Godzilla is kind of a big deal.
The Japanese have known that since 1954.
The US has known since 1956 when Raymond Burr nearly defeated the giant lizard with a quick “Yes, I see!”
And ever since then, we’ve been trying to bring Godzilla to our shores.
But there have been other monster movies.
Some of them have even been great! Here’s a good double feature of a couple of the best of the last 10 years.
I’m going to put forward the opinion that, without The Host, the new remake of Godzilla would never have happened. It was a surprise hit in the US market and it made everyone interested in monsters again.
Much like the original Godzilla, The Host centers around a monster made from human arrogance. An American military scientist who is also dangerously OCD (Scott Wilson—Herschel from The Walking Dead!) forces a Korean lab technician to pour a bunch of formaldehyde down the drain and directly into the Han River.
A few years later, young loser Park Gang-doo (Song Kang-ho) is on the beach working at his dad’s newsstand when the resulting monster attacks. It jumps up on the shore and just starts wreaking havoc, dragging people into the water.
When Gang-doo’s daughter, Hyun-seo (Ko Ah-sung), is dragged down, that’s when things get terrible…but really interesting. Gang-doo and his family (including his father, sister and brother) are all pulled into a military medical facility where they’re told that they may have contracted a horrible disease from contact with the creature. But they have to get Hyun-seo back! What to do?!
The Host is one of the most emotional monster movies I’ve ever seen. Gang-doo goes from pathetic loser who has no idea how to live life to protective father with most of the ideas basically as soon as his daughter is taken by a hides monster. And when he finds out that she’s still alive, he kicks into high gear.
Hyun-seo’s adventure with the monster is just as compelling as the family’s time with the hunt. She meets a little homeless boy who was also dragged under water with his older brother. The two children have to fight to survive and figure a way out of their prison, complete with dead bodies.
So, yeah. This is a pretty dark movie.
If you’ve never seen The Host, you should.
Even if you typically don’t like monster movies, this is a cut above. You’ll like it because the characters are real. They aren’t just people thrown in front of a monster as fodder. They live. They breathe.
And when they die, you feel it. Hard.
I love the hell out of The Host. Check it out today.
Written and directed by Gareth Edwards
Speaking of Godzilla, here’s the director’s first monster movie.
Ok, so it’s actually an alien movie, but does it really matter where the monsters come from? I don’t think so. This is a monster movie.
The difference is that the monsters aren’t the focus at all. In fact, you hardly see them. The real focus is the two lead characters.
The alien invasion has been going on for six years. Long enough that there are “infected zones” all over the world. The northern part of Mexico is about to be declared infected. Andrew (Scoot McNairy) agrees to take Samantha (Whitney Able) through the zone to get her to the US border where there’s a giant wall being built to keep the aliens out. (Yep. There’s some commentary going on here.) She’s engaged and he’s a confirmed bachelor, but…well…ya know. High stress situations and all that.
Monsters was made on a super low budget using prosumer equipment and shot almost completely on the fly. The actors were given basic descriptions of scenes and improvised the rest. Most of the time, the crew didn’t have permission to shoot and the “extras” were people who just happened to be around the area. Edwards did all of the special effects himself on his laptop.
So that’s part of why I have so much respect for this movie. Another reason is that it went against everyone’s expectations. You see a movie called “Monsters” and you think that there are going to be monster fights and stuff. What this movie ended up being was a drama about two people getting to know each other in a very believable way. They’re scared for their lives while roaming through an area with giant creatures from another planet taking up residence there. They also take the time to get to know the people who live in Mexico…and even learn a little about the aliens themselves. (Yep. MORE commentary!)
Gareth Edwards is a big reason why was excited to see the new Godzilla movie. Sadly, the new film doesn’t live up to this one.
It’s not a complete travesty, but it’s not as good.
If you’ll note, I didn’t put Pacific Rim in here. It absolutely is one of my favorite monster movies of all time. But, even though it didn’t make nearly enough money at the box office to become Guillermo del Toro’s Star Wars (as he said he wanted it to be), I feel like enough people know about it to warrant leaving it out of this double feature.
I really wanted to feature a couple of movies that people might have forgotten about or maybe didn’t even know about.
But still…see Pacific Rim. Definitely.