Yes, the abnormally large animal has been a staple of monster movies for years. The giant menacing ants in Them to the spiders in Eight Legged Freaks, from scary to parody. The animal world is filled with both benign and savage creatures, and I suppose our minds can’t help but dream about the implications of a giant generally benign creature or an enormous vicious animal unleashed on a populous. After all, even the mildest of animals must be a hideous beast to something much smaller.
I can still remember, as if it were just yesterday, clicking through cable channels and landing on a movie called Night of the Lepus. I had no idea what a Lepus might be, but my imagination conjured up something hideous. When the beasts finally showed themselves, they were nothing but bunny rabbits. Giant bunny rabbits mind you, but not very intimidating. I suppose they could hop on you and crush you beneath their soft paws, but they certainly didn’t look vicious. The obvious miniature scenes that were used to illustrate the size of these beasts is worth at least one viewing of the movie, that and William Shatner, of course.
In my later years, I found myself quite fond of a little movie called Anaconda. The special effects of the giant snake is quaint by today’s standards, but it has a B-movie charm, and Jon Voight steals the show as a snake hunter(Jennifer Lopez isn’t hard on the eyes as well).
Another often charming B-movie is Lake Placid. This one features a giant crocodile, that in one awesomely hilarious scene swallows a big bear whole. Not to mention a cow or two. It’s a fun movie.
While I love me a good giant animal movie, it is clear that they have been best when played for laughs. There are a few that go straight for the thrills and horror alone, but there are few and far between. Probably about time for a straight up horrifying giant animal movie.
In literature, there is Meg by Steve Alten and Jaws by Peter Benchley. While Jaws was turned into a great movie by Steven Spielberg, that shark is clearly tiny compared to the prehistoric Meg. I hear that a Meg movie is coming soon, so be on the watch and keep your fins crossed that the film proves thrilling and not a dud.
If you happen to be afraid of spiders, Tolkien may be your worst enemy. Giant spiders show up in The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. I have it on good authority that Mr. Tolkien held no particular animus nor aversion toward spiders, but he wrote them effectively creepy and dangerous. I don’t know what I would rather face, a fire-breathing dragon or a den of giant spiders. Let’s hope I never have to make such a difficult decision.
Yes. Pushing my way through the tide of negative reviews tabulated by Rotten Tomatoes, I watched the new Mummy movie on Friday night. Honestly, I had little choice in the matter to begin with due to, you know, monsters. Draped in my mummy t-shirt (yes I have a shirt with a mummy on it, don’t judge), and my love for Universal monsters, I plopped in my red velvet seat with large popcorn and fabulously overpriced soft drink to enjoy the first in a new line of Universal monster movies labeled as Dark Universe. Enjoy it I did…with a few caveats. Spoilers will follow.
First of all. The new Mummy movie is not a remake of the original Boris Karloff movie, nor the adventure/horror/comedy Mummy movie from 1999, although it borrows a bit from both. Director Alex Kurtzman attempts to straddle the line between horror and adventure movie while not really standing out as either. I can understand the reason for the balancing act. Universal is obviously shooting for the widest possible audience for the Dark Universe movies, and can’t go full R rated horror, while also not wanting to water down the DNA of horror found in the original monster movies. People may forget that the original Frankenstein movie was genuinely frightening at the time it was released, likewise several of the other monsters. However, monster movies are a niche (granted a big niche) genre and Universal has visions of Marvel sized box office bills dancing in their collective heads. It may simply not be meant to be. Please don’t stop trying on my behalf. I will gladly sit through all the attempts to make Universal monsters bigger than Batman.
There are several times in the movie that you can see Kurtzman genuinely trying to bring some of that old monster magic, the horror and atmosphere, into the picture. The start of the rebirth of the mummy once she is released from her coffin prison as she sucks the life from others, and awkwardly rises from the ground during a moonlit night, the turning of Dr. Jekyll into full Hyde mode (though I would have appreciated a more beastly form for the alter ego), the meeting in the alley between Nick and the mummy involving a horde of rats, the small army of skeletal Knights Templar arisen from their tombs to aid the mummy. The action scenes are done well, except for the zombie fight at the old abbey. The struggle is a bit hard to follow due to the dark lighting. The zombie themselves are shadowed and this makes it difficult to distinguish what is actually happening. I did enjoy the brittleness of the zombie’s with all the punching through bodies and smashing heads going on, I could tell that much.
