Author Archives: Mark S. Deniz

About Mark S. Deniz

English teacher, writer, editor, publisher, reviewer and blogger. Founder of publishing company, Morrigan Books and imprint, Gilgamesh Press. Also cycles, listens to lots and lots of music, reads a ton of books and tries to fit in some TV, film and writing too.

Monster Awareness Month–The End

Written by Monster Awareness Month team member, Mark S. Deniz

The monster of all monsters

And it’s over, the end of another of the awareness months and, dare I say it, the best so far?

In terms of development and work it sort of makes sense that this month should have been the best, as we are learning with each subsequent month, more and more people are interested, the team is bigger, etc. but I’m a little surprised it’s been my favourite month, due to my obsession with our ghostly friends, thinking that they would always top the bill.

I think it’s due to not only the quality of the posts for the monsters, mainly from Robert Hood and Sharon Ring but also my realising that I don’t know enough about the monsters and so thoroughly enjoying my education for the last twenty eight days, in the form of film, article and comments.

It has made me appreciate films I have struggled with (Jurassic Park), re-united me with old classics (Jason and the Argonauts and The Thing) and allowed me to waffle about those crazy camcorder films again (Cloverfield). In answer to Rob’s earlier comment about enjoying the posts, even when not always agreeing, I see exactly what he means. It’s been very easy to see that the people who have contributed to the month, have a genuine interest in the subject matter and want others to know about it too. I have loved that side of it.

We were treated to a lot of reviews this time, with many of the films being subject to at least one review (in fact some were reviewed twice). The articles on various monster themes, from monster anatomy to the mind of a monster, to slime and blob and goo, to Marvel Monsters were accompanied by wonderful reminisces about the joys of monsters. I don’t need to go through them all here, you read them already (and if you didn’t you can check them out in the archives)! I would, however, like to take this opportunity to thank you all for your contributions, be it posts, comments, support (or all three!) and know that you’ve made what would have been a decent month into an absolutely brilliant month!

Of course there have been the behind-the-scenes glitches, obvious in an event of this size, with such short deadlines and it is here that I want to publicly thank those that have stood beside me all the way and made sure that this month has been one to remember. Thank you to Robert Hood, to Sharon Ring, to Orrin Grey, to Harry Markov and to KV Taylor, for your help, enthusiasm, cracking posts and for making this team so much fun to be part of.

And it is, now, with great pleasure, that I announce that four of the above names are to join me on the next event to be held in the awareness themed months, that of Zombie Awareness Month in May.

Before I leave though, you may remember that I mentioned that we were giving away a signed copy of the excellent copy of the original Daikaiju: Giant Monster Tales anthology, edited by Robert Hood and Robin Pen.

All you have to do is tell us here, in the comments which was you favourite film of the month and why (or even which film you can’t believe we put in, or left out, and why) and we’ll put you in the hat for the draw on Friday this week.

Also remember that you still have a chance to win the boxed set of Hammer films as offered on NKKingston’s site earlier in the month.

Thanks again for being part of this, and make sure you tell your friends (and enemies) about the Zombies – it promises to be a cracker too!


Filed under Article, Monster Awareness Month

Daikaiju and Mr. Hood

Interview conducted by Monster Awareness Month member, Mark S. Deniz

It has been my great privilege to not only have Robert Hood on the team for Monster Awareness Month but to be able to read some excellent articles by him too! Now, I get the added treat of being able to ask him some monstrous questions…



1. I was going to ask you about where it all started Rob, but I think you answered that quite effectively in Where Monsters Dwell and so I’m going to focus more on the why. You’ve hinted at a few reasons in the articles for Monster Awareness Month but why are monsters such a passion for you?

That’s a difficult question, Mark, because so much of the “passion” comes from a place that’s pretty deeply buried in the subconscious.

I’d say there are two answers to it. One, the easiest, is historical. It’s a matter of opportunity. The fact is I loved monster comics from the first time I saw them, which was probably in the form of serialised strips featuring Turok, Son of Stone published in the newspaper. Turok was a native American who discovered a “lost world” and ended up fighting dinosaurs to survive.  I remember hunting through piles of old papers in the local dump, back when you were allowed to scavenge and the dumps weren’t simply acres of mashed-up refuse, to fill out back issues of the storyline. Later I got to buy the colour versions in comicbook format, published by Dell. Other monster comics, like Where Monsters Dwell, followed. When we got a TV (and we were the first on my block to have one as my father worked for a retail company that sold electrical and other household goods and bought what was at the time a big one on the basis of an employee discount), I discovered old monster and other SF/fantasy movies, becoming familiar with the Creature from the Black Lagoon, Frankenstein’s monster and the like — but mostly the absolute dross of US 1940s and 50s monster flicks — on such shows as the horror-host Deadly Earnest’s Aweful Movies. I loved them all, good and bad — and even then got irate when I realised that the films were censored, often to remove close-ups of the monster. Still, beggars can’t be choosers. The challenge became getting permission to stay up late, which was inevitably when the best films were on. I nagged a lot. Cinema played a lesser but significant role. In the early days, I didn’t get to go to the cinema much. But when I did, one of the most memorable was Harryhausen’s The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad. That would have been in 1958, when I was 7. I spend weeks afterwards drawing pictures of the various monsters from memory. Again, the experience of seeing those impossible creatures on the screen was deeply awesome.

