“So, what are your favorite monster movies?” That was a question put to me in January of this year, when I was lecturing on the mystery of Bigfoot at the Austin, Texas-based Museum of the Weird. Well, first off, I can tell you which ones aren’t my favorites.
You know the ones I mean: I’m talking about those cheaply-made, predictable productions filled with awful special-effects and over-the-hill actors who have gone to seed and can’t get work on anything else. They’re on the TV all the time and I make sure I avoid each and every one of them like the plague. Why do these production-companies even bother?
But, with that said, I most certainly do have some firm favorites when it comes to Hollywood’s monsters. In no particular order (since it depends on the mood I’m in when I’m watching them), here’s my top 5.
The Abominable Snowman: Made in 1957 by horror maestros, Hammer Film Productions, this piece of black and white magic starred Forrest Tucker and Hammer regular, Peter Cushing. As its name makes clear, The Abominable Snowman is a movie all about the Yeti – the Himalayan equivalent of Sasquatch.
This is not, however, your average horror film, in which a bunch of hot chicks get slaughtered one by one. Rather, it’s a deeply atmospheric movie which portrays the beasts as something very different to savage monsters. In fact, it’s accurate to say the creatures even have a mystical and eerily magical air to them. Without doubt, it’s a very good, thought-provoking film.
Then there’s Mimic. While I wasn’t – at all - keen on the two sequels, I thought the 1997 original, with Mira Sorvino, was very good. A movie about giant cockroaches slaughtering people on the subways of Manhattan could come across as very stupid. Fortunately, however, Mimic is a great one; as far as I’m concerned, anyway.
With its shadowy settings, dark alleyways, underground tunnels, and a cast of creepy creatures that have an ingenious way of disguising themselves as people – hence the movie’s title – Mimic scores big.
Taking a trip back in time, one film I always loved as a kid was Creature from the Black Lagoon. Okay, it’s almost 60 years old. But – perhaps for nostalgia reasons, more than anything else - I still watch it when it’s on the TV, just as I did as a pre-teen in the mid-1970s. And, it’s far to say, it was a film that had some significant influence on my decision to investigate – and write about – strange beasts.
Tremors, a 1990 movie that has Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward in the lead roles of Val and Earl, is definitely a film I can watch again and again. Combining humor with huge, marauding, tunneling monsters of a snake/worm-like nature that become known as “Graboids,” Tremors remains a great piece of monster-themed entertainment.
It’s a shame about the sequels though. It’s always good to know when to stop. And with Tremors, it all should have ended with number one.
Finally, there’s The Hound of the Baskervilles. Some might say this is far more of a detective story than anything else. Okay, yes, it is. But, when the story also includes a blazing-eyed, black hound of monstrous size, and one with nothing but violent death and carnage on its beastly mind, it’s one I can’t omit in the monster stakes.
For me, the two film versions that really stand out above all the rest are (a) the 1939 release with Basil Rathbone playing Sherlock Holmes, and (b) the 1959 production with the previously-mentioned Peter Cushing portraying the legendary, fictional detective.
Although, the significantly reworked (and re-titled) The Hounds of Baskerville - in which Benedict Cumberpatch brings Holmes into the modern era - put a highly entertaining, new spin on the nature and origin of the fearsome monster of the moors.
So, that’s my top 5, which you may agree with or not!
Nick Redfern’s new book, Monster Files, will be published on May 22 by New Page Books.