“The Lake” (2022), directed by Lee Thongkam, is a Thai sci-fi horror flick that recreates the classic prehistoric monster-risen-from-the-depths scenario, where a young girl comes across a strange-looking egg in the countryside and decides to take it home. All hell breaks loose when a gargantuan monster rises out of the Mekong River in search of its egg. It wreaks havoc across the countryside in a classic T. rex-meets-Godzilla-style rampage. A second monster, similar in appearance but much smaller and more agile, emerges out of the water, bent on destruction, and decimates the countryside as it makes its way into the city, mauling and killing whoever it finds in its path. The authorities are left clueless when they discover a strange psychic connection between the smaller monster and one of its victims, as they witness that any harm inflicted on the monster itself has an adverse effect on the victim as well. The film takes more than a few pages out of the “Godzilla” and “Jurassic Park” playbooks but places the plot in the Thai countryside. Albeit the somewhat predictable nature of the script, the film promises to be a treat for any fervent monster-movie buff, and if you are one, then here is a list of some other gripping entertainers of this genre.
“Tremors” (1990) is a classic American monster flick directed by Ron Underwood, which deals with the account of giant, worm-like prehistoric creatures that travel through underground burrows and use sound vibrations to locate their prey. The story is set in the Sierra Nevada mountains, where Val and Earl are native handymen. They discover the body of a man strangely perched on an electrical tower, whom the town doctor later pronounced to have died from dehydration. Rhonda LeBeck is a seismologist who ventures into the area to study the behavioral patterns of the worms, and she concludes that these creatures rely on seismic vibrations to locate their prey. After a series of attacks on the townspeople, Burt and Heather, who are a survivalist couple from the area, form a group to survive and hunt these creatures before they hunt them.
Jurassic Park (1993)
When it comes to sci-fi monsters, “Jurassic Park” (1993) needs no introduction. It is perhaps the most revered film franchise since “Godzilla” (1954) in the genre. This Steven Spielberg film has truly become a cultural symbol and has garnered an unfathomable fan following all over the globe, owing to its decade-defining concept and technique. It is based on Michael Crichton’s 1990 novel, “Jurassic Park,” and features a star-studded cast consisting of Jeff Goldblum, Laura Dern, Sam Neill, and Richard Attenborough. The film centers around a wildlife-safari theme park, but with a twist. Instead of lions and tigers and elephants, it would house dinosaurs cloned from the DNA of frogs and the already existing dino-DNA found in fossilized mosquitoes. The film takes the audience on a joyride across the park until they arrive at the enclosure of the Tyrannosaurus rex! All hell breaks loose once the power lines separating the park from the humans are disabled due to a power outage owing to a massive thunderstorm; that kind of acts as a premonition of what’s about to come. The group is scattered, and they embark on an adventure to find shelter and safety from the prehistoric world, where human rules do not apply. This is the film that introduced the iconic T. Rex to the world, raising the pertinent question of whether humans should really interfere with the ways of nature.
War Of The Worlds (2005)
“War of the Worlds” (2005) is another classic Steven Spielberg sci-fi action thriller that is based on the 1898 novel by H. G. Wells, “The War of the Worlds.” It deals with the theme of an extraterrestrial invasion, where giant alien-looking ‘tripod’ machines emerge from the ground after an electromagnetic storm to decimate the surroundings with energy cannons and harvest humans to use as fertilizer. The film, narrated by Morgan Freeman, revolves around the quest of Ray Ferrier (played by Tom Cruise), a father of two, to get his children to safety across devastated lands. Ray decides to get them to Boston, where Ray’s ex-wife Mary Ann lives with her parents, but the path is filled with serious perils all along the way. Robbie, the elder of the two children, decides to join the fight against the invasive force, while Ray and his daughter, Rachel, are forced to flee. Battered and bruised, the pair reaches Boston, only to find that the alien machinery is failing and the force fields protecting them are disabled. They reach Mary Ann’s house, and to their surprise, they are reunited with both Mary Ann and Robbie, whom they had earlier presumed to be dead. It is revealed at the end that the death of the aliens was caused by the microbes on Earth, which is presented as an act of God.
