MONSTER

1. The Alien

There are so many great monster movies. Monsters from the deep. Monsters from outer space. Monsters from the laboratory. The walking, crawling, shuffling, sprinting dead.

My favorite monster movies? Off the top of my head? Nosferatu. Frankenstein. Godzilla. Alien and Aliens.

Let’s see, that’s one vampire, one experiment gone horribly wrong, one gigantic, radioactive dinosaur, and some extremely nasty life-forms from another world.

It seems to me a good monster is always an Implacable Other. A relentless, powerful entity with which one cannot plead, bargain, or reason.

Monsters are hard to kill. That’s pretty much what monster movies are about. Kill or be killed. There’s little ambiguity in monster movies. I think that’s why, after nearly a century of horror and sci-fi films, their appeal remains strong.

We like our monster narratives to end with the death of the monster. This is a cathartic moment.

You can waste a monster. It’s okay.

Stake through the heart. Immolation. In Godzilla’s case, it takes a new weapon so potentially lethal to mankind that the inventor kills himself along with the monster to keep the device from ever being duplicated. Or at least that’s what it says on Wiki. I didn’t remember that part. I always thought Godzilla went back into the ocean to wait for the sequels.

My favorite movie monster is the Alien.

Ridley Scott’s 1979 movie (screenplay by Dan O’Bannon) launched a new era of horror/sci-fi cinema. As Salon.com critic Andrew O’Hehir has pointed out, “Almost every horror film since Alien has ripped it off in some way, but most of the imitations have focused on details — a slimy killing-machine monster that is both vaginal and penile; the dripping, cavernous interiors of the Nostromo; those immensely influential H. R. Giger ‘biomechanical’ designs — and missed what you might call the overall Zeitgeist of the film.”

Seven years later, James Cameron upped the ante with Aliens. If you thought one Alien was scary … I think it’s Cameron’s best film, hands down.

Oh, and the franchise stars Sigourney Weaver. Weaver, a Serious Actor Who Went To Yale, knocked it out of the park in the first of her many starring film roles.

Alien should have won Best Picture in 1979, but it wasn’t even nominated. The award went to Kramer vs. Kramer. (Smacks forehead in disbelief.)

2. Edward Van Halen’s Guitar on Van Halen (1978)

Sure, Van Halen has a lot of things to answer for, like letting Sammy Hagar join the band. But once upon a time, they were the best arena act in the world.

Van Halen was a sonic juggernaut, thanks to veteran producer Ted Templeman, who convinced Warner Bros. to sign the band: The Van Halen brothers, guitarist Eddie and drummer Alex; the bass player, Michael Anthony; and a motor-mouthed front man named David Lee Roth.

Now regarded as a game-changer, the album was loathed by many critics when it was released. Some ridiculed it as the work of a bar band that had simply lucked into a record deal. “Van Halen” is still, for many, synonymous with Bad or Dumb music.

Templeman crafted a signature sound for the band that was unlike anything that had come before, an amalgam of hard rock, pop savvy, and studio bombast.

As Van Halen’s fame grew, the media spotlight was usually on Roth, a natural-born ham and provocateur.

It would take a while for people to realize what the kid on the homemade guitar was doing, to understand he’d created those techniques and sounds.

EVH, Monster of Rock.

3. Anton Chigurh (No Country for Old Men)

Chigurh scared me just as much in the Coen Brothers’ 2007 film as he did in Cormac McCarthy’s 2005 novel. Lots.

4. Tequila

As we all know, alcoholic beverages are tasty fun. Until somebody loses an eye.

Tequila brings out the inner werewolf. A few measures send one scampering, clad in a few scraps of clothing, across the fog-bound moors, howling “Saturday Night” by the Bay City Rollers. Some tequila drinkers are never seen again in human form.

Beware this Monster of Adult Beverages!

5. The Guy in the Mirror

All things Monstrous reside in our thoughts and imaginings. Is it going too far to say we need our monsters? I think not.

Monsters keep us on our toes. Monsters whisper terrible secrets to us. We invest our monsters with power and mystery.

Enjoy your contentment, your perfect moment, your flawless spring day. Monsters don’t mind. They wait patiently in the twilight to be of service.

John Hicks lives outside the city limits, where eagles dare.

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