Monday, 20 October 2008

Movie Monster Legends: Ten of the greatest ever onscreen beasts

Some monsters never die. Some of them keep on burrowing ever deeper into the collective unconscious until they are rooted there for all time. Here we'll take a look at ten of the film industry's most unforgettable creatures. There is no real order to this list, as they are all fine examples of celluloid terror (and opinion, after all, is subjective. Nowhere moreso than with film fans), but the big names speak for themselves. We'll also take a look at some of the licensed merchandise that these creatures inspired, which has thrilled fans for decades.

The possessed doll first hit the screens in the 1988 horror classic 'Child's Play'. Following that came four sequels, and with each one his appeal was diminished as each film became more and more of a spoof of what came before. Chucky is also to be getting the remake treatment, but in the new version he will still be played by veteran movie villain Brad Dourif.

Famously portrayed by Doug Bradley in eight feature films, Pinhead is one of the most striking images to have come to cinema. With his fetishistic outfit and hideous mutilated visage, he leads his Cenobite minions across realities to ensnare twisted individuals who crave the next big fix. The character is to come to the big screen again with the forthcoming remake of the first Hellraiser.

Jason Voorhees:
The mutated hick from Crystal Lake has terrorized audiences for decades, and to date has appeared in eleven feature films including the 9 Friday the 13th movies, Jason X and Freddy Vs Jason. A remake of Friday the 13th is soon to be released and kick off the series all over again. With his distinctive Hockey mask and bloodied machete, Jason is an unforgettable movie monster.

First shredding flesh in the 1987 movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Predator quickly became an iconic movie monster despite only starring in two films until the AVP franchise came along. With its distinctive features and abilities, the Predator grabbed ever more fans due to it being such a relentless adversary for the films' heroes. The Predator has gone on to become one of the most sought-after collectable items in history.

Surprisingly, the masked killers from the SCREAM trilogy always rank very highly with horror movie buffs. While not strictly monsters, the image of the masked, robed murderers is one that permeated all of the horror industry for a time in the lkate 90s, spawning a whole generation of lesser imitators who wanted to get in on the teen slasher reinvention bandwagon.

Freddy Krueger:
The legendary dream demon, Freddy Krueger, brought terror to our screens in seven movies of his own, as well as a short-lived TV series, countless books and comics, and the lacklustre Freddy Vs Jason feature film. Played by Robert Englund in all of the above, Freddy was (and is) an intense and memorable character. He worked best in the first and third films of his own franchise, when he was at his darkest. The first of his films, A Nightmare on Elm Street, is currently being remade, with Krueger now played by Billy Bob Thornton.

Originally designed by legendary artist HR Giger, the eponymous creature in the ALIEN films (and indeed AVP and AVP: Requiem) is an instantly recognizable movie monster. Its very form thrills and terrifies in equal measure, proven by its longevity as a driving force in the film industry. To this day the first two Alien films stand up as masterpieces of the genre and cinema as a whole, and while later films and the Alien Vs Predator spinoffs may have been lesser products, they did nothing to diminish the power of the creature's presence when glimpsed onscreen.

Mr Stay Puft only appeared in one film, namely the all-time classic first Ghostbusters movie from 1984, but that brief appearence was enough to cement the character in film fans' hearts and minds forever more thanks to his frankly insane visage. Who could forget the sight of a giant man made of sweets, standing 112.5 feet tall (according to Harold Ramis), attacking New York before being destroyed by four eccentric men in overalls and proton packs? He went on to become an icon in comics, cartoons and toys

King Kong:
Back in 1933, the world gasped in awe at the sight of the original King Kong movie and all of its legendary stop-motion animation. The ingenious technique brought to life one of the most incredible beasts ever known, and a genre was born. Spawning various spinoffs, sequels and remakes, including Peter Jackson's impressive 2005 effort, there are few other onscreen beasts that can lay claim to the crown of most influential movie monster of all time. Incredibly influential in every sense, the original film, and indeed the titular giant ape, have become synonymous with the creation of the monster movie genre. Nobody will ever forget that climactic and iconic battle atop the Empire State building.

The 1998 American remake may well have been a critical and commercial failure but it couldn't change the fact that the famous Japanese monster, Godzilla, is the most recognizable and revered of all monsters that have appeared on film. Notching up over 50 film appearances, he has fought off all manner of weird attackers, spawned cartoon shows, spin-off franchises and a massive merchandising industry. The image and idea of Godzilla has proven to be remarkably enduring, and even though the character was supposed to be laid to rest with the incredible Godzilla: Final Wars a few years ago, the legend continues with yet more giant monster projects. I swear, Tokyo must have been rebuilt more times than I've seen Star Wars. No, really. The giant monster action may well have been a bunch of guys in big rubber suits, but it has nevertheless thrilled audiences ever since the 1950s. Long may Godzilla reign as the king of all beasts.

So there you have ten of the greatest movie monsters of all time. But what of the merchandising industry they spawned?

There has long since been an insatiable appetite for licensed movie monster memorabilia from fans the world over. Thankfully, there are some fantastic companies out there who are creating some truly incredible work in this area, and fans are eager to get their hands on the latest items. Let's take a look at some of the big names currently proving the world with high quality licensed merchandise.

In the past decade, the licensed collectibles market has been dominated by a select few companies, who have earned their status as the best in the world through years of dedication and the quality of their work. The leaders in the field of official movie merchandise are companies such as Mcfarlane, NECA, Sideshow Collectibles and Gentle Giant. Mcfarlane cornered the market in action figure versions of the most famous movie monsters at the end of the 90s with their legendary Movie maniacs range, bringing quality articulated figures of such characters as Freddy Krueger, Leatherface, Jason Voorhees and suchlike into the realms of affordable merchandise. Their box sets, such as the much missed Alien Queen set or their equally popular Jaws set, were of such a high standard that they remained hot sellers for half a decade. Mcfarlane's attention to detail and giving the fans what they wanted was noticed by several other companies who tried to get in on the bandwagon, but Mcfarlane are yet to be bettered.

Other collectibles companies looked to different avenues of licensed items to make their mark. NECA were hot on the heels of Mcfarlane and brought fans some of the best large scale figures and music based action figures the world market had ever seen, whereas creators such as Sideshow and Gentle Giant directed their energies towards making extremely high quality items. In the case of the amazing Sideshow Collectibles, many of these items are deemed to be of museum quality, such is the craftsmanship that goes into each of their stunning pieces. Where some would be content to create simple articulated figures, Sideshow go for the grand, the huge, the massive pieces, and employ the finest artists and sculptors in order to bring legendary creatures and characters to life as collectible statues, dioramas, replicas and figures. The appetite for movie monster merchandise has seen the growth of an international industry. As long as monsters tear up cities and terrorise whole worlds, there will be fans who want one of their own.

Really though, the appetite for monsters, creatures, demons, beasts, aliensa dn all those other fantastic creations shows no signs of fading away. While the popularity of the films may have waned a little, and the genre begins to be reinvented (Cloverfield, for example), we stand on the brink of a whole new breed of terrors ready to smash and destroy in the name of cinematic chaos. Long may they reign.

Andrew writes for the memorabilia and collectibles site Starstore and their many famous entertainment and collectibles blogs. He is also a renowned rock and metal journalist and science fiction author.

1 comment:

SimonWrightywright said...

I have always been a fan of the afore mentioned "Baddies" but I think I would probably sacrife one off the list for Darth Vader!! Star Wars had me hooked when I was young & now my 3yr old wants to be either Darth Vader or Luke! I dont know whether to be afraid or scared!!