After I saw the loot coming in June’s COLOSSAL Loot Crates, I decided to sit down and enjoy myself a viewing of 2014’s Godzilla. I watched it, not only because we’ve got some awesome Godzilla related items coming your way in June, but also because I’m just flat out a sucker for monster movies – big monsters, little monsters, alien monsters, Universal monsters…
It really doesn’t matter, I just love a good monster movie (and hell, I love bad monster movies sometimes too, I’m looking at you Pumpkinhead). So, in honor of the COLOSSAL monsters you’ll be seeing this month, I decided to break down my favorite monster movies that should absolutely be in any monster movie fan’s collection!
Godzilla (2014) – I already mentioned it, so might as well start out with it! The most recent iteration of the King of Monsters was one that I really, REALLY enjoyed. I watched it three times in theaters, and will never forget my excitement when Godzilla laid down the law with his blue fire breath at the end of the flick (real talk: I stood up in the middle of the theater and fist bumped the air – not my proudest moment). Even though the titular monster only appeared for about 10 minutes, and doesn’t show up for the first time until over an hour into the film, the big guy makes his screen time count with some of the coolest visual moments (tail flicking away the smoke/fog in Chinatown) and best monster fight moments (spitting hot fire directly into a MUTO’s mouth) of any Godzilla to date. I really feel like they did a phenomenal job with the action sequences, character development and just the overall atmosphere of one of the most beloved monster franchises ever, and I’m really looking forward to where this new direction for Godzilla can go in the future – unfortunately we still have two more years to see more…
Alien (1979) – This was the first monster movie I watched growing up that I truly made me feel claustrophobic in all the right ways. The plus side to seeing Alien as young as I did was it really set a precedent for me in regards to the level of anxiety and terror that a movie is capable of making me experience – the negative side, I was pretty young when I first saw it (9 or 10, I think?), and it just really scared the hell out of me. Seeing the Xenomorph “burst” its way onto the scene is something that will forever be imprinted on my brain, and the sheer terror that followed as the cute little chest burster turned into a full-fledged monster was masterfully executed. Now, this isn’t your stereotypical monster movie in the sense that it’s either a giant Godzilla/King Kong creature or the more standard Dracula/Wolfman/Mummy fair, but in my mind, it’s one of the greatest humans vs. monster movies ever made, and I fell in love with Ripley and her tenacity, and the Alien franchise in general – so much so that I became a massive fan of the entire series, even the not-so-great entries that would eventually follow. One of my favorite aspects of the first installment in the Alien franchise, though, was the fear of the unknown; you’re only given glimpses of the terrifying creature until the end of the film, and it’s those fleeting shots of the Xenomorph that really got my imagination working overtime the first time I saw the movie.
Cloverfield (2008) – Initially, I didn’t really know what to expect from Cloverfield, and can actually recall going into the movie theater with my friend expecting the movie to be super campy and easy to make fun of. (Context: my buddy and I loved going to campy horror/monster movies to have our own personal version of Mystery Science Theater 3000.) Instead of a movie that we were able to mock and laugh our way through, the way we would Leprechaun or Pumpkinhead (Two Pumpkinhead references in the same article? Who’da thunk it!), we got a movie that truly resonated with me as an accurate representation of just how poop-your-pants scary a real-life monster attack would be. Found footage movies can still be unrealistic, whereas Cloverfield really made me feel like I was there, with the same level of fear and confusion that one would probably experience had they actually been there. Now while I do have some gripes about the movie that sort of broke my immersion a bit – like where the hell that handheld camera came from with all the bells and whistles and the longest battery life known to mankind, for example – at the end of the day it was still a very well executed monster movie that made me feel the way I might actually feel if I was there, more than any other I’ve ever seen.
Jaws (1975) – As far as horror/monster movies that genuinely touch upon real-life fears I have, nothing will ever compare to the first time seeing Jaws. I have a profound fear of sharks, so much so that I’d be paralyzed by fear if I thought of a shark while swimming in the lake near my house growing up, or even in a swimming pool; I’d actually start frantically swimming towards land, with the completely irrational thought that maybe, just maybe, a shark was in the pool with me. Jaws really played on that fear by presenting me with a horror/monster movie that features a creature that could seemingly actually exist in real life – a giant, man-eating shark, terrorizing people on an ordinary beach. The movie was so well done, and finding out later on down the line that they had so many issues with the animatronic shark that several shots had to just be quick glimpses of the beast, or just a fin in the water. And much as I felt while watching Alien, not getting the full picture of just how menacing and truly terrifying this Great White was until the very end really added a great level of fear and anxiety when watching Jaws. Of my favorite monster movies ever, Jaws is the one that maybe truly scared me the most, because eventually, you realize that evil aliens and giant lizard monsters (most likely) don’t exist, and sharks capable of actually eating me do, and that’s really damn scary.
The Thing (1982) – One of the few lists like this that I’ve done where I intentionally save the best (aka my favorite) for last. I’ve talked about John Carpenter’s The Thing before, and I’m sure I’ll talk about it again – not only is it one of my favorite monster movies, it’s one of my favorite movies overall, and definitely my favorite horror movie. This film was just so masterful, and the way it handled all of its monster effects (from dismembered heads growing spider legs to grotesque alien/dog hybrids transforming right in front of your eyes) was really ahead of its time. The “monster” this time around is a little more ambiguous, and its true form is never really revealed; instead, you gradually see this twisted amalgamated abomination that collects the various forms the parasitic alien took on throughout the movie. I was 13 the first time I saw The Thing, and I maintain that 13 may have been a bit too young (that dog scene really messed with me), but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t immediately love the movie. The acting was great – I’m a sucker for pretty much any 80s movie starring Kurt Russell – and the atmosphere, tone, and story were just really terrific. I watch The Thing at least once every year or two, usually around Halloween, and every single time I enjoy it. I’ve seen the original 1951 film The Thing from Another World, and the 2011 prequel, and even read the sci-fi novella Who Goes There that the films are based on, but nothing in my mind compares to Carpenter’s masterpiece.