Top Five Must See Monster Movies

KongIn this day of comic book movie domination, it is easy to forget that there was a time when the most anticipated movies were the ‘creature features.’ This weekend’s, Kong: Skull Island is the latest in the monster movie tradition, and oddly enough, the mighty Kong will be facing off with veteran comic book character, Logan for the top box office spot this weekend. In celebration of this mega mutant melee, I have assembled The People’s Critic’s Top Five Monster Movies of all time!

 

Tremorsposter5. Tremors – This is camp at its finest! Horror and comedy often intermingle, but rarely are they as balanced and well-executed as in Tremors. Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward find themselves battling giant, underground snake-like creatures that are picking off the natives in a small, isolated town one by one. The creatures are blind, but they can sense even the tiniest vibration or “tremor” on the ground, and that’s when they strike! So light up your canon fuse and tread lightly.

Brideoffrankposter4. The Bride of Frankenstein – Not only the finest of the classic Universal Monster movies, but one of the greatest monster movies ever. The Bride of Frankenstein sees Boris Karloff return as Dr. Frankenstein’s monster. This film follows much more closely to Mary Shelley’s source material than the original 1931 film did. It is also bookended by scenes depicting Mary Shelley, Percy Shelley, and Lord Byron discussing Mary’s yet to be published work, which is a nice touch. The Bride of Frankenstein in many ways legitimizes the monster movie and proves that these types of films can be groundbreaking and masterful.

Fly3. The Fly – David Cronenberg is a master of the disturbing. The Fly is without a doubt in the running for best monster movie ever. This 1986 remake of the 1958 original pours on the gore, but in a stunning and obsessive way.  Jeff Goldblum believes he has devised a form of teleportation, until something goes wrong…very, very wrong. No doubt inspired by the #4 film on this list, The Fly explores scientific possibility and the careful line that is so easily crossed when intellect clashes with morality.

Jurassic_Park_poster2. Jurassic Park – It’s a double Goldblum creature feature. That’s right, Goldblum is back again, this time as a chaos mathematician who could easily be the son of Brundlefly! If Goldblum’s character Seth Brundle from The Fly was able to do it all over again, he might end up being a lot like Dr. Ian Malcolm who skeptically agrees to evaluate John Hammond’s dinosaur amusement park, Jurassic Park. His line, “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should,” screams The Fly! Anyway, Goldblum aside, Jurassic Park is a real callback to the matinee era. The man versus monster conflict is explored in epic style with outstanding special effects that still hold up. The sequel, The Lost World, while inferior to this film is even more a call back to the monster movies of old, but when it comes to a list of the best, Jurassic Park is the film to see.

01_jaws_main_01. Jaws – Here we are – number one. Surprisingly, the second “Spielberg” movie to make the list. Steven Spielberg’s Jaws invented the summer blockbuster and made everyone “afraid to go into the water.” Full of iconic characters and memorable lines, Jaws is the best monster movie of all time. Like Tremors, Jaws balances terror and humor nicely. However, unlike any film on this list, the monster in this film is only one that really exists today. Everything works in this monster movie from the acting, to the score, to the quotable dialogue.  Jaws is what every subsequent monster movie aspires to be!

Mama

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Mama (an excuse to critically discuss horror)

The horror genre has an unusual history in the cinematic world. Unlike traditional genres like comedy and drama, horror films seem aimed at a slightly more specialized market. And yet, with this specialized market, one would expect more diversity in the content, but history has revealed that this is not the case. Studios that release horror films seem to pray on popular cultural fads and then, most likely due to inexpensive production costs, let loose clone after clone after clone until these films eventually become less lucrative. Take a look at how many films follow this storyline: a mother notices some strange behavior in her child or around the house. She tells her husband, but her pleas fall on deaf ears; she must simply be imagining the pots and pans all stacking themselves all over the kitchen. Eventually, the husband witnesses something he can’t explain and (hesitantly) agrees to contact an expert or specialist in strange behavior who is found on the Internet. Chaos ensues. The expert dies trying to help, one or more friends of the protagonist become victims, and it ends right where it started with a tiny difference that ties everything together. This form of formulaic market saturation as a business model may keep the genre alive, but it has also lessened its reputation. There’s no doubt that horror films have the potential to affect an audience more than any other type of film since audience reaction is basically the watermark for success (consider those film trailers that do not show clips of the film, but rather show a packed, darkened theater of people wildly reacting to some outrageously scary moment).

Now, I am actually a horror fan and will concede that some of the greatest films are horror films (The Sixth Sense, The Exorcist, Frailty – look it up-, Jaws). However, the worst film of nearly every year is also a horror film (intentionally or unintentionally). Consequently, I am always wary of cinema that resists progress to idly make money off of spent franchises that are too cheap, production-wise, to give up. They make you want to cry for your…

Mama is the latest demented fable loosely attached to Guillermo del Toro, regardless of the relentless name dropping that advertisements display. Del Toro did produce, but his influence ends there, and thus, Mama is not Pan’s Labyrinth. Mama begins with a catastrophic series of events that result in two young girls being abandoned in a strange cottage in the woods where they will live for five years before being discovered. Exposition sweeps us through a bizarrely simplified adoption process where the girls’ uncle, Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is permitted to raise the girls in a state funded research house in order for the girls to be continuously observed by a psychologist. At this point, most of the stereotypical formula laid out previously proceeds.

Mama is written and directed by Andres Muschietti who bases it off of his own short film, also called Mama. Fundamentally, the story is not incredibly strong, and leaves the viewer with some noteworthy qualms, but Muschietti clearly understands where the few strengths of his story exist and manages to create a couple good scares. Additionally, he adds some fresh complexity to the film by writing Lucas’s girlfriend, Annabel (Jessica Chastain), as a bass guitarist in a punk band who is apprehensive about having children and settling into a housewife role, but suddenly finds herself doing both. Muschietti also makes another honorable choice in that he tells a ghost story where the revelation of the ghost itself is not the object of the film. He, instead, introduces the ghost early and uses it as his chief form of tension building; that and the kids. The kids are creepy.

Mama is what it is. It raises no bars, but it holds a reasonably heavy one somewhat steadily in place. Expect the upcoming months to offer at least four more “clones” of this film as this fad works its way out. Then it should be smooth sailing… until it all starts over again in September. C