The Monster Mash-Ups - Part 8: Choice Cuts

A Select Selection of COMICS, BOOKS & GAMES

When I was very young, my imaginary friend was a ghost named Marvin.  I don't think he was ever the kind of imaginary friend that I played with or talked to, but he was my explanation for why doors would shut suddenly and I pointed him and his father out to my parents when we saw some laundry blowing in the breeze.  Sometimes I made up stories about him -- at least I think I was making it up.  In time, I expanded Marvin's cast of supporting characters.  He had a skeleton friend named Mr. Bones who lived in our attic, and a vampire friend named Fangs who dropped by on rare occasion.  I'm pretty sure there was also a wolf man, and there might have even been a Frankenstein's Monster of some sort, but these were additions that came toward the end of my "imaginary friend" arc -- somewhere in my first couple years of school.  I don't think I made up as many stories about them, but it seemed natural to me that a ghost would have a supernatural supporting cast.

I suppose that's a large part of the impetus behind this article.  From the very edges of memory, I was thinking about monsters who were friends with me and with each other.  I don't know what planted that seed specifically, but given when I was born, there were all kinds of cheeseball possibilities from the 60s and early 70s.  It's altogether likely that it was a combination of those elements that reinforced the idea for me and inspired me to add to Marvin's retinue.  Looking back, it's easy to make fun of those things, but I sure wish I'd had access to some of these books back then.  Adam Rex's books, in particular, would have blown my mind.

I'm not going to make any effort whatsoever to be comprehensive here.  It's simply not possible, particularly given the history of monsters in comic books, and comic books' fetish for crossovers.  So if I forgot your favorite, or simply something that you remember, that's okay.  It's not a Master's thesis.

Neal Adams' Monsters - 1984 (collected 2003)
Written & Illustrated by Neal Adams

Featuring: Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster, Werewolves

Comics industry superstar Neal Adams tried to break away from the Big Two in the 80s.  The business of comics still wasn't quite ready, and Adams had neither the business acumen nor the writing chops to really make it work the way that it would for the Image founders a decade later.  One of his projects was an anthology comic called Days of Future Past (I know, right?) and Adams' contribution to the short-lived title was a story than combined Dracula, Frankenstein and a Werewolf with his own designs, to avoid any legal toe-stepping with Universal and, one suspects, to show off a little because he was still Neal freakin' Adams after all.

The story would actually have been a better a better House of Dracula than "House of Dracula."  It still works within the same themes as the Universal pictures, adds some new elements of its own, and remixes them into a much better story with more interaction between the monsters we'd like to see.  It's not necessarily great, but it does pay tribute while improving upon the notion.

It turns out, the comic was expanded from a record and storybook that Adams originally made in the 70s.  If Universal had taken the bait then and developed it as a movie, we could have seen much different development through the 70s and 80s.

Rampage - 1986

Rampage is an arcade video game that puts players in the role of giant monsters tearing cities apart.  While the characters are not licensed from existing monsters, they are clearly "inspired by" them.  George is a giant ape, akin to King Kong.  Lizzie is a giant dinosaur like Godzilla, but also looks a little Black Lagoon-y to me.  Ralph is a giant werewolf.  Okay, sure, why not?  With its large character sprites, Rampage definitely looked different in the arcades, but I always felt that gameplay ran a little thin fell short of the concept's potential.  Clinging to the sides of buildings and moving fairly slowly just didn't embody the sense of rampaging that I wanted from it.  There would be sequels for consoles later on, but none of them were terribly well-rated.  Small surprise.

King of the Monsters - 1991

King of the Monsters was a giant monster fighting/wrestling game for the SNK's Neo-Geo arcade/console system, which made it an unusual creature indeed.  Players selected monsters which took their cues from Godzilla, King Kong and Ultraman characters, then fought it out in large cityscapes.  The concept was great and the large figures in urban environments were impressive for their time (like Rampage), but (also like Rampage) the gameplay just really wasn't there.  Being more inspired by Japanese wrestling games than martial arts styled fighting games, the controls were less intuitive and satisfying than a giant smash-fest really demanded.  There was also a sequel.  Due to its oddity and its SNK basis, it really didn't get much traction in the west, despite ports to the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis.

Darkstalkers - 1994
Capcom for Arcade and various consoles

Featuring: a vampire, demons, a mummy, ghosts, a Frankenstein type monster, a werewolf, an Uzi-packin' Red Riding Hood, a cat girl and more!

Darkstalkers (known as "Vampire" in Japan) is a 2D arcade fighting game series from Capcom, similar to the Street Fighter series, but with monster characters and more fantastical fighting techniques.  There have been 3 main entries in the series and a couple compilations.  It's also spawned cartoons and comics.  It has been suggested that there won't be a new Darkstalkers game until Capcom gets a million requests.  I suck at the games about as much as I suck at most 2D Capcom fighters, but it was always my favorite of the bunch because the characters are so cool.  Some of the characters turn up in other Capcom crossover projects.

Art Adams' Creature Features - 1996
various writers
Illustrated by Art Adams

Featuring: The Creature from the Black Lagoon, Godzilla, a giant samurai demon and a giant naked mole rat

Creature Features collects 4 monster tales illustrated by enemy of deadlines everywhere, Art Adams.  The largest story is a fairly straight adaptation of Universal's Creature from the Black Lagoon.  It's beautifully illustrated (let's just say they all are, because Art Adams), thanks also to the coloring by Matt Hollingsworth.  The other main feature is a story from the Godzilla Color Special, and that's the real money shot, as far as I'm concerned.  It's the story of an isolated Japanese island whose residents have turned their backs on the ways of the 20th century.  An anti-kaiju strikeforce known as G-Force (90s continuity) is sent to evacuate the villagers due to an impending Godzilla attack.  The villagers are unwilling to leave, and it soon becomes a moot point once Godzilla devastates the naval blockade.  It turns out the villagers aren't quite so defenseless as they appear.  Legend tells of an 800 year old demon that attacked the village long ago.  The body of the demon became a huge statue which the villagers believed would come to life to protect them, which it does (although there's a story behind it).  Every time Godzilla smashes the statue, it reforms itself from the dirt and stone, coming back bigger.  With the help of G-Force, it's able to go toe to toe with the King of Monsters and ultimately redirect his course.  Now, this giant samurai demon statue is a tribute of its own to the Daimajin trilogy from the 60s, about a guardian statue in medieval Japan.  I like this story so much that I had partly convinced myself that it had been an actual movie, or that the statue had at least existed in one of the, at some point.  It would indeed be a great Godzilla movie, or half a movie, at some point when Toho starts making them again.  There are also a couple short stories in Creature Features.  One stars Adams' own characters, Monkeyman & O'Brien against the Shrewmanoid and a giant naked mole rat, and the other is by Alan Moore.  I don't know that piece, as I purchased all the original comics separately, but hey, Alan Moore, so that can't suck.