Occasionally I’d  get hold of a copy of a film magazine like Famous Monsters of Filmland and so was introduced to all the monsters from films I hadn’t seen — some of which, though I knew them well by sight, featuring in movies I didn’t get to experience for myself until decades later. One such was Godzilla. I so wanted to see the original version, but it wasn’t until SBS showed it — the original Japanese Gojira — in the 1990s that I managed to view it and REALLY became obsessed. (Remember, for most of my life there was no such thing as home video.) I didn’t see the Americanised version until later and I’m definitely glad I saw the “real” one first! Oddly, another late-viewed movie was the other great giant monster film, King Kong. Somehow, I never managed to see it on TV, though I always wanted to. It was a bit of an obsession. Then in the 70s the local flea-pit cinema showed a weird double bill consisting of Andy Warhol’s Heat and the original King Kong. I went to see Kong — and thus actually got to experience the film for the first time on a big screen. A great, indeed an awesome, moment! I could fully put myself in the place of the 1930s audience that was terrified and awed by those remarkable images moving on the screen. There’s nothing like it.

Reading over what I’ve written here it’s obvious, I think, that a central fascination in monsters for me is visual. Purely word-based monsters — introduced to me in horror fiction, short story anthologies like the Pan Book of Horror Stories series, the works of H.G. Wells, SF magazines like Galaxy and If, the copies of Dracula and Frankenstein that my mother bought me one day — came later. At first I simply loved the look of the monsters. They were something you never saw in reality. They were products of imagination. Pure products of the imagination, sometimes scary, sometimes exciting, always awesome. This in turn feeds into the concept of the Monster — the concept of not simply the non-human, but the inhuman. Monsters go beyond the natural into the world of the unnatural. I knew full well they didn’t exist in reality, even dinosaurs, but they did exist — vividly and purely — in the imagination. This brings us to the second answer to your question: the metaphysical and metaphorical power of the Monster.

It all becomes rationalisation after the fact from this point. My fascination for monsters (in fiction, of course) doesn’t spring from a childhood trauma as I didn’t really have one of any great significance. But Monsters clearly represent something that goes to the heart not just of Robert Hood, but of human nature in general. And that thing is, I think, imagination. Human imagination is possibly the strongest force that exists in the human world, one that drives our entire civilisation, motivates scientists and molds history. Some, such as mystic poet William Blake, saw imagination as the Divine in us. It is the primal creative force, the thing that makes us transcend the rational world — and so what must God be, he said, if not Human Imagination? As I got older and began to became a writer — a writer whose imagination was thoroughly immersed in monstrous imagery — I naturally wrote about monsters, not always, of course, but much of the time. As creatures of unrestrained imagination monsters were not only liberating and fascinating, but also powerful literary tools. Their imaginative nature makes them infinitely amenable to metaphorical interpretation. They are “living” containers of complex symbolic meaning. For me the most powerful art isn’t that which most closely re-creates the external realities of life, but that which offers an imaginative structure that allows the artist to explore aspects of life that don’t translate well into rational constructs. When, like Frankenstein’s creature, the Monster becomes a vessel for expressing the irrational and ineffable realities of existence, the result is often some of the most potent imagery that mankind has produced. The great monsters contain passion as well as thought. Frankenstein’s monster, Dracula, Godzilla, King Kong, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, dragons, rampant robots, the living dead: these are all so much more than fictional entertainments. Their real power comes from the complex meanings that they carry within their nature — and often that meaning is so contentious and hard to pin down adequately because it goes beyond the rational. Gods and monsters: in essence they are part of the same imaginative super-complex that makes us human.

2. You mentioned about your writing of monsters in the last answer and so I’m going to stay marginally within that and talk about our exciting giveaway in conjunction with this interview, and that is the Daikaiju books you’ve edited. As a writer and viewer of monsters, how did editing them (with Robin Pen) compare?

The excellent Dakaiju cover from Bob Eggleton


The idea to edit an anthology of giant monster stories came from my own enthusiasm to read fiction featuring giant monsters and a simultaneous inability to find any, or at least none that had been collected into a single dedicated volume. Certainly, as far as I could ascertain, up to that time no one had ever edited a collection of new giant monster stories as such. Dragons, yes, but not real kaiju. Agog! Press was keen on the idea and I asked Robin Pen if he was interested in being a co-editor. I did this for two reasons: firstly, because Robin and I had bonded over our mutual enthusiasm for daikaiju eiga even though we lived on separate sides of the continent, but secondly because I wanted an independent eye to confirm (or otherwise) my choices. Having him on board also meant that I felt I could submit a story of my own. I wrote one and sent it to Robin under a pseudonym. He approved of it, but in the end I didn’t include it in that first volume as I decided it wasn’t quite appropriate for editors of anthologies to include their own work, even if independently vetted. By the third volume though, I caved in to pressure and embraced the inappropriate nature of the whole thing by putting my story into what would be the last volume. Thematically, it summed up everything that the three books had been about, so it seemed like a reasonable enough decision.

