October 23, 2007

Monster Mash

With the scariest of seasons upon us, there is no better time to partake in some scary movies. Unfortunately, most scary movies dodge the month of October—*cough*shitty Halloween remake *cough*—as though they’re ashamed to tread on such hallowed ground. Even if the first-run theaters can’t scare up some good thrills, there’s plenty of stuff on the small screen all month long.

As a young lad, I used to love staying up late to watch monster movies on TV. In the end, even bad was still good; it was the genre and the setup that lured me in every time. Most times it would play out the same way:

Monster(s) is summoned/created/crash lands in a populated/underpopulated area and kills/terrorizes the populace. Survivors are left to band together and fight/unsummon monster(s).

Most were cheesy at best: Critters, House, and C.H.U.D., but there were always some winners mixed in: The Fly (original and remake), Night of the Living Dead, and The Thing. Those years were time well spent and have given me a life-long love of monster movies.

Some of those monsters were so good, that they’ve become icons of the genre; horror films wouldn’t be nearly as much fun without staples like vampires and zombies. But, what is the best monster? And what criteria do we use to determine what makes a monster the best? Do we base the decision on breadth of exposure/sequels (Dracula), body count (Jason), or just plain scare-quotient (Exorcist)?

I have my favorites, but I would love to hear from you. Who or what is the best movie monster?

Commentary (40):

1. Josh Stodola says… oct 23, 2007 | 10:00 am

The best movie monster is “The Thing” becuase that is the only movie that ever made me shed tears of terror. I was 9 years old, but still.

2. J. Bradford says… oct 23, 2007 | 10:09 am

I know it’s a Sci-Fi thriller, but you said “movie monsters”, not “horror movie monsters”, and H.R.Giger’s design for the monsters of the Alien movies have always been favorites of mine. Acid blood, two mouths, whipping tails, and the hots for Sigourney Weaver… What’s not to fear?

3. Jason Santa Maria says… oct 23, 2007 | 10:11 am

J. Bradford: I think any “monster”, Sci-Fi, Horror, whatever, will do. And the Alien was scary as hell. :D

4. Brian Warren says… oct 23, 2007 | 10:23 am

Alien was definitely Scary with a capital S.

I think the first movie that really creeped me out was “The Thing”. I should clarify that I imagine we’re all talking about the same version of “The Thing” (John Carpenter’s “The Thing”, not the original black and white “The Thing”). I got the DVD as a birthday present a few years ago, and it still really holds up.

5. beth says… oct 23, 2007 | 10:28 am

Nosferatu still makes me almost pee my pants every time I see it.

6. rainsford says… oct 23, 2007 | 10:30 am

Giger’s Alien definitely gets my vote for scariest monster. Hans Giger himself is really scary too, he creeps me out more than the xenomorph

7. Kate Bolin says… oct 23, 2007 | 10:36 am

I’ve always really liked werewolves. The hapless people who tried so hard to be just like everyone else, but had this deep and terrible secret one night a month. Lon Chaney Jr. portrayed that tortured creature so well in The Wolf Man, but I’m also quite fond of Ginger Snaps and Dog Soldiers, and there’s a permanent soft spot in my heart for Oz from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

However, if we’re talking creatures that scare me, there’s something about scarecrows that get me every time. I don’t know why, I didn’t grow up in the country, I haven’t actually ever been around scarecrows, but you get one of them lurching in a field towards me, and I’d be crying like a two-year-old.

Which made Doctor Who’s “Human Nature”/”The Family of Blood” two-parter rather spine-chilling for me.

8. Elliot Jay Stocks says… oct 23, 2007 | 10:38 am

I’m not sure if The Thing is my favourite monster movie, but my girlfriend and I recently got the chance to see it projected outdoors at London’s Somerset House. It was a rather different experience (photo evidence) and an excellent night, as it was double-billed with The Descent.

9. Shane says… oct 23, 2007 | 10:43 am

My favorite has always been Dracula - but only the one portrayed in Van Helsing.

