Thursday, May 29, 2014

Top Ten Modern Monsters - GUEST POST

This week we've got a great guest post from John over at Vile Reviews. It's a list of the "Top Ten Modern Monsters of Horror". This is a great read so get ready for some famous freaks after the jump!

I think monsters are great. To really enjoy a monster is to not necessarily be afraid of it, but to recognize the effort behind its creation as one of laborious design and admirable execution. The reason I’ve focused on “modern” monsters is because I want desperately to avoid taking up space with the same listings EVERYONE puts in these compilations – the default monsters: Frankenstein’s Monster, Dracula, a mummy, a zombie; The Creature from the Black Lagoon, Lon Chaney’s Wolfman, Godzilla, King Kong and any of the 'classic' creatures. I feel that credit has been given where credit is due; and a more updated, discriminating perspective is deserved by all.

I’ve included some of the nasties that frightened ME as a child, and the monsters that are relevant to those of us that have been desensitized by technological advances in special effects; which rendered our calloused brains nearly immune to the atmospheric macabre offered by movies from the 20's, 30's, 40's and 50's. I will say, however, that a truly remarkable exception is Nosferatu (circa 1922), which is a brilliant depiction of a truly frightening creature. Also, 1959's Return of the Fly was a remarkable effort, and one I still find effective.

So, obviously, I love monsters. Everyone should try and find a little love somewhere inside themselves just for monsters. Monsters are one of humanity’s greatest creations. From giant, man-eating cephalopods, all the way down to goat-blood-sucking gremlins. People have always been keen on exaggeration, misrepresentation, poor recollection, and lies. In fact, these tendencies are what make up most of what we call ‘human society.’ And, amidst the lore, larks, and outright falsehoods of our existence, live perfect realizations of our fears. Monsters, they’re called.

Everyone has some sort of monster they’re most afraid of. And 'monster' is a strong word; one that is appropriately applied to the deepest, most insidiously heart-stopping terrors to inhabit our collective and/or individual psyche. Monsters earn their moniker through the strength of their creator(s) – the more frightening, vicious, and bloodthirsty, the  better.  And, when our deepest fears meld to create a terrifying, unstoppable force, we can expect the worst. And the best.

Monsters are exciting.

For some (many, even), the most frightening monsters are the 'real' ones; that is, certain animals that inhabit this spinning mass along with us: Giant Kodiak bears,twenty-foot great white sharks; cunning and murderous lions; or vicious snarling dogs. Even relatively harmless creatures can cripple people through chronic, synaptic misfires called phobiasSpiders, for example, can scare the living daylights out of a true arachnophobe. You see, our brains are astonishingly perverse blood-soaked sponges; and that’s a good thing – a great thing – when it comes to making monster movies.

Following the description of each monster in my list, you’ll find the SCARIER THAN portion. Each monster in the list is scarier than something that didn’t make the cut or something amusingly related... it’s supposed to be fun, so have fun.

Here now, then, are my personal choices for the top-ten monsters of modern horror, listed from least wonderful to most wonderful; for NO poorly-realized monster is a waste – only a missed opportunity.

The Medical Horror

While not fully iconic, the monster in Creep was a truly unsettling concept. Hell-bent on revenge by any means necessary, the man-made monster was completely immune to empathy, knew nothing of mercy, and it imprisoned people in cages submerged in water. Which was a nice touch. It moved with a terrible limping gate, adding an extra-special dimension of subtle terror. And, though it was certainly a monster, this “creep” had just the right amount of humanity to add a dash of relatability. All good.

SCARIER THAN: a C.H.U.D. (Though it’s a close call) 


It’s tough to make a shark movie these days. Jaws set such a monumental standard for films about the fearsome fish that to make a flick about sharks is to automatically elicit direct comparisons to the Spielberg/Benchley/Gottlieb masterpiece. Quite an achievement for a mechanical shark that only sort of worked sometimes...

Against Bruce, Deep Blue Sea ran at an acceptable pace. Obviously, though, it was a race it could not win. But it also never bothered to try, because that would have been embarrassing. What it did do is make for a fun time watching giant, intelligent mako sharks kill people.  Yes, it has its flaws, but those were some cool-looking sharks (both the animatronics and the digital renderings). What I found especially delightful was the obvious homage paid to each and every Jaws film – including the reprehensibly bad, Jaws: The Revenge.

SCARIER THAN: normal-sized mako sharks.

                    THE DESCENT

The sudden and startling movements of these subterranean killers, lurking at the heart of Neil Marshall's masterful horror film, are what make the crawlers refreshing concepts. Equipped – so it seems – with the supremely-evolved faculties of certain bats, the monsters in The Descent are lightning-fast killers. They dart in and out of an environment they exploit as a serial-murderer might a dark street laden with desperate, drug-addled prostitutes. As the film moves along and more blood is spilled by these screeching beasts, it becomes desperately apparent that the  protagonists never had a chance. Like the monster in Creep, the crawlers are made even more terrifying by the fact that, despite their humanoid build, there is nothing human about them.

