What's the best way to make a B-Movie monster? Not everyone has a bunch of money to throw at some science fiction/horror film. You could spend 15 years of your life and a half billion dollars but still end up with a movie that's a piece of crap. Those big studios with their bloated production costs can CGI a dragon farting down the Eiffel Tower all they want but a scary monster can be nothing more than an appendage on a stick that you wave in front of the camera. This foolproof guide for the creation of effective movie monsters will greatly assist you in designing the most intriguing and cost effective antagonist for your project.
That’s just a fancy French way of saying “what’s the spiel”? A good monster always has an origin that’s easily understood by the audience. Simply having a monster jump out from behind a fake mountain, for absolutely no discernible reason, might be the standard for an Ultraman episode but serious monster enthusiasts demand a reasonable causality as a matter of standard etiquette. Here are the basic origins from which any creature may be properly manifested:
It's a well known fact that one out of every five scientific experiments results in monster creation. A scientist may be altruistic and looking to solve one of the world's many problems or simply disgruntled and trying to "show those fools at the academy who laughed at my theories!" Either way, scientists and monsters form a codependent bond in modern cinema and you just can't have one without the other. If your creature of choice isn't created by a scientist, there had better be some guy in a lab coat trying to kill your monster or it might just be totally lame.
It's also well known that radiation is capable of mutating the DNA of any living creature - which usually results in a large, angry monster. The transformation of inert or harmless matter into a viable threat to mankind is best accomplished by employing a 50 gallon drum that’s been labeled “Radioactive Waste” and is leaking bright green fluid after being secretly dumped by an evil corporation. For an alternative, the container may also be labeled to represent 50 gallons of any toxic byproduct of human activity. World renowned toxic waste dumps and atomic test sites also provide excellent fictional spawning grounds for monsters 
Places That Time Hasn't Been To Either
Nobody will bother to wonder why a prehistoric oasis with tropical weather, only accessible from underwater tunnels, would exist in the Antarctic interior. How many people in the audience have actually been to Antarctica let alone find it on a map? That’s the allure of the unknown land or island, anything can happen there because it’s unknown. The center of the earth and the bottom of the ocean are also perfect unknown places for monsters to be waiting for helpless victims. Have you ever been a few miles beneath the earth’s surface? Have you ever been to the bottom of the Mariana Trench? I didn’t think so.
Becoming trapped in a sheet of ice is a fairly common event but it's still a fascinating concept which easily explains the existence of any monster. Whether it’s an advanced form of life from outer space or an ancient terrestrial creature, nobody can deny the obviously high probability of being frozen alive and naturally stored for thousands of years. Throw in an Atomic bomb or an incompetent janitor who’s accidentally turned the thermostat to above freezing and you’ve got yourself a monster that’s as fresh as the day it was frozen and is ready for killing people. Freezing is also an excellent method of storing your monster for future sequels.
Anything can come from outer space, especially alien life forms. The preferred methods for space monsters to reach the Earth safely and wreak havoc in a short period of time include flying saucers, meteorites, wayward space probes and hitchhiking. It might sound expensive but flying pie pans make great UFO's and a tennis ball that's been dipped in flammable liquids, ignited and thrown by an unseen hand makes a great meteor. Scientists, curious townspeople, opportunists and unscrupulous promoters make for an excellent way to transport any monster into heavily populated areas but it's especially pertinent with space monsters since it takes a buttload of money to create anything that looks remotely close to something flying through the sky and then landing in a major city - not to mention using it to destroy those pricey miniature buildings. Also, things from outer space must either glow or be really shiny to properly designate that they are indeed, from outer space. Make sure to stock up on lots of colored light bulbs, tin foil and silver spray paint if you run with this option.
People Saying Stuff
Whether it’s the deranged old-timer drooling out the details of a local legend or it’s hieroglyphics written in some ancient pharaoh’s tomb, all it takes is one witness to establish legitimacy. If an ancient scroll says that your monster exists, then indisputable proof has been properly rendered. Hidden messages in the Bible and government documents are also considered infallible by any intelligent audience. If somebody said so, it must be true.
Now that you’ve got a great origin story for your monster, the next step is to figure out what form your antagonist will take. Don’t forget that your monster will need a sound effect that gets excessively played every time it's presence is near! Find some various growling and breathing sound effects, mix them together haphazardly, create a 10 second tape loop and voila!
