A History of Monster Movies
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District 9

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District 9 represents the culmination of many aspects of the monster movies from years past all in one film. The movie combines found footage, body horror, and intensely violent action all in a science fiction setting in order to convey a compelling message on the dangers of ignorance. District 9 even plays on the "humanity is really the monster" trope established all the way back in 1932 by King Kong. The special effects, a combination between practical and digital effects really carry the film, just as it does in all monster movies. The monsters, while not nearly as iconic as, say, the Xenomorph from the Alien series, are equal parts sympatheic and disgusting, highlighting the importance of good monster design, now nearly perfected by modern film makers. Audiences today get the best of both worlds, their monsters neither the thought provoking yet slow moving villians from early monster films nor the illusive mindless killing machines of more recent monster movies.

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'Cloverfield Is a Horror'

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2008 saw the release of J.J. Abrams' Cloverfield. Just as Godzilla was a reaction to the atomic bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima in 1945, Cloverfield is a reaction to the September 11 terrorist attacks.  The film continues the tradition of blending elements from histrically successful films, here combining the "found" footage trope  popularized by the Blair Witch Project with the "mysterious monster you don't really see until the end" trope perfected by Jaws. Cloverfield proved audiences still have an appetite for big monsters and was the highest grossing January film ever at the time of its release.

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E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

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Although ET is not traditionally considered a straight up and down monster movie, it contains clever adaptation of many of the classic monster movie tropes. In monster movies up to this point, the antagonist monster fights against the protagonist government or police forces. ET reverses the roles as the faceless govenrment agents hunt the movies heroes. ET was portrayed by a series of highly complicated and detailed puppets in a process that never required an actor in a suit, harkening back to early classics like King Kong.

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Alien (1979) Trailer

Trailer for the 1979 movie Alien
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The 1970's and 1980's saw a resergence of the monster in movies. Directors of the era took special effects, costumes and make up to incredible new heights. Gone are the slow moving, jerky monsters from fifty years prior. Monster movies during this time feature fast, mysterious, hyper violent killers that rarely resemble anything human. These movies tended to be tention filled, incredibly violent, and often blended elements from other genres, especially science fiction and action. These new blockbuster monster movies are exemplified perfectly in this iconic trailer for Ridley Scott's Alien. Other examples include Jaws and the 1982 remake of The Thing.

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Universal Monsters: A Brief History of Horror

A short history of of Universal's monster films done using only trailers, clips and photos found online, as well as information from my own memory, for a com...
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Universal found early success in the horror movie genre starting with the release of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Boris Karloff played many of the now iconic monster roles Universal put out in the 1930's. The now defunct RKO pictures released King Kong in 1933, helping to continue this initial trend of monsters in movies that lasted until the mid 1950's and Creature from the Black Lagoon. All of these movies featured extensive use of a combination of special effects and make up to create the villianous monsters.

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The Thing (1982)

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John Carpenter presented audiences with a monster as they had never seen before or since. Combining elements of slasher and body horror films, 1982's The Thing still stands out in the pantheon of monster movies despite being a remake. The incredibly grusome transformation scenes still stand up to this day due to the spectacular use of practical special effects. The puppets used in this movie really showcase how far movie makers had come since the golden age of univseral monsters in the 1930's and 40's.

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Godzilla : King of the Monsters

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In 1954 Godzilla was released in Japan. The series would go on to spin off 28 films in total, with another due out next year. Not to mention the countless lower-quality knockoffs. This original Godzilla film was released two years later in America under the name Godzilla: King of the Monsters with new scenes filmed in english for the American audience. With small budgets and not much in the way of innovation with each successive film, the Godzilla series rode the novelty and uniqueness of the original film to go onto become a staple of the monster movie conversation.

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B movies and trash - Cult Films

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Lower qualitiy "knock-off" monster movies were made beginning in the 1930's but they really came into their own in the late 50's into the 60's. As audiences grew bored of the first generation of monster movies, studios tapered their production off, leaving only unoriginal remakes and rehashes to tread already well-traveled ground. It was not until the blockbuster era with the release of Jaws that monster movies began to be looked at seriously again.

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King Kong | 1933

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Monster movies have always pushed the boundaries of special effects technology. This scene from the 1933 King Kong features an early example of stop motion animation. There is no human actor portraying King Kong throughout the entire moive. Instead, the character is made up entirely by special effects and camera tricks. The director carefully works around the limitations of the technique by having the moment when King Kong picks his victim up hidden from view.

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The Psychological Appeal of Monsters

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As audience's tastes changed, so have monster movies. This academic paper gives a detailed look into the age and gender dynamics at play in finding an audience for monster movies. Young audience tend to enjoy more recent, highly violent monsters instead of their more gentle, aged counterparts from decades past.

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