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!

Jurassic World

Jurassic WorldDirector: Colin Trevorrow

Screenwriter: Rick Jaffa

Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Vincent D’Onofrio, Irrfan Kahn, and B.D. Wong

Dinosaurs have appeared in films before. Some good, some bad. Chris Pratt has appeared in films before. Most good, one bad; I’m talking to you Movie 43. So, in the spirit of Jurassic World’s genetic scientists, why not get these two crazy kids together and see what happens? Just like in the film, the result is a new dinosaur – bigger, faster, and more teeth.

That’s right, twenty-two years after the “chaotic” events of Jurassic Park, an actual park called Jurassic World has opened on the same Costa Rican island. The trouble is, people have already grown bored just seeing a dinosaur nowadays. Or at least that’s what director of operations, Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), says as she tries to entice investors to sponsor a new attraction. The new attraction? A new hybrid dinosaur nicknamed the Indominous Rex, genetically engineered by Jurassic World scientists. Simon Masrani (Irrfan Kahn) was entrusted with Jurassic Park’s legacy by former owner John Hammond with the stipulation that the focus remains shock, awe, and amusement, “spare no expense.”

Accordingly, Claire has been killing it for Masrani. Park attendance spikes every time a new attraction is unveiled, and Inominous promises to be the most impressive attraction yet. When questions about proper containment of the Indominous Rex arise, Masrani asks Claire to bring in former Navy recruit and current Velociraptor behavioral researcher, Owen Grady (Chris Pratt). Claire’s history with Owen is a bit rocky due to a rough first date a while back, but Owen’s success training Velociraptors makes him vital to identifying any faults that may weaken the containment of the new dinosaur.

Since discussing the rest of the movie hinges on this point, I don’t think I’m spoiling anything when I say that, yes, Indominous Rex escapes. And what makes matters worse, Claire’s young nephews Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray (Ty Simpkins) happen to be visiting the park when all hell breaks loose. Soon enough they, along with thousands of other visitors, are stranded in the park as Indominous Rex wreaks havoc. What follows is a terrifically entertaining prehistoric version of Predator.

I loved almost every minute of Jurassic World. Of the three sequel films, this one comes closest to capturing the majesty of the original. In an early scene, composer Michael Giacchino masterfully echoes John William’s iconic Jurassic Park theme to tremendous effect as Jurassic World is revealed for the first time. This film (wisely) distances itself from the Jurassic Park sequels and effectively reinvents itself, but not without a few welcomed references to the original film.

Jurassic World, at its core, is a standard creature feature, but it is extremely well executed. The effects famously pioneered by Steven Spielberg for the 1993 film have evolved to something even more outstanding this time around. Furthermore, a sense of fun noticeably missing from Jurassic Park: The Lost World and to a lesser extent Jurassic Park III, is back with Jurassic World.  I grew up loving the novels of Michael Crichton, and Jurassic Park was the novel of his that sparked my obsession with his books.  Crichton would only live to write one follow up novel to Jurassic Park, and that was The Lost World, which was a great book but cinematically butchered by Steven Spielberg.  Thankfully, writer Rick Jaffa and director Colin Trevorrow seem to have the same esteem for Crichton as I did and have made a film more in the spirit of his writing.

I mentioned that I loved almost every minute of Jurassic World. As with too many summer blockbusters, some of the dialogue is cringe-worthy, despite good acting overall from the cast. Also, Jurassic World crams in so much product placement, you will feel like you are at an actual theme park. When Owen sips from his cold, glass bottle of Coca-Cola, I half expected the screen to freeze and a jingle to play. There is also a weaponizing subplot involving Vincent D’Onfrio’s character that I feel falls short. I’d normally take this with a grain of salt, but I worry that this subplot is what will likely pave the way to any future films in the franchise. Nonetheless, Jurassic World works in its own right. It’s a technically strong film, and one with a climax that can truly be described as “dino-might.” B+

Jurassic World is rated PG-13 and has a running time of 2 hours and five minutes.