I have a confession to make. I am an unrepentant Monster-Lover. I have loved them since I was a kid and I just can’t help myself. I’m always up for watching a new one, a new version of an old one, or just one of the classics.
Now, my criteria for this list, is that it has to be a straight up monster, although, it can be humanoid or have been human at some point in the past. There is, however, no Frankenstein monster, werewolves or vampires on this list, even though I like them too. I’ll have to show them some love in another post. There are so many monsters to choose from, that I just stuck to the most inventive ones I’ve enjoyed, of the past 20-35 years or so.
Released in 1979 and starring Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerrit, Yaphet Kotto (outside of Star Trek, the first Black man I’d ever seen in a space movie), and Veronica Cartwright.
We’ll start off with an easy one. The Icon. I distinctly rmember seeing the trailer for this when I was about 8 or 9 years old, and being frightened by it. I didn’t actualy watch the movie until I was in my teens and considered old enough to handle it without Mom-Supervision. I think I’ve seen this movie dozens of times over the years and it has never lost it’s impact, no matter how many crappy sequels Hollywood insists on making.
The monster was created by H.R. Giger. In the first movie the monster’s motives are largely unfathomable, but it comes in at number one because every Outer-Space Horror movie monster since this film, have been nothing but cheap retreads of this one. Why watch any of those when you can just watch the original?
A word about Yaphet Kotto’s character in this movie: Yeah, he’s the first Black man I ever noticed in a movie that’s set in outer space. He’s also a total dick. He’s a petty, selfish, sarcastic, bitchy asshole but when the crap starts flying, he steps up to bat and becomes totally badass, with a flamethrower. You can’t possibly like him, but he’s got your back, so you kinda have to.
Released in 1988, the only important person in this movie is Lance Henriksen, (who does not spend as much time onscreen as I would’ve liked), portraying a father named Ed Harley. After his son is killed in a motorbike accident, Ed makes a deal with the local witch to avenge the boy’s death and naturally, it backfires, horribly.
I kind of sided with Ed on the whole revenge thing, except, that only one of the people in the movie killed his boy and it was an accident. Okay yeah, the guy who does it is a total d-bag, who probably shouldn’t have run away afterwards.
Pumpkinhead moves to the top of this list because he’s a nasty, malicious fuck, who takes great pleasure in stalking and killing his prey. It’s one thing to be eaten by a shark or mauled by a bear. They’re just doing their thing, with no ill intent towards you. That is not true of Pumpkinhead. He very much wants to hurt you and he very much likes it.
A John Carpenter movie that was released in 1982 and based much more closely on the John W. Campbell short story, than the Howard Hawks version from 1951, which I consider unwatchable. (Well, I can watch it, but not without uncontrollable laughter.)
Quite possibly, the most perfect Horror movie ever made, with the most frightening and insidious monster ever put to film. It only comes in behind Pumpkinhead because I just like Pumpkinhead as a personality. Pumpkinhead has a sense of irony and whimsy. The Thing (or as my friends and I called it, when we were kids, The Thaang,) is scary as hell but too unfathomable in it’s intentions to make it number one.
We will pretend that the 2011 prequel does not exist.
4. The Blob/The H-Man
Both versions of The Blob, from 1958 and 1988, and the one version of The H-Man (1958) make it to number four because sneaky, amorphous creatures, that dissolve you alive, are just pants-shittingly scary.
The 1958 version holds up to current standards of scariness, but I do prefer the 1988 version. The special effects are just so digustingly awesome, that it’s hard not to like this movie. It’s also an amazingly fun movie, as it turns the typical Horror movie conventions on it’s head.
I’m still too scared of The H-Man to make it all the way to the end of the movie. I made the horrific mistake of watching it late at night about a year ago and I aint been right since. Just thinking about this movie gives me the screaming creeps as The H-Man is nothing more than runny, sentient mucus. The key word in that description is sentient. It’s The Blob, with intent.
Tremors was released in 1990. I remember going to see this movie, for free at some college event and having a remarkably good time. The movie was fun and funny and instilled in me a deep love for Kevin Bacon. It also starred Michael Gross from Family Ties, Fred Ward and, of all people, Reba McEntire, who has a song in the end credits that I had a Hell of a time trying to put it on my Ipod.
The monsters in this movie are both sneaky and relentlesss, with a certain amount of sly cunning. They actually learn from their mistakes and yours, so you can’t kill them the same way twice. To kill them, you have to be inventive and that just makes them smarter, something which gets specifically addressed in the movie. The characters in the movie insist on calling them Graboids. They’re, basically, massive slugs with multiple, snake like mouths, that move by traveling under the ground and this movie is not shy about showing them to you.