The advantage of a humanoid monster is the fact that used wetsuits are cheap and can be modified easily. Discarded “Mr Peanut” costumes can be transformed into bipedal monsters with several appendages that can sting or claw people to death. Zoomorphism makes for an easy plot concept and subsequent film title when your creature becomes “The Leopard Man” or “The Wasp Woman”. Gorilla costumes have been plentiful since the success of “Planet of the Apes” in the late 60’s, so incorporating them into your monster just makes common sense. If you can’t afford the full body suit, then just buy the mask and get some jumpsuits or used uniforms. Any humanoid monster can be nothing more than a mask and a pinstripe suit.
Every living creature known to exist, or known to have existed in the past, is capable of having an unrealistically large prehistoric ancestor or can be radiated into gigantism, as is the case with Godzilla. Something as harmless as a gnat can be made frightening and potentially deadly if it’s large enough. Take an enlarged photograph of some skyscrapers and let a few grasshoppers crawl on it and blam! you got “Invasion Of The Locusts”. Don't forget that kids love dinosaurs these days, so get yourself a couple of Iguanas or monitor lizards and glue some horns and tail fins on them and blam! you got dinosaurs fighting and rolling around.
In the old days, robots were the primary monster antagonists for delivering paranoid tales of technology gone mad. Robots need to be portrayed as sentient beings with the ability to hate people, lust after a woman’s tits, arrive at ironic conclusions and argue with Dr Smith - or they're just plain boring. The same can be said of computers, which are capable of refusing to open the pod bay doors or just about anything. While it might seem easier to just have cars, bulldozers or household appliances simply turn into intelligent killing machines overnight, this practice should be frowned upon and reserved for total hacks. The latest fad is virtual reality, which can be seamlessly integrated with the human nervous system using a 13 pin DIN plug - generating absolutely lifelike experiences and sometimes death. Virtual reality also gives you the ability to alter reality reality while in a virtual environment. I know it sounds a little expensive but any metal box with lights, dials, potentiometers and beeping sounds is capable of being a machine with incredible powers - just make sure it's properly labeled.
If all of the above choices sound too complicated and time consuming, why not try an invisible monster? A little stop-motion photography of footprints being made in the sand by an unseen entity, a few people screaming into the camera and there’s your blockbuster. If you're not that cheap, have you considered the obscured monster? Basically, the guy walking around with the camera is your creature and everything gets filmed from the monster’s perspective. It's also where the appendage on a stick technique comes into play. Make one big claw, mount it on a pole and there’s your “Attack of the Giant Crabs” right there.
Your Monster’s Crusade
Now that you’ve established the origin and form of your monster, it needs a mundane to sinister plot or crusade. It doesn’t matter if your monster’s actions are totally incongruous with achieving that goal, what counts is a little effort to provide some form of cause that loosely justifies mass killing. These are the standards:
Monsters are hungry, they’re usually big and they need to eat something. Humans are tasty and filled with delicious fluids, everyone in the audience knows that! Simply place the latter in the former's feeding ground and the story writes itself. The borrowing or absorbing of human bodies and minds, perhaps for the purpose of deploying a hypnotized army of the undead, are also forms of feeding when a particular monster's thirst may only be quenched with a smooth, refreshing human soul.
Who in the universe doesn’t want to conquer New Jersey by force? Alien life forms are habitually obsessed with not only the earth but everything humans do in general. Whether they want to evict everyone from the planet or warn us of our imminent destruction, aliens are a lot like galactic landlords. If humans are allowed to continue doing that nuclear stuff or move out into space, the entire universe will either be destroyed or turned into a ghetto. Those feelings are mutually shared by terrestrial monsters too. Mother Nature is just another hard assed property owner who’s sick of seeing spent car tires on the front lawn and wants to give another form of life a chance to dominate for a change - it's only fair.