War of the Monsters - 2003
Incog Inc. for Playstation 2
Designers: Dylan Jobe, Kellan Hatch, Eric Simonich & Scott Campbell

This free-roaming fight game pays homage to giant everything in a 1950s drive-in movie setting.  While none of the characters are licensed from existing franchises, it features a giant ape, a couple reptilians, giant robots in both American & Japanese varieties, a giant mantis and more, wreaking havoc across 10 highly destructible environments.  Players can duke it out hand-to-hand or use ranged attacks, but the most fun comes from using environmental weapons.  My favorite is skewering an opponent with an antenna tower and watching them flail around trying to pull it out.  I love this game.  I can only assume that it's been criminally slept-on, because it would have become a mega-series if it was getting the following it deserves.

Mommy? - 2006
Story by Arthur Yorinks
Illustrated by Maurice Sendak
Papercraft by Matthew Reinhart

If you haven't seen a pop-up book in a while, let me just tell you; they are doing amazing things in papercraft nowadays.

Maurice "Wild Things" Sendak pays tribute to the Universal Monster movies of his youth in this very simple tale of a little boy looking for his "Mommy" in all the wrongest places.  The pop-up art does more than merely fold out of the page.  It creates a deeper sense of space, and often animates as it unfolds.  The scene with The Mummy is a real show-stopper.  The papercraft doesn't just show off the art, it plays a role in telling the story.  But oh that art!  Sendak clearly had fun illustrating it, and the whole product just radiates with the love that its creators put into it.

Frankenstein Makes A Sandwich - 2006
Written & Illustrated by Adam Rex

Adam Rex started out as an illustrator.  I think he painted card art for Magic: The Gathering before he moved into children's books.  Then he started writing them too.  Then shifted into juvenile & young adult fiction, and he does it all brilliantly.  I've loved everything he's done, but this was my first real exposure to him.  The whole book is filled with poems that play with classic monsters.  Imagine Shel Silverstien wrote a book about Universal (and other) Monsters and had it illustrated by the Usual Gang of Idiots from Mad magazine, and you'll have kind of a sense of what to expect here.

Frankenstein Takes the Cake - 2008
Written & Illustrated by Adam Rex

Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich must have worked out well for Adam Rex, because 2 years later he was back with more monster madness.  This time, there's a bit more of a narrative thread connecting them as Frankenstein prepares to marry his Bride.

Sometime more IS better!

Rex has gone on to write the HI-LARIOUS juvenile lit book "The True Meaning of Smekday" (soon to be a major motion picture!) and the young adult satire, "Fat Vampire."  He's partnered with Neil Gaiman on Chu's Day and Chu's First Day of School, so, you know, the guy's got mad nerd cred.

The Monsterologist: A Memoir in Rhyme - 2009
Written by Bobbi Katz
Illustrated by Adam McCauley

While very similar on paper to Adam Rex's Frankenstein books, The Monsterologist goes a very different direction with it.  Like the previous books, it's meant to be a humorous poem tome about a very similar variety of monsters, framing them as the research notes of a monsterologist.  This device serves to distance the reader from the monsters and their personalities.  It's hard not to compare it negatively in light of Rex's books.  While it's certainly a different beast, those different choices don't seem to serve it well.  I just didn't find the poems to be funny or endearing.  Sadly, the art only magnifies this distancing from the material.  McCauley's art isn't really fun or cuddly.  It's very graphical with a more punk aesthetic better suited to something like the New Yorker than a children's book.  They clearly invested in book production, employing gatefolds and die-cuts inside and a pseudo-leather embossed cover with metallic ink.  It's an interesting piece of graphic design, but it disappoints in almost every category as a children's book.

King of Tokyo - 2011
Designed by Richard Garfield

King of Tokyo is a tabletop board game by superstar game designer Richard Garfield (Magic: The Gathering, RoboRally, Vampire: The Eternal Struggle, etc).  It's based on the general premise of Godzilla movies, and each player plays a monster inspired by Godzilla, King Kong, a Cthulhu-like Kraken, a giant robot bunny, etc.  It's a most-ages game that uses Yahtzee-like dice mechanics to empower your monster as it fights to become the last monster standing.

It's much easier to grok than it initially seems like it will be.  Strategy centers around a simple kind of resource management, balancing life, damage, victory points and power cells that allow you to buy cards to power up your creature.  In our own gaming sessions, we've found that more is better -- more monsters is more fun, and setting a higher bar for victory lengthens the game, making the power-up cards more worthwhile and the strategy of dominating or yielding Tokyo more significant.  My only real complaint is that it has a LOT of little pieces, which really comes into consideration if you have younger kids around.  Not necessarily a complaint, but a questionable choice is that the dice are pretty big for an Ages 8 & up game.  It can get kind of... dicey ... shaking 6 or more dice.  You may want a cup, a la Yahtzee.  That being said, it IS a lot of fun to go all rampagey and try to get the upper claw on your friends and family.

UPDATED 7/26/2014

The Graveyard Book - 2010
By Neil Gaiman

Featuring: ghosts, a vampire, a werewolf, ghouls and more

When sudden death comes to the family of a toddler, he wanders off to a nearby historical graveyard.  When the cause of their deaths pursues him, the ghosts in that graveyard take it upon themselves to raise the boy and keep him safe.  Renamed Nobody Owens, or "Bod," he is granted the freedom of the graveyard and raised in the ways of ghosts, with additional tutelage by Silas, a neither dead nor alive resident of the cemetery.  The flow of the narrative is semi-episodic, illustrating chapters in Bod's life which offer fun little encounters and adventures in their own right which will each provide the lessons he needs to overcome the dark forces which pursue him.

Highly recommended for spooky kids.

It's also come to my attention that the novel for kids has been adapted into a graphic novel with Gaiman's frequent collaborator and American national treasure, P. Craig Russell, so that's bound to be a gorgeous and satisfying option.  I fully expect this one to get turned into a movie, so wait for that if you're lazy, or get on it now if you enjoy telling people you told them so.

So... I kinda lied.  I ended up deciding to include more comics after all.  It's still not comprehensive, but it's representative.  Continue on to the penultimate chapter of the Monster Mash-Ups IN The Monster Mash-Ups - Part 9: Comics Appendix!

And if you missed all the movies, take it from the top with The Monster Mash-Ups - Part 1: The 1940s & 50s!

The Monster Mash-Ups - Part 7: the Teens


The United Monster Talent Agency - 2010
Written & Directed by Greg Nictero

So just where DO they get all those monsters to cast in their big Hollywood movies anyway?

Monster High - 2010-ongoing

Oh... no.

Including this kind of makes me want to kick my own ass, but now that I'm aware of it, my sense of fairness demands that I include it.

Monster High is a series of toys from Mattel, with webisodes, TV specials, movies and video games that advertise, er, tell their story.  If you haven't heard of it, it's probably because you're not a tween girl or a parent sentenced to raising one.

Oh yeah... the premise takes a bunch of anorexic teenage prostitutes with vacant gazes and dresses them in monster-themed fetish gear.  So it's like everything bad about monster team-up cartoons, mashed up with the negative-sum standards of the kind of pre-teen girls whose terrible parents have taught them "shopping" as a value system.

