Last week my wife surprised me with a Tron-inspired birthday party (my birthday's December 17, the same day that Tron: Legacy was released). As part of that, she asked the good folks at Cupcake Ladies to create Tron cup cakes.
Which they did. The photo at left was taken by my friend Jason Alley (view the full-size photo on Flickr) and yes, the cupcakes did taste as good as they look.
The cupcakes made my day, and were the perfect prelude to heading to King of Prussia to watch Tron: Legacy in IMAX 3D with my friends. It was a good movie -- I describe it as pure, distilled 1980s wrapped in glass. My 12-year-old self loved the film. My 39-year-old self was happily distracted by the beer sampler I drank at Rock Bottom Brewery before the movie.
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?
The Scream series was famous for enumerating the rules of the slasher horror genre. The Creature Feature has its own rules, and the best movies play by them -- or play off of them. Here's my take on the rules of the genre; feel free to to add your own in the comments.
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.
Some days, all you want is a good ol'fashioned monster movie, one in which the critters are from outer space, the townspeople are unsuspecting, and the slime flows like an insidious, revolting river. Slither provides all this and more, combining the B movie horrors of the 1980s with a sense of humor seldom found in its gory predecessors.
The movie opens with the prerequisite rock from outer space crashing to Earth in the woods outside of Wheelsy, South Carolina. Keeping with the horror theme that the sexually frustrated (be they virgins or not) are the first to die, Slithers sees its soon-to-be villain Grant crawling bars after his wife decides she'd rather sleep than fool around. He finds an old flame willing to become a new one, and together they head off into the woods, where Grant has an attack of conscious and breaks off his would-be fling. Unfortunately for him, he stumbles across a pulsating organic orb along the forest path, and as he pokes it with a stick, it pokes back, shooting a barb deep into his chest.
Jaws is the definitive monster movie of the modern era. While there were all manner of creature features before it, Jaws did what films about vampires, werewolves and other supernatural spawn couldn't: it made millions afraid of the water.
It was the first modern blockbuster, and established a pattern for releasing summer movies that Hollywood held to for decades. For geeks, it did something more important: it established the rules of the genre.