10. Jason Santa Maria says… oct 23, 2007 | 10:44 am

Elliot Jay Stocks: The Descent still remains the scariest movie I’ve seen in recent history.

11. Ian says… oct 23, 2007 | 10:44 am

Kate: You must have been up late that night I watched Children of the Corn.
I’m always the bitch of some quirky Bates character. I’m generally bored by hair and scales and paralyzed by soft steps, spooky stares and always appearing beside you out of nowhere.

12. Eric Meyer says… oct 23, 2007 | 10:45 am

Ann Coulter in “Is It True What They Say About Ann?”. I couldn’t even finish it.

13. Dan Boland says… oct 23, 2007 | 11:22 am

The only movie that has ever truly terrified me is — wait for it — the Blair Witch Project. They effectively turned the woods into a monster.

Now before you start laughing at me, let me explain myself. I was living in Orlando, FL at the time, which is where the Univ. of Central Florida is (the filmmakers were students there). I had just moved there, so I had no internet access yet, and the local TV stations and the Orlando Sentinel were all selling it as an authentic documentary. Plus, my girlfriend (now my wife) was camping the weekend that it came out.

At any rate, I saw it on opening night. The whole movie was creepy in the first place, but the final scene is the only time in my life I’ve been paralyzed with fear during a movie. The theatre was packed, and when it was all over, everyone left in complete silence. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who thought it was real.

Then about a year later, I saw it on VHS and I thought it was dumb as hell! Nevertheless, I’ve never looked at a dark forest the same way since.

14. MattConn says… oct 23, 2007 | 11:45 am

I’m huge fan of horror but I’m not as keen on ‘monster’ movies, I prefer more spiritual, ghost movies.

My favourites are pretty standard, The Exorcist, The Grudge, The Ring to name a few but the one thing that used to scare the hell out of me when I was a kid was the old guy from Poltergeist 2. I’d be kept awake all night thinking he was gonna come into my room singing that “God is in his holy temple” song. Brrrrrr.

I find it nigh on impossible to find a movie that even unnerves me these days though. I think i’ve become too used to them, I don’t even bat an eyelid at The Shining anymore.

If anyone has any suggestions I’d love to hear them.

Oh and for the record, I can’t get enough of the ‘Saw’ movies. As long as they keep making them, I’ll keep watching them. Hostel on the other hand…

15. Scott Nelle says… oct 23, 2007 | 11:52 am

Creepy young children—particularly girls—terrify me. I will probably never/never again see any of the movies that MattConn (comment #14) mentioned. I don’t know if that makes them the best movie monsters because they are absolutely terrifying to me, or the worst because it causes me to pass on the movies every time.

16. MattConn says… oct 23, 2007 | 12:06 pm

Oh I just thought of something else. I went to see The Woman In Black at the theatre a couple of years back. I never thought that a stage play would be able to unsettle me so much. I was awake at night thinking about for a good week after.

I’ve never seen a theatre full of people scream like that before either.

17. Kevin says… oct 23, 2007 | 12:25 pm

My heart has a special place for Leatherface and his in-bred kin in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) for scaring the bejesus out of me.

Even the the look-a-likes in haunted houses get me running away like a little girl.

18. Tom says… oct 23, 2007 | 12:33 pm

At your recommendation, Stan, my wife and I watched “The Descent”. I’ve been chilled by a few movies in my adult life, but that one was monster scary, psychologically scary, and claustrophobia scary all-in-one. Add to that the fact it was set in Appalachia (much like where I went to school) and it totally messed with me for days. The wife was actually pissed at me for how bad it scared her and swore she’d never go rock climbing or spelunking with me :)

As always, to each their own… I think I’m one of the only people on Earth who saw Exorcist: The Beginning and liked it.

19. Rob Weychert says… oct 23, 2007 | 1:35 pm

Dan Boland: The Blair Witch Project is the only film I’ve seen as an adult that made me sleep with the light on, and I knew it was fiction.

