Time Out's 50 greatest monster movies: part five
We're into the top ten, land of atomic Japanese dinosaurs, sardonic American werewolves and romantic South Sea island apes, not to mention a brace of undead types, some sympathetic, some not so much...
10. An American Werewolf in London (1981)Directed by John LandisThere’s a bad moon risingIt would be interesting to see polling data showing exactly how many fortysomething Brits recall John Landis’s hysterical gore-spattered masterpiece as that all-important pubescent rite of passage: their first 18. Well, a couple of years ago the good folks at the BBFC went and ruined all that: in reclassifying the film to 15, they’ve made all our childhoods seem that little bit less dangerous. Which is no reflection on the film itself: horror-comedy is overfamiliar nowadays, but this only makes Landis’s achievement more impressive. Not just gory but actually frightening, not just funny but seriously clever, ‘American Werewolf…’ has its flaws, but these are outweighed by the film’s many, mighty strengths: the soundtrack is astounding, the characterisation and performances (Jenny Agutter! Brian Glover! Rik Mayall!) marvellous and the one-liners endlessly quotable (‘a naked American man stole my balloons!’). Just don’t go off on the moooooooors! THWatch the wonderful Warren Zevon
Read the original Time Out review of 'An American Werewolf in London'
9. Godzilla (1954)Directed by Ishiro Honda
‘I am Godzilla. You are Japan!’
Whether it be as a sweaty Japanese man in a rubber suit, the especially foul-tempered yet oddly submissive hero of the late '70s Hanna-Barbera cartoon or the digitised goliath of Roland Emmerich’s disposable 1998 reboot, Godzilla is a fearsome proposition. Sometimes vengeful, often heroic, occasionally topical and always browned off, this atomically enlarged mega-newt could comfortably take on all the monsters on this list without even breaking a sweat (do lizards sweat?). Despite a huge and somewhat spurious list of enemies that includes Mothra (giant peacenik moth), King Ghidora (three headed dragon) and Mechagodzilla (huge, angry rustbucket), it is man for whom the King of the Monsters reserves his most bitterly held ire. Get over it, dude! ALD
Watch 50 years of stompin’ good fun
8. The Evil Dead (1981)Directed by Sam Raimi
A farewell to arms
It would be wrong to discuss one ‘Evil Dead’ film without the other, especially as personal taste and a negligible increase in budget appear to be the only factors that divide the two movies. Both tell the comic book tale of schlubbish wage slave Ash (the inimitable Bruce Campbell) and his blood-splashed battle with a tranche of accidentally awoken Kandarian demons who want nothing more than to swallow his soul. Both, too, offer some of the most inventive, revoltingly tactile and lovingly crafted gore effects you’re likely to see on film. The ‘monster’ in both is a howling spirit that takes on many forms. In the first film, it memorably brings a tree to life and proceeds to rape a teenage girl. In the second, it takes possession of Ash’s severed hand (which he gleefully amputates with a chainsaw) and proceeds to try and strangle him. In addition to this, the first ‘Evil Dead’ film also contains one of the most spectacular (and elongated) death scenes in modem film, as we witness an actor covered in flaps of latex reduced to a pool of bubbling Plasticine pus. DJ
Watch Bruce Campbell yelling. A lot
Read the original Time Out review of 'The Evil Dead'
7. Frankenstein (1931)Directed by James Whale
Stitched 'im up like a kipper
Arguably the single defining image in the history of Hollywood horror, Boris Karloff’s Monster, with his sutured skin, neck-bolts and childlike expression, remains the poster child for ‘sympathetic’ monsters. Okay, so he kills a kid, but we’ll let him off because he’s all lumpy and cute, and doesn’t really, you know, get it. So while ‘Bride of Frankenstein’ is arguably the better film (it’s funnier, sweeter and has Elsa Lanchester’s hair in it), James Whale’s original take on Mary Shelley’s lumbering pseudo-scientific behemoth remains the gold standard for loveable monsters, and a masterful evocation of what it’s like to exist in a world that only wants to batter you down (a feeling Whale, a gay man in ’30s America, knew only too well). Just take care to avoid Ken Branagh’s soupy, luvvie-stuffed remake. TH
Click here for a fascinating look at a silent 1910 version of the story
6. King Kong (1933)
Directed by Merion C Cooper & Ernest B. Schoedsack
Sexually frustrated ape inadvertently invents base-jumping
Anyone who has never shed a tear as this love-struck great ape uncomprehendingly swats at his tormentors from the top of the Empire State Building is as stone-hearted as Skull Island itself. Special effects pioneer Willis O'Brien made Kong one of the few cinematic monsters to occupy the emotional as well as the narrative heart of their own movie and his towering achievement is still the benchmark for anyone who would make a myth from a ropey old monster yarn. The 1976 remake was a dull rehash that paired 'Love Boat'-style soap with an inexplicably green monkey, and while Peter Jackson came close to capturing the wonder of the original, the 1933 vintage remains a dark fairytale unmatched by modern pretenders. PF
Kong conquers The Empire State
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