Special: Monster Legacy’s Monstrous Hundred – Part 3
The Monstrous Hundred continues with the 90s, a turning point in effects-making with the advent of CGI.
Kicking off the 90s roster of creature features on a fabulous note, Tremors is one of the most brilliant, all-around engaging monster movies of all time. From the witty dialogue penned by S.S. Wilson and Brent Maddock, to the colourful performances of the cast, to the absolutely brilliant creature designs and effects by none other than the team at Amalgamated Dynamics in their first solo outing, Tremors never once gets boring. A real classic.
Predator 2 (1990)
Often underrated and quite insane, Predator 2 distinguishes itself from the first film by amping up the pulp action elements and infusing the script with delectable satire — essentially turning the story into some sort of live-action 2000AD comic. It’s lightning-paced and a great example of how to expand the lore of a horror series without revealing too much, but lampshading on it. Last but not least, it’s the final film to be graced by Kevin Peter Hall’s performance as the titular alien hunter.
Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990)
Both a heartfelt love letter to its predecessor and a parody of it, Gremlins 2 boasts a myriad different beasties brought to life by the imagination and craft of Cinovation Studios, and never fails to entertain with its wit and brilliant meta-comedy.
Godzilla Vs. King Ghidorah (1991)
After the first two Heisei Godzilla films settled on a more grounded and serious tone, this movie chimes in with time travel, future androids, and cutesy artificial pets merging into the classic Ghidorah by way of the atomic bomb. A delightfully insane film.
Split Second (1992)
A very charismatic Rutger Hauer goes toe to toe with a monstrous, salivating version of Judge Death from the 2000AD Judge Dredd comics. Need I say more?
Between its subversive turns of narration and its somber tone, Alien³ seems to revolve around post-traumatic depression and suicide. Despite certain shortcomings, it remains a solid film on its own and as a sequel to the first two Alien movies.
Fire in the Sky (1993)
In all probability the most expertly-crafted alien abduction film to date, boasting some wonderfully effective horror sequences that get more than skin-deep, as well as a solidly built brooding atmosphere.
In the Mouth of Madness (1994)
John Carpenter’s last great film — a wonderfully subversive horror tale homaging the classic tales of H.P. Lovecraft, concerning the slow descent into insanity of its main character as the reality around him shifts and changes by the hand of a monstrous writer.
Gamera: Guardian of the Universe (1995)
Kicking off the Shusuke Kaneko’s Heisei trilogy to a great start, this film is rich in interesting lore and features great miniature effects that surpass in quality any Japanese monster movie of its time. It’s also a lot of fun — isn’t it about a giant rocket turtle?
An interesting, if undercooked elaboration on inner sexuality and the horror of teenage growth, seen through the eyes of an alien that doesn’t know what it is and can only bend to its primeval instinct to reproduce. Despite the dated CG, this film can also boast excellent creature effects (penned by Steve Johnson’s XFX) based on brilliant H.R. Giger designs.
Godzilla Vs. Destroyah (1995)
A fittingly melancholic ending to Godzilla’s Heisei run, with a number of surprisingly heartfelt moments as the king of the monsters struggles with its own decaying body while duking it off with the fiercest foe of them all: Destroyah, a composite inferno-beast born out of the very weapon that had killed the original Godzilla.
Tremors 2: Aftershocks (1996)
This is one of those perfect sequels — it was brought to existence by the very same team that had worked on Tremors. From its witty script to the fantastically life-like monsters despite the budget, Tremors 2 is a must-see for any creature fanatic.
Gamera 2: Advent of Legion (1996)
It’s often said that the first film is always the best in a succession of sequels, and yet Gamera proves the contrary. This high-octane ride pits the heroic turtle against a swarm of termite-like aliens and their queen — Legion, a beautifully-crafted monster with thunderous presence.
Often underrated for no discernible reason, this fantasy film pitches a buddy cop story where one of the cops is a huge dragon whose voice is none other than Sean Connery’s. Graced with cutting-edge CG effects by Industrial Light & Magic, Dragonheart is a charming tale of courage and sacrifice — and one not to overlook.