In the beginning I wasn’t sure we’d get many submissions at all, let alone good ones. But I needed have worried. Stories flooded in from around the world — excellent, good, indifferent and bad. A lot of bad, but really not nearly as many as I expected. We could be very picky, and were. I also worked quite hard with a few authors when I came across stories that contained a unique idea that appealed to me but which needed lots of re-writing to get them up to peak effectiveness. Writers were invariably (well, almost invariably) willing to go along with me, sometimes re-writing more than once and putting up with having me mangle their prose. The result didn’t always get in anyway, but in one case at least the story did get in even though it was the author’s first professionally published story — and afterwards it sometimes got singled out for praise in reviews.

In the end we had a great collection of stories — a collection that really surprised people who were expecting verbal parodies of the daikaiju films that had inspired the book. There is a huge spread of tone, approach, narrative structure, theme and storyline in the 27 stories (plus two haiku and a film commentary piece) that made it in (and made the book over-sized in terms of optimum postage rates, I might add). One of them a faux film script about giant monsters making a giant monster film (which has since been made into an actual animated film). Even the artwork proved to be special. Out of the blue I got an email from multiple Hugo Award winner Bob Eggleton, offering to do a cover. “Bob,” I said, “we could never afford you.” “Doesn’t matter,” he replied, “I just really want to do it!” So we got ourselves an Eggleton cover for peanuts. I also gained a friend in US artist Todd Tennant, who illustrated the “film script” story. We’ve worked together on other projects since and Todd has recently finished a graphic novel, It Came from Beneath the Sea… Again!, for Bluewater Productions.

Such enthusiasm was the key to the Daikaiju! project. Robin and I were enthusiastic and so were the authors, who managed to mingle enthusiasm with sheer creative intelligence. As I say, the result surprised people, who hadn’t expected the theme to allow for so much inventiveness and literary nous. I was really pleased when Daikaiju! Giant Monster Tales won the 2006 Ditmar Award for Best Collection and stories from it were nominated for assorted awards. One story, a short and clever piece titled “Read It In the Headlines!” by Garth Nix, ended up in David Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer’s Year’s Best Fantasy 6. And of course there were so many worthy stories left over that we eventually produced two more volumes, supplementing stories we had retained with specially commissioned additions. The first run of the first volume sold out quickly and Agog! did a second run. That has now sold out as well. Agog! Press subsequently made a deal with Prime Books for all three volumes to be published in the US. The Australian editions might be sold out, but the books are still available on Amazon — even in hardcover, no less. Unfortunately Todd’s internal illustration couldn’t be included in the US edition for logistic reasons, but the winner of the Monster Awareness Month competition will receive what is literally the last remaining spare copy of the Aussie edition — and that only turned up by chance when I found it at the back of a cupboard when I was moving offices at work!

So, did I answer your question, Mark? I’m not sure. I love writing stories and I love watching the giant monster movies — and I loved editing Daikaiju! Sure, the lengthy reading period we set drove me mad, and the editing was time-consuming and exhausting, but it was definitely worth the trouble. I still firmly believe that Daikaiju! is the best book of its kind ever.

3. My son, Maddoc, has been obsessing a little this weekend about a certain Gojira character after seeing a couple of clips from Godzilla tributes and the remake. I remember when we visited you a few years ago you had an entire glass cabinet full of Godzilla figures. When did your obsession with them begin and how is the collection looking at present?

As I’ve mentioned, though I knew about the Big G, I didn’t get to see any of the Godzilla films until the late 1990s, thanks to SBS (Australia’s Government-funded international TV network). It was the original Japanese version — and I loved it immediately. After that I sought out other G films, though at first all I could get hold of were the (mostly) very poorly edited and dubbed US versions — you know, the ones that most people in the West associate with bad Jap monster movies, albeit fun. A lot of them simply weren’t available. This led me to what has been dubbed my “Godzilla supplier” — a fan who produced good quality DVDs and provided dubbing also done by fans. I’m not a supporter of piracy, but he couldn’t have been in it for the money as his DVDs were very cheap — and anyway once the films became available commercially, I bought them again. In fact once they became commercially available he stopped selling them. Seeing them as they are supposed to be seen was a revelation — especially in the case of King Kong vs Godzilla — though that film still isn’t available anywhere (legitimately) in its original form. The version available on Amazon is the truly insulting US edit.

Anyway by the time I had all the G films in original Japanese versions with English subtitles (and a whole lot of other Japanese kaiju and SF/fantasy films to boot), my interest was fairly ingrained and I purchased some of the monster sculptures and models out of sheer fannish glee. Also out of an appreciation of their inherent beauty. The collection hasn’t grown much since you saw it — no room and they ARE expensive — but I still love looking at them. And so do visitors.

The one I REALLY wanted was a working model of Godzilla I saw in Chinatown in Sydney that was about two foot high, beautifully made and robotic. Yes, it had a supposed repertoire of 48 movements, with sounds effects and everything! But it also cost $3000. At the time we were considering buying a house — so the choice was between somewhere to live and a robotic Godzilla. Sensible logic pushed me toward the house. Pity really.

Room in the cabinet?

$3,000? Oh my! Well Maddoc has now switched from Godzilla to Rodan, so I’d better not be thinking of surprising him with gifts like that, especially with his fickle moods…

Rodan: The Samurai of the Skies


4. There’s something very exciting and fun about the Kaiju but what about a subject that you and Sharon Ring have been tackling regularly during this month, that of the man as monster?

In many ways, monsters are an incarnation of aspects of humanity that we are perhaps reluctant to admit to, but which horror fiction throws in our face and makes us embrace. Some of the greatest monsters make this explicit — such as Mr Hyde, and endless killers such as Hannibal Lector, Jack the Ripper (real but fictionalise) and even supernatural foes like Freddy Krueger.