The story and dialog have been endlessly derided, but I didn’t find it horrendous. It did the job most of the time and even had a dash of amusing bits thrown in (most likely from Christopher McQuarrie and David Koepp among a plethora of writers). The whole thing certainly could have flowed better, and I am not sure if we needed all the flashback/dream sequences, or some of the Jekyll stuff, but I know why it was there. Overall the movie makes a good launching point for the other monster movies to follow. I have faith that stronger directors will be able to hone the pictures for to their distinct visions. Nothing against Kurtzman, but he does not, at this time, have the singular vision/style of a John Carpenter or Guillermo Del Toro.
Tom Cruise does about what you would expect, which is good. I liked him in the role of Nick enough. Russel Crowe does not get to do much, but you can tell he wants to sink his teeth into the Hyde part more (to which I say bring it on), though he plays the good Dr. Jekyll well. Sofia Boutella is wonderful as the mummy in the title. The scenes where she is captured and chained are most effective. I wish she would have had the opportunity to play the shambling mummy more instead of the CGI mummy taking her part, but that is the world we live in now. The rest of the cast was on point, if nothing else. At least no one seemed to be phoning it in.
In the end, Tom Cruise’s character gains the power of the mummy. Although the curse threatens to overwhelm him, he retains the part of humanity that keeps him mostly good. We don’t see much of him after his turn, but we are expected to consider him a monster. I hope that in future movies we get to see the change. We can’t have a man carrying the curse of the mummy inside of him continuing to look like the immaculate Tom Cruise. I have a few suggestions.
His body should show a monstrous change. Because this dark and evil force is inside of him, Nick’s body should slowly be decaying and cracking as it can barely contain such a powerful darkness. Perhaps a chunk of his fleshly cheek is missing, there is a gash in his neck and various other small fissures across his body. He must hide them with bandages and strategic placed items of clothing…slowing turning into a mummy in form as well as function. His powers must also be toned down. It appears at the end of the movie, that Nick can resurrect the dead back to fully living as whole beings with ease. There must be a cost or a limit, otherwise power creep will settle into the other movies and we won’t be able to feel for the character anymore, since he seems to be invincible and all-powerful. Bringing his friend and girl back from the dead should be one offs. Let’s say that he can animate skeletons and the dead, but it drains him physically and mentally the more he attempts to do. Sand, of course, can remain his bosom buddy. I would prefer that the next time we see his friend Vail, he should be mostly skeleton and learning to deal with it. While we are at it, lets give Nick that old mummy shamble by hobbling his one leg. It did get broken by the mummy during her final struggles anyway. If Nick doesn’t sport a red fez at some point in his next film then I will be most displeased.
Well, this turned into several more words than I intended. I guess it all boils down to if you like monsters or not. If you like monsters, specially the classic Universal monsters, you will like the new Mummy movie. If you tend to stay away from horror movies and don’t care about monsters, and you expect to see a super hero mummy, or more funny than thrilling mummy movie, or like to find faults in movies that everyone dog piles negative reviews on, than you most likely should stay away from this Mummy movie.
Check your closet before you go to sleep tonight. You never know just what may shamble its way in there while you were unaware.
The Orc barely made this list. However, he shoved and muscled his way in with an unusually large double-bladed ax, and I was forced to comply. The brute.
The orc was popularized by Tolkien, but traces of his origin can be found as far back as the tale of Beowulf and old Italian folk tales. Usually depicted as roughly the size of a man, but with tusks or other grotesque, monstrous features. Their skin is described as dark, green, gray, black or brown, depending on the author. Orcs are often portrayed as aggressive, dangerous, not too bright, and as scavengers.
If you are a fan of miniature gaming, then you have no doubt run into the Orcs in the extremely popular Warhammer universe. These Orcs can be found on land or space. Yikes. Orcs can also be found in the World of Warcraft game, the Shadow Run role-playing game (with cybernetics), and the Heroscape game.
It seems that the orc certainly has a fan base. Who am I, but a lone quivering bag of brittle bones, to deny him his accolades. Some may confuse the orc with its close cousin the Goblin. Please do not do so. They do not take kindly to those unable to recognize their distinct contribution to the fantasy canon. Alas, poor Yorick…
The skeleton is a fixture in the realm of horror and all things spooky. What’s more creepy than a reminder of our own mortality. We all end up bones in the end.