Being Human - 2011-2014
Created by Toby Whithouse

A TV series about twenty-somethings sharing a house, who also happen to be a ghost, a vampire and a werewolf.  Based on a British series of the same name.  Why haven't I listed the British series?  Simply to irritate the kind of people who complain about American things based on British things.

I haven't seen it yet, so I really have nothing more to add.

Monster Brawl - 2011
Written & Directed by Jesse Thomas Cook

Featuring: Frankenstein's monster, a mummy, a swamp monster, a werewolf, zombies, a cyclops, a witch and a vampire

Monster Brawl is forcing me to reassess the standards by which I have judged every other monster mash-up.  As bad as many of the movies have been, Monster Brawl is starting to make them look a little better.  Like Gingerdead Man vs Evil Bong, it's trying to cash in on that so-bad-its-good camp value, but unlike the original so-bad-they're good movies like Plan 9 from Outer Space, it just never tries to be good.  It aims as low as it can aim while still getting out of bed, and it still fails.  The premise is simple -- too simple.  It takes 8 monsters and pits them against each other in 5 paired wrestling matches, and that is all.  There is no story whatsoever.  It's presented like televised pro-wrestling, and makes pro-wrestling look better in comparison.  LOCAL pro-wrestling.  Many of the performers are indeed wrestlers, including those in non-combatant roles.  So, you know, you've got all those acting chops on display.  The fights are uninspired.  The entire thing lacks any sort of energy.  To call the directing amateurish would be a slander upon amateurs.  The word "amateur" implies that one does something for the love of it.  Monster Brawl is directed as though Jesse Thomas Cook wants to make monsters look boring and wrestling look stupid.  It's the only logical assumption given the finished product.  Perhaps the saddest element of all is the primary non-wrestler participant; Kids in the Hall's Dave Foley doing a bored impression of Howard Cosell.  Dave, you're better than this.  I hope the money they didn't put on the screen is putting his kids through college or something.  It would be the only positive thing to come out of this drooling tribute to brain death.

Crazy Dracula Spring Break Weekend - 2011
Written & Directed by the Granger Brothers

Dracula's having a hard time with his age...

ParaNorman - 2012
Written by Chris Butler
Directed by Chris Butler & Sam Fell

Featuring: ghosts, a witch, the accursed dead

Norman is a kid with a fixation on zombies.  His room is covered with them.  He pores over old movies and even makes his own.  It might seem a little excessive that he'd be so interested in the undead, except for the fact that Norman also sees ghosts; all around him, almost all the time.  Now, for Norman's parents and pretty much everyone else that doesn't believe him, it seems disturbingly excessive, and Norman finds himself pretty isolated at school.  What was already a difficult situation for him becomes even worse when a local loon takes a particular interest in him, insisting that he is responsible for keeping the town safe from a witch's curse.

While it's a little bit of a stretch to include ParaNorman as a Monster Mash-Up in the crossover sense, that's the nice thing about writing my own articles, I can include my favorite movies if I want to.  ParaNorman is a love letter to horror movies in the way that Hotel Transylvania is a cross between fan-fic and a slam book.  The ghosts, witch and not-exactly-zombies are all part of his world, and all part of a sensitive, mature and hilarious narrative for kids and grown-ups alike.

Read the whole article about ParaNorman (and Frankeweenie) here: Separated at Death?

The Cabin in the Woods - 2012
Written by Drew Goddard & Joss Whedon
Directed by Drew Goddard

Featuring: a little bit of everything

Five young people take a weekend trip to a... spa in Fresno -- no wait, that doesn't make sense ... oh right -- a cabin in the woods on an ill-fated trip as they have done since time immemorial (or at least the 70s -- young people have such bad memories).  What's different about this outing is that it's aware of all those other doomed weekends, and it's aware that YOU'RE aware, and aware that you're aware that IT'S aware.  So the first act plays along with the tropes, the second act bends them, and the third act goes meta and all Hell breaks loose.  That's where ALL the monsters are hiding.  If I'm being dodgy, it's because I just want you to see it for yourself.

Frankenweenie - 2012
see link for writing credits
Directed by Tim Burton

Featuring: Frankenstein's dog, Vampire cat, Were-rat, a Gamera-esque giant turtle & more

A kid named Victor Frankenstein loses his dog in an accident and decides to bring it back to life.  He succeeds, and things go well for him for a while.  Eventually, the kids from school find out and they all want their dead pets back too.  This goes... less well, and the results are monstrous.

Frankenweenie was a cute enough film, but it felt to me like it was Tim Burton trying to do Tim Burton, and the whole thing went down a kind of Malkovich rabbit-hole of recycled self-reference.  Obviously it stomps all over Hotel Transylvania like the box turtle turned Gamera, but it can't measure up to the extraordinary ParaNorman.

Check out the fuller-length article at Separated at Death?

Underworld: Awakening - 2012
see link for writing team
Directed by Mans Marlind & Bjorn Stein

Featuring vampires, werewolves, and something new

Following Underworld's flashback episode in Rise of the Lycans, the series goes back to the future, skipping over most of the established mythos and jumping to a time where the vampires and lycans have been exposed to the world and are hunted by humans living in a virtual police state.  Selene escapes from a science lab where she has been kept in hibernation while humans experimented on her.  Once free, she tours the new world while keeping a step ahead of the various interests and agendas of which this new world is comprised.  As it turns out, she has a daughter with her own blend of powers, and it's up to Selene to rescue her from those dirty, rotten scientists.  The narrative is certainly more compelling than in Rise, and new ideas are injected, but it always seems limiting when a series jumps into the future.  I suppose it's assumed that at 40, Beckinsale isn't going to be able to rock the skin-tight dominatrix gear indefinitely.  Rumor is that a fifth film will start to shift the focus to Selene & Michael's daughter.

Monsters Anonymous - 2012
Song by Kevin Hearn

Hotel Transylvania - 2012
Written by Peter Baynham & Robert Smigel
Directed by Genndy Tartakovsky

Featuring: a little bit of everything

Curse my sense of fairness!  I have bashed Hotel Transylvania in the past despite the fact that I hadn't seen it, simply because it had Adam Sandler playing the voice of Dracula (and lots of other castings that place celebrity over quality), and I was prepared to do the same again, but my nagging conscience talked me into giving it a chance just in case it wasn't as bad as I had assumed.

Stupid conscience.

To tell you the truth, it wasn't quite as bad as I feared, but in a year that saw THREE undead-themed animated features, it is definitely the one that should have been run out of town with pitchforks and torches.  Adam Sandler is, indeed, as truly awful as I feared.  In fact, since he and I are close in age, I have made a pledge to take better care of my health, simply so that I may one day live in a world that no longer has Adam Sandler in it.  Unfortunately, he's in almost every scene of the movie, so even in the brief moments of respite, the Sandler Brand of stupidity pervades.  Dracula is the same kind of a-hole that Sandler plays in all his films.  He's a selfish, petty and manipulative liar (but still a "good" guy, really!), then "learns" a schmaltzy and hollow "lesson" (as a result of hurting others) which makes him feel bad, so it's totally okay and he promises he'll never be an a-hole again, this time.  So that gets all over the story about a Dracula that's over-protective of his daughter and caught up in a snowball of lies.  There's also a whole element of the story that hinges on the "zing" of love at first sight (which can never happen again), which is just stupidly wrong and irresponsible to be putting in a story that so strongly wears its intention to convey lessons to children.  Worse yet, that "zing" element leads to a musical number with a rapping Dracula.  Yeah, I said "rapping Dracula" in a 2012 movie.  That's what we're dealing with here.

