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Friday, 24 October 2014

Top 10 Movie Monsters

With the month of horror continuing I thought that it would be fitting to look at some of the most scary things that humans have created: monsters. Our paleolithic ancestors told stories of monstrous creatures on cave walls and in campfire stories and thousands of years later we still tell stories of the same creatures but in a different format. Since the dawn of cinema have we been interested in monsters and this will be a countdown of the best. However I'm not including human monsters, (so no vampires), but undead monsters will be included and I'm also discounting sympathetic monsters, (like King Kong), or anti-hero monsters from the list as we want the stuff of nightmares, or in a case or two some awe inspiring beasts. So let us look at my Top 10 Movie Monsters!

Number 10- The Giant Claw from The Giant Claw
If you want to laugh at this one it is perfectly fine; so did the audience in the premier of the film. I've included the Giant Claw just because of how bizarre it is, (it gets even stranger other than the look). A giant bird that can destroy a B-52 in one bite descends from space with an invisible force field to wreck havoc on the land below. The battleship like bird, (the film honestly compares it to a battleship throughout), downs planes and scorches towns and cities below as it flies around in a giant spiral pattern that covers the entire continental United States, (yes the film also claims that it follows a pattern of a giant spiral). After destroying the Empire State Building and United Nations building the military manages to use an isotope to bring down its shield so missiles can finish it off. The Giant Claw is just a unique gem in the B-Movie vault. Originally the studio had hired Ray Harryhausen to make the bird but he refused because of the low wage that he was going to receive so they went to a prop company in Mexico instead who made a marionette and the above was the result. Funnily enough before the bird appears the film is really suspenseful and serious but the cast did not see the bird until the premier. The star Jeff Morrow left early in shame in case someone saw him and reportedly spent the entire night getting drunk. Nevertheless the creativity of the Giant Claw cannot be insulted and I would gladly have that marionette hanging from my ceiling.

Number 9- The Gremlins from Gremlins and Gremlins 2
From Joe Dante's successful film series comes the Gremlins. Based on the Chinese myth of the Mogwai they start out as cute little balls of fluff, (like Gizmo in the two films), but if the three rules are not kept things can go bad. One, never let them get wet, it can cause more to multiply, two, never let them go out in sunlight as it can kill them and three, never let them eat after midnight. If they eat after midnight they go from a mischievous ball of cuteness to the reptilian monster above. With Gizmo being the only good Gremlin the rest under Stripe, (above), and Mohawk in the second film lead a riot of mayhem and destruction. Ranging from driving a snowplow through someone's front room, commandeering the cinema to watch Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and hot-wiring a old woman's seat lift in the first film to genetically splicing themselves in the second to create a spider-Gremlin, bat-Gremlin and super-intelligent Gremlin they wreck havoc.Designed by Chris Walas each Gremlin is unique, especially in the sequel and is one of the best special effects to include prop monsters which spawned a series of copycats including Critters.
Number 8- The Kraken from Clash of the Titans
A monster created by the king of special effects Ray Harryhausen the Kraken is one of the greatest monsters. The original Clash of the Titans was filled with many different and unique which were all made by Harryhausen and his team. Brought to life by stop-motion the brilliant, alongside the Gorgon Medusa, brilliantly captures the story of Perseus, (even though the Kraken comes from Scandinavian mythology). This is one of the monsters that has to be seen to be fully appreciated and perfectly shows that stop-motion can equal and even surpass CGI in quality. The way that the Harryhausen captures the creature surfacing from the water to take Andromeda and how that he carefully shows the beast turning to stone after looking at the severed head of Medusa is a sight that has to be seen. If you haven't seen the original Clash of the Titans I would strongly advise it and for those who have: 'Release the Kraken!'

Number 7- The Tadpole Monster from The Host

From Korea comes a monster born out of human error after personnel from a US army base dump formaldehyde down the drain and into the Han River. After years the chemicals mutate a fish into a giant carnivorous beast. What I like about the Tadpole Monster is that is a normal creature, it kills out of the need to survive rather than malice or hatred. I love many things about this creature ranging from the slinky way it walks, the way it uses its tail to swing from the railings on the bridge and its mandible like mouth similar to a grouper fish. It has a very realistic and unique design which I have to give credit to the designers for considering of how similar recent monsters look. It also has some realistic behavior such as taking prey, (in this case the main character's daughter), back to its nest to eat later so it can have live prey. The first reveal of the monster as it drops silently from the bridge before bursting from the water to wreck havoc in its new territory is heart stopping and has you on the edge of your seat but the added factor of it possibly being a host to a new virus is a nice added feature. A warning to mismanaged pollution and the irresponsibility of the authorities the Tadpole Monster is another worthy monster.
Number 6- Pumpkinhead from Pumpkinhead
From a film directed by special effects artist Stan Winston comes the demonic Pumpkinhead. After a man's son is accidentally killed by a group of bikers in a hit and run incident a man goes to see a witch who promises that he can have revenge by digging up a disfigured corpse who the witch transforms into the disfigured demon Pumpkinhead. The monster then hunts down those who the man, (played by Lance Henrikson of Aliens fame), wanted revenge on. The monster only kills those who the Henrikson's character wants revenge on and whoever gets in its way. There is a twist though...Henrikson's character is forced to look through Pumpkinhead's eyes every time he makes a kill and the two's heads morph to resemble each other when a kill is made. Pumpkinhead is unstoppable except when Henrikson's character, (called Harley), get injured and he finally defeats the monster by sacrificing himself to stop the carnage. I love the design and idea behind Pumpkinhead, a sort of mix between the Alien and a Cenobite from Hellraiser with the unstoppable killing force of the Headless Horseman thrown in. With Stan Winston as director no wonder the film got one of cinema's most memorable monsters.