Animated skeletons are just cool. My favorite being the skeletons in the classic Jason and the Argonauts movie. These are brought to life and animated by the brilliant Ray Harryhausen. A single Harryhausen skeleton was also featured in 7th Voyage of Sinbad. This one was not the most formidable fighter, but certainly memorable.
The movie Lost Skeleton of Cadavra has an intentionally hilarious evil skeleton attempting to gain the elusive element atmospherium. This is a fun-loving send-up of cheap science fiction B-movies of the 1950s.
He-Man’s nemesis Skeletor is a skeleton, as is Marvel Comic’s Ghost Rider when in vengeance mode, and of course there is Jack Skelington, the pumpkin king.
Who can forget the cursed pirates in the Pirates of the Caribbean movie. The light of the pale moon reveals the true nature of their curse, nothing but walking bones, living a life of the dead, forever attempting to restore the cursed treasure they stole in the first place, and gain true life again. Pirates sort of took the symbol of the skull and ran with it, so a combination of skeletons and pirates is a perfect mix.
My introduction to this one-eyed giant was in Homer’s Odyssey. The cyclops in the story is outsmarted by Odysseus and ends up with a stake plunged into his eye.
The cyclops in the excellent movie The 7th Voyage of Sinbad do not fare much better. An evil wizard attempts to steal a lamp from the cyclops, only to watch it slip through his hands during a hasty escape. The wizard returns, to steal the lamp again from the cyclops, but Sinbad grabs it instead due to his mistrust of the wizard. A cyclops captures Sinbad’s right hand man, and roasts him on a spit over a fire. So, Sinbad blinds the cyclops and lures him to the edge of a tall cliff, pushing him off.
When you only have one eye, it seems to be the perfect target for your enemies to take out and blind you. They should really protect that better.
Anyway, the Sinbad movie ends with a fight between a dragon and a cyclops. Guess who wins. Right, the dragon. The cyclops does put up a good fight. The cyclops is given such robust life by Ray Harryhausen, that you can’t help for root for him to win, making the outcome a bit sad.
The 1983 cult movie Krull, contains a cyclops, who heroically sacrifices himself for the greater good.
One of my favorite songs by They Might Be Giants is Cyclops Rock.
Scott Summers is an X-Man, from Marvel comics, named Cyclops that can shoot a laser blast from his eyes. He wears a visor with a single slot for vision, hence the moniker.
I tell you how to cyclops rock, But then you go and turn around and break my heart, You waste my cyclops time, And mess up my cyclops mind.
There are all kinds of witches. Some are hideous, others beautiful, some are good, some green, all are dangerous and few are to be trusted. They belong to a coven, unless they are on their own. A grimoire holds their spells, a broom provides convenient transportation, and apparently, a hat worn by a witch must be pointy. The witch’s familiar is an animal that she controls and can see through the eyes of, often a cat, but could even be a human under the right circumstances.
Several well-known witches have entered the popular culture; Sabrina, Hazel, Granny Weatherwax, Glinda, and Morgan Le Fay. Tales of witches permeate most cultures of the world. Seems that the witch has often become the figurehead of the Halloween holiday in the United States (most likely due to the ease of the costume).
A pair of literary witches that readily leap to mind are: The White Witch (Jadis) from the Narnia books is so cruel as to destroy all life but her own at one point. With her wand, she can turn her enemies to stone. She proves to be a formidable antagonist to the Pevensie children, but eventually is done in by Aslan, the lion.
The Wicked Witch of the West in the Oz books, is ruler of the Winkie Country. She subdued the Winkies with an army of flying monkeys, which she could summon while wearing a special hat. She had a fear of water, most likely due to her dry and bloodless nature (her wickedness dried her up). The well-known movie, The Wizard of Oz, portrayed her as carrying a broom instead of an umbrella, but stuck to her cruel and mean nature, throwing a fireball at the Scarecrow and chasing after Dorothy for the ruby slippers. Gregory Maguire’s 1996 novel Wicked: Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West paints the witch with a better brush; as misunderstood vs evil, but such is the plight of most monsters.
