Time Out's 50 greatest monster movies: part two
In part two we're on the hunt with The Creeper, on the prowl with The Wolf Man and on the blink with the beasts from Pitch Black...
40. The Monster Squad (1987)Directed by Fred DekkerKids resurrect the darnedest thingsEssentially another version of box-office behemoth ‘Ghostbusters’ except with apple-cheeked little leaguers replacing Lower East Side slobs, Fred ‘Night of the Creeps’ Dekker’s much-loved kiddie caper allows a panoply of stock, classic-era ghouls free reign of a Delaware suburb. As you’ll see from the trailer below, the make-up work looks like something you might see at a fancy dress party on an Essex housing project, and thus doesn’t really stand up to some of the more inventive creations on this list. Yet it’s such a fond paean to the potent imaginary worlds of impressionable, errant children that that we’re throwing it in there anyway. DJWatch the trailer
39. The Howling (1981)Directed by Joe Dante
1981’s other werewolf movie
Following a decade-long apprenticeship with Roger Corman and New World Pictures which bore ample fruit in the shape of ‘Piranha’ (see No 22), Joe Dante knuckled down and got serious with this heartfelt tribute to werewolves he had known and loved. Which, it transpired, was precisely what the public didn’t want, as proven by the massive global success of ‘An American Werewolf in London’, in which John Landis indulged in all the subversive slapstick splatter which Dante had so conscientiously avoided in his own movie, but which would later come to define his career. ‘The Howling’ is, however, notable for having one of the most magnificently seedy and unsettling openings in cinema; shame it can’t quite maintain that level of tension. TH
Watch the classic transformation scene
Read the original Time Out review of 'The Howling'
38. Jeepers Creepers (2001)Directed by Victor Salva
Good fun until someone loses an eye
Another movie which, like ‘The Howling’ (see above), actually gets less scary once the monster shows up. The opening 30 minutes of this surprise old-school sleeper hit are something truly special: first a thunderous, ‘Duel’-inspired truck chase, followed by one of the all-time great ‘you’ve got to be kidding’ sequences, as our plucky teen heroes descend a grimy, gore-spattered pipe which leads directly into the beast’s lair. Very little in Noughties horror comes close to the authentically clammy, claustrophobic dread of this sequence – but sadly, director Victor Salva can’t quite apply the same atmosphere to the remainder of the film, and once the winged fiend shows up things trundle towards an enjoyably bleak but hardly breathtaking finale. TH
Watch a bizarre deep-south tribute
Read the original Time Out review of 'Jeepers Creepers'
37. Little Shop of Horrors (1985)Directed by Frank Oz
Does this look ‘inanimate’ to you, punk?This film version of the stage adaptation of the low-budget Roger Corman original should have been a complete trainwreck, but ex-Muppet man Frank Oz somehow delivered one of the greatest intergalactic carnivorous plant musicals of the '80s. Lovelorn Big Apple florist Rick Moranis breeds a nondescript houseplant into a ravenous monster with a taste for human blood and doo-wop music before realising that it is in fact a ‘mean, green muthah from outer space’ with plans to colonise Earth. Funnier than Abel Ferrara’s ‘Body Snatchers’ and with catchier showtunes than M Night Shyalaman’s ‘The Happening’, ‘Little Shop...’ is still the Big Boss Daddy of violent vegetation vehicles. ALDWatch some floral fury Read the original Time Out review of 'Little Shop of Horrors'
36. The Blob (1958)
Directed by Irvin S Yeaworth
It creeps, it crawls, it slithers up the walls…
One may fondly remember it as a cheesy, fusty proto-teen romp featuring a young Steve McQueen, but ‘The Blob’ did nothing less than lay the groundrules for every mega-budget disaster movie that came after: gloopy alien force whose survival rests on annihilating humanity (‘The Thing’, ‘War of the Worlds’); disbelieving authorities (‘Jaws’, ‘Volcano’); stultifying deus ex machina (‘Knowing’, ‘Mars Attacks!’); impossibly jaunty theme song (erm…). The actual Blob itself is about as scary as a clear plastic bag full of mixed-fruit jam, but this cracking little film nonetheless oozes thrills and drips with charm. ALDRevisit that maddeningly chipper theme song Read the original Time Out review of 'The Blob'
35. Lake Placid (1999)Directed by Steve Miner
What a croc!