So, Sandler; bad.  Story; stupid and full of lies.  Jokes, barely approach humor, but at least there's a lot of them!  Voice casting; terrrrrbile.  Art & animation; ah, now here we have a truly mixed bag.  The art is pretty basic CGI fare with everything looking like plastic.  It's even lit like a sit-com rather than a monster classic, which just seems like a hugely wasted opportunity.  The animation is energetic and fluid, however.  If Pixar is the modern analogue to classic Disney, and most of the other studios are competing to be the Warner Brothers in the pack, then Hotel Transylvania is the MGM of the later 50s and 60s.  It's uninspired slapstick with nothing much else to offer.  It's a shame, really.  Director Genndy Tartakovsky has been responsible for some truly clever & stylish projects in the past (Star Wars: Clone Wars, Samurai Jack, etc.) but it feels like this one got away from him thanks to producers (including Sandler) who know less about doing his job than he does.  Perhaps I'm being unfair.  Starting with a screenplay by guys behind Borat and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, I suppose there was only so much anyone could have done with it.  Where a truly good movie for children and families (Pixar, Disney, Laika) will deal with universal themes that resonate for kids and adults alike, and pepper it with humor borne out of story and character, Hotel Transylvania is one of those that separates its audience, with the dumb stuff getting a pass because it's for kids (who are assumed to be at least as dumb) and winking/smirking gags thrown in for the adults who got dragged along.

Here's the part where I play fair.  Kevin James as Frankenstein (Frankenstein's Monster, really, but you try and tell 'em) was not one of the worst things about the movie.  Now, Ian McShane or Jonathan Banks would have been brilliant but I'm just working with what's here.  He has a monologue about monsters toward the end which actually has some emotional content and he sells it.  The character designs strike me as lazy, but they're not bad, per se.  They're varied and graphical.  There is a lot of fan service for monster buffs like myself.  One of the biggest heartbreaks occurs during the credits, which use what appears to be concept art in the background  The concept art is GORGEOUS and suggests the potential for a MUCH better movie, which was then strangled in its crib by jealous godparents.

Ninjas vs Monsters - 2013
Written & Directed by Justin Timpane

Ninjas (third in a series) versus a collection of classic monsters.

Yeah, that happened.

Gingerdead Man vs Evil Bong - 2013
Written by Kent Roudebush
Directed by Charles Band

Featuring: a gingerbread cookie possessed by the spirit of Gary Busey's teeth and a... an... evil bong

So, first of all, yes, these are things that actually exist and furthermore, each have 3 movies under their respective belts -- and then they crossed over.  Gingerdead Man was once a serial killer who was electrocuted and cremated, and then his mother scattered his ashes in a wheat field, which I guess is how his spirit made it into a gingerbread cookie.  Then the cookie started stabbing people.  Meanwhile, some college kids ordered a bong on Ebay and it turned out to speak like a stereotypical "sassy black woman" and also, you know, evil.  When people smoke from the Evil Bong (AKA "Eebee") they are sucked into "the Bong World" where their fantasies become real... and then try to kill them.

You want to know how I know all of this without having ever watched either series until the crossover?  Because the crossover spends about half of its running time flashing back to all six of its predecessors.  In fact, it spends so much time with exposition that it runs out of time to actually do anything.  By the time both baddies are on the loose, the protagonists have to quickly smoke their way into the Bong World to escape the Gingerdead Man.  He follows them in.  Then someone tells them how to get out, and they get out.  That's about it, discounting all the weird and unpleasant characters..

It's evident that GMvsEB is trying to tap that low-budget "so bad it's good" market, but it becomes so self-consciously bad that it ends up being so bad it's bad.  Bad.  SO bad.  Even the gratuitous boobs are bad.  It's not only an insult to pot heads, it's a slander upon low budget horror and even to monster mash-ups, which as we've just seen here, is a pretty low bar to slide under.

I, Frankenstein - 2014
Written & Directed by Stuart Beattie
from the Comic Book by Kevin Grevioux

Featuring: Frankenstein's Monster, demons & gargoyles

I. Frankenstein doesn't ask much from us, but what it does ask is that we accept a few conceits that might seem silly.  If we can accept these things, then everything is going to be just fine and the movie will throw a bunch of entertainment at our faces.  If, for some reason, we decide that we're more interested in finding things to complain about, then the movie will hand us that instead.

The premise we're asked to accept is that Frankenstein's Monster lived.  That shouldn't be too hard.  We've been accepting that premise for more than 70 years now.  Then, upon interring his creator's body in the family plot, the monster is attacked by demons intent on his capture.  Okay, that's a new twist.  Before you can take a deep breath and come to peace with this twist, there's another -- gargoyles swoop in and finish off the demons, then reveal themselves in human form.  They are essentially angels in earthbound form, fighting the eternal battle in this mortal realm.  Okay, that's a lot to take in.  You thought this was going to be a Frankenstein movie, and much of it still is, but the machinery that makes it run relies heavily on this good gargoyles vs evil demons premise, and if you can't get with that, you're not going to experience the fun there is to be had.

See, I, Frankenstein comes from a lot of the same people behind the Underworld films, including being adapted from a comic book written by Kevin Grevioux who played a werewolf in at least two of them.  That heritage shows.  I,F bears many similarities to Underworld, with the eternal battle between two armies (neither of which is to be trusted) and a strange creation caught between them.  All of this is terribly stylish, taking place during a seemingly endless night, with lots of moody posturing.  Bill Nighy shows up to seethe and menace, thus completing the family resemblance.

As in the early Universal crossovers, Frankenstein's journal is central to the plot and the reckless pursuit of life beyond death.  After going into hiding for 200 years, the monster, bearing the name Adam, has returned to the civilized world, taking the battle back to the demons who never stopped looking for him.  This also brings him back to the attention of the gargoyles.  Behind the scenes, the demons have been researching the science of reanimation, and the latest pawn in their employ is a supermodel-hot scientist (because movies).  When Adam gets a look at their operation, he discovers racks and racks of dead bodies, just waiting to be reanimated.  So the question becomes, what exactly is the plan with all those bodies, because that just can't be good, and how is Adam going to stop said plan with the armies of Heaven and Hell both riding his ass?  The answer is a whole bunch of blazing action with frequent bouts of slo-mo.

Like many of the monster mash-ups, we can ask if it's silly or if it's fun, and the answer to both (as it often is) is yes.  I am kind of getting the feeling that these producers would score a little more fan appreciation if they didn't take their silliness quite SO seriously.

