cat barometer' setting, it's about as scary as I can handle. Karloff is just terrific, with his wonderfully expressive eyes and distinct voice. The Eqyptian-themed contingent of props and sets look amazing in particularly gorgeous black-and-white. The film's also a quick watch, with a running time of less than 75 minutes. As a side note: the most fascinating thing I find about Karloff is that despite his various scary screen personas (including his famous Frankenstein's monster), he had a reputation as a quiet, sweet and compassionate man. Watching various old interviews he did over his career (in his natural understated and elegant English accent), he certainly does come across as a real gentleman - genuinely modest, with a warm, unassuming manner.
All the standard monster movie fare has never really impressed me—it’s often felt like kid’s play, watching grown adults play that childhood game of ‘pretend’. Which is why the first name that crossed my mind when asked this question was one of the most evil creatures of all time, That Yellow Bastard from the Sin City comics/film.
Roark Jr. as he’s otherwise known is the son of the corrupt city mayor who spends his free time raping and murdering pre-pubescent girls. As you do. He’s the vilest of the vile and his yellow skin doesn’t do him any favours either: his odour is described as “garbage” and his blood “pungent,” clear metaphors for the credibility of his soul. There’s a good end in sight however through the cop Hartigan, disgraced by way of Jr’s father protecting his son from getting captured. (It’s a complicated story.)
On second thought, I still have chosen within the confines of standard monster fare. That Yellow Bastard is one big allegory for the evils of humanity. And with the Jill Meagher case only resolved days ago, it feels far too applicable than it should ever be.
The devil and his minions have always been a tricky customers in cinema, but as soon as they invaded the body of little Regan MacNeil in The Exorcist, all bets were off. It’s pure evil in the form of an innocent child. The possessed Regan is still one of the most frightening characters in cinema and one of the best movie monsters.
What's your favourite movie monster? Leave a comment.
Cameron Williams - follow Cam on Twitter here: @popcornjunkies