Special: Monster Legacy’s Monstrous Hundred – Part 4
In the last part of the Monstrous Hundred, here’s a carousel of films from the 2000s onwards!
Pitch Black (2000)
This film packs a clever, outside-the-box narrative with an equally interesting subversive man as its main character, pitting him and an unlikely crew against swarms of truly outlandish alien creatures that are neither hammerhead sharks, nor bats, nor birds of prey.
Little Otik (2000)
Czech surrealist Jan Švankmajer directed a number of delightfully insane films, and Little Otik is no exception. Based on a popular folk tale and twisting over the classic Pinocchio narrative, this flick is pure, distilled absurdity that will leave most viewers with a strange sense of alienation.
As often described, it’s Ghostbusters but with aliens — not in case, helmed by the same director. Nevertheless, Evolution is hysterically funny and highly entertaining, also thanks to the endless array of alien creatures brought to life by Tippett Studio, ADI, and KNB Efx.
She Creature (2001)
This straight-to-video film is surprisingly solid, going from its old school horror vibe, to the perverse sexuality, to the wonderful monster-mermaid brought to life by Winston Studio.
Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack! (2001)
Don’t let the international title fool you — this is one of the better films to come out of Godzilla’s Japanese run, and one that’s surprisingly fast-paced by Godzilla standards. Director Shusuke Kaneko’s keen eye for special effects, also seen in the superb Gamera trilogy, pays off similarly here.
Dog Soldiers (2002)
This obscure British horror can certainly boast a fresh pitch for its story, embellished by the fantastic-looking werewolves. Its tangible sense of dark comedy and punk personality are also a big plus.
Reign of Fire (2002)
If I told you that there’s a movie going around with the apocalyptic future of the Terminator films, with giant fire-breathing dragons instead of machines, how much time would it take for you to go and watch it? Even with that premise, Reign is surprisingly dialled-back and relies more on the power of suggestion than bombastic action. It is also an elaboration on childhood trauma and the courage it takes to go face to face against it in all its ash-ridden and scaly visage.
Blade II (2002)
In one of his early Hollywood outings, Guillermo del Toro dares to show feral vampires with a monstrous visage, freshly going against the usual “just fangs” look, in a story concerning cycles of violence and dysfunctional families. The director’s style, as also seen in the Hellboy films, is particularly apt for a comic book adaptation, and Blade II demonstrates that in spades.
This early-00s thriller has the taste of a live-action graphic novel, and packs a great visual sense, engaging action sequences and stupendous creature effects all rolled into one. Bill Nighy as Viktor, one of the vampire elders, is absolutely a must-see.
Guillermo Del Toro delivers a heartfelt movie about finding one’s worth and humanity despite their birthright, based on Mike Mignola’s long-running comic book series. Solidly built with a witty script, suggestive visuals and some of the most stupendous creatures ever to grace the silver screen, Hellboy is not only one of the greatest comic book movies of all time — it’s an emotional journey.
King Kong (2005)
Peter Jackson’s remake is a fantastic love letter to both the original King Kong and cinema itself, embellished by an outlandish island with a truly vicious ecosystem. Its three-hour runtime may be a turn-off for some, but for those that have eyes to see and ears to listen, King Kong is a feast.
War of the Worlds (2005)
An adequate update of the 50s original, Steven Spielberg’s War finds its strength in how well it sets its aggressively dramatic tone. Its script may have some shortcomings — namely some resolutions — but the martian war machines, in both sight and sound, have never been so terrifying.
Emerging from the dark and endless Troma crypt, James Gunn delivers a fantastic horror comedy that never fails to entertain, and is packed with effects work that will disgust even the most resistant viewers.
Aliens‘ tenfold dumber cousin, only worth seeing for the adequately gruesome Winston Studio-penned monsters and an interesting first-person perspective sequence towards the end, simulating the original videogame the story draws (not enough) from. Most pleasantly, the creature designs are inspired by the demons from Doom 3.
The Descent (2005)
Great performances from the all-woman cast are at the core of this horror film, exploring the delicate connection between friendships within the claustrophobic setting of a network of caves. Predictable in its scares and lacking in the creature design department, but a well-crafted character piece.