UPDATE 7-2-2014

Penny Dreadful - 2014-ongoing
Created by John Logan

Featuring: Vampires, Frankenstein's Monsters, Dorian Gray, demon possession and a Werewolf (so far!)

Penny Dreadful is faithful to its namesake inspiration, the penny dreadful pulp fiction leaflets of Victorian England, combining sex, horror and operatic melodrama.  In concept, the series might bring images of Alan Moore & Kevin O'Neill's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen to mind.  It weaves characters and situations from various Gothic horrors together into a single narrative, but it does so in its own way.  Specifically, we get pieces of Shelley's Frankenstein, Stoker's Dracula and Wilde's Dorian Gray, amongst other nods to the era.

The unifying narrative concerns the efforts of Mina Harker's father, Sir Malcolm Murray (Timothy Dalton) and her childhood best friend, Vanessa (Eva Green) in their efforts to track her down and rescue her from the vampires who have captured her.  Toward this end, they have enlisted the aid of a haunted but ambitious young doctor, Victor Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway) and a Buffalo Bill-wannabe sharpshooter from a wild west show, Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett).  Each of the characters has their own plot-threads to sew, and they often snag upon Dorian Gray (Reeve Carney).  It makes for a pretty full plate, and the producers don't appear to be in any rush to clean it, even going back to the buffet for extra helpings before they've finished what they have.

If things get overwrought, well, they're supposed to.  If some of the sex seems gratuitous, it's part of the show, folks.  Penny Dreadful makes no secret of its Grand Guignol roots.  Quite the opposite, in fact, it brandishes them, making the Grand Guignol theater a major crossroads for story elements.  Where Penny Dreadful could stand to learn a few things from the bloody melodramas, however, is in getting to the point.  There is a tendency to draw things out much longer than is necessary.  I get that this is a Showtime drama, and we're expecting a little more depth of character, but there were many places where redundancy and delayed revelations became irritating.  A bottle episode just before the first season finale had me barking at the TV like a ginned-up groundling, and a major reveal in the finale had been fairly evident (to me, at least) since the first or second episode.  At least I got to chuckle at the allusions along the way.

That's not a big complaint, mind you, but it's a noticeable source of annoyance.  Obviously I wasn't too put-off, given that I binge watched the entire first season in one sitting.  I'm sure to be back for more.  I fully expect a mummy to turn up ere long

So what, if anything, have we learned?

Well, first I learned that watching a bunch of Frankenstein movies will give me really weird dreams.  Then I learned that watching Godzilla movies for a week will make me want to roar at challenges when I get the upper hand.

But about the odd little library of The Monster Mash-Ups, I learned a few things too.  I learned to be careful what we wish for; that a cool idea won't necessary lead to a cool reality unless you take the time, effort and creativity to make it good.  I learned that entertainment products that poach public domain characters that others have made popular most often shows a fundamental misallocation of priorities.  I learned just how little respect there is for the intelligence of children by Hollywood, and even worse, that there are a whole lot of parents who respect it even less, since they willingly throw their kids to these wolves.  Sadder still, I learned that some people will get nostalgic over ANYTHING, no matter how bad, indicating a frightening lack of personal growth.  I learned that the best way to pay homage to the things that one loved as a child is to respect them, but not to overly revere them, and the best results will come from building a new mythology of one's own that taps into what we loved, but repurposes it for the different world we live in now.

Like Dr Frankenstein making his monster, we can choose useful pieces of the past and stitch them together with care, or we can take a haphazard approach, throwing any old brain into the creature.  A beast with a great heart can be a creation of horrible beauty, but one with a discount brain is just going to end badly for everyone.

...especially the children.

That wraps up the movies and TV, but if you continue reading, we'll take a look at video games, children's books and more in The Monster Mash-Ups - Part 8: Choice Cuts!

Or, if you're new here, you can take it from the top with The Monster Mash-Ups - Part 1: the 1940s & 50s!

The Monster Mash-Ups - Part 6: the Twenty-Aughts


Monsters and  monster mash-ups really started to make a comeback in the 21st century.  I believe that Buffy played a large role in this.  It may not have been the most statistically successful show, but it was dramatically influential on the next generation of film & television writers, and particularly upon the geek arts fan base.  Your traditionally male fantasy & sci-fi crowd dismissed it as girl stuff or wrote it off as lacking the grim-browed seriousness they demanded at the time, but in our post-broadcast digital media era where binge-viewing is becoming the norm, holders of the platinum geek card now know better than to underrate the power of the Whedonverse.  I would go so far as to claim that the ever-deepening long-form narrative of Buffy and Angel made shows like Lost possible, and therefore much of what we expect from televised drama today.

Of course, it sure didn't hurt that the technology capable of bringing the fantastical to life was improving at an exponential rate.  In a very short amount of time, we've seen the spawning of an environment where even the slightest flaw in the illusion triggers self-righteous nerd-rage, so one has to question what we've really gained.

Monster Mash - 2000

A DiC Entertainment animated musical about monsters that aren't scary anymore (probably because of all the terrible cartoons made about them), based on the name of that song you hate.

Do I even need to say it?  'Cause I'm certainly not going to watch it.

Godzilla, Mothra & King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack - 2001
see link for writing team
Directed by Sushuke Kaneko

Featuring: Godzilla, Baragon, Mothra & King Ghidorah

I've never been a hardcore Godzilla fan in the past.  I didn't often seek them out but made a point to watch them when I stumbled across one here or there.  So if you, like I, have been baffled by the continuity of the overarching Godzilla saga, that's because there really isn't one.  Different eras have a certain loose connectivity, but overall, it just really hasn't mattered.  In Giant Monsters All-Out Attack, that point is made somewhat clearer.  It overlooks everything but the original 1954 movie, so when Godzilla rises again, he hasn't been seen in almost 50 years.  The other monsters, Baragon, Mothra and King Ghidorah are all new, per this continuity.  They're now legendary guardians of Japan, summoned from their ten thousand year slumber beneath all-but-forgotten shrines.

The effects are certainly updated, but not as much as you might think.  I don't think there's any CGI here, or if there is, it's really just to add effects (atomic breath, etc.) to a more refined version of the same kind of effects that they used for, well, almost 50 years.  The monsters are still sweaty dudes in rubber suits.  There's less use of miniatures except where direct interaction is required.  Instead, outdoor scenes are shot on location and edited together with the hot monster on monster action.  It mostly works.  The increased realism just makes things like Ghidorah's heads thrashing around, Baragon crawling on his knees and Mothra's slow, rigid wings stand out all the more starkly.

Also needing some updating is the writing and acting.  Cornball nostalgia is one thing.  Modern cornball is just cornball.  I don't mean it to sound that bad.  It's still a lot of fun and it does look pretty good most of the time.  The fights are kind of brutal, with monsters sinking their teeth into each other and some definitive destruction.  Also, because they're not beholden to any particular continuity, they don't cheap out on the conclusion.  Giant Monsters All-Out Attack mostly lives up to its name.

