A look at the best big movie monsters.
This month sees the release of Gareth Edward’s much-anticipated low-budget, big concept, sci-fi extravaganza Monsters. The film follows a cynical journalist as he escorts a tourist through an alien infested quarantine zone in Mexico. To celebrate we take a look at some of the greatest monsters to grace the silver screen.
Of course cinema is rife with all manner of toothy creatures so this list needs a few ground rules. In sticking with the themes of Monsters, we’re talking the big kind, in other words bigger than their human counterparts. These monsters must be able to tower over their intended prey, normally us, and dispatch attacking humans with relative ease. So behold cinema’s best big beasties:
Godzilla: This nuclear-fuelled lizard can crush cities without breaking a sweat and has done so on numerous occasions. Over the course of his history, spanning from 1954 to 2004, Godzilla has not only trashed Tokyo but also New York as well as saved us puny people from countless other monsters including the likes of Mothra, King Ghidora and, in perhaps his greatest victory, defeating his 1998 American remade namesake. Mind you that version was also defeated by Matthew Broderick.
Cloverfield (2008): The brilliance of Lost creator JJ Abrams and director Matt Reeves is the way in which ‘Clover’, the name given to the monster in the film, is never fully revealed until the climax. Shot in the ever popular ‘found footage’ style we only ever see glimpses of Clover as it rips New York like a hack saw through soft flesh. No matter what the army throws at it, it just keeps roaring its way on. What makes the creation all the more fascinating is that its origins are only hinted at in the brilliant viral campaign the producers created.
Jaws (1975): As anyone who has seen Spielberg’s stunning shark thriller will testify, Jaws is certainly the monster that resonates the most on this list. While shooting the film Spielberg had constant problems with ‘Bruce’, the affectionately named mechanical shark, so much so that for much of the film he chose not to show it. Thankfully he had John Williams’ seminal score to fill in the gaps and never seeing the beast only heightens the terror of what lurks beneath the surface. Although it might look rubbery when it eventually does surface Jaws is still a brilliant movie monster and one that continues to terrify us from even dipping our toe in the big blue. Of course, of all the inclusions on this list he’s the only one you’re really likely to actually encounter. Oh and in case you didn’t know Jaws is a giant shark 25ft “Three tons of him”.
The Alien Queen (Aliens1986): While Ridley Scott and HR Giger created the brilliantly rendered Alien, it was not until James Cameron’s sequel that allowed us to see the true nature of the beast. When Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) finally stumbled upon the Aliens’ nest she found ‘the bitch’ herself mindfully guarding her young. It took legendary monster creator Stan Winston to bring her to life, and boy does she come to life. All hissing and chomping for revenge the only way to defeat her is to blow her into the vacuum of space, the truth is that there is no certainty that this actually kills her, she could still be floating out there somewhere.
It Came From Beneath The Sea (1955): A giant octopus, with only six legs for budgetary reasons, created by radiation from H-Bomb testing attacking San Francisco is what great B-Movies are made of. Brought to life by God-like stop-motion animator Ray Harryhausen ‘It’ is a fine example of imagination sparking nightmare. Its’ attack on the Golden Gate bridge is still a delight in cinematic terms.
King Kong (1933 and 2005): One of those monsters that is horribly misunderstood, but a monster nonetheless. What makes Kong so timeless in cinema is his humanity. Essentially, as Peter Jackson’s slightly over written script pointed out, King Kong is a re-telling of Beauty and the Beast. So while he might kill T-Rexs for fun and swat biplanes from the sky like flies, he has a heart and longs to be loved. Unfortunately he’s also a menace and therefore has to come a cropper.
Graboids (Tremors 1990): Something of a cult classic thanks to the wacky characters that flesh out the story, the real star here are the giant worms, or ‘Graboids’ as they become known. These nasty slugs sense vibrations underground and pull you under with their snake like tentacles. Unfortunately they are not that bright and while they manage to wipe out a lot of sheep and a few people they are ultimately undone by walls, guns and cliffs. Still they are essentially Jaws on land and if that isn’t a scary thought then frankly what is?
The Host (2006): A toxic chemical creation that looks like a giant mutated tadpole, The Host is brazen to say the least. What sets it apart from the majority of movie monsters is there is little subtlety involved. Most creatures lurk in the shadows for at least the first half hour but not The Host. Instead, he gallops through a crowded park in broad daylight, feasting on some people and taking others to keep for a midnight snack. He also dribbles a lot, which is, lets face it, a key ingredient to any good monster.
The Kraken: The only monster on the list to appear in numerous movies that are only slightly connected. Making appearances in the original 1981 Clash of The Titans, as another stunning Ray Harryhausen stop motion creation, and of course this year’s remake, as a more computer generated behemoth, The Kraken is actually portrayed more like a giant octopus in mythology. So with this in mind it is his performance in Pirates Of The Caribbean; Dead Man’s Chest (2006) that paints him as an accurately vast marine monster. Of course that doesn’t stop Captain Jack squaring up to him; “Hello Beasty”, got to do something about that fish breath though.
The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man (Ghostbusters 1984): This one is just brilliant for its sheer tenacity and originality. Facing the god Gozer, the Ghostbusters are told to choose the ‘form of the destructor’. Dr. Raymond Stantz (Aykroyd) has one image ‘pop’ into his head. The rest is glorious cine-fare, as a towering Stay Puft Marshmallow Man lumbers his way through New York. “Now that’s something you don’t see everyday” mutters Venkman (Murray) before The Ghostbusters ruthlessly obliterate the smiley fella with their proton packs. Stay Puft makes the list for having the audacity to not only ever come into creation but also for stepping on a church in New York which, apparently, is frowned upon.
The Mist (2007): Adapted from a Steven King book and directed by Shawshank Redemption’s Frank Darabont, The Mist is a stunning piece of story telling with all manner of gribblies and monsters, some of them made even more terrifying by being people. However, when the final few minutes of the movie take place we begin to understand there are towering colossi casually plodding about a tranquil seaside town. The band of survivors encounters these creatures and become all too aware that there is no hope left. Well other than the US Military wading in with tanks and flame-throwers to destroy the beasts they unleashed from another dimension. That these monsters are always shrouded in Mist means we only ever catch glimpses of them, allowing the darkest recesses of the mind to fill in the rest.