Independence Day (1996)
Disaster duo Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin bring to life this spectacular 50s alien invasion story told through the bombastic lens of the 90s, down to what allows the aliens’ ultimate defeat — a computer virus: a clever twist on the original War of the Worlds narrative. This not to mention the incredible alien designs and effects, penned by the master Patrick Tatopoulos and his studio.
Mars Attacks! (1996)
Released in the same year as Independence Day — but make no mistake, this is a wholly different beast. While Tim Burton’s vehement dark comedy runs rampant front and center in this film, the real jewel of it is how cleverly it references the classic alien invasion films of the 50s, down to the digital aliens deliberately animated without motion blur to resemble stop-motion (which was initially considered, with puppets built, but eventually turned down).
While not an excellent adaptation of the novel it draws from, Relic boasts excellent pace and atmosphere, and one of the most brutal and menacing monsters ever committed to the silver screen. It may have some dated digital effects, but it’s a great ride.
Starship Troopers (1997)
Nothing short of a brilliant, deep-cutting satire, this Paul Verhoeven-penned masterpiece is a one-of-a-kind film that deserves repeated viewings. Its colourful and creative alien bugs are brought to life by a combination of computer-generated imagery (by Tippett Studio) and practical animatronics (by Amalgamated Dynamics) which appear superbly real and effective to this day.
One of Guillermo Del Toro’s first films, and one that deeply suffered from studio intervention — which left its mark here and there, visibly. Despite that, Mimic is still a solid, well-crafted horror tale taking advantage of concepts like the pareidolia effect and the uncanny valley — crafting nightmarish imitators.
Men in Black (1997)
In short, this sci-fi thriller comedy is lightning in a bottle — one that none of the sequels ever managed to catch again. From the stellar chemistry among the cast to the endlessly creative alien effects, Men in Black is a fantastic, downright hysterical ride beginning to end. Vincent D’Onofrio as the Bug is just the cherry on top.
Alien: Resurrection (1997)
As with the third film, but for different reasons, its issues stem from a lack of stylistic continuity with the first two films. Nevertheless, Resurrection is a well-crafted film, especially when viewed on its own. It returns to the horrid, visceral psychosexual themes of the first film, with powerful and visceral imagery — such as sequences of abominable birth and metaphorical abortion. The Newborn, with its pulsating temples and glistening skin, is one of the most disturbingly-life like animatronics ever seen.
Deep Rising (1998)
This pulp horror action comedy (that’s a lot of words, but you get the drift) may have dated digital effects, but its volcanic personality and the bursting energy of its action sequences more than make up for that — not to mention one of the most memorable-and-unresolved cliffhangers to date.
The Faculty (1998)
A cleverly-written love letter to classic alien invasion films with an all-star cast, The Faculty is never a bore, and only becomes more engaging as time runs by. Some of the CG has dated, but the practical effects surely haven’t.
Famously thrashed by critics and Godzilla fans alike, this film is nothing more — or less — than a fun and charming creature feature with an interestingly dialled-back scale. Like Independence Day, it’s a 50s nostalgia piece shot through the lens of the 90s. It cleverly merges two classic monster narrative archetypes: the threat of one giant monster and that of a horde of smaller creatures, endowing the story with distinct apocalyptic potential. Patrick Tatopoulos’ Godzilla remains one of the greatest creature designs ever seen in a film, adequately brought to thunderous life by the cutting-edge technology of its day.
Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris (1999)
Continuing the escalation, Gamera 3 is nothing short of a thrilling live-action anime with distinctly feminist undertones and a solid emotional core. No matter the cost, the giant turtle will always continue to stand its ground — and this story is a testament to that.
Posted on 26/02/2020, in Essays, Monster Legacy, Monster Legacy Specials, Movie Monsters and tagged Alien, Deep Rising, Dragon, Dragonheart, Gamera, Godzilla, Godzilla 1998, Graboid, Independence Day, Kothoga, Men in Black, Mimic, Predator, Predator 2, Relic, Shrieker, species, Starship Troopers, Tremors, Tremors 2. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.
A beautiful third part to this series! Seeing three decades of classics is always enough to get all the memories flowing, and that’s the best thing about movies.
And hey, someone else remembered Split Second exists! Didn’t it also get called “The Dark” here in the States?
Didn’t know about that! Around here it’s “known” as “Detective Stone”.