Holiday weekends are a much needed reprieve. Too much of our daily lives require a functioning brain working to capacity. Balancing every project, personality, and an endless array of meetings at work to ensure everything is done to the highest standards without anything being neglected. Commitments to loved ones at home in order to make sure each understands your love for them and willingness to be there to help in their lives. Side pulls from church, youth sports, friends, and even the hobbies such as Cleveland sport teams fight to fill whatever waking hours remain.
Sometimes, it just feels good to flip the brain switch to the off position for awhile. Each person has a different catalyst that forces them to abandon the stressful world of the thinkers and enter their own personal fortress of solitude. Golf, music, running, or the Bachelor might be yours. Monster movies are mine.
A good creature feature does not worry itself with a complex plot. There need not be life lessons, complex moral dilemmas, or philosophical diatribes embedded throughout. Some do and all have their script writers feign some interest in these areas, but a true connoisseur of the late night Big Chuck and Little John specials understand the viewing pleasure is not found in working the neurons above the neck.
As an old school disciple of Mystery Science Theater myself, I have no qualms expressing my gratitude for even the truly wretched films to come out of this genre. No matter the cheesiness of the protagonist or cheapness of the graphics- including the actual monster itself- there is always some enjoyment that befalls those who are willing to embrace the absurdity.
Sadly, many don’t get it. The mental fuses are not blown before entering the theater and there is a desperate search for coherent plots, narratives, and character development. As the movie ends, they slowly trudge out of the abyss of their own creation in their mind. Confused, weary, and weak, there is a compulsion to lash out at the world. What some might see as sophisticated film critiques, is known to be ignorance by our guild. Monstrosity has it’s root in the word monster for a reason, after all.
Not even respected professional athletes are immune.
Anyone else see the new Transformers, walk out thinking that had some cool actions scenes… and also wtf did I just watch? #forgottheplot
— Jason Kipnis (@TheJK_Kid) June 30, 2017
Introduction to this genre requires some care. If a child is too young when thrown into this world, the horror aspects will dominate. Too old and there runs risk of them being incapable of fully investing. Finding a good gateway flick can be an important way to bind them if monster mania is to become a shared love between father and son. Percy Jackson, Lightning Thief can lead to The Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter series. Ability to sleep in their own bed after seeing Orcs and Death Eaters battle the heroes means a more direct machination is feasible.1
If you were going to introduce your kids to monster movies, then what is the first true creature feature you would show them?
There was never a question as to the first pure monster movie that would begin my boys journey. It is, by far, the best of the genre. Despite being 25 years old, the graphics and flow of the flick hold up today. That movie is and forever will be Jurassic Park.
Jurassic Park is perfect. Many movies skip straight to the action without the realization the build up and anticipation to see the true hero of these movies- decidedly not the human protagonist – is an important component. Not this one. Due to the array of relatively harmless, yet majestic, dinosaurs strewn about the landscape, the reveal of the Tyrannosaurus is both teased and hidden. Even the raptors are mysterious evils in the early frames. The plot is enough to keep the casual fans of the genre hooked, while the awe of the landscape both tides the viewer over through the slow introduction. By the time the action is unleashed, the drama has reached a point where it needed the release rather than having it forced.
Once the levee was breached, the films flooded through. All four of the Jurassics were consumed over Christmas break. Both Independence Day movies over Memorial Day. These led into a fantastic July 4th weekend of apes. The latest release was first in Kong: Skull Island, which is a movie that was true to the genre. Tons of action and monsters without worrying about being too serious with the script. The spider scene will be discussed at length for months.
The pure fascination organically led to the Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Caesar’s creation and maturation are both done in a way to win the audience over to his side but with enough reminders that he is capable of leading the destruction of mankind embedded throughout. The plan was to wait to watch Dawn the next weekend, but the boys were having none of it. They were involved in the world and needed to see the next stage. I was strong enough to push off watching the Planet of the Apes movies until they see the third installment, War for the Planet of the Apes, which hits theaters this week.
There are plenty of movies that my boys are not ready to view yet- or I’m not ready to have them view. Jaws, Pitch Black, Alien, and The Abyss are movies who focus more on the terror aspects. Those can be enjoyable and fun but not quite where I want them to be with the genre yet. Besides, it keeps a whole slew of movies in my back pocket for the next holiday weekend of movie watching.
Labor Day is fast approaching. Maybe we’ll go with the Great Wall and Shin Godzilla. Maybe we’ll break out some old classics. No matter what, we’ll turn our brains off for a couple hours and cheer like heck for some great action sequences with fantastic monsters.
Hey guys, feel free to offer some suggestions for Labor Day weekend. Would love to know what y’all recommend.
- Also, a hat-tip to the animators who reward those of us who both love these movies and want to share with our kids who are not quite yet old enough. Monsters versus Aliens and Hotel Transylvania are both fantastic nods, while being completely child-friendly. [↩]