Let us, for a moment, pause to examine the career of Steve Miner. Having brought cheap thrills to the masses with ‘Friday 13th’ Parts 2 and 3, and much-loved skeletons-in-the-closet charmer ‘House’, he decides to try his hand at a little social comedy with notorious race-relations misfire ‘Soul Man’. Miner spends the rest of the '80s wandering in the wilderness of ‘The Wonder Years’, before bouncing back with daft timeslip romp ‘Warlock’. More fruitful years follow, until Miner, again, makes a major misstep: the US remake of French comedy hit ‘Mon Père ce héros’, in which Gérard Depardieu lumbers threateningly after his nubile daughter through a series of lurid tropical locations. Once again, teen TV beckons: this time its ‘Dawson’s Creek’, at least until deliverance arrives in the form of the severely underrated franchise instalment ‘Halloween: H20’, the success of which leads directly to this superbly cast, solidly entertaining giant-croc tale. Why am I telling you all this? Because ‘Lake Placid’ is nothing if not the work of a reliable, hardworking journeyman: occasionally inspired, occasionally flat, always fun, never dull. The work, in fact, of a man equally at home in Camp Crystal Lake or Dawson’s Creek. God bless you, Steve Miner, and all the other unsung Hollywood heroes. We even forgive you for ‘Soul Man’. TH
Watch some awesome animal antics
Read the original Time Out review of 'Lake Placid'
34. The Wolf Man (1941)Directed by George Waggner
Shut up and comb your faceThe humble werewolf has received an enviable number of screen outings in modern times, from Jack Nicholson prancing around as a hirsute sex pervert (insert gag here) in 1994’s ‘Wolf’, through murderous menstrual tension in the underrated ‘Ginger Snaps’ (2000) and wishy-washy teenwolf traumas in ‘Twilight: New Moon’ (2009) to Joe Johnston’s brand new megabudget remake, ‘The Wolfman’, but it’s this rock-solid olde-worlde charmer we’ve chosen for this list. As usual with these classic horror films, the tragic curse comes into play when the hapless Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr) gets scratched while fending off an attacking wolf, then as the full moon rises, a revolting transformation takes hold and as quick as you can say ‘those slacks are going to need a new crotch’ he’s hot on the trail of human blood. DJ
Watch folk hero Michael Hurley’s tribute, ‘The Werewolf' Read the original Time Out review of 'The Wolf Man'
33. Pitch Black (2000)Directed by David Twohy
Hello darkness, my old friend
A peerless example of a filmmaker turning limitations into advantages, Twohy keeps the angular bat-like inhabitants of the desert planet of Hades very much in the dark for his small but perfectly formed sci-fi thriller. Vin Diesel’s noble savage Richard B Riddick and an agreeably clichéd band of crash survivors have to contend with the bone-white desert wastes by day, but it’s at night when the fun really begins, as the darkness literally comes alive with shapeless fury. Of course, it would be easy to contend that Diesel and Co are the real monsters of the piece and that the bat-things were the ones under attack from alien invaders… But where’s the fun in that? ALDWatch the trailer Read the original Time Out review of 'Pitch Black'
32. The Mummy (1932)Directed by Karl Freund
Out of the past
Brendan Fraser may have been co-opted as a kid-friendly Indiana Jones-a-like to star in Stephen Sommers’s mediocre modern ‘Mummy’ franchise, but Karl Freund’s 1932 original (of which the aforementioned was a fairly close remake) remains the definitive stab at bringing that iconic, muslin-swathed zombie killer to the big screen. It sees Boris Karloff as the ancient Egyptian priest who springs back to life when a British expedition team interrupts his slumber, and it marked yet another quality entry in Universal’s worldbeating canon of classic horror yarns. As you can see from the trailer below, the delicately visceral make-up work was extremely disturbing, and the film itself spawned a number of sequels, namely ‘The Mummy’s Hand’, ‘The Mummy’s Curse’, ‘The Mummy’s Tomb’, 'The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb'... you get the picture. DJWatch that eerie trailer Read the original Time Out review of 'The Mummy'
31. Basket Case (1982)Directed by Frank Henenlotter
Say hello to my little friendOnce a byword for inventive cinematic sleaze, the name of Frank Henenlotter has been all but forgotten by modern horror enthusiasts. ‘Basket Case’ was his early '80s calling card, the tale of a browbeaten, morally ambiguous twentysomething and his homicidal, basket-bound vestigial twin as they undertake a mission of vengeance against the doctors who separated them against their will. To modern audiences, this darkly comic tale of monstrous brotherly love is most fascinating as a depiction of New York in its hideous heyday, a shattered urban hellscape populated almost exclusively by hookers, thieves, junkies and murderers, lit by flickering neon and the flash of ambulance sirens. THClick here to find out what’s in the basket Read the original Time Out review of 'Basket Case'See 30 through to 21
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