Underworld - 2003
Written by Danny McBride (No, sadly, not that Danny McBride)
Directed by  Len Wiseman

Featuring vampires, werewolves (lycans) and a hybrid vampire/lycan

Underworld pays homage to the classic movie monsters with an updated mythology and stylish execution.  Kate Beckinsale is the perpetually leather-and-latex-clad vampire, Selene.  It's her job to fight the werewolves (here known as "lycans" and not beholden to full moons) in the centuries-old war between the two species of night-dwellers.  She stumbles onto a Lycan plot to create a hybrid vampire/werewolf, which throws the internal politics of both clans into chaos, especially when she falls in love with the hybrid and learns that all is not as she has been told in this clan rivalry.  There are some pretty clever ideas at work here and the creators build a suitably re-imagined world for these warring factions to inhabit.  The lycans are well designed, as is everything, and the action is as slick as the raindrops beading off Beckinsale's shiny hiney.  Bill Nighy makes full use of his fangs to really chew the scenery in a tonally appropriate way.  It takes itself ridiculously seriously, but I never felt that it expected me to.

Freddy vs. Jason - 2003
Written by Damian Shannon & Mark Swift
Directed by Ronny Yu

Featuring a disfigured homicidal maniac who's already dead and a disfigured homicidal maniac who cannot die

It seems that Freddy just can't get his kill on like he used to.  The teens of Elm Street have been shielded from his memory, and just don't fear him anymore.  So he tricks Jason into doing a little stabbing on his behalf, just to prime the pump for a comeback, as it were.  The film seems to hinge, in part, upon the idea that making kids ignorant is an effective defense against fear, which strikes me as wrong, but obviously no one is here for the subtext.  Worse, however, is the misogyny, much of which falls upon Katharine Isabelle's character (she discovers the mangled body of her apparently abusive boyfriend, then gets murdered herself while she's being raped).  Speaking of rape, Freddy seems much more rapey here than I recall him being in the original Nightmare films.  Where once it was his backstory, it now seems to occupy more of his thoughts... and menace.

But you did come for the bloody fan service, and FvJ delivers that.  Jason eventually figures out that he's been manipulated and the two master slashers turn their attention to each other.  Jason takes a beating in Freddy's nightmare world, and Freddy takes a beating in Jason's physical world.  The end seemingly calls back the end of King King vs Godzilla with an uncertain outcome and one figure swimming away.  All in all, what can one expect from a trashy monument to trashy fun?

Van Helsing - 2004
Written and Directed by Stephen Sommers

Featuring: Dracula & his brides, Frankenstein's monster, werewolves, Mr. Hyde, some creepy little troll things and vampire demon babies

I'll let you in on a little secret.  A large part of the motivation behind this article was to show Van Helsing in its proper context.  It is, after all, a Universal monster mash-up; a fact which has been overlooked by rage-nerds from all across the internet.  Is it silly?  Sure, but that's its legacy too.  Have you SEEN House of Dracula?  Well I have now.  Silly can be a whole lot of FUN, and "fun" is the lightning-charged heart of Van Helsing.

Wolverine plays Van Helsing, who is to the Catholic church what James Bond is to MI-6, right down to the unlikely gadgets that prove surprisingly handy.  In the opening, he pursues Mr. Hyde (as in Dr. Jekyl and...) through Paris, bound to bring him in dead or alive.  His next assignment is Transylvania, where he's sent to assist a gypsy woman (Kate Beckinsale in leather pants, natch) who represents the last in a bloodline committed to ending Dracula's reign of terror.  There's really quite a lot going on in this movie.  Tense moments of exposition bridge action-packed set pieces.  They team up with Frankenstein's monster, which is a really fantastic character/creature design.

In fact, the whole movie is packed with great designs for costumes, monsters, gadgets and places.  Are some of the CGI effects imperfect?  So what?  They serve their purpose.  Zip it, whiners.  Van Helsing packs a TON of effects for a May release.  It's not supposed to look like a July movie.  The fact is, the effects are fine and they move the story and action along the way they need to.  Van Helsing is exactly what it means to be, and that's a roller coaster tribute to Universal's monster mash-ups that actually has more story and indulgent thrills for today's less patient audiences.  Perhaps its greatest fault is expecting joyless geeks to catch the wink.

Hellboy - 2004
Written by Guillermo del Toro
from the Comics by Mike Mignola
Directed by Guillermo del Toro

Featuring: demons, a gill man, a clockwork assassin, a reanimated corpse, a demon-infused Rasputin & the Old Ones

In the interest of full disclosure, there wasn't much chance of me disliking Hellboy, being a fan of the comic since before it came out (I saw Mignola's sketchbook at a con, so neener), but if it had betrayed the source material, I totally could have turned on it as well.  With Guillermo del Toro at the helm, there was really very little cause for concern.

During WWII, Allied soldiers interrupt a bizarre team of Nazi operatives amid a strange occult ritual.  When the smoke has settled, they discover that the ritual had some effect, although it's unclear whether it was the desired effect.  A bright red demon child with a giant stone hand was pulled into our world, whom they dub "Hellboy."  Hellboy is raised by Dr Bruttenholm ("Broom"), the paranormal scientist on the team, and as he grows, he goes to work in pretty much the only way he could; serving the Bureau for Paranormal Research & Defense as their number one monster puncher.

Decades later, the Nazi operatives are still active.  Serving the Reich was really just a conduit for their true plans; bringing about the end of the world for their Lovecraftian god.  It turns out that Hellboy has a role to play in their plans, but he's really not the "destiny" type.

Hellboy's world is filled with all kinds of creatures drawn from literature and legend, and he's right at home in the middle of it with his teammates; gill-man Abe Sabien, and Liz Sherman who starts more fires than the one in Hellboy's heart.

Alien vs Predator - 2004
Written & Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson

Featuring: Aliens & Predators

Dark Horse Comics originated the crossing-over of the Aliens and Predator franchises, which then spread back to the cinematic worlds despite some pretty major ret-conning.  Predators come to modern day Earth, activating an Alien-stocked ritual hunting ground in a pyramid under the Antarctic ice.  A human expedition from Weyland-Yutani Corp makes the mistake of getting in the way, so, death.  It's thin and corny without a thought in its head, but it's a reasonably fan-pleasing affair from the guy behind the Resident Evil films.  Hold that, back up a little.  It's pleasing for the fans that just want to see Aliens and Predators unleashing violence.  It offers little of the dramatic tension of the original Ridley Scott Alien, but then so little else has.

Godzilla: Final Wars - 2004
Written by Isao Kiriyama & Ryuhei Kitamura
Directed by Ryuhei Kitamura

Featuring: ALL of the giant monsters

What a difference three years makes!  Someone at Toho evidently had the same thoughts that I had about Giant Monsters All-Out Attack."  Final Wars still uses location footage, but far more extensive use of miniatures to put the mass back in "mass destruction."  But let me rewind a moment...

Final Wars is indeed the final Godzilla movie from Toho.  They vowed not to make another for at least ten years, and they haven't.  I understand they even filled in the pool they used to shoot water scenes, so if and when they come back, it seems pretty clear that they are going to have to have retooled their production line.