Still, for my tastes, the movie monsters I tend to find the most fascinating are the ones that inspire profound paranoia, such as the Thing and the Body Snatchers. I guess I just really like the idea of the enemy within.

20. Jim Ramsey says… oct 23, 2007 | 2:09 pm

I love all the classic monsters, but I especially like the Creature from the Black Lagoon. The original and both sequels (Revenge of and Walk Among Us) have this great ‘Saturday afternoon monster movie’ feel to them.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 did Revenge of the Creature and it’s one of the my all-time favorite episodes of MST3K.

As for the newer stuff, Alien is fantastic as is the original Halloween.

21. Aden says… oct 23, 2007 | 3:08 pm

To trumpet what everyone else was saying: AMEN to Giger’s xenomorph and John Carpenter’s The Thing. When that guy’s head comes off his body and grows spider legs, I can’t help but watch in some mixture of terror and fascination.

Not a monster but still scary: Sy the Photo Guy from One Hour Photo. Who knew Robin Williams makes a hell of a lot better villain than anything else?

Off-topic aside: My college roommate got so freaked out the first time we watched Donnie Darko that I can still get him to curse at me simply by mentioning Frank the Rabbit.

Slightly more on-topic conclusion: I really liked 30 Days of Night. The cinematography alone is amazing, painterly, but despite how beautiful Alaska looks, it’s never inviting.

22. yani says… oct 23, 2007 | 8:24 pm

What about carrie? That chick was pissed!

BTW I liked Critters but always thought of it as a comedy…

23. bandelin says… oct 24, 2007 | 2:09 am

Mrs. Doubtfire

24. Matthew says… oct 24, 2007 | 3:51 am

Was I the only one freaked out by the Leprechaun in well.. Leprechaun?

Or what about Sam Neil’s Character in event horizon? especially without his eyes…

In all seriousness, like most people i find it hard to find a scary movie any more, the good suspenseful horror movie has been replaced with slasher plots…

One of the better films I have seen was probably about 10 years ago called “In the Mouth of Madness” it is an Australian Film so might be hard to find internationally.

Anyone care to comment on Peter Jackson’s “Bad Taste”?

25. reidsy says… oct 24, 2007 | 6:03 am

was most scared by many of the ‘twilight series’ on late at night.….but like another poster…i used to creep out of bed unbeknownst to family and seek a peek in the silent dark house.…oooooowwwwweeeee

1 was about a guy catching a plane and seeing a creature standing on the wing…

2 another where a child fell into a blackhole into another world…that was in the wall under their bed.….their dad had to go in and save them.….…gee after that one i had to bravely feel the wall under my bed.….sssszzzzhhhh.….before i could hop in it .…..ooohhhh llloovveee a good scary movie and have been in - what felt like was one.…. in travelling days around and about!!!

how on earth did i het onto THIS site???????

nessa.…..help how do you get outta here.…eeewwww…trapped in time and some creepy creeps website.…..heeelpppp!!!!


26. MattConn says… oct 24, 2007 | 7:22 am

Something I’m dying to see is ‘Whistle and I’ll come to you’. It’s a short film made by the BBC in the 60’s and from what I hear it’s pretty terrifying. It seems it leaves a lot up to your imagination which I kinda like the idea of.

Anyone seen it?

27. Blake says… oct 24, 2007 | 8:18 am

Bram Stoker’s Dracula always got me. Gary Oleman’s Dracula was human, and inhuman at the same time.

28. Blake says… oct 24, 2007 | 8:20 am

Jesus, how could I forget… the nasty grandmother creature from Evil Dead. EVIL DEAD. Best ever. Ash baby. Ash!

29. Sam Hardacre says… oct 24, 2007 | 8:43 am

I favour the older movies over the modern toff that seems to be seeping out of Hollywood these days. Dracula (1931), Frankenstein (1931) and Psycho (1960) make regular appearances on my tv around this time of year.