Number 5- The Pale Man from Pan's Labyrinth 
Director Guillermo del Toro is famous for the monsters in his films but the Pale Man has to be his best. As apart of her quest to return to the fairy realm ten year old Ofelia must get the dagger in a room with the eyeless Pale Man in. Told by the faun not to eat anything on the table before the Pale Man she does so anyway and the monster comes after her. The way though that it is done is superb with the monster slowly placing his eyes in the palm of his hands before slowly ambling towards her and when he eats two of her fairy guardians it is truly a traumatic scene. The fact also that the Pale Man is a child eater adds even more evilness to the monster but as we only see paintings of his acts and not him committing them allows our mind to wonder about his devilishness. The monster is played by the same man who plays the faun, Doug Jones, and he does an excellent job of it with his posture and movement making the Pale Man extra sinister.

Number 4- Godzilla from Gojira
I just want to say that this is only the Godzilla from the 1954 original film and not the sequels or remake. This Godzilla was born out of Japan's fear and lasting nightmare of the atomic bomb which comes to haunt them as a fitting metaphor against the danger of the growing nuclear arms race during the Cold War. Awoken by nuclear bomb testing Godzilla leads a wave of radioactive destruction towards Tokyo as the Japanese military and government vainly find a way to halt the giant monster. I love this film so much and there are many harrowing details about it such as the hundreds of dead fish from radiation poisoning just before the reveal of the monster and a mother clutching her children close towards her saying ominously 'We'll be with daddy soon'. This film has a much darker feel than its more child oriented sequels and even the costume reflects this. A more bulky costume with blank expressionless eyes which stops any form of sympathetic bond between the audience and the monster; this is a monster that symbolizes the horror of nuclear bombs. The film even ends on a serious note with a weapon worse than the bomb being used to destroy the monster that the bomb created.

Number 3- Gill-Man from The Creature from The Black Lagoon
From Universal Studios comes one of the studios last great classics. An expedition to the Amazon to find the remains of a fossil with webbed hands go astray as the crew meet an amphibious monster who threatens to harass them and abduct one of the scientists, played by Julia Adams. The design of the Gill-Man is so classic and is easily recognizable but two men actually played the creature, Ben Chapman on the land and Ricou Browning in the water. Browning would have a tank of oxygen and had to stay underwater in a heavy costume as well as swim in the same costume for an extended period of time but he pulls it off with ease. Every scene the Gill-Man is suspenseful with it shocking the audience with a fanfare of trumpets to signify that the creature is here. I particularly like the underwater scenes where Gill-Man is hiding in the reeds, a stalker like moment which adds more mystery to the beast. In the credits a question mark was even used instead of the two actors' names to add a little more mystery to the monster. A warning to man to stay away from nature Gill-Man remains a truly inspirational monster and his redesign in Monster Squad is quite inventive.

Number 2- Frankenstein's Monster from the Curse of Frankenstein
You may be wondering why I chose this Frankenstein's monster instead of the Boris Karloff one from the Universal film. The answer is simple: that monster is sympathetic. This monster expertly played by Christopher Lee is truly malicious and a true monster. Even his reveal with Lee dramatically removing the bandage from his face shows the stark contrast from the Universal monster. With his face all cut up and decaying the Hammer monster looks truly terrifying and Lee's acting helps bring the performance even more scariness. This is a monster that will not play flowers with a little girl or ask to be friends with a blind man. Only in the later half of the film he makes it count by brutally murdering those who have wronged his creator, (played brilliantly by Peter Cushing), which makes this monster worthy of the number two spot.

Number 1- Xenomorphs from the Alien franchise
In space no one can hear you scream. A parasitic life form which attaches itself to your face to lay a serpentine creature in your chest so it can burst out this makes Ridley Scott's Alien one of the greatest horrors ever made. The sleek and almost metallic design of the xenomorph, designed by my favorite special effects artist H.R.Giger, the xenomorph blends into the darkness of the spaceships and bases of the far future ready to grasp a victim. The xenomorph has so many features that I can talk about ranging from the second mouth that smashes out of the main one and the acid for blood it is the perfect killing machine. One of my favorite scenes is in Alien where the captain is chasing the alien through the air vents as the beeps get louder and the alien approaches before it comes out of nowhere and the screen cuts out. Another is when the crew is eating a meal and the alien bursts bloodily and shockingly out of John Hurt's chest, a curious note is that the look on shock on the actor's faces are actual looks of shock as they didn't know that it would happen. Each xenomorph looms unique and I like the idea of each one taking a new appearance depending on the host such as the fast four legged one in Alien 3 that used a dog as a host or the mandibles in AvP: Requiem of one whose host was a Predator. With the xenomorph even being an allusion to rape this makes the creature even more terrifying and I strongly suggest seeing Alien and its sequel by James Cameron Aliens. With the Alien fighting the Predator and even Batman, Witchblade and Superman in comic book format the Alien is a terrifying monster and with the new game Alien: Isolation recreating the original fear of Alien it will continue this fear for years to come.

Thanks for reading and was there a monster that you thought should be on the list? Please leave comments below, especially if you want to know the runners up. Thanks for reading and I hope that I see you next time.

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