SCARIER THAN: The giant rat-bat in "The Graveyard Shift."


The Host was an excellent monster movie... it was frantic, funny, fearsome and creative – the monster itself being the core of all the admirable creative efforts.  A giant mutant amphibian marauds with rancorous zeal in broad daylight, at the beginning of the film.  To serve the main course ahead of appetizer is usually a stumbling block over which several films have met the gravelly pavement of failure. The Host pulled it off with style and finesse; and the monster was a whole heaping mess of fun.  Why, when at rest, does it hang upside down like a bat? Because it looks cool, that’s why.

SCARIER THAN: The crocodile in "Lake Placid."


Cujo was a damn good story. It was a story that I wish I had thought of.  Helping to forever brand the Ford ‘Pinto’ as one of the most poorly-made cars in the history of America, this film – and the novel before it – also gave new meaning to the concept of real monsters.  The predicament the mother-and-son victim/protagonist pair fell into was one of my personal favorite in all of 1980s American horror. Trapped in a tiny car that won’t start by a giant, rabid dog at a secluded location in sweltering heat. They can’t roll the windows down because the dog will kill them. They can’t keep them rolled up indefinitely either, as the tiny car’s tiny cabin will turn into a suffocating oven. Quite a pickle; and not a sweet gherkin.  

Cujo was a scary movie, but the concept was more terrifying, for its foundation was poured by reality.  And take a good look at that Saint Bernard – that dirty, droopy-eyed, frothy-mucous-caked, bloodthirsty bear-of-a-canine... has there ever been a more frightening dog?  

SCARIER THAN: "Beethoven’s 2nd."

L.S.A. was an acronym used in the film, Cloverfield to describe the titanic monster that was destroying the city. The acronym means, Large Scale Aggressor, which is very funny. Clover was a sort of affectionate, tongue-in-cheek moniker given by the production staff working on the film. I think both names are great, but Clover’s my favorite, so I’ll use that. Cloverfield was a pretty good movie. The monster, however, was a spectacular achievement; scarier, even, than the little mini-monsters it pooped out into the city streets and subway tunnels.  

As far back as I can remember, gargantuan monsters as tall as skyscrapers have never been scary. Godzilla, for example, is a classic, revered movie monster that never once frightened me. To me, the scariest monsters have always been those that are small enough to consider individual humans as separate and distinct targets for annihilation, mutilation, mastication, or what-have-you. Fifty-story beasts, while evolutionarily absurd, of course, also give the impression of being concerned only with obstacles and menaces existing within the same cognizant scale as itself. That is to say, if you were looking to get from point A to point B –- whereby the unavoidable path ran through a swarm of angry hornets –- while suffering as few painful stings as possible, would you be overly concerned with how many ants you stepped on?  No, the ants are incidental to your goal, and the same could be said of fleshy, helpless little apes scurrying about the feet of Clover.  But, unlike Godzilla (the original as well as the idiotically-reinvented iguana version), Mechagodzilla, King Ghidorah, Mothra, Gigan or any of the myriad Japanese creations, Clover marauded as terrifying, inescapable destruction and chaos that felt real enough to inspire tension. That tension and that inspiration was, of course, due to the personal connection the viewer had to establish with certain characters in order to follow the narrative. Those mechanics of storytelling -- within a mega-monster movie -- had never been approached with as much zeal and effectiveness as they were in Cloverfield.
The audience was able to relate and identify with the senses of helplessness, hopelessness, and terror felt by the ever-dwindling group of survivors. Clover was an unstoppable force; one that, in fact, would not stop outside of its own, unknown terms.

SCARIER THAN: A man in a rubber suit stomping on a cardboard city.

Oh, thank you, Neil Marshall, for executing so skillfully an updated and frightening werewolf movie. Dog Soldiers was a low-budget effort of the grandest design. It married a simple story with a wilderness setting and a bunch of Scottish men with guns. Marshall and his team put to good use the remaining funds and created some truly scary and original werewolves. To boot, these massive lycanthropes hunted and killed in a pack; and not just at night, so bollocks to the full moon cliche. If you haven’t seen it and you dig werewolves, go get it and prepare for a most pleasant surprise.  

SCARIER THAN: Most other werewolves.

Head over to Vile Reviews to see the Top 3 Modern Monsters!

Thanks again to John and the crew at Vile Reviews for letting us share their great list. Make sure you check out all the other great articles on their site.


  1. Thanks for the post! It looks great. Really dig the format. Thanks for the link-over as well.

    - John @ Vile

  2. No problem John, thanks for creating this epic list of villainy!