The film takes place in an alternate universe.  I guess they'd really all have to, but at least in the past they've been presented in a real-world-dealing-with-unreal-monsters framework.  Where All-Out Attack chose to ignore all but the first movie, Final Wars embraces the legacy.  In the continuity here, Godzilla first appeared in 1954, then continued to return along with most of the other monsters.  It's non-specific about which movies and stories are continuity, but the idea that the monsters from all previous films existed in some form or another is more the point.  It's paying tribute to the totality of Toho history before it closes the book on them -- and whoa baby, close the book it does.

As a reaction to the regular appearance of kaiju, the world has united to form the Earth Defense Force, many of whom are also mutated humans with increased strength and speed.  They fend off the monsters with a giant drill-tipped flying submarine and springboard-enhanced karate poses.  Oh yeah, Final Wars borrows a bit from the Ultraman types of shows that Godzilla inspired.  The non-monster parts are much more action-packed in their own right, with acrobatic combat, sword fights and a motorcycle chase that would make Tom Cruise jealous.  Where the human drama failed to live up to the scale of the rest of the movie in All-out, Final Wars pushes it way, way over the top.  It's cornier than ever, but it works, even if there's too much of it in the third act.

So here in this alternative future, aliens suddenly appear to offer their friendship in a totally-not-suspicious way.  It's essentially an updating of the story from Destroy All Monsters only with humans that actually do something.  I'm sure this is hardly a coincidence, since Destroy was originally intended to be a "final" Godzilla movie for director Ishiro Honda.  The Xillians, as they're known (because of course their true name would be too hard for we feeble humans to speak) took away the monsters as a gesture of good will, but when their true faces are revealed (literally) they unleash them on the world with nothing powerful enough to stop them.  Except Godzilla.  Destroy All Monsters' big third act throw-down featured all the monsters against King Ghidorah, which seemed kind of lame because they all just gang-rushed him.  It made Godzilla look not-so-impressive and resulted in an overly brief fight.  Final Wars gets the sides right.  Godzilla fights EVERYONE, including making fast work of the weak-sauce American  Godzilla wannabe (not to mention the Sydney Opera House).  And they're not kidding about "final" either.  Many of the opposing monsters get impaled or decapitated, and the final final showdown between our boy G and a super-mega new Kaizer Ghidorah occurs in the ruins of a place that can't strictly be called Tokyo any longer.

I don't know how any Godzilla fan could be disappointed with Final Wars, but birds gotta fly and nerds gotta bitch.  It's an insane, over-the-top, all-action, self-serious-but-totally-silly music video of leather-posing wire-fu and rubber suited monster mashing, and it delivers.  This is all I could have wanted (and more) to close out 50 years with the King of Monsters.

Puppet Master vs Demonic Toys - 2004

This happened too.

The Batman vs Dracula - 2005
Written by Duane Capizzi
Directed by Michael Goguen & team

Featuring: Dracula and the Joker

If Freddy Kreuger and Jason Vorhees are monsters, then isn't the Joker too?  I say, sure, why not?

The Batman vs Dracula is a feature length animated feature from the "The Batman" period of animated Batman adventures.  Which means it's not as good as the original Batman cartoons from the 90s, but it's still pretty good for a second-string team.  The premise is pretty simple.  Joker and Penguin break out of Arkham and race for a treasure stash in Gotham Cemetery.  Penguin breaks into the wrong tomb and inadvertently raises Dracula from dusty death, and Dracula makes it his business to turn Gotham into a city of the undead.  Batman disapproves of this business plan.

In Dracula, he has met a fellow bat man who is more than his match as a combatant -- 'scuse me, comBATant -- but then Batman is more than just a fighter, isn't he?  Joker finally turns up at the tomb and gets himself vamped, which gives him some good scenes, but it's really not his film.  Penguin serves in the Renfield role and Vicki Vale gets stuck with Mina Harker duty.  The vampires are brutal and creepy, with a strong Nosferatu influence.  They present a viable threat on a mass scale.  That's what really sells the movie and makes it work as both a vampire tale and a Batman story worthy of the longer form treatment.

Underworld: Evolution - 2006
Written by Danny McBride
Directed by Len Wiseman

Featuring: vampires, werewolves & hybrids

Evolution picks up immediately after the original Underworld, following up on its semi-cliffhanger conclusion.  The last surviving vampire elder is back, and more powerful than expected.  More of the history behind the "immortal" species of vampires and werewolves is revealed in what essentially amounts to a chase movie.  Selene & Michael flee the powerful Marcus, expanding our view of their world and encountering new characters from whom it is made, including the immortal father of both clans.  Totally satisfying follow-up to the first with more monochromatically stylish violence.

Aliens vs Predator: Requiem - 2007
Written by Shane Salerno
Directed by The Brothers Strause

Featuring aliens and predators

Requiem rides the coattails of the first AvP's "BOO!" ending without really continuing the story.  An alien-infected Predator crashes into a remote American mountain town, and then there's death.

At least I assume those noises were death, because almost the entirety of Requiem takes place in the dark.  The woods at night.  The sewer at night.  Powerless buildings at night.  It's not scary, it's just hard to see.  It really undermines the fan service, and without the fan service, there's nothing left.  See that picture?  That's what happens when an Alien gestates in a Predator.  That's the best part of the whole movie, and now you know.

Monsters in Autumn - 2007
Directed by Charlie Cline

Dracula, Frankenstein's monster and the Wolf Man look back on their lives and relationship.

Hellboy II: The Golden Army - 2008
Written by Guillermo del Toro
from the Comic by Mike Mignola
Directed by Guillermo del Toro

Featuring: a demon, a gill-man, tooth fairies, an elemental, faeries, trolls, magical robots, an angel of death and plenty of god-knows-what

Hellboy and friends are back for more, and more is what they get.  This sequel is overflowing with all manner of weirdness, and a surprising amount of beauty.  As much as I liked the first, I really prefer The Golden Army.

After centuries inhabiting the hidden places in the world, the embittered prince of Faerie has treacherously laid claim to the throne, and the pieces of the crown that will empower him to control the Golden Army; a force of magical mechanical soldiers capable of destroying the world as we know it.  His quest to gather the missing piece of the crown brings him to the attention of the BPRD and Hellboy.  The search to understand his attack sends Hellboy into back-to-back outstanding set pieces; first delving into the Troll Market, where the creatures of myth do business under the noses of mankind, followed immediately by open combat with a giant elemental plant god, which is one of the most poignant battles you can imagine in such an wild and fantastical film.  It's both thrilling and heartbreaking.  And that's what makes me really love this movie.  For all its high concepts and cartoonish violence, it has a tremendous amount of heart -- particularly in the nihilistic context of so many of our other big action films these days.  Hellboy and Abe grapple with the concept of love like the outsiders they represent.  Characters do bad things, but often for good reasons.  This is not the mustache-twilring E-vil of the first movie's Nazi death-worshipers, and its willingness to love makes it lovable.