Other monsters display the connection between man and monster more symbolically, in terms of human responsibility in creating them — Frankenstein’s monster is one such, but so is Godzilla, though in a different way. Many (if not all) kaiju and other giant monsters are products of human greed, ambition, folly… or are awakened by our careless actions — some deliberate, some unintentional. Such monsters become symbols of responsibility (or our failure to recognise it) as well as the negative consequences of our civilisation, our scientific striving to gain power over the environment or even simply our deepening understanding of the world and what makes it tick. In this latter aspect, they shouldn’t be understood as propaganda against the pursuit of science (as they are often portrayed). But they are a recognition that with increased power over nature and with greater understanding comes heightened risk, greater danger and deeper responsibility. After all, it was the gaining of hitherto forbidden knowledge that caused Adam and Eve to be driven from the idyllic safety of the Garden of Eden out into a world of death, violence, failure and striving. With ambition comes the potential for evil. With understanding comes the loss of innocence. That is the monster … and it is as human as it comes.

Then again, Forbidden Planet‘s monsters from the Id are a direct representation of the dangers we face from the repressed forces that dwell deep within us — dangers that will destroy us unless we face them, understand them. This is something that many monsters are made of. In essence, of course, the Monster is the Other — that which is not us, or which we choose to disown. Often it becomes a monster because we disown it, deny it, let it grow hateful and bitter. So if in one way monsters are a product of the striving for knowledge, they are also the result of ignorance and denial.
Malicious ghosts are most often the result of murder or injustice (another failure of responsibility), or tasks unfulfilled. Vampires are those aspects of humanity that feed on us, drain us of the ability to live, even though their own origins are human. Werewolves are the beast in us, the passions we can’t control. All these are related, but it’s not hard to see the human aspects of them all.

The mystic poet Blake saw monsters as the result of division and self-delusion, our denial of humanity. In the end, we can’t simply destroy them — because that gives them power over us and as the endless resurrections of Godzilla, Dracula, Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers, Jason Vorhees etc. illustrates, they just return stronger than ever. It’s recognition they want.

But it’s a complicated business, this monster-hunting, and what I’ve said barely scratches the surface in terms of the meaning of this particular product of our cultural imagination. You could write a book about them — and many people have. But that’s what’s great about them, what keeps us fascinated with them. They are the Other, yet they are Us. Whether we are conscious of doing it or not, monsters make us question our world and ourselves — and the love-hate relationship with have with them is part of the love-hate relationship we have with ourselves.
Mind you, sometimes, it’s enough that the monsters are simply fun!

Cover for Daikaiju 3 by the talented Nick Stathopoulos

5. What have been your highlights of the month, Rob?

Just thinking about all things Monster under the guidance of interested and well-informed folk has been a great pleasure. Reading the views of others — even if you disagree with particular statements and judgements — makes you query and refine you own point-of-view, and helps to remind you why you love the Big Ugly Brutes (the monsters, not the writers). In particular I enjoyed Sharon Ring’s perceptive and detailed examination of Clive Barker’s view of the Monster in his work — though of course there are many other entries that could be highlighted for praise. And being forced to write my own articles — and hence think about and delve into films (and, as it happened, comics) that I love is a wonderful impetus to both renewed enjoyment of them and inspiration for my own writing.

Godzilla and son

6. There have been 28 films showcased in the month too, and I think the team has given those coming along a good sense of the monster in film. Are there any other films you would recommend as a follow-up for those thoroughly caught up in the monster films?

As anyone who read my Ultraman article might have guessed, I’d suggest seeing some Ultraman — the original series if you must, but better for the uninitiated would be one of the recent movies. Ultraman (2004; dir. Kazuya Konaka) [aka Ultraman: The Next] would be ideal, and it is available on DVD in the West. While I’m on all things Japanese, I’d strongly advise people to seek out Shusuke Kaneko’s 1990s Gamera trilogy, especially the third — which I would rate as probably the best single daikaiju eiga ever:

  1. Gamera daikaiju kuchu kessen [trans. Gamera: Giant Monster Midair Showdown] (1995; dir. Shusuke Kaneko) [aka Gamera: The Guardian of the Universe (US, 1995; dir. Shusuke Kaneko and Matt Greenfield)]
  2. Gamera 2: Region shurai [trans. Gamera 2: Attack of Legion] (1996; dir. Shusuke Kaneko) [aka Gamera 2: Advent of Legion, Gamera 2: Assault of the Legion]
  3. Gamera 3: Iris kakusei (1999; dir. Shusuke Kaneko) [aka Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris and Gamera 3: The Awakening of Iris]

Also take a glance at the recently released Evangelion 1.11: You Are (Not) Alone (Japan-2007; dir. Masayuki Yamaguchi, Kazuya Tsurumaki and Hideaki Anno), which is the first of four animated films remaking Hideaki Anno’s influential anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion. It offers an intriguing, and quite unique, take on the Monster, from many angles. Check out my recent review here:

Leaving giant monsters for a moment I’d add the superb Hammer version of Nigel Kneale’s Quatermass and the Pit [aka Five Million Years to Earth] (UK-1967; dir. Roy Ward Baker). Kneale had a unique approach to the monstrous that is at its peak in this film (and in the serial that originated it). Here, in a way that isn’t all that predictable, the Monsters are indeed us.