The Cave (2005)
Also known as “the other cave film from 2005”, this script is filled with a good number of creative and interesting ideas — sort of like a more elaborate version of Stephen King’s Graveyard Shift — but never dares to go to the bottom with them. As a result, it could have been far better made than it ultimately ended up being, but the atmosphere and photography, combined with the superb creature designs and effects, may very well catch one’s attention. In an ideal world, we’d have The Descent‘s script with The Cave‘s beautiful monsters.
The Call of Cthulhu (2005)
The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society crafted this feature with an almost nonexistent budget, and cleverly decided to make it with the style of a 20s silent film, as if someone had decided to adapt the classic Lovecraft story at the time of its release. Wonderfully inventive.
The Host (2006)
Other countries craft monster movies for decades, then South Korea releases one, and it burns through most of the competition with next to no effort. The Host (known in Korea as Gwoemul) is a rare jewel with a unique charisma, dealing with a broken family trying to reunite following a shared trauma, which is given flesh and bones in the form of a truck-sized walking monster fish.
Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
In short, one of the most beautifully poetic films I’ve ever seen, and one that’s very close to my heart. This dark fairy tale blends the horrors of reality and fantasy in a coming of age story, learning when and how disobedience is a good thing.
Underworld: Evolution (2006)
Closing the story of its predecessor, Evolution is an adequately entertaining sequel hinging on the strength of its intricate lore. Despite a somewhat unsatisfying final showdown, it can claim to have one of the most incredible werewolves — the one lycan elder, William Corvinus. A sight to behold, however short (and perhaps wasted) time it had on screen.
The rich mythology that paved way to this story certainly deserved a script that wasn’t a complete and utter disaster, but there’s a certain feeling along the way that D-War had its heart in the right place. In that regard, it’s almost like a modern day Harryhausen film, wherein one only watches for the technical craft — in this case, wondrous digital folkloristic serpents and dragons that rivalled Hollywood films of their day.
The Mist (2007)
A great horror tale concerning how easy it is to lose one’s facade of normality when a catastrophe hits the daily routine of a quiet life. The Mist is a thrill from the onset — and would’ve been perfect without the unnecessary, try-hard ending.
Trick ‘R Treat (2007)
An exquisite darkly comedic anthology that reserves more than one subversive surprise, and hooks the audience with old school suspense and thrills mixed in with delightful cynicism.
Worth seeing if only for how intimately real it feels. The shaky cam may feel more than a bit gimmicky, but Cloverfield is nonetheless an interesting experiment.
Hellboy 2: The Golden Army (2008)
With the first film, Del Toro attempted to make a compromise between the vibe of Mignola’s comics and his own taste. With the sequel, the director abandons that approach, unleashing every trick in his sleeve in a large-scale fairy tale that’s both funny and incredibly emotional.
An interesting and underrated — with little surprise, since its very limited theatrical release — science-fiction twist on the classic Beowulf tale, with the added emotional value found in the relationship between the beast and the main character.
Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (2009)
Patrick Tatopoulos takes the torch of the Underworld films in his (so far) only outing as a director, with a great result: this gothic horror twist to the classic Romeo and Juliet-type of narrative is surprisingly effective and wonderfully satisfying, especially when a horde of feral werewolves launches a full-on assault against a coven of vampires. Also, make sure that this is the last Underworld film you see, because… yeah. Don’t mention it.
District 9 (2009)
A great cyberpunk aesthetic, a unique premise and a heartwrenching narrative merge together in this gem of a movie — and all of that considering that almost half of the script is the word ‘fuck’ or derivates of it. Weta Digital’s Prawns also still look intimately real even a decade later.
Subverting its own title, this film is a 2-hour long wordplay, bringing philosophical questions along a literal and emotional trip. The creatures may not be seen much, but they’re brilliantly effective whenever they appear.
A brilliant homage to the original, sporting a beautiful sense of photography and atmosphere; despite some shortcomings, a solid drama dealing with cycles of violence.
Super 8 (2011)
A nostalgic and bittersweet tale concerning what it means to let go of a loved one after their death. J.J. Abrams’ finest film to date, with a beautiful Giacchino score to go along with it.