I love the idea of the characters in a movie trying to name the creatures that will eventually be eating them. Plus, The Graboids is a horrendously cheezy name for a monster movie and why didn’t its makers just name it that?
Not to be confused with The Graboids of Tremors, this movie is an Irish-British monster film, released in 2012. It has the inventive premise that you can not be eaten by the giant squid-like, aliens of the movie, as long as you stay really, really drunk. Which does not mean the monsters can’t just kill you in some other horrific manner, like swatting you into a tree.
The monsters are suitably scary, the characters are engaging and it was fun to watch the drunken citizens of this small town, keep stumbling out of the local Pub, to be killed by the aliens, no matter how hard the drunken Constables tried to keep them all sloshed and indoors.
Released in 2006, and starring Nathan Fillion from Firefly (Yes, I am a Browncoat, thank you very much!), Michael Rooker from Everything Ever Made, the lovely (and surprisingly funny) Elizabeth Banks, and the hilarious Gregg Henry.
This was directed by James Gunn and I enjoyed his Dawn of The Dead remake, as well.
This is, hands down, one of the funniest alien-zombie-worm- monster, mashup movies I’ve ever seen and the only reason it comes in behind Grabbers, is because of sheer whimsy, on my part. Nathan Fillion is incredible, but the top funnyman is Gregg Henry, a profanity-spewing, loudmouth coward. He gets every single one of this movie’s best lines.
Even though it was made just a few short years ago, it has the classic feel of the best of the eighties Horror-Comedies, like Fright Night, Evil Dead II, and They Live. It’s cheesy, doesn’t stint on the gore and slime, and the monster is an inventive mashup of The Blob, a Body Snatcher, and those little worm creatures from Night of the Creeps. This entire movie was designed to be fun and it is.
8. The Host
This Korean made movie was released in 2006 and turned into a surprise favorite for me. I wasn’t expecting it to be intentionally funny. I wasn’t expecting pathos, sociopolitical commentary or to clearly see the monster. I thought it was going to be one of those J-Horror films, where the monster is implied, for budgetary reasons. All my expectations were gloriously turned upside down.
A young girl being raised by her slacker father, gets snatched by a monster, created from toxic sludge. Her bickering family members have to come together to save her and kill the monster. I didn’t expect to like the characters, but I grew to care very much for each one of them, including the little girl.
The main reason it makes this list: you get to see the monster, right away, up close, and personal and it is awesome!
It’s also one of the strangest looking monsters I’ve ever seen. It has multiple mouths like an Alien, a tail like a fish, it runs on two legs like a T-Rex and is huge, fast and stealthy. The best moment in the movie is when it rampages through a public park, eating whoever it pleases, in broad daylight. There is no shame in it’s game.
9. The Mist
Released in 2007, directed by Frank Darabont, (who also directed The Shawshank Redemption and The Walking Dead),it has the added distinction of being Melissa McBride’s debut film. (That’s Carol, ya’ll, from The Walking Dead.) It was adapted from a novella by Stephen King, so scary was not going to be an issue with this movie.
It makes the list for the sheer number of monsters in it, including all of the human ones. The movie hews very close to the book, except for the ending and every one of its monsters is inventive, scary as Hell and well realized by the special effects. The most frightening monsters are the dog sized, spider creatures that contain their victims in corrosive webbing, but my favorite was The Leviathan. Beyond being fucking HUGE, it’s mostly indescribable and I wished I’d gotten a better look at it, but the film isn’t called The Mist, for nothing.
10. Jeepers Creepers
Starring Justin Long and Gina Philips, released in 2001 and directed by the problematic Victor Salva, this movie would seem to be your typical slasher movie. At least that’s what I expected when I walked into the theater but this is another movie that turns basic Horror movie conventions on it’s head.
The two lead actors are a likable brother and sister, bickering their way across America’s heartland, on their way home from college. They’re accosted and stalked by a road-raging maniac, who is slowly revealed to be inhuman, as well. This comes in at number ten because of the pointless addition of the magical negro, portrayed by Patricia Belcher but is otherwise a solid creature feature.
I just find the idea of an inhuman monster, that knows how to drive, deeply funny, for some reason. This movie also bears the unusual distinction of being set in the sunny, Midwest. There aren’t very many homegrown, Midwestern monsters in movies and I don’t know why because some parts of the flyover states can feel every bit as remote as the Antarctic.
Gargoyles, Godzilla, Deep Rising, Cloverfield, and The Descent.