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Filed under Interview, Monster Awareness Month

Cloverfield – review

Written by Monster Awareness Month team member, Mark S. Deniz

[Part Two of Mark’s ‘Handheld Cinema Classics’ trilogy]

Something has found us…

So reads the tagline of one of the most powerful films of its type so far. Being as several of the monster obsessives I know have dismissed the film (for various reasons) and seeing as I, much as I am a lover of monster films, am not a monster film devotee, I am aware I may well be treading on thin ice in praising its quality. However, as I’m not known to easily shy away from making a fool of myself in defending a beloved movie, I take to the stage once more…

I agree the film starts quite badly, even though I understand why. There’s a distinct lack of personality from the protagonists and the hand-held camera action is hard work at times, even for me. I usually don’t have a problem with the camcorder effect but in the early stages of Cloverfield I really struggle.


The warning

There’s the shaky camera work, party gossip, revelations of flings at Rob’s leaving party and the wonder at this point is possibly why you’re watching the film.

And then…a little over eighteen minutes in, the film begins in earnest. We did need the intro for the characters but it was all leading to this, to the monster.

The film picks up in action, pace, intensity, and even though I adored the early pay off in The Host, where we see the monster in no time at all, I feel that the delay in showing us the Cloverfield monster was done to perfection.

I completely jumped out of my seat when the Statue of Liberty’s head came flying down the street[1], just before we caught our first glimpse of something big, something monstrous near a skyscraper.


The monster

A sense of panic builds as the party goers, along with half of New York, try to make their way out of the city before we see a massive tail take half of the bridge (and Rob’s brother Jason along with it).

This is where, like The Blair Witch Project, that Cloverfield stands out, as the filming feels real, you can’t understand why someone would keep filming at a time of such distress and faced with something so unbelievable but you also understand why it happens. It almost becomes an extension of ‘Hud’.

We then get a glimpse of the monster from another ‘screen’ as people in an electronic store stop to see the monster’s companions, the smaller beasties, grabbing a few civilians from the street before the best shot when the four protagonists flee down a subway tunnel to get away.

It’s here when I think the early stages of the film are justified, as we see Rob’s insistence on tracking down Beth, (which we would have had no feeling for otherwise) and Rob’s telephone call from his mother, where he has to explain that his brother, Jason, is dead.

They’re all running in the same direction. It’s like they’re running away.

From what?

And then we meet the little beasties, who are not actually so little, and where, unfortunately, the film loses a little again. As much as we want the camcorder to follow the action, we want it to be as believable as possible, to strengthen our suspension of disbelief. As ‘Hud’ is attacked by the monsters, there is no way he’s going to keep that camera running, or hold it while his companions are attacked. Again this is where The Blair Witch Project shines, as there is never a moment in that film where the camera action doesn’t gel, doesn’t fit.

The film blends the pace well, the direction keeping the dialogue within reasonable frameworks, before handing over to the action, which in turn is sharp and punchy.

After leaving the subways and the smaller monsters, we move into, what I consider the most disturbing part of the film, where Marlena starts to show symptoms from the attack and they are surrounded by the military, before Marlena is taken into quarantine. I’m not so sure whether this is disturbing because of what is actually happening to Marlena or due to the whole military involvement and what that usually results in in these kinds of situations. That they are befriended by an army officer, who helps them to get out of the building helps to counter this trope, but serves more to dilute than to diffuse.

We then follow Lily, Rob and ‘Hud’ as they make their way to the apartment block where Beth is, and here is one of the most gripping and enjoyable scenes, as they travel between collapsed rooms, at dangerous angles to get to their destination.

During the trip to Beth and the ensuing reunion, between her and Rob, we are witness to a cacophony of sounds, both from inside the apartment (as ‘Hud’ is forced to put the camera down to help them rescue Beth) but also from the battle outside between the monster and the military.

What’s that?

Something else, also terrible!

Leaving in the helicopter gives us much more scope, as instead of seeing everything up close and personal we get an overview of a section of the city and our up-to-now, best glimpse of the beast.

And for a beast he’s rather impressive, first as he razes the city, before knocking the helicopter (carrying Beth, ‘Hud’ and Rob) out of the sky.

We then get a couple of minutes of camera stasis, as we hear about ‘Hammerdown’ and how it is due to be initiated in fifteen minutes – we know now there is not much time for our gang.


The monster meets 'Hud'

‘Hud’ then ‘meets’ the beast, in the most gruesome and well delivered of scenes before we are left with Rob and Beth in a tunnel, understanding the gravity of their situation. Rob decides the best thing to do is document what has happened from their perspective, and for those that may find the video afterwards.

The film then ends and we return to the past, and Rob and Beth’s date at the funfair, before the camera dies and the credits roll.


There’s a lot packed into 85 minutes, and it shocks me every time I watch it that it is actually less than an hour and a half. In fact the 85 minutes refers to the whole film from start to ten minute closing credits and the wonderful ‘ROAR (Cloverfield Overture)’ by the excellent Michael Giacchino, an accepted tribute to Ifukube’s Gojira theme. The film is actually 73 minutes long, the length of a DV tape, giving a greater authenticity to the piece.