The Cabin in the Woods (2012)
This film manages to be both a parody and a loving homage of horror cinema itself, exploding in one of the most insane third acts one can imagine — with an endless horde of bloodthirsty monsters. Way too much fun.
Pacific Rim (2013)
Leave it to Del Toro to make a homage to the giant monster movies and mecha anime series of old. Pacific Rim is colourful, inventive and well-paced, with the battles alone warranting more than one viewing. Also, remember: there’s no sequel.
Beauty and the Beast (2014)
We all know the roots of the story and its stinging implications, but this French film is worth a watch for its poetic imagery and what’s probably the best on-screen representation of the classic Beast.
The Babadook (2014)
Horror is at its best when it expresses the dark, ugly emotions dwelling within the human mind, and this film is a masterful exercise at that. No more needs to be said — just watch it.
An excellent slow-burning narrative that’s all about setting up the big third act piece — and when Godzilla unleashes its iconic breath weapon on its nemesis, it more than pays off.
Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
Well-acted and cleverly written, Edge is a great sci-fi ride that wraps the viewer in a tight grip from the onset and doesn’t let go until the very end. The alien menace, called ‘the mimics’, is also delightful with its frantic movements.
Going from Halloween to Christmas, Michael Dougherty directs another holiday-themed horror comedy tale. Of course, it does so to great effect, deliberately employing a majority of practical effects — from puppets and animatronics to suits. I’m waiting for the Easter one myself!
10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)
Visceral paranoia coalesces with an alien invasion in this wonderful psychological thriller — a very different beast from its predecessor. Feeling like an extended episode of The Twilight Zone, this film makes the most of its isolated setting, crafting a gripping narrative that doesn’t let go until the very end.
Shin Godzilla (2016)
Of all Godzilla films that followed the first tale, this one is perhaps the closest to the original intentions and message behind the character. Directed by the master Hideaki Anno (of Neon Genesis Evangelion fame), Shin Godzilla is abrasively satirical, cynically witty, and an all-around great story dealing with the ability and inability to take decisions. On top of that, Godzilla’s design is gruesomely sublime.
The Ritual (2017)
This Netflix original film is an interesting elaboration on fragile masculinity, with dense atmosphere and a wonderfully inventive, visceral monster terrorizing a group of hikers.
A very underrated space horror that, despite being somehow predictable, successfully delivers a portrait of loneliness, as well as the battle between human wit and pure, unclouded survival instinct.
Alien: Covenant (2017)
It does suffer from some of the pretentious writing style of its predecessor, but nevertheless, Covenant offers a lot on the plate — starting from the essential pitch of a story that’s all around about the art of creature design itself. Feeling more like a Hammer horror homage than an Alien film, it offers a nice origin story for the famous monster — taking advantage of the inherent psychosexual themes of its concept and design.
The Shape of Water (2017)
Del Toro imbues this fairy tale with absorbing emotions and beautiful visuals, crafting a story that’s not only a tale of love, but also a deliberate subversion of The Creature from the Black Lagoon — wherein the monster is the romantic lead, and the square-jawed government official is the villain.
A Quiet Place (2018)
Its creature designs may be a bit anonymous, but this film’s greatest strength lies in its unique premise and how well it exploits its potential, building tangible suspense from the very beginning and holding onto it throughout, reaching often unbearable levels.
Perhaps just another ‘The Rock’ film, but what’s wrong with that — especially considering that its third act explodes in a three-way fight between a giant albino gorilla, a flying wolf and a gargantuan crocodile?
Godzilla 2: King of the Monsters (2019)
The script and the editing are all over the place, but this love letter to the classic Godzilla monster romps of the Showa era is fast-paced and packs incredible fight sequences, with beautiful updates of some of Godzilla’s most notorious friends and foes — and a blast of a soundtrack by Bear McCreary.
Previous: Part 3
Posted on 27/02/2020, in Monster Legacy Specials, Movie Monsters and tagged Cthulhu, District 9, Evolution, Godzilla, Hellboy, Hellboy II, King Kong, Lycan, Pitch Black, Sammael, Super 8, The Cabin in the Woods, The Cave, The Host, The War of the Worlds, Underworld, Underworld: Evolution, Werewolf, Wolfman. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.
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