I even featured a witch as the antagonist in my latest weird west short story, which is looking for a home by the way.
I could mention that a male witch is called a Warlock, but sadly, the Warlock does not make this list. The female version of this particular monster has all but eclipsed the male counterpart. This is no doubt, by her design and careful manipulation.
For the purposes of this list, I will include the Sasquatch, Yeti, Swamp Ape, Yowie and Momo as well. Might even throw in the Abominable Snowman for fun.
Bigfoot has always fascinated me. Is there a nine foot tall hairy monster in the woods? An unknown species of animal that communicates with knocks and screaming howls? There are a plethora of witnesses that have seen something they cannot explain away as a bear or man. Can they all be lying? Can they all be wrong?
The Legend of Boggy Creek is a curious movie made in 1972 that features Bigfoot and is shot in a documentary style. I have heard that it was pretty effective in its time but dated now. However, I have yet to watch it for myself.
I enjoy watching the Finding Bigfoot show when I catch it playing, and love reading the encounters logged on the BFRO website. I suppose they may never catch proof of Bigfoot on their cameras, but their zeal is infectious. I have no idea what draws me to this particular cryptid more than others, perhaps the mysterious and relatively benign nature of Bigfoot, or the fandom of it, but the draw is there.
I often think of going Squatching myself so who knows. Do I actually believe that Bigfoot exists? I am not sure, but it does make the world that much more interesting, and it sure is fun to believe.
We’ll start with the traditional Martian, as can be found in H. G. Well’s novel War of the Worlds and the satire Mars Attacks! (mandatory exclamation point included).
Wells’ novel has inspired a few movie adaptions and an infamous Orson Wells radio program. These Martians , in their giant long-legged tripod machines, fly to earth in their shiny saucers and start blasting away with heat rays, only to find the atmosphere their eventual demise. However, not before leveling cities and generally conquering everything in their path, much to the dismay of the pesky humans.
These Martians are described as large, grayish, big eyed, lip-less and tentacled. Not to mention that they live off the harvested blood of those they conquer. Although, set in a different time period than the novel, I find Steven Spielberg’s version of War of the Worlds entirely effective and chilling.
The Martians in the Mars Attacks! movie, arrive in Earth in the more traditional shining saucer. They speak of peace (according to the American’s handy Martian translator machine), yet promptly destroy the army and congress with their ray guns, the blast of which leaves nothing but a neon skeleton behind. These Martians know how to have fun while destroying the Earth. They topple various monuments around the world with glee and even use the translator for themselves to announce their mistranslated good intentions as they level everything around them to the ground. Fans of dark humor and Sci-Fi will enjoy much to found here.
The movie was inspired by a series of Topps trading cards from 1962, that depict the Martians with large bulbous heads and wearing a clear helmet and green space suit. The movie has the same depiction, and adds a wonderful “Ack! Ack!”speech. I have read that the speech was formulated by playing the sound of a duck’s quack backwards.
Some say we will colonize Mars one day. I doubt we will find any aliens or monsters there, but then again, who knows what lurks under the crust of that mysterious red planet.
This is a big one. Numerous tales have been told of the house down the street where bad and mysterious things happen. Some dark period of history that refuses to live in the past and forcefully haunts the present in a particular place.
There as such examples as the movie House, where a writer moves into his deceased aunt’s house, which is haunted by the dead and a powerful Aztec skull. The animated movie Monster House (for only the bravest of little kids), where the house itself is the monster, eager to gobble up a stray neighbor or dog. Luther Heggs is frightened nearly to death by the house in The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (dig that groovy theme music).
Of course, there is the wonderful Haunted Mansion ride at the Disney parks. A wonderland of ghosts and ghouls parade for your amusement and dismay in that dark great house, where the grim grinning ghosts come out to socialize.
Haunts are not confined to houses alone. I can think of a couple of great movies that feature a haunted hotel, The Shining and The Innkeepers. Check in to both of the featured establishments in these films, but you may never check out.
Literature has the House of Usher and Hell House, of course. However, I often search for some great new haunted house novels, and find the selection lacking. Please recommend your favorites, so I can turn the key in a new lock and open the door to a new haunt.
That’s right, the big red guy himself. Created by the incomparable Mike Mignola, we have the monster who fights monsters, and other things that go bump in the night.