Not only is there much within the story to feast your eyes on, with reviewers using superlatives like “chillingly effective”, and with a “whip-smart, stylistically invisible” (script) but there is so obviously a reaction to events, such as 9-11 and subsequent terrorist attacks that give the film a little bit more of an edge for the US public.

I’ve read an equal number of reviewers damning the film for its over-the-top in your face approach to the subject of terrorism as those praising its use. Referring back to James Willett’s Remake and Reboot article I can’t help but agree with his sentiments about why Cloverfield succeeds and why the Godzilla remake fails, as the former follows the themes and feel of previous monster films, those that look at society and the human persona, whereas the latter is a merely a big monster going around trashing New York, a pale shadow of its 1954 original. Whether it is less subtle than other films is, of course, up for debate, I merely state here that it at least falls into the same category of the greats, in terms of intention.

J. J. Abrams stated that he wanted to create a monster for the US, a monster that could rival Japan’s Godzilla and here I think he failed, more for the fact that less than five years after Cloverfield’s release we are getting ready to witness another remake of Godzilla. Why I think he might have failed is that he wanted to give the US filmgoers a monster that they could call their own, not entirely realising that they had already bestowed that title on the Japanese behemoth. It doesn’t matter that he is not from the US (the ultimate irony is that he was created as a response to the atrocities inflicted on the Japanese by the US) for he is already part of their cinematic make up and will remain so.

But, Cloverfield is a great monster movie, it works on all the right levels: the tension builds up superbly, once the monster appears, the monster itself is fabulous, especially with its smaller cousins/friends/offspring, the idea for the videotape length sublime, etc. It’s a film I thoroughly enjoyed the first, second, third…around and will, I suspect, enjoy more the more I watch it.

Exquisitely placed to end Monster Awareness Month, I leave you with Cloverfield!

[1] The head of the Statue of Liberty was actually inspired by the poster for Escape from New York


Filed under Film, Monster Awareness Month, Review

Clean up in Aisle Five: The Mist – review

Written by author, Sonia Marcon


The Mist will surprise some viewers because it’s not directly a scream-fest horror. In fact, the only thing that makes this film considered to be horror is that it’s based on the novella by Stephen King, who everybody knows as “that horror novelist”. The story of The Mist can be considered as more of a comment on human nature rather than a horror story. Sure, it has big scary monsters as the thrust of the story but, in my opinion, the monsters are not the point. This film contains much scarier things than a bunch of monstrous animals. The Mist is a film that really can’t go wrong for me. To begin with, I am a huge Stephen King fan and when King’s story ideas are adapted for the screen by Frank Darabont, there isn’t much room for a wrong turn. Everyone has to have seen, or at least heard about, The Shawshank Redeption, an amazing film adaptation by Darabont based on the equally amazing novella Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption by King. The Mist is, in my opinion, a very close second both as a novella and as a film.

Seeing that The Mist is a creation by Stephen King, I think it pertinent to talk about this story in relation to him whether you’re a fan of his writing or not. Something that I truly feel is a gift of King is his ability to create, be it story ideas, character relations or plot developments. There are many people who don’t like King as a writer, and that’s fair enough. Each to their own. But I think a gift of King’s is to bring the unbelievable and unimaginable right outside your front door. Film adaptations of King’s works, however, can be very hit and miss. Frank Darabont gets it right because his story adaptation and screen direction add a whole new level to the story idea. Even though a story in itself can contain brilliant characters and story nuances, things like emotion can easily be missed by both a writer and a reader. Frank Darabont brings this emotion to the forefront where the viewer cannot help but notice it.


There are two parts of this story that greatly benefit from the visual medium of film, which are the approach of the mist toward the shopping centre where this story is mostly set and the reactions of the townsfolk to the monsters. The scene where the mist comes in and envelopes the supermarket is terrifyingly brilliant and it is made even better by the sound effects of the film. As a viewer, you really do share the reactions of the townsfolk, who think that everything they hear can be easily explained. The thudding heard must be earthquakes, the mist itself must be a poison gas cloud from the military base on the neighbouring hill. This is the talent of King at work; they are normal people with normal reasoning who don’t immediately jump to extraordinary conclusions. Darabont works with these ideas to create a feeling of utter fear and despair by keeping the normality of the characters; he really utilises the whole ‘seeing is believing’ mindset. He also makes sure, in his adaptation of the story to screenplay, that there are no heroes because in this situation there is too much confusion for heroism.

the mist

One of the most fascinating parts of this story is, in my opinion, the fact that the monsters are just animals trapped in an unfamiliar place. They are not there to destroy the humans, they are just trying to survive. This works with the idea that there is no room for heroism because whenever any of the characters hurt or kill the ‘monsters’, it creates a real sense of sympathy for them because the ‘monsters’ are just acting in the only way they know how to when in a strange environment with hostile inhabitants. When they manage to get into the supermarket where the humans are, they are not there to kill the humans. They are just chasing the smaller monsters for food, which is obviously what they do in their home place, and if they do harm the humans, it is purely out of defence and fear. I personally find this scene the hardest to watch because I can’t help but feel sorry for the monsters. To me, it’s the humans in this story who act more monstrously than the apparent monsters.

