Sunday, January 06, 2013

10 Things I Hate About Movies - Part 4.

4. Boring Creature Design

As I wrote this it got way out of control, so it might be a little confusing and jump around. I tried to keep it relatively short. Also, it's definitely one of those matter of opinion things.

I know not everyone can be as awesome as Stan Winston was, but– can you just try not to suck at least? Just because you’re on a low budget indie movie does not mean you skimp on the one thing you have going for your entire movie! If you want to make a monster movie, make a god-damned monster movie! You can hide it in the shadows for the first 45 minutes, but then it better come out into the light and not look like an old Dr. Who reject made of bubble wrap and duct tape.

Look, I’m not a brilliant SPFX artist but at least I give a shit and I try. I don’t have a massive budget for what I do, hell I don’t have ANY budget – but in comparison to some of the crap I’ve seen, my stuff is brilliant. It’s no Predator or Kothoga (“The Relic”, I liked it at least), but it’s decent. And I can only hope to do something like Mr. Wink (Hellboy II) sometime in the future and you know what? All that’s stopping me is the space and the facilities.

The Asylum is oh-so-guilty of this. In fact they did a “Cloverfield” rip-off called “Monster” (not to be confused with “Monsters” which I enjoyed) and what another load of shit that was. There were maybe 10 (and I think I’m being generous) shots of the “monster” and seriously, unless you’ve been scarred from accidentally watching Hentai as a child,  “Monster” was about as scary as the video game, “Day of the Tentacle”.

Three skinny, rigidly flapping CG cones with a low-res fleshy texture. Seriously? That’s just shitty and lazy beyond all belief. And I’m pretty sure it was just the same damned animation each time they showed it too. Now I assume these movies have a budget of more than $35, than why am I seeing little homemade movies with better effects. And when I say “homemade” I don’t just mean indie or amateur, I made movie so low end you could only call them “homemade”. The Asylum folks should really be embarrassed about how little they seem to care about movies.

There’s a lot of courses out there that teach Monster Design and I guess it’s worth it, although you don’t even need to go that far – just give a shit about what you’re doing. Have a little pride. Even if the rest of the movie is a shitbomb, that’s no excuse – just use it as practice or use it just to test some ideas that probably seem ridiculous.

I could go on and on about what movies I feel made some of the worst judgement calls on creature/monster designs, but I would literally never stop writing. Some professionals would tell you it has to anatomically correct, I disagree to a point – there’s that fine like between where you can cross over from being anatomically correct (which is a judgement call anyway when you’re creating something completely unreal) to being dull, or to the other end of the spectrum, just being ridiculous looking. The simplest way to look at it is this, does it fit the story? Does it serve the story?  Does it fit with the origins of the thing?In a movie that requires some deep sea monster, don't have it look like a yeti – sure that might feel original, but it also will probably alienate the audience from buying it and look a little stupid.

Werewolves usually tread a thin line of monstrous and ridiculous. "American Werewolf in London" was pretty awesome and creepy as it followed some of the real mythology of werewolves with its design. "Underworld" nothing to complain about really. "Dog Soldiers" a little on the goofy side but the movie was good. And if I recall correctly the original werewolf design for "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" was pretty silly looking and was changed to the more dog-like design later. Thankfully.

I’ve heard some rambling on about designs needing to be perfectly symmetrical – that’s crap as far as I’m concerned. The more interesting looking designs aren’t perfectly symmetrical – at least as far as creating a “character”, if you’re looking at a crowd of creatures, symmetry is a little easier since you might end up duplicating it a dozen times to make it look like there’s more than really was.

As far as I’m concerned it’s all pretty logical and doesn’t require some “beyond your reach” grasp of anatomy or design – if you’ve got even a small sense of imagination and a couple good hours, or even days, you can easily come up with something decent, might not be original or mind blowing, but sometimes decent is good enough if it serves the movie.

At this point I guess I should point out some other movies guilty of shitting the bed in the monster department of their movie. It's usually more with lower budget or those studio churned out pictures with only one recognizable name in the cast. "Gravedancers" had these goofy grinning ghost or demons (I honestly wasn't paying that close attention to it) that looked like a cross between the creepy kids from "House" and The Gentlemen from Buffy. I could go further back to the 60s and 70s but that's too easy, I'm talking more about recent movies. There's a rash of them with demons or whatever with nothing but "witchy poo" faces, just wrinkled and lumpy versions of a regular human face, this gets tiring.

I mentioned before about “Cabin in the Woods” was a little guilty of this here, not overall, but in the last few seconds of the movie there’s a design that I felt could’ve been freakishly awesome instead was just typical and overdone and dull. I can’t say what it was without spoiling the movie if you haven’t seen it, so I’m leaving this to the last. Shame on you Joss for letting that slip by – which actually leads me to #5. You’ll find out what that is next week.


In the very end when the “elder gods” awake, the entire movie I was thinking it’d be something awesome like Cthulhu – which quite honestly has never really been visualized in a really impressive way in a movie, at least none I’ve ever seen or heard of. Instead we get a big, blackened, charred, cracked with lava looking hand – which has been done to death and just really was a let down when all you’re seeing is just the hand. God of War has done it a few times, Wrath of the Titans and it’s just an old, kind of overdone, not very original design. Sure it’s familiar in a way, but for those last few seconds of the movie, it would’ve been just a little extra bit of awesome if it had been something more freakish and monstrous looking.

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