Horror Films 101: The Creature Feature.

Yes, the focus of this blog is contemporary art of the creepy and/or uncanny variety. Primarily. It’s not a big thematic leap from creepy art to creepy cinema, and that’s where I’d like to begin this post on a much-loved subgenre of the horror film: the monster movie (a.k.a. the ‘creature feature’).

Now, for the purposes of the geekish list I shall inflict upon you shortly, I’ll reveal the parameters used for my definition of “movie monster.” First and foremost, the movie monster is not a human being. This immediately disqualifies the psychotic serial killer and, an argument can be made, it also precludes the vampire, werewolf, zombie, mummy and Frankenstein’s monster. In addition to their humanoid (or formerly human) status, the latter group are also so popular in the horror genre that each deserve their own list. Let’s leave the vampires and werewolves on their pedestals in the Horror Movie Hall of Fame and seek out the rarer of beasts.

The second criteria used to form my list is that these monsters must have made an indelible impression on me as a horror film aficionado. Mine is a purely subjective and personal list of favourite movie monsters. They are not listed in any particular order:

1. The hairy, ape-like giants from the 1966 daikaiju eiga or “giant monster movie” called War of the Gargantuas. Your typical drive-in fodder, Japanese monster B-movie with bad dubbing and guys in costumes trampling tiny models of Tokyo — all the same, it left a lasting impression on me. The gentle, brown-coloured Gargantua named Sanda and his evil, people-eating brother, the green Gaira, battle it out throughout this campy flick. The memorable scene for myself was the image of a small, half-submerged boat which had, the scene prior, contained two young Japanese lovers. The boat is now empty and filled with blood. The camera slowly pans to the shore where the giant Gaira sleeps off his, um, recent meal. Here’s a hilarious review posted on YouTube that neatly summarizes this campy romp:

2. The dismembered hand that stalks Christopher Lee in the 1965 Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors. Granted, I’m already bending my “no humans” rule for this inclusion. It’s not a human as such, it’s…um, a severed appendage. An extraordinarily tenacious severed appendage, as it turns out, that’s determined to avenge the suicide of it’s former owner. Christopher Lee plays an arrogant art critic who cruelly dismisses the work of a painter. The painter gets even by humiliating the critic publicly. In a fit of violent rage, Lee chases him down with his car, crushing the painter’s hand beneath a wheel of his car. The despondent artist commits suicide, and there after his severed hand torments Lee. The image of the hand slooooowly crawling after Lee is equal parts creepy and giggle-inducing, which is a large part of this film’s appeal. Sure it’s silly, but it’s also a striking visual:

3. The titular creatures from the 1972 TV horror classic Gargoyles. Given its vintage and it’s made-for-TV production values, the make-up and special effects were surprisingly impressive. (BTW, I’m amazed just how many of these obscure horror gems have found their way into YouTube — viva la Internet!)

4. The stop-motion animated monsters of Ray Harryhausen. This renowned special effects master worked on several notable films including The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958), Jason and the Argonauts (1963) and Clash of the Titans (1981). While these films would be more properly categorized as science-fiction/fantasy than horror, the monsters contained therein are unrivaled in any genre. My personal favourites include Medusa from Clash of the Titans and, most especially, the Cyclops from The 7th Voyage of Sinbad.

5. And last, but certainly not least…the dreaded flying monkeys from the Wizard of Oz. Merciful God in heaven…the horror…the horror…

OK, that’s it for now. Night-night, kiddies. Sleep tight.


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