Brought to earth through a hellish portal when a small youth in Germany, adopted by the Allied forces during the Second World War, and raised to be the scourge of hangovers and drooling monsters everywhere, Hellboy is simply great pulpy fun. He’s a red demon with horns (though shaved off as close to the head as possible), a right hand of doom, long tale and hoofed feet, with a big gun and a big heart hidden deep under a thick veneer of bravado. He once saved the world, though destined to destroy it.
I picked up the original comics early on and fell in love with the character, stories and art. I had always thought Mignola had a unique style when he filled in on an X-Men comic, but it wasn’t until Hellboy that I realized his true calling. He was born to draw monsters and shadows…lots of shadows.
The character has spawned two movies that are most excellent. Hellboy is brought to vivid life by Ron Perlman and Guillermo Del-Toro. Too bad it looks like we will never get the promised third movie.
The Old One, cosmic entity, many tentacled, star of designer board games and dark cultists everywhere. Created by H. P. Lovecraft, this monster has come to life far more than Lovecraft ever could have envisioned. There are other Old Ones in the Lovecraft universe, to be sure, but it is Cthulhu that reigns supreme.
The Cthulhu influence can be felt in everything from comic books (Mike Mignolia’s Hellboy), games (Eldritch Horror) and pulps (Robert E. Howard’s in particular). Strange that there have not been more movies featuring Lovecraft’s monster. The first Hellboy movie touched on the Old One, and I am certain that if Guillermo Del Toro’s At the Mountains of Madness ever gets made, it will be a worthy introduction to the Lovecraft mythos to the masses. On second thought, perhaps that is the Old One’s plan all along.
The role-playing game Call of Cthulhu is still popular in RPG circles. References to Cthulhu can be found in the old Real Ghostbusters cartoon as well as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Scooby-Doo cartoons. A handful of songs credit the same Old One as inspiration as well.
I would also like to mention a particular short story by Neil Gaiman called A Study in Emerald that mixes Sherlock Holmes and Cthulhu together into a madness inducing cocktail of Victorian alternate lore.
Pretty prolific for a slimy centuries old entity from beyond known space and time. No wonder he is adored by dark robed cultists everywhere.
A child of the Eighties. Freddy was played by Robert Englund first in the movie A Nightmare on Elm Street. A monster in the true sense of the word, who preyed on children before meeting a fiery death, returned from beyond to stalk a new generation in their dreams. Wes Craven’s creation has earned a place in the Monster 50.
The original film is still an often times brutal and wicked little horror film. Subsequent endeavors met with varying degrees of success. My personal favorites are Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors and Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. The latter being a precursor to Craven’s later Scream series, the former a fun premise where the prey fight back in their own dreams.
The iconic glove that Freddy wears, with the razor blade fingers, gives this monster an edge in more ways than one. As memorable as the bolts on the Frankenstein monster’s neck, or the mask of the Phantom of the Opera. I believe that it is a great part of the reason why Freddy has endured. That, and the wonderful premise that if you fall asleep, Freddy will kill you. You can only stay awake for so long, before your body must succumb. It is inevitable.
The fedora and striped sweater complete Freddy’s costume. It all adds up to a monster with some flair.
Unlike some of the monsters on this list, Freddy is one that we love to see get his just end. A monster we love to root against, yet can’t help but fall prey to his great design and construction.
The greatest contribution Freddy has given to us is, in my opinion, the awesome Eighties Dokken song Dream Warriors.
The Boogey Man A.K.A The Shape A.K.A Michael Myers.
He made his frightening debut in John Carpenter’s Halloween, and has been slashing and spooking ever since. His first victim was his older sister when he was only a child, his second target was Laurie Strode played by Jamie Lee Curtis (though her friends became victims by association), his subsequent victims could be the Autumn holiday itself, if going by the hallmarks of the season he inspired. The slasher film was a relatively new phenomenon until Halloween drove into town that fateful day, and birthed a slew of copycat films (A few we may touch on later in the Monster 50).
However many clones of Halloween were made, the original is certainly the best. The way Carpenter shot and framed the movie is gorgeous. The iconic images are aplenty; the Shatner mask, lone vehicle slowly stalking the three girls, creepy disappearing acts, carving of the pumpkin, ghost sheet and thick rimmed glasses, wire hangers, the escape from the sanitarium, the view from Michael’s eyes, the rise from the dead…and I could go on.