Being regarded as a monster film means that it must contain something that is monstrously scary. To me, the animals that are regarded as monsters are nowhere near as fearful as Mrs Carmody, the religious zealot character who rounds up followers in the supermarket. This character made me realise that The Mist is not precisely a monster film. The Mist is ultimately a character drama that happens to feature monstrous animals. I truly feel that the character driven element of this story, initiated by Stephen King but enunciated by Frank Darabont, is what creates the most interest. The Mrs Carmody character is there to show how despicable and selfish human beings can be when placed in a situation of peril. I don’t think her presence in the story is a comment on religion by either King or Darabont, but more a comment on the ways in which human beings are ultimately not very nice. This film seems to be one of the many I like because it has believable characters in unbelievable situations.

The Mist - Face Off

I honestly could not think of a better director for this film than Frank Darabont. His adaptations of Stephen King not only make great films (admittedly The Green Mile is very long, but still) but also memorable narratives in their own right. I think The Mist is a necessary addition to Monster Awareness Month because it adds a touch of variety to the mix with its character driven story. If you like Stephen King stories, that’s one reason to watch. If you like Frank Darabont films, that’s reason two. If you like a film with some of the most imaginative monsters that look like bugs with big teeth, that’s a big reason three.

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Something is amongst us…and the last film of Monster Awareness Month is happy to show us just what….

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The Mist–trailer

What’s in the mist? Dare you find out?

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Written by author, RJ Barker,


I was about to start my article for you when I heard something scrabbling at the front door. I went to have a look and found an envelope containing the following and a threat to burn down my house if this isn’t published. I’ve annotated it so we don’t run into any copyright issues and called the police but could you run this instead of my article?



A Plea for Sanity.

Rain, the kind of rain the roared out of the sky turning the road from a flat, hard and trustworthy surface into a treacherous river capable of unseating even the most careful driver. Water had been lifting up either side of the hired minibus in two furious white waves as they drove. Then, as if angry to be denied a return to the sky, it found its way under the bonnet to drown the labouring engine.

The five of them left the leaking old minibus and sought refuge in a nearby house. No one answered their knocks but the door had swung open as if inviting them in. Then, caught by a gust of howling wind, the door slammed shut behind them, becoming stuck fast in the old frame.

Soon after, the noises started. Grating, screaming, howling.

The Five split up to investigate: Two to the upper floor where they intended to ignore their responsibilities and have pre-marital sex. Two to the ground floor where, despite their differences and lack of confidence, they would find an unexpected well of inner strength that allowed them to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

That left Trevor alone and if everyone else was exploring he was damned if he would hang around like a spare part. He hated being treated any differently to the rest of them because he was disabled. Sure, getting his wheelchair down all those stairs into the cellar was a pain and he wished he’d checked the batteries on the torch more carefully when it flickered and died. And yes, it was a bit weird that no-one’s mobile worked but this was the twenty-first century. It wasn’t as if monsters really existed.

Besides, he had a shotgun, he’d be fine.

Trevor’s thoughts were torn away from the unnerving situation he and his friends had found themselves in when something scrabbled menacingly in the depths of the cellar. He sighted down the shotgun barrel, scanning it from side to side in the stygian darkness. The noise became louder, more threatening, a mixture of slobbering, laboured breathing and irregular, heavy steps.

With the noise came a stench of dampness and moulder almost strong enough to make Trevor vomit.

‘Whoever you are, stop there or I’ll fire!’ gagged the plucky wheelchair bound disposable character.

A moan came from the darkness and the heavy steps and foul, laboured breathing sped up as the THING in the darkness approached.

Trevor aimed the gun at where he thought the noises were coming from. ‘I’m not going to die in a stereotypical and lazy opening chapter,’ thought Trevor as the shotgun roa…


Have you been enjoying “Monster Awareness Month”, reader?

Have you been GAWPING at your screen like a Victorian at an ‘Instructive’ show of medical curiosities?

Have you been enjoying the CHEAP titillation?

Or are you one of those select few who can see “Monster Awareness Month” for the TAWDRY CIRCUS it really is?

I bet you’ve not even thought about it while you’ve been happily oppressing what is, lets be frank here, a group that has been unfairly vilified, hunted and MURDERED by humanity for millennia? And there you are carrying on in that long-standing tradition. Well, I hope you are PROUD, Reader. Really I do.

I am of course not without pity for you. Since YOUTH you have been BRAINWASHED by writing like the excerpt[1] at the start of this article and that is partly responsible for your UNTHINKING acceptance of the status quo. For too long we’ve presumed darkness is the aim of the Monster just because they look, act and often have dietary requirements that are a little different from the rest of us.

Well, that stops here!

It’s about time we started trying to understand rather than hate. Time we celebrated our Differently-Civilised friends for their differences rather than making them objects of repulsion. Why not hug a Horror? Try to remember that just because something is a gelatinous mass devouring all before it doesn’t mean it is without feelings. If you cut it, does it not ooze?

Every creature has a backstory[2] we never think about and has often been forced to overcome obstacles we never even have to consider in order to achieve their goals. We don’t give them enough credit and sadly it has always been this way, even in antiquity.

Think about the unfortunate, misunderstood Minotaur. The poor mite never stood a chance. His bulls head was a constant reminder to his Father, King Minos of Crete, that his wife had been unfaithful. And not only unfaithful but that his inability to satisfy her fetish for hairy men had caused her to seek satisfaction in the loving hoofs of a bull.