Stalking aside, the galaxy is also known to be inhabited by various hillbillies who’ve somehow managed to whittle down their gene pool to a tiny pointed stick. Despite all the myriad species of life that exist in the universe, human women are the best specimens for assisting space rednecks with their maternal needs. Meanwhile on Earth, even a humanoid creature that lives in water has no problem walking on dry land when it comes to obtaining human vaginas. All monsters are attracted to human women like a baby to a shiny object - so make sure to choose a proper actress for portraying the role of “screaming titty girl who faints and gets carried away in the creatures arms”. If the damsel in distress doesn’t actually get carried away by the monster in the movie, make sure to take some promotional shots for the marquee poster anyway. It's also possible to reverse this concept and have horny space women come to Earth for the purpose of seeking men or simply borrow the classic tale of an all-male ship's crew voyaging to an isolated place filled with only women.
Protection Of Sacred Thing
The first rule of any ancient construction, be it a temple or tomb, is to protect that structure with monster insurance - in the form of a documented curse. When you work with a good agent, that policy is usually effective for eternity and all transgressors will be mercilessly hunted down and killed one by one. Monster eggs are also sacred and any parent-creature’s blood lust is readily understandable when humans steal, damage or inadvertently destroy them. It doesn't matter if said eggs were improperly stored and easily accessed by said humans because nobody questions a monster's parenting skills. Sacred artifacts may also be zealously hunted down by a monster who’s typically never around to protect said items when they're being stolen.
Even monsters with a doctorate in space physics have bad days and sometimes manage to get stranded on Earth and require assistance from laymen. It's an especially effective plot device when used to shame the audience for being xenophobic, human jerks who kill first and ask questions later. Who knows, maybe some of those people hated your last movie and now it's time for a payback guilt trip.
Sometimes plot can get over-rated. The most basic premise of a monster is that it’s sworn to kill and destroy. It wouldn’t really be a monster if it wasn’t doing that, right? Generalized destruction for no apparent reason can make for a plot in itself and save you lots of time in pre-production.
Don’t Forget To Randomize!
You now have origins, form and method of operation. While it might seem easier to go with a basic concept and choose singular attributes from each category, the best monsters use multiple concepts from each.
- Origin: Outer Space
- Form: Humanoid
- Cause: Conquer the Earth
This classic monster concept has been widely used for decades. It’s easily doable but why not shoot the moon here?
- Origin: From outer space and its ship crashes and gets frozen in the Antarctic for centuries
- Form: Organism that consumes and imitates other life forms after infecting them like a virus
- Cause: Go home after absorbing and killing every form of life on Earth
But why stop there, go nuts!
A $upermonster Idea®
- Origin: Ancient scroll tells of a monster that used to live on Earth, centuries ago, before moving into outer space and threatening to return. The monster returns but his space ship crashes in Antarctica and gets trapped only to be freed by a wayward, radioactive space probe that falls in the same spot and simultaneously melts the ice and restarts his alien heart.
- Form: Keanu Reeves
- Cause: Retrieve a sacred amulet that has some power crystal necessary to fix his space ship before randomly destroying all major cities and eating all the human male occupants. Afterward he plans on having space monster babies with all the remaining women and repopulating the earth with his progeny before heading back into outer space.
The great thing about this idea is that you don’t actually need Keanu Reeves to play the monster, just some unknown actor who remotely resembles him and can be dressed in a black leather trench coat. As long as the guy can look cool and occasionally mutter a catch phrase, it might as well be Keanu himself.
The Achilles Heel
Lastly, your monster needs to have a weak spot that is unknown for most of the movie. In order to properly vanquish a monster while maintaining a budget, it must have a weakness that is incredibly simple. So simple that a developmentally disabled character in the movie, who’s loony advice is ignored for 70+ minutes, should be validated and proven correct in the end. It could be a substance like water, a basic element like sodium or even another organism like jock itch. Noises and bright lights are also helpful for disorienting an otherwise all-powerful monster before the protagonist attacks its weak spot.
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You now have the ultimate keys to monster movie success! Some of the classic horror films of all time have been made on a shoestring budget and who’s to say it’s not your turn to make the next “Toxic Avenger” or “Plan 9 From Outer Space”? All you need is a good monster!
- ↑ Hiroshima and Nagasaki not included
- ↑ Insects have been complaining about blatant discrimination for 100 million years
- ↑ Monsters who draw their motivation to kill from ancient curses should be alarmingly inefficient at killing the main protagonist. Make sure to create plenty of other characters who are available to be hacked to bits during the course of the film.