Audiences are spoiled these days. We like to see what we want to see, when we want to see it. With a resurgence of monster movies of late, I thought it would be interesting to look back through the genre’s history—old and new—to see what monsters didn’t really appear as often as audiences were expecting them to. Or at least as much as we wanted them to.
There are many different reasons why a movie might not want to reveal its monster up front. Usually, suspense is the first thing to be cited. They want to keep the audience guessing, want you to imagine what this thing might look like in your head. Often, it’s simply a matter of budget. They don’t have enough to make the monster look good, they don’t have enough to build a complete creature, or even sometimes don’t have enough to create any monster at all.
Sometimes the creature that gets designed for the film doesn’t turn out the way they expect it to. Sometimes it doesn’t even work the way that they want it to. That can occasionally lead to a happy accident, resulting in some of the most iconic movie monsters ever created. Other times, it can lessen the overall effect. Whatever the reasons may be, here are seven movies that don’t show their monster as much as you’d think.
Howling V: The Rebirth
The Howling sequels are notorious for not really delivering on the werewolf goods. Some make the attempt, granted, but the effects in 2, 3 and 4 are much lower budget than the original and the main monster suit is barely ever shown. I had to go with Rebirth, though, even though it’s one of the better sequels. Our main characters are trapped in a castle with a werewolf we never get to really see, even though the monster suit looks great.
This movie is weird as fuck. It’s about a monster who is rampaging amongst this small town raping women, a young man who is having nightmares about a Satanic cult fears he may be the killer, an older man who pretty explicitly is in love with his daughter—who happens to be dating this younger lad—wants the boy locked up, because if there’s someone thinking about murder in this town it’s literally the only lead they have to go on. All that and not only does the monster not show up until the very end, it looks underwhelming to say the least.
Werewolf movies tend to suffer from this problem a lot and I don’t really know why that is. Sure, they’re expensive to make, but no more so than Pumpkinhead or Rawhead Rex, who are always all over their movies. In the case of Silver Bullet, though, there are a lot of reasons why we see as little of the werewolf as we do. Chief among them: it didn’t turn out as great as they were hoping. The end result looked underwhelming, so they kept it in shadow until the climax. Through most of the feature, we just see claws, teeth or a silhouette—and all of that looks fantastic.
Boris Karloff endured a lot to achieve the desired appearance of The Mummy, which is a shame on one level because the titular mummy only appears in a single shot. He gets up and walks away, and that’s that. We don’t even see all of that. They only show us the getting up, not the walking away. After that shot, he’s Ardeth Bey, a guy with slightly dry skin, sure, but one who can definitely walk around without anyone saying “I think that’s a mummy in a hat.”
The Legend of Boggy Creek
The style of Boggy Creek is really interesting. Like Town That Dreaded Sundown, it’s a mix of faux-documentary and re-enactment sequences. Unlike Town That Dreaded Sundown, we never see a damn thing. We hear noises, we see glimpses of the creature’s (usually unmoving) silhouette, but we never actually really see much of anything at all. Still, this is one of the most celebrated Bigfoot horror flicks out there, but if you’re looking for monster carnage, I’d look elsewhere.
Cloverfield is the most recent entry on the list, but it kicked off a giant monster revival that—according to some fans—has many of the same problems this one suffers from. By the time we actually see the monster, it’s underwhelming. It would have been better, in this case, to never actually see the creature at all. Most of the feature is centered on the destruction it’s causing and the POV of the person on the street in an event like this. That person would probably never get to see the beast in full. Teasing out the monsters like this plagued Pacific Rim a little and 2014’s Godzilla a lot. It was especially jarring in the latter’s case—even though I understand why they did it—because audiences are already pretty aware of what Godzilla looks like.
Over forty years later, the shark is still working. It’s still scaring audiences, people are still unnerved around large bodies of water after all this time. It’s no secret at this point that the shark was rumored to have planned to appear in the film much more than we actually saw. Though that has been refuted by some, Spielberg has said as much. Whether planned or not, the end result is inarguable. Jaws keeps the shark hidden until over an hour into the film and when it shows up, it’s one of the greatest shocks in movie history. In this case, the decision was made wisely and the film became iconic for it.