King Kong (2005)
An iconic monster adventure, “King Kong” (2005), revives the story of the massive, ape-like creature that is the resident of Skull Island. Set in the age of the Great Depression, the plot follows the voyage of a film crew on a quest to shoot a new film by bankrupt filmmaker Carl Denham on the SS Venture. Carl Denham’s true intention is to film on the mysterious Skull Island. Once the crew lands on the island, they are overcome by intense obstacles as they are attacked by the natives and several other prehistoric inhabitants of the island. Ann Darrow, the female lead in the to-be film, is offered up by the natives as a sacrifice to Kong, but she manages to stay alive and wins Kong’s affection with her brevity and flamboyance. The plot follows Kong into New York, where, after being captured, he is brought for presentation. After a few mishaps, Kong breaks free from his chains and climbs atop the Empire State Building but is finally brought down after succumbing to the wounds from the gunfire launched at him by navy airplanes.
“Cloverfield” (2008) is a ‘found footage’ style monster film by Matt Reeves that features the incidents as recorded in the footage from a camcorder found by the U.S. Department of Defense after the destruction of Manhattan. The footage follows the events of a farewell party arranged for Robert Hawkins (Rob) by his brother Jason and his girlfriend Lily on May 22, 2008, the day a ginormous creature appeared in Manhattan and wrecked the city. The camcorder is operated by Rob’s friend, Hudson Platt (Hud), as he was tasked with recording testimonials for Rob. Hud keeps recording as the chaos starts after a violent earthquake shakes the entire city of New York, and five friends, including Rob, Jason, Lily, Hud, and Marlene, venture into the streets amidst massive chaos and decide to cross the Brooklyn Bridge to reach safety, but the creature attacks the bridge as they were about to cross, killing hundreds, including Jason. Rob decides to venture into Midtown Manhattan to try and rescue Beth, a girl he has feelings for, and on the way, Marlene is bitten and infected by one of the smaller parasitic creatures that emerged from the larger monster, and she finally dies. One after the other, the whole group is lost, and the camcorder is shown to have been found in Central Park, where Rob and Beth were buried under a falling bridge after the bombing of the city, and the events are thus documented.
Pacific Rim (2013)
“Pacific Rim” (2013) is a film that ticks all the boxes when it comes to sci-fi action thrillers: colossal extraterrestrial monsters (Kaiju) rising from the sea, giant robots (the Jaegers), great action sequences, soaring background scores, and themes of retribution and glory. It tells the story of Raleigh Becket, a Jaeger pilot from America who used to co-pilot the Jaeger Gypsy Danger with his brother Yancy. But after the death of Yancy in a mission against a Category-3 Kaiju, Raleigh quits the Jaeger program out of trauma. But as destiny would have it, Gypsy Danger is called back into action when the Kaiju are observed to be evolving, and more and more Jaegers are being destroyed. Raleigh is now paired with Mako Mori, Marshal Pentecost’s adopted daughter, to pilot Gypsy into action. In a final showdown against a Category-5 Kaiju, Marshal Pentecost and Chuck Hansen sacrifice themselves along with their Jaeger, Striker, paving the way for Gypsy to kill the Kaiju. Raleigh triggers the self-destruct protocol on Gypsy’s nuclear core after ejecting Mako in an attempt to seal the ‘Breach.’ Raleigh and Mako are rescued from their escape pods, which are floating on the Pacific Ocean, and the film ends in their warm embrace.
“Godzilla” (2014) is an American sci-fi action thriller by Gareth Edwards that rediscovers the already acclaimed “Godzilla” franchise of the 1950s. It surrounds the story of a prehistoric apex predator, Godzilla, that resides deep under the ocean, well away from the human population, but surfaces when it senses that a new threat is imminent. The action begins in Honolulu, Hawaii, where a massive unidentified terrestrial organism, or MUTO for short, is found feeding on the radiation from the weaponry of a missing Russian nuclear submarine. Sensing its presence, Godzilla emerges on land, causing a massive tsunami. A second MUTO emerges from a dormant spore found in Nevada, which is larger and later discovered to be female, and the two MUTOs are observed to be heading towards each other in the pursuit of building a nest to procreate. Dr. Ishir Serizawa tries to thwart the navy’s plan to lure all three monsters into the ocean and nuke them, stating that nuclear warheads would only add to the strength of the MUTOs and that Godzilla is the only creature equipped to destroy these monsters. The final showdown is set in San Francisco, where the three Titans fight it out in an epic battle to the death, where Godzilla emerges victorious after killing the two MUTOs and finally plunges back into the ocean after saving the day.