The 411 Movies Top 5 1.24.14: Top 5 Unversal Monster Homages
Posted by Shawn S. Lealos on 01.24.2014
From Bram Stoker's Dracula and An American Werewolf in London to Frankenweenie, The Monster Squad, The Mummy and more, the 411 staff counts down the top 5 modern-day Universal Monster homages!
Welcome to Week 410 of the Movie Zone Top 5. My name is Shawn S. Lealos and you have entered my world.
The 411mania writers were given the following instructions: This week, I, Frankenstein comes out in theaters. With that in mind, lets count down the Top 5 modern day (80s or later) movies that uses the classic Universal monsters (HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME, PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, FRANKENSTEIN'S MONSTER, DRACULA, WOLF MAN, INVISIBLE MAN, MUMMY, CREATURE FROM BLACK LAGGOON). These can include any werewolf and vampire movies but let's try to keep our lists varied and not have a majority of movies with one specific monster.
Honorable Mentions: Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995)
5. Frankenstein Unbound (1990)
Roger Corman's last effort as a director takes the essential Frankenstein story and adds a bunch of weird time travel stuff to it, turning it into a full on science fiction movie as opposed to a horror movie (although there is plenty of horror stuff in it). John Hurt is brilliant as Dr. Buchanan, the weapons designer who creates a weapon so powerful that it alters time (it's the thing that causes Buchanan to travel back in time and meet up with Dr. Frankenstein, played by Raul Julia). The movie doesn't really hit you until the third of fourth time you see it (at least that's what happened with me). It's too bad that this movie isn't as well known as Corman's other works. It's worth checking out.
4. Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992)
Directed by John Carpenter, starring Chevy Chase, and based on a novel by H.F. Saint, Memoirs of an Invisible Man is an action comedy that's more interested in comedy than action, which is kind of weird when you consider the director (Carpenter can do comedy, sure, but he isn't known as a comedy director). There's a bunch of stuff in there involving a sadistic CIA agent played by Sam Neill looking for Chase's rendered-invisible-in-a-freak-accident Nick Halloway, but the majority of the movie is Halloway trying to figure out how to live his life in his new body (he's invisible, his clothes are invisible, but when he eats something you can see the food digesting). Daryl Hannah is Chase's love interest, and they share an easy chemistry that makes you want to spend time with them. Memoirs wasn't a big hit when it came out, but it has gained an audience two decades later. I think Carpenter did a good job.
3. The Mummy (1999)
Director Stephen Sommers took a known horror property in The Mummy and made a big budget action adventure out of it. I don't think anyone thought that would happen (wasn't George A. Romero involved in The Mummy for several years before Sommers came in?). I know I didn't. And I thought the movie looked ridiculous after watching the trailer. But then I saw it and couldn't believe someone hadn't already made it. It was like watching a new, goofy Indiana Jones type movie. It was goddamn brilliant. Brendan Fraser is great as Rick the adventurer, the digital special effects are still awesome to look at, and there's an overall sense of fun throughout the movie, which is amazing since the movie does contain some nasty moments. The Mummy is gruesome looking, people die in horrible ways, and those bugs... eww. The sequels (and spin-off) movies were fun, but the first one is still the ideal. It doesn't diminish the original and it makes the monster new.
2. The Monster Squad (1987)
The Monster Squad is a brilliant monster kid fantasy movie, as it pits a group of horror movie loving youngsters against Dracula, the Wolfman, the Mummy, the Gillman, and to a lesser extent Frankenstein's monster ("Frank" helps the kids out and befriends a little girl, which makes him a good guy). The movie is a bit dated (it definitely feels like an 80's movie), but it still works because you like the kids, even when they're annoying (why are they always picking on Horace the fat kid?). And the monsters are evil. Duncan Regehr is scary as all hooha as Dracula (his women are scary, too), and the Wolfman, when he's in full on wolf mode, is terrifying. I still get a chill up my spine when I think of that scene where the Wolfman transforms inside a phone booth and then runs off into the night. What if the Wolfman turns around and comes after me? And who can forget the whole "Wolfman has nards!" bit?
1. An American Werewolf in London (1981)
When it comes to the horror comedy genre, John Landis' An American Werewolf in London is damn near perfect. No one seems to remember that, though, that it's both a comedy and a horror flick. Everyone remembers the big werewolf transformation scene, where we see David Naughton's David Kessler turn into a werewolf. It's a strong scene that makes you feel David's pain as he shifts from human to werewolf form, all of it done before CGI was the way to do that kind of thing. It makes me cringe just thinking about it. I think I need to go watch this movie again. I'm forgetting myself how much of a comedy it is.
Dude. Come on.
Shawn S. Lealos
5. The Cabin in the Woods
If I was ranking the movies on this list by which ones were my favorites, Cabin in the Woods would be No. 1. However, because the Universal tie-in is not the main focus of this movie, I ranked it as #5 just to get it in here. The movie contains almost every monster and horror trope you can dream up, and the one that was used was zombie hillbillies. However, there was an in-joke playing through the entire movie about a Creature from the Black Lagoon styled Merman monster and how one of the scientists was so angry that it was never chosen. Then, he gets his wish at the end. Brilliantly funny homage to the classic Universal monster.
Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein were not so much about monsters brought back to life as they were about mad scientists. Honestly, one of the greatest characters in the Universal horror movies was the mad scientist, and this even went through their other horror movies with Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff playing these madmen when they weren't playing monsters. With that said, Re-Animator is a great look at the Bride of Frankenstein styled horror movie and Stuart Gordon created a minor masterpiece in this homage to the "playing God" horror genre.
3. Bram Stoker's Dracula
Maybe it was the age I was when I saw this movie, but I still love Francis Ford Coppola's remake of Dracula. I thought that Gary Oldman was perfect as Dracula, proof that he can just disappear into a role and deliver brilliance. Maybe Keanu Reeves as Harker and Winona Ryder as Mina was not the best casting choices, but I don't care. Coppola directed the hell out of this movie and presented a fantastic look at Dracula and one of the best movies about the blood sucker since Hammer did it two decades earlier.
This is a straight up homage to Universal horror in general. Tim Burton made his original short of this back in the 80s when his career was starting and he really got a chance to run with it when he finally got his feature green lit. The movie was almost a perfect animated horror movie, with a young outcast bringing his beloved dog back to life using the same techniques that Dr. Frankenstein did many years before. The, we get other kids creating invisible animals, Godzilla inspired animals, rabid vampire styled animals and a werewolf. Say what you want about Tim Burton, but this movie was a perfect homage to what made Universal horror great.
1. American Werewolf in London
This is the greatest werewolf movie ever made, and I say that as a big fan of Lon Chaney's work in Wolf Man and the House of… sequels. John Landis also made what is probably the best horror comedy ever made with this movie and very little has come close in the year's since. I believe the werewolf genre is the most interesting of the original Universal horror monsters, so making this No. 1 on my list should show how much I admire it.