The great thing about Michael Myers in the original film is that he is mysterious and almost ghostly, no explanation for him other than the pronouncement from Doctor Loomis that he is pure evil, simple and direct. Subsequent movies (minus the second one perhaps) tried to explain what makes Michael tick and just got plain silly in the plot complications regarding the Strode family, much to the detriment of the character. Supposedly, Carpenter has returned to at least produce the next film in the Halloween series, and I am eager to see how it goes. Would love for him to take another crack at directing, but I fear that is a pipe dream.
Whatever happens next in the saga of Michael Myers, we will always have the original. That iconic music will always cause a certain chill in the air. Halloween will always be known as the night the Boogey Man returned to Haddonfield, Illinois.
Evil Chinese sorcerer, cursed with No Flesh by the first sovereign emperor of China, forever searching for that special green-eyed woman with whom he can marry, sacrifice to appease Chang Dai and rule the world from beyond the grave. It’s so hard to find the perfect woman these days.
Lo Pan is played wonderfully by James Hong in the movie Big Trouble in Little China directed by John Carpenter. This is easily one of my favorite movies, and Lo Pan is one reason why. Not only is he evil, and powerful, and stylish, but he is also hilarious. Not that I wouldn’t quake in my boots if I ran into him in a dark, or even light, alley.
The costume design of Lo Pan is perfect. It no doubt owes some cues from Fu-Manchu, with the long mustache, ornate hat and black dragon-print robe, but is instantly memorable.
I can only imagine how angry it made him to lose to the rowdy and uncouth American Jack Burton and friends. But hey, that’s how it goes sometimes.
I can still remember the first time I watched the movie Alien. With a mixture of fear and awe, I followed the crew of the ill-fated Nostromo on their return path to Earth, as one by one they fell to the slithering, drooling darkness with teeth and acid blood. It is difficult to fathom a more frightening space creature than the one H. R. Giger created. Humanoid, yet so…alien, with that eyeless, emotionless face.
Alien, Aliens are the best, of course. However, I find things to like in both Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection.
Horror in space doesn’t happen often for some reason. I don’t believe I have ever read a Horror novel set in space. If you can recommend one, please do so. Event Horizon is an especially affecting horror movie in space about an abandoned haunted ship which may have just came from a very hellish dimension. Jason X is a mindless fun entry in the Friday the 13th series where he slashes in space…where no one can hear you scream. Planet of the Vampires is a great classic film if you are in the mood for some stylish old-fashioned horror.
Seems to me I might have to make my own little riff on the Alien in the near future, and write a horror space novel of my own. Curse of the Space Vampire perhaps? I doubt I would ever come up with a more perfect killing machine than the original and terrifying Alien.
I’m not talking about your ordinary run of the mill straw man. This is the walking, talking, reach out and grab you kind of scarecrow. L. Frank Baum may have given us the bumbling but friendly variety, but there is no mistaking the inherent creep factor that the lonely scarecrow can muster.
Fashioned to look like a man with a burlap head. Given semblance of life in order to frighten. A shadowy shifting figure on a moonlit night.
There have been plenty of small stories that involve sentient scarecrows, but longer works are more difficult to locate. The movie Dark Night of the Scarecrow involves a man returned from the grave, but only dressed like a scarecrow. Dead Birds also is a nice little horror flick that has some creepy scarecrows. You can round out the trio with Husk.
Can’t go without mentioning the Batman villain with the Scarecrow moniker. He has a great design and weapon to go with it; fear gas. He is as monstrous as most of the Bat’s rogues gallery so he counts.
I have always felt a strange attachment to the scarecrow. Could be due to my slim and spindly nature, or love of the Fall season that the scarecrow is so often associated with. Whatever the reason, this is my little shout out to the scariest straw man around.
The Banshee may not be the first monster you think of when forming a list of the best, but there is no denying she is a fearsome and often ominous creature. Usually taking the form of a pale woman in white, almost ghostly in appearance, the Banshee’s country of origin is Ireland. If you hear the keening of the banshee, someone close is certain to die or is dead already.