But maybe, just maybe, if instead of rejecting his cow headed boy-child King Minos had forgiven this innocent for the sins of his Mother the boy may not have developed an unquenchable thirst for human flesh[3]. Think about that, Reader, next time you’re watching a bull headed man get stabbed to death in a video game and see if you’re quite so comfortable with your own depravity then!

Really, is locking a child away alone in a labyrinth really the best way to encourage social skills? I’m pretty sure it would engender a call from social services today. However, despite these setbacks young Minotaur still managed to perform a useful task for his Father and let’s remember before we vilify: Murdering and eating fourteen youths a year is actually pretty tame behaviour for a Bronze-age Prince.

It is even possible that something as simple as a name change could have helped. Why must he be minor? Why not the Majortaur? A small consideration such as that would have helped with his self image and boosted the young things self esteem no end.

Medusa is another Greek that gets a hard time. Think about this, she was so quirky and interesting looking that she turned people to stone. Can you imagine what school with all its cliques and casual cruelty must have been like for her? Hell. That’s what. Instead of calling Medusa a monster we should be holding her up as an anti-bullying hero. The It Girls tried to hold her back but she got out there and grasped hold of life. Admittedly, it was other peoples lives she grasped but we shouldn’t let that detract from the excellent example her go-getting attitude gives the youth of today.

Also if you have unruly hair imagine what it was like for Medusa. In the days before mousse can we ever truly understand how stressful getting ready for a hard day slaying heroes must have been. ?

The Chupacabre is a creature UNJUSTLY hated and feared throughout Latin America. But THINK ABOUT THIS it kills a few goats and people call it an – ‘evil alien goat sucking creature bent on murdering them in their sleep’. Yet a Lion kills all manner of doe eyed beasts of the plain and everyone’s all ‘King of the Beasts’ and ‘let’s make a Disney film,’ about him. There are a lot of double standards surrounding the monster issue, people. An awful lot.

In Thailand the Phii Krasue is a vampire/ghost in the form of a flying head with guts hanging from it’s neck. The Phii Krasue’s detractors will tell you it drinks blood and eats intestines but STOP for a moment. Can you imagine how painful, not to mention unhygenic, it must be to have your entire intestinal tract hanging from your neck? The Colon alone weighs an average of seven pounds.

Instead of running away screaming or trying to kill it maybe if someone just stopped to think about how the Phii Krasue feels and offered it a bag (possibly with some sort of strap arrangement so it hangs comfortably from the ears) things could be different.

What I’m saying here is that with a little bit of THOUGHTFULLNESS it’s possible we could all rub along together quite happily.

The Satyr, half man half goat. The worst that’s going to happen there is it makes you an ugly mohair jumper from its own wool.[4] There is no threat. DON’T BELIEVE THE HYPE.

We all know it’s true that if you keep telling someone they’re bad and they will become bad. This is true for monsters as well.

Where is the love?

Ah, I hear you say, but you’ve avoided mentioning the big ones. The ones that eat worlds or wish to destroy the Human race entirely.

Which brings me neatly to Great Lord Cthulhu.

Don’t hate him for being true to himself. After all, that’s the subject of every aspirational film you’ve ever seen or any show made by Oprah Winfrey – ever. Is it Lord Cthulhu’s fault that being true to himself means being an unknowable evil polluting the minds of men with madness even from within the sunken ruins of lost R’Lyeh where he lies dead, but dreaming? Of course it isn’t. If anything, we should feel proud and glad that an extragalactic being and his friends choose to acknowledge us.

So, reader, if you are lucky enough to be in receipt of the Necronomicon when you open its human hide bound pages and amorphous, undiluted evil takes hold of your brain sucking you into a formless, miasmic maelstrom of gibbering insanity: Use those last moments of lucidity before unspeakable horror takes you to give a little thanks and think – ‘of all the galaxies in all the universes you chose us.’ And feel good about yourself my friend, you’re special!

Humanity: because they’re worth it.[5]

I hope, I’ve opened your eyes a little with this. Why not take a moment and use the comment facility to let a little light into the lives of others. If you know of a, so-called, ‘monster’ that’s been misrepresented then put things straight. Or if you know of something “Differently-Civilized” that you think is irredeemable then put forward your case and I’ll be glad to have send over one of my friends from Innsmouth to explain the errors in your thinking.

Yours Sincerely

Rick Pickman.


Allied Institute of Friends of Horrors, Terrors, Abominations, Gargoyles and the Nonconforming.


1. The Hellish House of Hell IIVXIIIXVV: The Re-Helling of Hell House in Hell by Trebor Rakreb Jr. (Pub. 2003. Lacklustre Books.)

2. Excluding creatures created from nothing with no memory of any prior existence.

3. 99.99% of children who are loved and cherished by their parents will never knowingly devour human flesh outside of a life or death situation such as a plane crash in the Andes. (Statistic provided by the Office of Invented Facts.)

4. My Wife has asked me to point out that for people like her with an allergy to Mohair this is, in fact, quite unpleasant behaviour.

5. This was Abdul Alhazred’s subtitle for his original ‘Necronimicon’ manuscript. It was removed by his editor for, ‘not really being in keeping with the overall tone.’

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Pan’s Labyrinth–trailer

And del Toro is back, and this time with a veritable army of monsters…

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The Host–trailer

South Korean monsters take to the stage tonight and boy are they mean mothers!

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Guillermo del Toro and Ron Perlman, what’s not to love!

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