Countdown to MONSTER MACHINE: The Top 10 Monster Movies
by Dan Casey on October 23, 2013
As you may already know, tonight Andrew Bowser’s Monster Machine comes to the Nerdist Channel, a short film that plays out like an epic love letter to all things horror. We revealed the terrific throwback poster on Monday, and you’ve gotten to know and love the Terror Twins, but what do you really know about director Andrew Bowser other than he’s the man behind the Steampunk Gambit cosplay-fueled antics of Onyx the Fortuitous? Well, he’s a man who loves his horror movies, and to prove it, I enlisted him to write up his Top 10 Monster Movies for your reading pleasure. So, without further ado, I’ll let Bowser take it away….
Boy oh boy, do I love MONSTER MOVIES. This is a list of my favorite silly monster movies that I remember watching as a wee lad. I revisited all of these “not quite classics” before writing Monster Machine. I still love each and every one of these gooey, cheesy, creepy gems. They remind me of Friday nights with my one and only friend Alex back in the suburbs of Maryland. We’d grab a few movies from the local video store, grab a pepperoni ‘za, and scare ourselves shitless. While it’s hard to choose favorites, I whittled my personal list down to my Top 10 favorite Monster Movies, which I hope you’ll seek out and enjoy
10. TerrorVision (1986)
This is a movie I remember seeing as a kid and thinking WHAT THE HELL DID I JUST WATCH? Watching it again, I thought WHAT THE HELL DID I JUST WATCH? It reminds me of House in the sense that it opens up a floodgate of monsters and ghouls, making no excuse for the randomness that ensues. I love the Elvira/Vampira homage embodied by Medusa – and I attempted to do a similar thing with The Terror Twins. Jon Gries is awesome (just as he is in Monster Squad). We also get horror stalwart Gerrit Graham (C.H.U.D. 2, Child’s Play 2) in a great performance. Terrorvision is the like the spastic ritalin-riddled cousin of Creepshow… and I like that. I like that.
9. Elvira, Mistress of the Dark (1988)
I fell in love with Cassandra Peterson in Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure and have been in love with her ever since. As Elvira, she is the perfect combination of Ghoulish Goddess and Comedy Queen. She has an amazing sense of comedic timing and plays Elvira to a tee. This is a character she has spent time with, and her performance shows. Elvira is in control, but also at the mercy of close-minded town folk. I think the plot of this film gave me, a consummate Elvira Fanboy, everything I wanted and more. Some scares, some laughs, and a Flashdance-inspired dance scene as only Elvira could do.
8. Transylvania 6-5000 (1985)
Am I the only one that absolutely loves this movie? Geena Davis as a nymphomaniac vampire? MY SEXUAL IDENTITY WAS BORN OF THIS. I remember watching this with my dad all the time. Whenever you put multiple monsters in one setting, I am ready to sign up for the fan club. Ed Begley Jr. and Jeff Goldblum are awesome together, and Jeffrey Jones and Carol Kane crack me up per the usual. Dare I say, the chemistry here is reminiscent of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein? Okay, I’m over-excited. BUT movies like Transylvania 6-5000 are attempting to strike that same chord – and I appreciate the attempt.
7. Vamp (1986)
This movie is actually based on my first strip club experience JUST KIDDING. Grace Jones as a VAMPIRE STRIPPER, WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT!? I think I saw this on HBO 3 or Cinemax late at night in 1993 and I wasn’t sure… what… was… happening… to… my… body. Again, the 80′s had a way of playfully mashing up genres. The “college movie” with a horror flick – and Michelle Pfeiffer’s sister – thrown in for good measure. In all seriousness, though, Grace Jones did bring an electrifying quality to her performance. Her dancing and body paint is a more stylized approach to the characterization of a vampire than I have seen of late. She was a force to be reckoned with, and has an intimidating presence in all of her films – it’s no different in Vamp.
6. C.H.U.D. (1984)
Oh, C.H.U.D., how I love thee. Supposedly, Dizzy Stern rewrote a lot of the script himself. The dialogue in C.H.U.D. does (at times) seem refreshingly natural, but everything else in the movie is decidedly unnatural. The first act of the movie moves a little slowly, but once those crazy cannibalistic humanoid underground dwellers get going – things pick up quite a bit. Like a lot of ’80s horror, the original is far more “straight-faced” than the sequel (C.H.U.D. 2 : Bud the C.H.U.D.). Like with Gremlins versus its sequel, the first entry is more streamlined and pure in its execution. No bloody pun intended.
5. Dead Heat (1988)
I AM AN UNAPOLOGETIC FAN OF JOE PISCOPO. Sorry about the caps lock, but it needed to be said. This movie is fun, bottom line. Regenerated criminals are wreaking havoc on L.A. and the only cops bad enough to stop them are JOE PISCOPO AND TREAT WILLIAMS!? SIGN ME UP! Dick Miller makes a cameo, Robert Yeoman is the cinematographer – this movie is full of surprises. There’s also some great Piscopo vs. Monsters fight scenes that are not to be missed.
4. The Stuff (1985)
Another one I remember seeing as a kid that really confounded me. What is this movie about? A dessert that turns you into a Zombie? Why don’t they make movies like this anymore? It seemed like a free-for-all in the ’80s, smashing up genres and really playing with the idea of a “kid’s adventure” movie within the framework of any genre. I remember, as a kid, pretending that my Play-Doh was a can of the stuff, and eating just enough to transform me into a mindless zombie. That was my way of getting out of doing homework.
3. Re-Animator (1985)
Jeffrey… muh… fuh… COMBS. Need I say more? I don’t have to, BUT I WILL. This movie gets pretty sick and twisted, but Combs’ Dr. West is the crazy center that makes it all work. There are some great visual gags and some wonderfully dark gory moments in this movie, and director Stuart Gordon deftly navigates his way through it all with a certain wit and whimsy. You never feel fully assaulted by the brutality of Re-Animator, but when you look back on what you just watched…you definitely feel that a shower is needed. It is bleak, black humor at its finest. Don’t forget to check out another Gordon and Combs team-up, From Beyond.
2. House (1986)
Wow. I saw this movie as a kid and had no idea it actually dealt with such heavy subject matter. Rewatching it as a sweaty man-child made me realize there’s a lot going on underneath the surface in House. Holy moly, using a horror/comedy format to delve into the story of a man suffering from PTSD is pretty ballsy stuff. Richard Moll is awesome and scary as Big Ben and the climax of the film is surprisingly sentimental. Not to mention, there’s some amazing creature FX in this movie that have been sadly underrated.
1. Night of the Creeps (1986)
This movie has everything: serial killers, aliens, zombie prom dates, zombie dogs, and TOM FUCKING ATKINS. Night of the Creeps, more than any other movie, influenced Monster Machine. What I love about NOTC is that its characters are surprisingly grounded for a film so out of this world. The friendship between JC and Chris still makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. The finale sequence is CLASSIC DEKKER that finds our “damsel in distress” Cindy, wielding a flame thrower and kicking ass.
I love love LOVE Night of the Creeps.
And there you have it, folks. That ought to keep you busy until Halloween rolls around. But, in the meantime, take some time out of your spooky schedule to subscribe to the Nerdist Channel and watch Monster Machine tonight when it makes its paranormal premiere.