Halloween Essentials, Vol. 2: Monsters
Justin George | Tuesday, October 12, 2021
Halloween Essentials is a weekly column in the month of October by Scene Writer (and Resident Spooky Boi) Justin George. Celebrate the season with his horror movie recs.
We’re another week closer to Halloween, which means seven more film recommendations! This week’s theme is monsters, which includes mad scientists’ creations, blood-sucking freaks and unnatural creatures. “What about Godzilla???” Nope. Not a Halloween movie. “Why are these all from the ‘70s and ‘80s?” I like that era of horror the most. “Zombies?” Not this week.
How could I possibly talk about monsters without mentioning the single greatest monster ever. James Whale’s classic adaption of Mary Shelley’s novel is a terrible adaptation, but that doesn’t stop it from being the best version of “Frankenstein” put to celluloid. While Colin Clive is great as Victor Frankenstein, the real star is Boris Karloff as the Monster, in what would become his signature performance. Running 71 minutes, this is a tightly paced, expertly shot and brilliantly acted piece of Pre-Code horror.
“Nosferatu the Vampyre”- 1979
Werner Herzog’s retelling of the Dracula story is framed as a remake of F.W. Murnau’s 1922 film “Nosferatu.” Herzog’s version, however, is my favorite version of the Dracula story thanks to Jörg Schmidt-Reitwein’s stunning cinematography, Klaus Kinski’s incredible performance as Count Dracula and Herzog’s impeccable direction. Often overlooked in the horror canon, this is a film that every horror fan worth their salt should see.
“The Thing”- 1982
John Carpenter’s “The Thing” is everything a creature feature should be. It is the standard by which all monster films are measured. Alien invasion, survival horror and body horror are mixed together to create the perfect horror film. In case you haven’t guessed, I absolutely adore this film. It’s flawless. If you haven’t seen this absolute gem, go do yourself a favor and watch it immediately.
Stuart Gordon’s “Re-Animator” is schlock of the highest regard. Blood, guts and an unspecified neon green liquid abound in this splatter masterpiece. Loosely following the plot of H.P. Lovecraft’s novella “Herbert West: Re-Animator,” this film follows two medical students who discover the secret to re-animation and carry out a number of experiments on cadavers as they begin to unlock the secrets of life and death. Jeffrey Combs became a horror icon thanks to his performance as Herbert West. B-horror, comedy and expert gore effects combine to create an unforgettable viewing experience.
“An American Werewolf in London”- 1981
A black comedy with brilliant practical effects? Who would have guessed that I would love this film? This John Landis film won the very first Academy Award for Best Makeup and Hairstyling thanks to FX and monster makeup master Rick Baker. The transformation scene alone is worth the price of admission. Come for the gore, stay for the compelling story and gallows humor.
“The Fly”- 1986
No list of monster movies would be complete without David Cronenberg’s magnum opus. This remake of the 1958 classic of the same name follows a scientist whose DNA gets mixed up with a fly’s DNA while testing a teleportation device. “The Fly” is one of the grossest movies I’ve ever seen and is a showcase of Chris Walas’s special effects expertise, which earned him an Oscar for Best Makeup. Who would have thought seeing Jeff Goldblum turn into a fly would be such a fun thing to watch?
Here’s my absolutely bonkers outside pick. Part divorce drama, part art film, part psychological thriller, part Cold War commentary, part alien invasion and part monster movie, “Possession” is the perfect storm of insanity. Written and directed by Andrzej Żuławski in the wake of a messy divorce, this film is both emotionally devastating and viscerally disturbing. If you can track it down, I highly recommend giving “Possession” a watch. You won’t be disappointed (just make sure you watch the unedited director’s cut).