Friday, August 19, 2011

Best Movie Monsters Ever

(Stan Winston, 1972 made-for-tv movie "Gargoyles")

What does it take to create the ultimate movie monster? It's actually an excruciatingly tough art. A few men, like Stan Winston, had an uncanny ability to create a monster with latex and mechanical parts, while others believe that CGI effects are the way to go and some old-time fellows depended upon makeup and great acting, such as in "Nosferatu."

There have been dozens of Godzillas, King Kongs, werewolves, dinosaurs and vampires for movies. Some of them hit the mark, others missed it entirely.

Although it may seem a bit outdated now, "An American Werewolf in London" had an unprecedented approach of the use of makeup, prosthesis, and mechanisms to actually take and evolve the monster as we watch it stretch and change. With good acting and this "real" looking approach, it actually seemed feasible. Rick Baker did an amazing job and actually was an innovator in makeup special effects because of this technique.

Stan Winston was probably one of the greatest in this industry, working on
"Jurassic Park," "The Thing," "Terminator," "Alien," "Predator," "Iron Man," and "Edward Scissorhands" among many many more monster/scifi movies. What was so amazing about what Stan Winston did was that he combined many aspects without ever compromising the concept of monster as "real." It's not easy to get the viewer to believe this thing really exists.

Some movies have had hokey monsters that the moment you see them, you go "oh, damn! Why did they have to show full-frontal monster?" The movie "Signs" really did that for me at the very end with the alien holding the child. In that moment, everything I believed crumbled quickly. The movie "The Howling," one of my favorite werewolf movies, completely lost it when they had the infamous office scene with the werewolf encounter. I remember bursting into laughter at that moment.

When it comes to larger-than-life monsters like King Kong and Godzilla, most special effects folks resort to scale models in the past, but a King Kong head was constructed and mechanized to scale for the 1976 version with Jessica Lange. In fact, the huge mechanized head has been used on the Universal City Tour for decades. Once again, another fantastic Rick Baker (An American Werewolf in London) design. Here's what IMDB says about the face: Seven different masks were created by Carlo Rambaldi, and molded by Rick Baker to convey various emotions. Separate masks were necessary as there were too many cables and mechanics required for all the expressions to fit in one single mask. The masks were comprised of a plastic skull over which were placed artificial muscle groups activated by cables which entered the costume through Kong's feet, with the outer latex skins molded by Baker were placed over the top. The masks used hydraulics to provide movement, so much like the mechanical Kong and hands, the facial expressions were controlled by the team of operators working off-set with the control boards. To complete the look of a gorilla, Baker wore contact lenses so his eyes would resemble that of a gorilla's.

I'm curious to find out what you believed to be a very real monster and a very not-so-real monster.

I admit that Predator was to me the ultimate and the worst one I ever saw was just about any werewolf movie or older Godzilla movie--awkward to say the least. I won't even comment on CGI. I just wish it would go away completely. It's like the Made-in-China solution for US movies and I'm really quite sick of it. In fact, if a movie comes out with too much dependence on CGI, I won't see it. Hence, I've not seen "Transformers" yet. I can only suspend my imagination so much before I begin to giggle rather than gasp.

**Hey, y'all, so far 30 participants for the virtual zombie walk event. The button is on the left if you are interested in the details and joining us. We will all be doing big pushes of publicity in September to get everyone hyped for the 30th!**

**Don't forget--tonight is Lonely on a Friday Night here. Come on and comment back and forth. I'll be in all evening, as usual.**


  1. Kong was my favorite all time handsdown. I can't believe Jackson messed it up so badly. Visually, it was good (although I didn't really like the "look" of the tribe; they didn't seem believeable, too much like the Orcs from LOTR), but the story was crap and the casting not the strongest. Second on the monster list are werewolves.

  2. Haha. Yeah, Jackson's tribe was really wrong, just terribly wrong! That movie sucked, but there were moments of brilliance, but those weren't enough to make up for a horrid plot, terrible acting and often times hurried CGI. I love the original King Kong-jerkiness and all and I wasn't too put off by the 76 version either. Seeing it at Universal Studios makes you realize what was put into it--man! Of course, Jurassic did a serious number on monsters. Very well done. I like to see a monster I haven't seen before. Cloverfield was inventive, but totally hilarious looking, like a big old stupid goober and hardly scary. I want to see someone do werewolves justice. I liked in Blood and Chocolate how the humans leapt and turned into wolves, but it was not executed quite right, but the concept was very cool.

  3. Nowadays CGi is so prevalent in films that you have to accept it somewhat or else every movie will suck but man do I hate it. I love and prefer practical effects though and another one that comes to mind is Pumpkinhead that was a badass creature also the wolves from Dog Soldiers which sort of reminds me of pumpkinhead in a way. Seeing that transformation scene in American Werewolf in London is still amazing to this day. A film I have been following called Creature is coming out soon and they used all practical effects and their monster is half man half alligator looks pretty cool.

  4. SD77:
    I seriously would love to have a movie night with you, dude! You always have a really great knowledge, but a wonderfully old-school feel about what you like. I'm the same. I love the 70s stuff and the suspenseful moody stuff from the 70s and if you're going to do a monster, for gosh sakes, just let it be organic. There's a crap-load of bad CGI movies that make me want to vomit and top of the list for me was I-Robot. I could not suspend my belief beyond thinking it was just a bad Syfy original.I'm going to look for that Creature movie. Cullan (above) at Strange Stages just had a trailer for one I cannot wait for and I believe it will easily be my favorite horror movie of all time "The Woman in Black" and there's a cool ghost one I've been watching and waiting for forever called "Phasma Ex Machina" and I just ordered "Troll Hunters" on DVD and I know it's going to have effects, but when it's giant Trolls in Norway, I'm so ready for it!

  5. I loved Pumpkinhead. That was an awesome flick. I don't usually do remakes, but that's one that could stand to be remade (in good hands). I'd love to see what could be done with a bigger budget. To me, it's like a really solid rough draft; I just want to see what some polishing could do. And Dog Soldiers is probably hands-down my fave Werewolf movie to date. That and Silver Bullet.

  6. Best monster- The Creature from the Black Lagoon is in my opinion one of the, if not the, greatest of all time.
    Scariest monster- Any clown, doll or puppet.
    most influential- Frankenstein
    King Kong, werewolves, mummies, Medusa, and witches are also awesome.

  7. That would be awesome. I love watching new horror but my heart is always with films I watched when I was younger. Good memories and that feeling of watching those films for the first time is what I love. The Phasma Ex Machina trailer I just watched and def looks interesting and The woman in black I will def be watching as well. I liked Troll Hunter and the CGi didnt bother me if they tried to do them practical the movies budget would have been astronomical. I grimace when I see CGI sometimes in this day and age and sometimes it looks like it's getting worse haha. The creature trailer I have on my site it comes out Sept 9th in theaters

  8. And how great are the wolves in The Howling.I love American Werewolf in london to death but The Howling and a Werewolf on two legs is what I prefer. Just look at that Wolf pic above how menacing is that plus I loved the ears on the Wolf in the Howling :) :)
    @ Cullan A bigger budget Pumpkinhead would be great and I've been dying to see a Dog Soldiers 2 such a fun movie and the wolves were pretty crazy looking. Also Silver Bullet is a great film one of my fav's to watch.

    @Mr Black Creature from the Black Lagoon is one of my Fav's too. So much so that I have his face tattooed on me :)

  9. SD77; I must see that tatt! I admit to a life-long crush on that creature from the black lagoon.