Monsters in the Living Room
This weekend's movie releases point out a glaring omission from last week's summer streaming movies preview: big, angry monsters. While Godzilla: King of the Monsters brings the inevitable sequel to the inevitable re-reboot that some people must have been asking for, there are plenty of fun, even thought provoking monster movies available across the different subscription services. In fact, one of them is even titled Godzilla: King of the Monsters Historically, movie monsters have served as metaphors for larger social concerns like nuclear annihilation or environmental desctruction. That's true for some of the following selections, though some them are just silly summer entertainment. Enjoy!
Colossal - It's pretty much guaranteed that Nacho Vigalondo gets name checked every time a comic book or sci-fi/horror franchise needs a director. The Spanish director has carved out a niche for himself as the hipster geek's alternative to Guillermo Del Toro. So if Del Toro's love of giant monsters fighting robots blossomed into the bombastic epic Pacific Rim, Vigalondo's approach to similar material produced this low key, anti-romantic comedy about a young woman who drinks too much and can't escape the depressing circumstances of her own past. Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis make an offbeat pairing, but it actually kind of works here. (Hulu)
The Host - How many Cannes festival winners can also boast to making the best monster movie of the century? Bong Joon-Ho picked up this year's Palme D'Or (though let's not count out Apichatpong Weerasethakul to produce some masterful mashup of monsters and meditative philosophy down the line). Bong first emerged to international attention for this 2006 big budget (for a Korean film) arthouse hit that updated the Godzilla story with an acrobatic monster spawned from American capitalism's unchecked greed and disregard for nature. (Free on Tubi; Amazon via different subscriptions)
Tremors - Somehow, Hollywood has managed not to reboot this cult classic about blind underground worm monsters that wreak havoc on a small Texas town. Maybe that's because the franchise is still going strong after six movies and a TV series with a seventh sequel on the way, though SyFy sadly opted to pass on a new pilot for the series last year even with Kevin Bacon's star power. Despite that, nothing will ever top the bizarre success of the original, which maybe was an allegory for unchecked oil drilling or a satire of xenophobia or something? Nah, it's just a goofy monster flick. (Starz; Amazon via Starz)
Under the Shadow - Any purists out there might object that djinn are supernatural folk spirits and not movie monsters in the classic sense. That's a fair argument, but the premise of this Iranian movie about a cursed missile that unleashes an ancient force sure feels a lot like the original Godzilla storyline. Although set during the Iran-Iraq War, the movie not only puts a genre spin on the actual horrors of that war but also presents a subtext of paranoia about living in a state of perpetual conflict. Without the budget of a big Hollywood production, director Babak Anvari relies instead on psychological tension and old-fashioned cinematic suspense. (Netflix)
Super Inframan - This Hong Kong classic from the 1970's is about as campy as it gets in terms of stunt men battling rubbery monsters. After the Shaw Brothers helped make martial arts movies an international sensation, they tried to infuse their formula with the Japanese kaiju and tokusatsu genres. The title character, a kung fu cyborg who looks suspiciously similar to the the Ultraman character, tries to stop Princess Dragonmom and her horde of monsters from conquering Earth. Maybe the Game of Thrones writing staff should have looked here for inspiration? (Amazon)