It’s easier to be scared of monsters when you’re young. Everything’s new, everything’s mysterious. You’re never really sure what’s out there in the dark. Browsing the video store shelves as a kid, everything looked terrifying. Some of the films from the video era gave me nightmares by way of their unnerving creatures and gory special effects. Some didn’t. With the genre being so wide and diverse, people have made horror films about nearly every topic imaginable. This has led to some creatures that just don’t work as well as others. At the same time, there are movie monsters that do have the preferred effect but are really cute at the same time. This happens a lot with animals. Dogs, cats, and other creatures can be frightening in context, but not taken by themselves. As you’ll see, this can happen with all sorts of things, from puppets to aliens and so much more.
The Puppets in Puppet Master
The puppets in Puppet Master are cool, they each have their own unique designs that work well with the time period in which they were made. The puppets from the first film were created in World War II and their designs reflect that. They can even be menacing at times. But in the later entries, the puppets become the heroes and any menacing qualities they might have had were thrown out the window. By the time they’ve starred in a made for television film with Corey Feldman, the element of horror is gone. But they’re still adorable in their own right, even when they’re no longer remotely threatening. Their mumblings and their great dynamic make the later entries in this series cute at the very least.
Frankenstein’s creation has always been the sympathetic movie monster from James Whale’s 1931 film onward. The Monster Squad took things in an extreme direction by making the monster into not only a hero, but a child at heart. He teams up with the kids, in particular young Phoebe, and is a card-carrying member of the squad itself. It’s clear from his first scene that he is roped into being Dracula’s slave and once he comes into contact with the children he forms an immediate bond with them. It’s easily the creature’s most touching film appearance to date.
The titular critters are very unique movie monsters. They’re essentially hairballs with teeth. In the first movie, they grow in size the more they eat, although this idea was scrapped in the sequels. These fur balls are a lot of fun to watch, but the horror element is not really there. It’s tough not to find something that is that fluffy at least somewhat cute, even if it is an ugly kind of cute. It’s especially difficult not to crack a smile when the monsters have their own subtitled conversations with one another.
Part of the excellence of Stephen King is that he can make anything scary on the page. This is also the chief reason that his work doesn’t always translate to the screen. In the book, a St. Bernard becomes a force of nature, an absolute monster. In the movie, as well as it works otherwise, a St. Bernard is just a St. Bernard. While it should be an unstoppable force, it’s a dog. A mangy, angry dog but still a dog and there’s something about watching these events on film—especially taking away the grim ending—that just makes the threat of Cujo feel somehow less than real.
They’re rabbits. Making them larger, making them overgrown and flesh eating rabbits does not change the fact that they are rabbits. Bunnies are the least effective animal to even be considered to be a horror movie monster. Naturally, this is part of what makes Night of the Lepus all the more entertaining. This film would have been even better if it had kept the novel’s title, Year of the Angry Rabbit. At least that would have helped it embrace its absurdity. It really does seem like the feature puts in every effort to be frightening. The filmmakers clearly tried to elevate it into being about something more than man eating rabbits, which is exactly what makes it so great. But the killer rabbits do not exactly incite fright in the hearts of viewers.