For ultimate cheese, you have to go with Bride of the Monster (1955) or Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959). I mean no disrespect to Ed Wood referring to them as ‘utimate cheese’, I make these suggestions as a fan. If you haven’t seen them, stick them on your ‘to watch’ list this Halloween.

30. Peter Santa Maria says… oct 24, 2007 | 8:45 am

C.H.U.D. is NOT “cheesey”!

Best movie monsters:
- The Thing
- Alien
- Frankenstein
- Godzilla
- The Blob
- Gremlins
- Any of the monsters from Jason and The Argonauts
- Medusa (Clash of the Titans)

I dunno, WAY too many more to write here…

31. Rumsey Taylor says… oct 24, 2007 | 8:59 am

In roundabout order from the ridiculous to the ridiculously scary:

Basket Case
Chopping Mall
Kairo (Pulse)
The Night of the Hunter

32. Ron Domingue says… oct 24, 2007 | 9:15 am

I have to say the original Alien design by H.R. Giger and the Darkness character in Ridley Scott’s Legend—Tim Curry was the best devil ever.

33. Jay says… oct 24, 2007 | 1:05 pm

I have to cast a vote for Jason Voorhees. From eight years old through about twelve, I couldn’t help but watch the Friday the 13th marathons on TBS.

Good times.

34. bob says… oct 24, 2007 | 8:45 pm

The movie that most creeped me out, by far, was The Exorcist (the original one). I must have been about 14 when it came out. My friend Blake and I somehow talked his mom into driving us to the theater to see it. It was a matinee show in a very large theater and we were virtually the only people there which just added to the scare factor.

I walked back out into the sunshine that afternoon completely shaken, and I couldn’t get that movie out of my mind for days.

35. Kate says… oct 25, 2007 | 9:35 am

My dad let me watch Stephen King’s “IT” with him when I was 10 or so. That film really kick-started my completely consuming fear of clowns. And “John Boy” from the Waltons’ facial mole.

36. shannonW says… oct 25, 2007 | 10:18 am

ok, the descent definitely has my vote for scariest…not jumpy scary but just overall, uneasy feeling, good watch it in the dark movie kinda scary. and, one of the best horror movie endings ever!!! must watch in the dark with the sound up. oh, and aliens has also been one of my all time freak me out movies. let’s not forget clowns from outerspace either…

37. Sara says… oct 25, 2007 | 3:12 pm

Donny and Marie Osmond.

38. Casey says… oct 25, 2007 | 5:31 pm

It’s all about C.H.U.D. 2 - Bud the Chud!

I love monster movies, especially zombie movies! Zombi 2 is pretty awesome, but the meth-addict zombies of 28 Days Later are pretty creepy.

But those movies never scare me. The ones that really freak me out are the supernatural/psychological ones like Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. Bob is the scariest character ever!

Also, movies ‘based on true stories’ like ‘The Mothman Prophecies’ really freaked me out, while I watched it on my girlfriend’s couch while she was asleep. I kept nudging her awake during the really spooky moments.

39. Varick Rosete says… oct 26, 2007 | 9:51 am

Growing up, I was always creeped out by the those 2 chicks from The Shining. Great movie. The way the scene played out with little Danny racing through the barren hallways on his Big Wheel. Carpeted floor. Non-carpeted floor. The rhythm of it just sets you up to get chills when you see the twins. Scary. Great movie.

I do have to say, too, though, the crop of scary movies out there right now is scarce. I have yet to see something that really wants me to scream out “Don’t choo go in there!” Just last night (yah, I was up til like…wait, I haven’t slept yet), I caught a movie at 2 a.m. called Piñata - Survival Island. Man, what a suckfest. But I still watched it in hopes it would get better…and…it…didn’t. Should’ve known better from the title itself.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some great flicks out there, but I’m really looking for that spine-tingling, crazy anticipation-type.

So…still looking.

40. joshua kane says… nov 14, 2007 | 9:42 am

My favourite ‘horror’ films tend to be from asia/korea.
I recommend
One Missed call 1/2/3
Apartment 13
and many others whose names I can’t remember.