The Cabin in the Words is the ultimate meta monster movie. It lovingly explains exactly why all those countless teenagers in all those terrible creature features movies had to die, and does so in amusing -- yet horrifying -- fashion.
There are certain animals that simply creep people out. Endless documentaries on the Discovery Channel and PBS have shown us that sharks, spiders, and snakes are misunderstood creatures, but that doesn't stop up from secretly worrying about being strangled in our sleep by giant reptiles.
Alien isn't just a monster movie. In many ways it is the definitive interstellar creature feature that spawned dozens of half-baked imitations (including some that had the Alien moniker) Thirty-four years after its release, the movie remains one of the best monster -- and science fiction -- movies ever made.
Pacific Rim is a movie that delivered exactly what it promised: giant robots fighting giant monsters on the eve of the apocalypse. It's not great drama, it's not mind-bending storytelling, it is giant robots fighting giant monsters, with enough story to keep the whole thing moving forward.
Every year for 20 years I asked for Electronic Battleship for my birthday. I never got it, and instead made due with the standard, analog iteration that didn't have cool sound effects. Flash foward: I'm 41, and I still don't have Electronic Battleship, but I did get to watch the cinematic disaster movie based on the game of the same name.
My 9-year-old self never saw that one coming.
Back when the Blackrazor Guild still played D&D, we had a list of standard battle tactics. They were things like "spring the ambush then fight your way out", "lightning bolt in a short corridor", "fireball at your feet" and the classic "stake out a cow to lure the monster into the open".
Lake Placid is our kind of movie. Set in Maine, the movie involves a monster taking up residence in a lake. The creature starts killing people, including Fish & Game agents counting beavers, which leads an eccentric band of monster hunters to descend on the lake. They consist of Fish & Game agents led by Jack Wells (Bill Pullman), Sheriff's offices led by Sheriff Hank Keough (Brendan Gleeson), a palentologist from New York City named Kelly Scott (Bridget Fonda) and Hector Cyr (Oliver Platt) rich-but-crazy mythology professor who loves to swim with giant reptiles.
In 1998 director Roland Emmerich released a remake of Godzilla starring Matthew Broderick and featured a monster heavily inspired by the designer Patrick Tatopoulos' pet iguana attacking New York City. It failed on multiple fronts, starting with uninspiring Godzilla design, continuing with the half-assed Siskel and Ebert knockoffs as government antagonists, and ending with a surprise twist that no one wanted.
It was a bad movie. Cloverfield is what happens when J.J. Abrams looks at Godzilla and asks ... how can we make this not suck?
Deep Rising is one of my favorite monster movies, and there's one reason why -- it's the perfect RPG adventure. We've got our hardcore mercenaries hired to hit a cruise ship, a ragtag team of freelancers in over their heads, and a tentacled deep sea horror that intends to devour them all.
Far better than the twin late-1980s deep see flicks Deep Star Six and Leviathan, this film takes place above the ocean, but has similar nautical challenges. To begin, the setting is a huge, ultra-modern cruise ship packed with monster snacks, err, passangers. When our heroes arrive they find all but a handful of people (including the ship's owner, the captain, and a beautiful thief in a red dress).
Predator starts off as a standard 1980s-style military adventure film, not unlike Swartzenager's own Commando. It's got the bad-ass elite soliders (led by Arnold's own Dutch), a bombastic soundtrack, and a pitched firefight with guerillas.
But in between the bouts of testosterone, there's tension. Our troops realize something isn't quite right -- but is it in the mission (fouled by their CIA contact) or something else?
Of course, we know it's something else ... something extraterrestrial, given that an alien spacecraft was dropped to earth by an alien starship just before the opening credits. But as to the nature of their alien adversary, that's a mystery that's revealed ever so slowly.