The keening woman was traditionally used in parts of Scotland to mourn the death of a member of one of the great families. Some legends say that it was a fay or fairy woman who sang the lament even if the deceased was far away or death had not yet arrived.
I believe my first encounter with the Banshee was in the movie Darby O’Gill and the Little People. I was just a kid, but the sequence when the Banshee arrives and calls for the death coach to carry away a dying girl, left an impression. Enough to add the ghastly creature to the Monster 50.
Now that I think about it, the Banshee is long overdue for a revival. She deserves better than the one children’s movie over 50 years ago and the occasional Scooby Doo mystery. Ti West, make it happen.
From the mind of H. G. Wells comes one of the most dastardly of the Universal monsters line up. Of course, he was driven slowly insane by the procedure of becoming invisible, but that is hardly an excuse to go around causing havoc and killing strangers. Claude Rains turned in a riveting performance as Dr. Jack Griffin in the 1933 Universal movie, even though he was wrapped in bandages or invisible most of the movie. The incomparable Vincent Price played a different invisible man in the sequel The Invisible Man Returns.
There is some great allure to each of us of being invisible. However, it is rarely for a noble reason. The invisible make great spies, thieves, murderers, peeping tom’s and pranksters. Perhaps some would think their sanity an acceptable price to pay.
Truth be told; the Invisible Man is the only classic Universal monster that I have actually dressed up as for Halloween. Of course, that could be because bandages and gloves make an easy costume. Then again, I may have a bit of madness in my blood.
I remember a little movie directed by John Carpenter called Memoirs of an Invisible Man starring Chevy Chase as an average man turned invisible by an accident. I have not seen it in ages, but do remember it being a trifle but fun in parts.
I hear that Johnny Depp will be playing the Invisible Man in the upcoming Universal remake. This seems a novel choice due to Depp’s eccentric nature. However, it also seems a miscast since this will no doubt be mostly a voice performance. Who knows. It shall be interesting anyway.
Careful out there. Watch your step. You never know who may be watching you be alone.
The Wolf Man or werewolf has taken a bite straight into the jugular of popular culture. The wound is deep enough to contain the original Universal monster movie, Werewolf of London, Wolf Man Jack across the radio air waves, Teen Wolf, numerous rock songs, American Werewolf in London, Werewolf by Night comic book, Wolf, and I could howl on.
I always return to Lon Chaney Jr. as the original Wolf Man, and his portrayal of a good man cursed to do terrible things against his will. Lon plays the tortured soul like no other (though Benicio Del Toro came close in the more recent version of the film). He battled Dracula and the Frankenstein monster and lived to lock himself up under another full moon.
Even a man that is pure in heart,
And says his prayers by night,
May become a wolf when the wolf bane blooms,
And the autumn moon is bright.
We all struggle with darkness at times, and can relate to the plight of the reluctant werewolf. Regarding the willing kind…there is no chain heavy enough, nor wall thick enough, nor hole deep enough to place that soul.
There is something eerie and ethereal about the Gill Man in the original Universal movie, as he pushes through the waters of the deep, effortlessly, shadowing the oblivious swimmer above. This a creature forgotten by time but disturbed by curious and fearful humans, driven to do what he must to ensure his survival. Of course, the beautiful Julie Adams makes a pretty good lure.
I can’t remember precisely the first time I happened upon the Gill Man, but I didn’t see the original Universal movie until later in my monster timeline. It could have been in The Monster Squad, which would have made a fine introduction. Whatever the origin, I did find the Gill Man and gleefully added him to my list of favorite monsters.
The design of the original creature is perfection, which is a minor miracle considering what it started out as. The original costume was bland and boring, looking more akin to a classic grey alien than a fishy man from the deeps. We can thank former Disney illustrator Millicent Patrick for the improved and now beloved design. It was Ricou Browning that gave the creature his grace and strength while playing him under water.
I heard that Universal once had a musical show featuring the Gill Man at their theme park, but sadly, it was too late for me to view it. At one time John Carpenter was set to direct a remake of the Creature From the Black Lagoon, which I would have no doubt loved (still trying to hunt down a copy of the screenplay for that). There has been no talk of the Gill Man joining the recent revival of Universal monster movies, but I do hope they include him somehow.
There is something about the things that lurk under the water which instill a natural fear and unease that the Gill Man taps into with great effect.