Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Top 10 Movie Monsters: The Countdown to Halloween (Day 12)

I’m not really a “list” guy.  Not that I don’t enjoy a good listing of things good, bad or ugly, top, terrible or worst—they can be quite entertaining and informative.  It’s just that I’m pretty terrible about quantifying things from my own perspective.  I tend to take things as they come and find comparisons difficult and I usually think of another choice long after I’ve completed my list. 

So, for the moment, here is THE GOODS’…


The King of the Monsters is a sheer force of nature who can be seen as good or bad, but always causes mass destruction.  He had to make my list due to the sheer success of the character, who appears in at least 29 films and an endless array of other media forms.

This is the one monster that is willing to take on any comers—he’s fought his own original villains, such as King Ghidorah, Mechagodzilla and Destoroyah; and, he’s taken on the great King Kong, the Fantastic Four and Avengers.

And, as far as body-count goes, when you can squish trucks between your toes you’re going to walk away with that prize.  Tokyo knows what I mean.  Poor, flattened Tokyo.

When one thinks of a threat to their very soul—that piece of themselves that is the core of who they are—one imagines the Cenobites, and Pinhead in particular, when it comes to film.

Cenobites are former humans who have been altered, transformed in an extra-dimensional realm (Hell?) via ways of extreme pleasure and pain, torture and titillation into demons who harvest souls via a puzzle box called the Lament Configuration.

Pinhead, as portrayed by Doug Bradley, is an articulate and seductive sadomasochistic demon with a grid of nails protruding from his head and dressed in black leather.

Referred to as “The Shape” in the credits of the original HALLOWEEN film, Michael Myers began his life in horror at age six when he murdered his sister.  From that day forward Myers remains mute and unresponsive.

Fifteen years later, Michael escapes from the sanitarium  and returns to his hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois to kill again.  Only this time while wearing a mask of William Shatner!  

Dr. Loomis’ observation of Michael was simple and scary—“I realized what was living behind that boy’s eyes was purely and simply…evil.”  John Carpenter sees The Shape as nearly a force of nature, a force of evil that is unkillable, unstoppable.

In a study by the Media Psychology Lab of California State University, Michael Myers was rated highest among movie monsters when considering how was the “embodiment of pure evil”.  I think that about says it.

In the world of THE EXORCIST, young Regan MacNeil is a girl possessed by a demon named Pazuzu or Captain Howdy out to corrupt her very soul.  And it is the juxtaposition of the innocence of the girl and the absolute depravity of the demon that stuns the audience.

Pazuzu doesn’t work up that large a body count, but that’s not the goal of a demonic possession—it’s to drag just one innocent soul to hell.  And the difficulty of battling a demon for the sake of an intangible soul proves mighty troublesome—it costs three lives.

Even though I'm long since a believer in Biblical good and evil and am resigned to the notion that only people are responsible for their actions, this movie can still get to me.  It's just that effective and the performances are that powerful.

In space no one can hear you scream.
The tagline alone brings pause to a potential viewer, but it’s the truly elegant and intelligent design of these aliens that brings true terror.

H. R. Giger’s twisted hyper-sexual designs work to unhinge the viewer.  From the ripe fruit look of the egg of the alien to it’s scorpion-like delivery system, it just gives out freaky vibes.  And when a full grown alien rears it’s sleek, slimy penile-shaped head… well, it gets a visceral reaction.

And all that’s without even considering that you’ll be alive the whole time it’s young are growing inside you, getting ready to eat their way out of you.  That’s some primal shit, right there.

If becoming a meal for a monster isn’t bad enough, how about hanging out with a monster and not even realizing it.  The Thing is a creature (creatures?) that is hard to define as it seems to be a series of independent cells that can work together or apart to mimic an entire organism.

And in close, working relationships it can be hard enough to get along with a guy without suspecting he’s an alien invader out to replace us all with sinister copies.  It plays on the mind as much as the body, the kind of paranoia this kind creature breeds.

The amorphous nature of this beast is what also adds to the creep-o-meter as they can seem to take any human or animal form—or any other damn form it pleases.  When a head simply melts away from a dying body and sprouts spider legs and walks off—that was a mind-bending moment in film!  And it only got stranger as Carpenter’s film went on down its dark path toward a frozen Mexican standoff. 

He has been portrayed in numerous ways over the nearly hundred years he’s been captured on film.  From the bald, pointy-eared wraith of Max Schreck’s Nosferatu to the seductive and charming Count of Bram Stoker’s Dracula as played by Gary Oldman—if nothing else, the vampire has range.

Icon-wise, Bela Lugosi will always be the public’s blood-sucker.  His accent and dramatic intonations, the cape, the widow’s peak hair, etc. are all plastered across popular culture.  And rightly so, Lugosi’s performance was spellbinding in its way.

As slick as that seductive monster can be, I find the portrayal  that reflects Stoker’s original best and most monstrous is Christopher Lee’s Dracula.  Tall, dark and silent and full of sheer menace, there’s no love story in his background, merely sin and damnation.

The tragic and, thus, sympathetic monster is always a compelling creature to behold and none can be more sympathized with than Frankenstein’s abandoned child.  It’s not his fault, after all, that he even exists, let alone that he looks as creepy as he does.

At least the iconic Karloff screen version wasn’t as intelligent as the one from Shelley’s novel—that poor bastard had it even worse.  He knew what he was and was far more aware of the tragic circumstances of his situation.  Ol’ Boris’ monster was more innocent, more child-like.  Still, by the time he cuts loose and really starts to knock heads, the viewer is more invested in him than the villagers who bring the torches.

Of course, this makes Doctor Frankenstein the real monster of the tragedy.

I’m sure, at some point, every teenage boy feels a little like the Creature from the Black Lagoon.  Full of all kinds of hormones and desperate to meet a girl, to find a true love and “live happily ever after” as it were.
The Creature is a prehistoric gill-man, a half fish, half man who has his own little lagoon all to himself.  The last of his kind who may or may not have ever seen a female of his own species.  And so, when beautiful Julie Adams takes a swim in his little lagoon, the boy straightens right out and learns real quick.
The real shame is that she doesn’t feel the same about him—the poor fella’s love is unrequited.  Unfortunately for the Gill-Man, he doesn’t take the message well.  Perhaps in his culture, you don’t take no for an answer.  It’s possible he just wasn’t taught good manners.  Whatever the cause, it soon brings the wrath of mankind down on his scaled little head.

Nearly everything that applies to the Creature from the Black Lagoon, applies to the great Kong of Skull Island.  He is the last of his kind, he seems to fall in love with a young human woman, it ends tragically for him.  Only it happened to Kong first.

 Kong, like most giant monsters, is a fighter.  Always in battle on Skull Island with one over-sized monster or another, Kong has truly earned the name “King” as he is worshipped by the natives.  He is like unto God to them, for they know his wrath and they make regular sacrifices to please him.

Like Godzilla, whom he proceeded, King Kong has appeared in tons of media formats over the decades and is known world-wide throughout pop culture.

He is a tragic an iconic figure who literally fell for the woman he loved.  Of all the battles he fought it was the battle for his heart that killed him, or, “It was beauty that killed the beast.”

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