Monsters Part 1: CREATURES
Originating from the early 1910’s with the first versions of Frankenstein or King Kong, the monster genre is “the” classic genre of horror. It is also the most diverse and widespread horror genre of all, which is why we have to split it into two articles here. The first one will describe the main horror bestiary whereas the second article will cover the most popular monster sub-genres: zombies, vampires and werewolves. So without further delay, let’s look directly at the first part of our large sub-genres classification of horror monsters in cinema.
Classic Monsters/Mythological Monsters:
This sub-genre regroups the monster films that have either been inspired by early romans (e.g. Frankenstein in 1818 or The Invisible Man in 1897), or by well-known myths and legends such as BigFoot or the Bogeyman. We can also throw in the monsters from the fantastic world (Trolls, Dragons, etc) and those who rose to fame in the 30’s such as The Mummy or The Creature from the Black Lagoon, since they contributed to the modern mythological bestiary.
Frankenstein (1931) The Mummy (1932) Leprechaun (1993) Troll Hunter (2010)
Let’s call it the monster genre by default. Filmmakers are constantly bringing new monsters to the screen and unless they belong to another of the sub-genres below, this is where they fall. Featuring very diverse creatures and film style, the only thing that binds them together is their tendency toward aggressiveness and taste for human flesh.
Pumpkinhead (1988) Tremors (1990) Feast (2005) The Host (2006)
This sub-genre of horror could be linked in with the mythological genre since the creatures it features are often derived from the fantastic world (Ghouls, Trolls, etc.). However small creatures’ films are often way too similar not to be grouped into their own sub-genre. Since small creatures tend to be cute, these films often contain a part of comedy. For some unknown reason, they are often quite badly made and followed by a myriad of crappy sequels (Gremlins excluded).
Gremlins (1984) Ghoulies (1985) Critters (1986) Trolls (1986)
Sci-fi monsters & Aliens:
The monster genre has always tried to justify the existence of its horrible creatures: nuclear reasons, scientific experiments, evolved species, etc. This sub-genre involves films with solid science-fiction plots, often liaising closer with sci-fi than the rest of the mediocre scenario monster films.
Them! (1954) The Thing (1982) Aliens (1986) The Fly (1986)
Initiated by the huge success of King Kong, this sub-genre became particularly famous in Asia and more precisely Japan with the rise of Godzilla (1954) and its 27 sequels, or Gamera (1956). A typical feature of this sub-genre involves the devastation of entire cities by giant monsters.
King Kong (1933) Godzilla (1954) Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958) Cloverfield (2008)
Nature & Animals:
This sub-genre incorporates all the films in which horror can be derived from something found in nature: famous predators such as sharks, crocodiles or even inoffensive creature such as insects, birds, dogs, etc. Almost every animal has its horror movies! But although around 95% of this sub-genre’s film features animals, a few of them also utilise plants (The Day of the Triffids (1962); The Ruins (2008)) or even vegetables (Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (1978))
The Birds (1963) Jaws (1975) Piranha (1978) Cujo (1983)
Monsters Part 2: Zombie & Vampire & Werewolf
Zombies, Vampire and Werewolf are by essence a part of the monster genre, but these sub-genres have been so customary that they almost deserve their own separate genres. Vampires are extremely popular nowadays, especially in cross-genre films such as horror/romance or gothic/horror. Werewolves are (unfortunately) a little under-represented. But the most popular of all the horror creatures are definitely… zombies! One question remains, are all zombies equal? Technically, they are undead humans that wake up from their grave for whatever reason: nuclear, apocalypse, witchcraft, etc. But recent movies featuring zombie-like viruses and infections have started to appear. Whether these films are the quintessential zombie’s films is quite a topic of discussion, so while people decide, I have put them in a separate sub-genre. Classic Zombies
Classic zombies are typically seen rising out of their tombs, or are 'born' as the result of someone being bitten by another zombie. In any case, they are dead, or more precisely undead. They are usually slow moving (although they tend to run in modern movies, resulting in increased tension), stupid and numerous. This sub-genre appeared quite early, with White Zombie (1932) being considered as the first zombie film. They then became hugely famous thanks to the work of Georges A. Romero and its Trilogy of the Dead.
Night of the Living Dead (1968) Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (1974) Dawn of the Dead (1978) Zombie (1979)
A little later, filmmakers discovered more scientific ways to create zombies. Multiples movies started to base their plot on viruses that would turn people into zombie-like creatures as it spread. Whilst the rules of contamination are usually similar to those of classic zombies, variants can be found such as infection triggered by specific words such as in Pontypool (2008), by adrenaline rush like in Rammbock (2010) or by TV waves like in The Signal (2007).
Shivers (1975) Resident Evil (2002) 28 Weeks Later (2007) Pontypool (2008)
Vampires are mythical creatures that seem to have always existed in various folklores. However, the vampire concept as we know it really took off with “Dracula”, the 1897’s novel from Bram Stoker. Vampires in horror films are invariably undead creatures that thirst for blood and are vulnerable to sunlight. Additional rules slightly differ depending on the film: contagious when biting/ allergic to garlic/ sensitive to crosses or holy water/ killed by a stake in the heart/ cannot enter without being invited, etc.
Nosferatu (1922) Dracula (1931 & 1992) Fright Night (1985) 30 Days of Night (2007)
Werewolves are humans who, after being infected by a lycanthropic virus or curse, can transform into big wolf-like beasts. The transformation can be voluntary or, as in most movies, occurring unwillingly at full-moon. Werewolf films are often quite dramatic, since the werewolf curse is often depicted as a tragedy. One of the highlights of these films is the great human-werewolf transformation scenes that they almost invariably feature.
The WolfMan (1941) The Howling (1981) An American Werewolf (1981) Dog Soldiers (2002)
Next episode: Paranormal Horror If you like this article, please visit my website: www.horroronscreen.com