Classic Cult: Monsters

Defined by its ability to achieve high levels of popularity despite a relatively poor reception from mainstream audiences, the quintessential cult film gathers a devoted fan base by strategically deploying a number of specific devices. From the “so bad it’s good” to “the more gore the better,” cult flicks accentuate features that are often only hinted at in commercial cinema to produce an exciting if somewhat niche form of entertainment.

With the recent release of Norwegian fantasy film The Troll Hunter, The Student has this week decided to look at the part monsters have played in forming one of the more notable sub-genres within cult cinema. From Ishirô Honda’s 1954 classic Gojira to John Landis’ American Werewolf in London, monsters have littered cult films for decades. There’s something about seeing a ridiculously over the top creature, more often than not looking like a peculiar man in drag, that has managed to continually captivate the imagination of the cult film buff.

Regularly found residing in low-budget horror flicks where a measly budget leads to some hilarious viewing, the cult movie monster combines the finest costumes cardboard and fake fur can muster with an ambitious pinch of science-fiction. It is often the case that the more ludicrous and farfetched the being in question is, the more likely cult status will be acquired. These all seem like odd conditions for the success of a film, but they aptly cover the necessary requirements for cult cinema.

However, as André Øvredal’s new film illustrates, in recent years there seems to have been a transition to a darker, more serious depiction of the supernatural. Using various techniques such as an overly awkward and shaky camera, the viewer is offered mere glimpses of the monstrous, allowing tension and suspense to be increased. This, combined with advancements in the quality of CGI, has led to a very different type of monster film.

Whilst a place has been reserved in cult cinema for the absurd, there seems to be a certain something that has been lost as technology has improved. One can’t really compare the likes of The Creature from the Black Lagoon with Mega Shark Vs. Giant Octopus. Poor CGI, no matter how funny, can never compete with a man in a costume.

It is clear that monsters have managed to retain their deserved place within cult cinema, but whether they will be able to keep that nostalgic charm which made them cult films in the first place is another question. After all, one can never tire of watching Teen Wolf, but who will be watching Cloverfield in 20 years time?

Taken from The Student, published Tue Sep 13th 2011.

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