Long gone are the days of the classic Hollywood monsters. The most iconic figures in horror, such as Dracula, the Wolfman and Frankenstein’s monster, will always be fondly remembered for years to come. In fact in this past year alone we’ve already seen vampiristic origin story ‘Dracula Untold’ and the comic-book based action fantasy ‘I, Frankenstein’ all dealing with these traditional beasts. So there will always be rehashes, re-imaginings and different directions for the classics. But due to the ever-changing climate that we live in it seems that the styles, the demands and of course the monsters themselves have evolved.
Over the past decade we’ve already been subjected to a number of popular monster movie redo’s such as Gareth Evans’ ‘Godzilla’ and Peter Jackson’s ‘King Kong’ and it just goes to prove that creature features can still draw big global audiences.
Monsters have always been a staple of horror appearing in movies, TV shows, books and on t-shirts. They’ve appeared in cartoons, in games (would you believe that there are slot games dedicated to goblins?), in adverts and even on breakfast cereals. They die, they respawn, they evolve and more importantly they just keep on coming…
Half of the 10 most successful Worldwide Box office movies of all time happen to involve or revolve around creatures, aliens or other worldly beasts in some form or another. And so what highlights can we pluck out from more recent years?
THE DESCENT (2005)
British writer and director Neil Marshall, the man behind the excellent werewolf horror ‘Dog Soldiers’, took us below the surface back in 2005 to terrify us all. A group of 6 female friends go spelunking and end up in mortal danger as they come across a family of “troglofaunal flesh-eating humanoids”. The group enter an unmapped cave system, for fun(!), and poke around until they become lost and scared, and this is when they cross paths with these disgusting looking bat-like creatures.
The claustrophobic nature of the movie, which involves a lot of shots of the girls squeezing through impossibly small and tight spaces, leaves you gasping for breath just from watching it. ‘The Descent’ manages to brilliantly combine real-world survival horror with good old fashioned ‘monster in the dark’ jumps and all this gets coupled with the remoteness of their dire situation, the darkness, the dampness and the fear. And this before you’ve even introduced a group of petrifying blood-thirsty monsters!
Back in 2008 director Matt Reeves and writer Drew Goddard bought us the terrifically accomplished found footage monster feature ‘Cloverfield’. A movie that was marketed almost as cleverly as it was executed. It was spearheaded by producer JJ Abrams who was coming hot off the success of ABC’s sci-fi drama series ‘Lost’. And always looking to surprise audiences Abrams himself used multiple to promote the movie, with each site providing details of the plot. This coupled with the release of a short and striking teaser trailer, that didn’t even feature a title at the time, pushed the online rumour mill in to overdrive. Having the Statue of Liberty’s head hurled down a New York street with no sign of where or how it gets there will always get people talking.
The monster itself was kept largely under wraps and even in the movie itself, due to its handheld nature, is not featured too heavily. The found footage element is used intelligently and quite frankly we can’t see anyone else attempting a large scale fair-budgeted monster movie using this filming style for quite a while.
THE CABIN IN THE WOODS (2012)
Just a few years on and it’s that man Drew Goddard back once more to bring us his co-written monster masterpiece ‘The Cabin in the Woods’. The ‘Cloverfield’ scribe penned the story alongside ‘The Avengers’ and ‘Firefly’ maestro and movie-geek idol Joss Whedon as well as taking on directorial duties this time around. The tongue-in-cheek horror offering is quite literally filled to the brim with every creature, beast, monster and Merman you could ever hope to throw together on film. It features a fantastic twist on the usual ‘cabin in the wood’-themed horrors and some very clever bending of the rules for some of the most common horror tropes out there.
Despite being plagued with production and studio financial issues from the beginning but it all eventually culminated into one of the funnest movies experiences we’ve had in recent memory.