As a cinematic generation, we have really been spoiled. Born into the world with no conception of a world without film, we have lapped up cinematic releases over the year like there’s a drought coming. We have seen everything there is to see. Events from the very distant past? Check. Outerspace in all its glory? Check. The White House blown up? Multiple check. It’s no surprise, then, that our interest in certain genres has begun to wane somewhat. Whilst there’s no end to stories we can tell from the past and things that we can see into the future, sometimes, the here and now feels a little, well, meh. Stories which depict characters within our own world need to do something a little different to hold our attention. Horror movies in particular have tried to change their act. And yet, somewhere within the slew of third act resuscitation and character switches we, collectively, have lost our attention.
Before going to see a horror film or even a thriller, it is without a shadow of a doubt that we will be able to predict the ending. They will all die. No one will die. It will all be a dream. The kid will do it. It will all be in his imagination. And, when the inevitable happens, we do not feel the rush of pleasure we normally feel when we are right. Instead, we let out a half hearted “eh” and scratch the ends of our noses. If ever there was a disaffected cinematic generation, then surely we are it.
It has been the task of cinema to give us something new, to tickle our taste buds and to bring us the unexpected. In some cases, our minds have been all but blown, opened up to the possibility of the new and the unknown. In other cases, things haven’t quite gone to plan, made either too big or too small by the cinematic powers that be. Creatures on screen are a hard thing to pull off and you can’t deny filmmakers everywhere the nod of respect they deserve for trying. Pulling inspiration from the fantastical to the everyday, the world of monsters on screen is a truly terrifying affair. So, roll up, sit down and gaze in wonder at some of cinema’s best and, erm, worst, monsters of the big screen.
Godzilla (1954 – 2014 and counting)
The Godzilla myth just won’t die. And why should it? Ever since there has been mankind, there have been dinosaurs. Or so cinema would have us believe. Godzilla is long and living proof that the best ideas come from the world around us and, face to face with an onscreen monster, it seems impossible that anyone could ever have thought up dinosaurs or their giant lizard counterparts. Everything about Godzilla is entirely alien and therefore it makes perfect sense that it should come from the world in which we live. Nature is arbitrary, baby, and we love it.
The Cabin in the Woods (2012)
Not a monster movie per se, The Cabin in the Woods cannot be denied a place on the monster list. The film and its creatures are all kinds of crazy and, coming from the mind of Joss Whedon, we really wouldn’t have it any other way. Giving life and form to so many popular monster myths, including a merman, mummy, kraken and giant snake, The Cabin in the Woods allowed us to really gorge on a rich smorgasbord of movie monsters. Whilst there were familiar faces (you again, Werewolf?) there were those of the unknown in spades. If anyone made mass murder by monster as exhilarating, I would like to see it.
The Descent (2005)
The Descent was so creepy because it didn’t venture too far from the bounds of reality. Mutating the already lurching figure of the human, the film presented us with a type of subterranean humanoid, inexplicably developed from its more recognisable counterpart. Blessed with a stronger sense of smell than a dog on heat, the humanoids in the film hearken somewhat back to our more animalistic pasts. Whilst our ancestors didn’t hunt one another in vats of blood (here’s hoping, at least), there is certainly a more ingrained presence of the survival of the fittest. Sometimes, the most terrifying thing is looking through a darkened mirror.
King Kong (1933 – 2005)
King Kong sits very much in the realm of the Godzilla myth. Taken from life and manipulated from the big screen, the films paints a blown up version of nature, warning us of the dangers of the wild whilst, not so subtly, wagging the finger at modern day society and colonialisation. Of course, we’re all meant to feel pity for the monkey. One of the first of its kind and copied in droves throughout cinema’s history, King Kong turned the monster movie myth on its head and made human beings the thing which we should fear.
Unsurprisingly, Sharktopus never made it to the big screen (on a bleaker note, Sharknado has recently enjoyed a cinematic release). Proof that not all ideas work outside of the board room, Sharktopus is really as bad as it sounds. Personally, I would have liked to have seen sharkicorn, the half-shark, half-unicorn who struggles between an inner carnivalism and an exterior huggability. Whilst the end result is universally laughable, you can’t deny the filmmakers for trying something new. And, boy, did it get people talking. In the world in which we live, it seems that the only things which will mildly shock us are spliced together, transmutated mega creatures. Time to get your thinking caps on, people. What can we sew together today?