…I’ve seen a few, but then again, too few to mention, except I will.
Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957)
And here we are, with Roger Corman blazing the trail nearly twenty years before Guy N. Smith gave so much as a thought to the lobster thermidor. Scientists and a few soldiers find themselves marooned on an island from which the previous residents of a research station have inexplicably disappeared. They start to hear the voices of their predecessors speaking to them at night, but of course it’s the telepathic prowess of giant, intelligent crabs that wish to blow the island up to preserve the secret of their existence. Our heroes are eliminated one by one, as the crabs pursue their nefarious plan, the last survivors fighting through to a skin of their teeth victory. Complete with a subtext about the dangers of nuclear bombs (the crabs are a side effect of test explosions), this was rather a fun film with some well drawn characters, even if you can’t help feeling that it’s all slightly ludicrous. Actually, that’s more than a feeling. But, damn it, it was 1957, and for the budget they produced some pretty impressive crabs.
Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959)
And what else would you expect to get attacked by after dealing with crabs? People are going missing in the swamps, then turning up as corpses covered in sucker marks. There’s something nasty hiding in the water, but the local game warden isn’t willing to let people throw dynamite in willy nilly. At least not until he and a friend have the chance to indulge in some underwater heroics and rescue the sexy young woman who is being held prisoner in a hidden cave by those leeches, for reasons we probably shouldn’t think about all that much. This had a somewhat more gritty feel to it than the above, with scenes shot at night and a subplot involving infidelity, climaxing in the cuckolded husband going after his rival with a gun. The leeches look rather nasty, and this time the blame gets laid at the door of pollution, while our solid jawed hero does what heroes do, and wins the nice girl by saving the ‘bad’ one, or something like that. Kudos to Yvette Vickers, who acts everyone else off the screen as the ‘bad’ girl.
Deep Blue Sea (1999)
Forty years on, and the scientists are still screwing things up for the rest of us. This time, in an attempt to develop a cure for Alzheimers, they breed giant, intelligent sharks, because sharks weren’t deadly enough before. And, of course, the sharks try to escape from the isolated sea fort where they’re being held captive, with the humans as collateral damage. At bottom this is just a variation on the horror standard where a group of people are trapped and stalked by a serial killer, the variation being that this time around the serial killer is a ruddy great shark. There’s even the familiar subplot about the bad boy who makes good and wins the lady. Okay, once again I rather enjoyed it, though I wasn’t as ‘impressed’ as the woman in Poundland who served me when I bought the DVD and said it was scarier than any horror movie: in fairness, she lives closer to the sea and sharks than I do. Kudos to the writers for having Samuel L. Jackson eaten in mid-flow (I didn’t see that one coming) and, although I kind of feel that I should disapprove, for coming up with a way to kill a shark that involved Saffron Burrows stripping to her underwear. Overall it was nail biting, edge of the seat stuff, with the sharks and the humans in all out war, and the feeling that it could go either way, except we all know the humans will win in the end, so maybe not.
Jason X (2001)
This is Alien with Jason Voorhees in lieu of the alien. Kane Hodder’s alter-ego is frozen for four hundred years, then rescued by the crew of a spaceship who don’t realise how dangerous he is. They soon learn. The threat level is raised when nano-technology transforms the man with the machete into uber-Jason. Pure popcorn movie, or perhaps more accurately pure corn. Lots of fun as the larger than life characters battle it out with each other, space marines and a super android failing to stop the unstoppable Jason, with some nice moments of humour and incidental invention along the way. And, of course, some gratuitous nudity, though I did quite like the idea of Jason using one camper girl to bludgeon the other one with. I guess the moral is, if you want a really big monster, go mansize.
Or, alternatively, you could just go for a really big monster, which is what we get here, even if it is to all intents and purposes invisible for most of the movie. An early example of the shakycam and docudrama style of film making, this is the account of what happens when something big and nasty decides to stomp on the Big Apple, the story told from the viewpoint of several ordinary people caught up in the action, one of whom is glued to a camera and another whose unresponsive girlfriend is stuck directly in the monster’s path and needs rescuing, so our cast have to run towards the mayhem instead of away from it. This is probably the most accurate take on how a monster attack would actually go down, with confusion at the heart of the narrative, even if I did find the shakycam and skewed perspectives annoying after a while, a while being approximately ten to fifteen minutes. The big beast is impressive when we do get to see it, like a cross between Godzilla and Cthulhu, though perhaps even more intimidating when all we know about it is the terror and explosions that it causes. I enjoyed this. I enjoyed all of these films to some degree. I guess the moral is that monsters are fun, at least while they’re restricted to our cinema screens.
So what’s your favourite monster movie everyone? I’m torn between King Kong and Jurassic Park, but leaning towards the ape.