I Sell The Dead - 2008
Written & Directed by Glenn McQuaid

Featuring: vampire, zombies and an alien

From the seedier side of the Victorian age comes this horror/comedy about the misadventures of two grave robbers.  Professional ghoul Arthur (Dominic Monaghan) offers his confession about his career stealing and selling corpses.  His sentence is death, one way or the other, but he steadfastly denies having ever committed murder; of which the priest hearing his tale (Ron Perlman) is skeptical.  The story is delivered in vignettes, which apparently confuses some viewers, but you are not them, my friend, and you do not need your hand held.  Arthur explains how he got pulled into the business, and how an unscrupulous doctor (with more societal respect) was able to blackmail him and his partner into taking more dangerous jobs for even less money than usual.  That sends them to a crossroads where they unearth a woman's corpse wreathed in garlic, with a stake through her heart.  Another high-risk job leads them into conflict with a rival -- and much more ruthless -- gang of ghouls; the House Murphy.  That conflict comes to a peak when both Arthur & Willie and House Murphy compete to retrieve two crates of unusual corpses lost at sea.

I Sell the Dead is a wholly unique story, presented with a consistent flow of good humor.  Arthur and Willie don't question much and they haven't seen the movies we've see, which just makes it funnier when we're in on the jokes that elude (and chase) them.

Twilight - 2008
Written by Who Freaking Cares
Directed by It Couldn't Possibly Matter

Featuring: Sort-of Werewolves and Not-really Vampires

"Harry Potter is all about confronting fears, finding inner strength and and doing what is right in the face of adversity.  Twilight is about how important it is to have a boyfriend."
--Stephen King

They made four of these freakin' things but I'm only mentioning it once and that's simply to satisfy my own self-imposed sense of obligation.  I'll watch Gingerdead Man vs Evil Bong, but I won't watch these.  I'm sorry and you're welcome.

Underworld: Rise of the Lycans - 2009
see link for writing team
Directed by Patrick Tatopoulos

Featuring: vampires & werewolves

The completely unnecessary prequel that no one asked for.  I can only assume that it was an excuse to bring the dead characters played by Bill Nighy and Michael Sheen back and remind us of things that we already knew about them.  Due to its setting prior to Selene becoming a vampire, the similarly sassy English lassie Rhona Mitra fills the leather and latex cat suit.  I suppose it might be satisfying for the fans who are all-in on the series mythology, but there's very little dramatic tension since we know how things are going to turn out 600 years later.  While I never felt that the previous cared if I didn't take them seriously, Rise seemed to expect it.  Looking back, I can only recall one stand-out action set piece, and it doesn't measure up to those than came before it.

Monsters vs Aliens - 2009
see link for writing team
Directed by Rob Letterman & Conrad Vernon

Featuring: a gill-man, a blob, a 50 foot woman, an insectoid mad scientist and a kind of squirrel/caterpillar giant monster thing... versus aliens

It's Susan Murphy's big day.  She's primped, prepped and pumped to marry her beau, Derek, and so what if he told her that the honeymoon in Paris is cancelled so he can audition for a news anchor job in Fresno?  They're a team, aren't they?

And that's when a meteorite lands on her.

Moments later, scuffed by unscratched, she returns to the church to get on with the first day of the rest of her life.  She has that glow about her -- wait, not that glow, the other glow.  The hit-by-a-meteor-and-absorbed-cosmic-power-and-don't-they-grow-up-so-fast-no-I-mean-REALLY-fast kind of glow.  In a matter of seconds, she's a 50 foot woman, and not much longer after that, she's in the custody of the US government.  Fade to black.

Susan wakes up in a giant, windowless facility and soon discovers that she's not alone.  She shares this prison with gill-man otherwise known as the Missing Link, Dr Cockroach; a mad scientist who overdid the insect DNA, a brainless blue blob called BOB, and, oh yeah, Insectosaurus, a squirrel-bug-dinosaur kind of thing that towers over even Susan.  They have all been collected by a super-ultra-secret military division and kept imprisoned so the world never has to deal with the inconvenient knowledge of their existence.  And that's the way it's going to be... until an intergalactic tyrant shows up looking to collect the power from the meteorite that started everything for Susan.

Monsters vs Aliens is better than average work from Dreamworks Animation.  Well, let me be more specific; the story is better than average.  The animation is weirdly stilted at times.  Characters frequently goosestep inappropriately.  Things don't move dynamically but remain rigid.  Character design and art direction really lack the kind of inspiration that would make MvA truly special.  The most disturbing are the normal humans.  I would guess that they're all built on the same skeletal frames, then basically draped with meat.  It results in some mechanical movement taking place within slack, dangling flesh.  I think the root of the problem is the split that the animators targeted between cartoony and realistic.  They seem to be trying to have it both ways and end up having neither.  Obviously not everyone cares as much about that kind of thing as I do.

I still really enjoy (have enjoyed and will enjoy again) Monsters vs Aliens.  The story has heart.  The characters you're supposed to like are actually likeable.  Susan's personal breakthrough feels earned.  There are some big laughs, and lots of little homages to monster movies of the past.

Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl - 2009
Written by Naoyuki Tomomatsu
Directed by Yoshihiro Nishamura & Naoyuki Tomomatsu

As crazy as the title sounds, it really does nothing to express how babblingly insane the film itself is.  Right off the bat, it helps to think of this as a cartoon that just happens to have people acting it out.  The characters are all over-the-top exaggerations, perhaps best expressed by the high school social clubs to which they belong, including Lolita fashionistas, a suicide obsessed "wrist-cutters" club, and a ganguro club trying to emulate African Americans to an offensively caricatured degree.  The principal of the school dresses as a kabuki performer, and doubles as a mad scientist assisted by the school nurse at night.  However nutty that all sounds, I can assure you that you really have not grasped the full madness of this film.

Everything plays out in the biggest, craziest possible way.  Monami is the new girl in school.  It turns out she's also a vampire who has set her sights on Mizushima.  To seduce him (and draw him into her world) she gives him chocolate laced with her blood.  Unfortunately, Mizushima already has a girlfriend; Keiko.  When Keiko figures out what's going on, she confronts Monami which leads to her falling from the school's roof  It just so happens that the Kabuki/mad scientist principal is also Keiko's father, and he and the nurse conduct one of their experiments on Keiko's body to bring her back to life.  Thus she becomes the titular "Frankenstein Girl" to Monami's "Vampire Girl."

And so the stage is set, and it won't be done until the stage is mopped with a bucket of blood.  I can't call it a good movie, but it's ridiculously entertaining -- and I do mean ridiculously.

House of The Wolf Man - 2009
Written & Directed by Eben Garr

In the Venn diagram of Universal Monster crossover fans and sufferers of OCD, House of The Wolf Man is where they overlap.  A modern film made to look like the completion of the 1940s "House of..." films with a nerd-pleasing trilogy.

Sadly, I am unable to discuss it in any greater depth as I have not yet been able to see it.

We bring it up to date in the final film entry with The Monster Mash-Ups - Part 7: the Teens!

Or you can start from the beginning with The Monster Mash-Ups - Part 1: the 1940s & 50s!