Doctor Who’s most awesome monsters

This month Doctor Who turns 50.

Wow, ’63 was an awesome year for pop culture!

I used to watch Doctor Who on PBS, usually on a Friday or Saturday evening.  The stories were weird, the budgets were low, the accents were British.  Yeah, it was awesome.  20 years ago you didn’t see much like it on TV.  I’m really glad that this show got out there and has a worldwide following.

One of my favorite aspects of Doctor Who is all the awesome creatures and monsters that populate this unique world of science fiction.  These are my 10 favorites:

10.  The Midnight Entity

This is from a 10th Doctor story called “Midnight” where the Doctor is stranded on a crashed spaceship with a number of other people.  While awaiting rescue a bizarre entity somehow enters the ship, takes over a passenger, begins mimicking speech and causing all sorts of chaos and paranoia.  I love this monster because it is so vague;  you never actually learn what it is, what it looks like, how it can survive the on the hyper-hostile surface of the alien planet.  By the end of the episode you learn nothing, and that makes it all the more creepy.  Usually the Doctor figures out what type of creature something is and neutralizes the threat, but not here.  The Doctor, the ultimate brainiac here who always has the answers, has nothing here.  I hope they never bring this creature back, and leave it vague, undefinable, and horrifying.

Not seen here:  The Midnight Entity.

Not seen here: The Midnight Entity.

9.  Omega

This mentally unstable Time Lord appeared in a couple of Doctor Who episodes, namely “The Three Doctors.”  I like the aesthetics of this guy.  The mask and robes looks great, and I think it would be an awesome Halloween costume.  I like tall-head masks for some reason; maybe they remind me of Galactus.  I don’t know.  Anyway this is the guy that made the Time Lords what they are.  His experiments allowed his people to manipulate time, though he was thought killed in the process.  As such his name is legend to the Gallifreyans.  In reality he is stuck in another universe and is now evil and insane!  Sweet.

Bet he's got an epic case of helmet-hair under there.

Bet he’s got an epic case of helmet-hair under there.

8. Sutekh

This badass ancient-Egyptian god-alien hails from a Fourth Doctor story called “Pyramids of Mars.”  Trapped in an earth pyramid, Sutekh mind controls the Doctor and causes all sorts of mischeif.  I like ancient-Egyptian stuff like pyramids and mummies, and this story is chock-full of all that good stuff, with the typical Doctor Who pseudoscience spin, of course.

Another villain, another epic helmet.

Another villain, another epic helmet.

7. Zygons

Octopus people.  Yep, that about sums it up.  What is not to love about octopus people?  I have to say, the costumes look really good for 1976.  Most of the Doctor Who monsters from this time period (and earlier (and later)) look kinda cheap.  Compared to some others, the Zygons look a million-bucks.  They come from a Fourth Doctor story called, appropriately, “Terror of the Zygons.”

What are the head-and-shoulders suctions cups for anyway?

What are the head-and-shoulders suctions cups for anyway?

6.The Silence

This is the most recent monster on the list, appearing for the first time during some 11th Doctor episodes.  What creeps me out is the odd combination of traditional “Gray” alien and the damned Slender Man.  The first time one of these guys appears on screen I just about lost it.  I know that aesthetic doesn’t appeal to or frighten a lot of people, but it gives me the heebie-jeebies big time.  I also really like the whole memory wiping angle.  Each time you encounter one of The Silence it wipes your memory of the encounter.  You may have had dozens of horrifying encounters with these guys already and you don’t know it!

Creepy!

Creepy!

5.Rutan

This thing is from a Fourth Doctor story called “Horror of Fang Rock” which is the first Doctor Who story I ever watched.  The Rutan is a glowing-green blob monster that eats people.  Aside from the nostalgia factor, what I really love about this creature is that it is a glowing-green blob monster that eats people.  Sometimes that is all you need.

Blobular!

Blobular!

4.Daleks

Here we go, the longest running foe of the Doctor, first appearing in the second ever Doctor Who story, simply called “The Daleks.”  These creatures are actually genetically modified aliens (the Kaleds … spell it backwards) that have been grafted into weaponized tank shells after having all emotions but hatred and anger removed.  Definitely the most famous and iconic of all the Doctor’s enemies.  What I really love about the Daleks (besides the plunger for a gun) is just how silly they are.  These guys are supposed to be the most terrible menace the universe has ever faced, but I get a huge grin on my face each time I see one spin around its goofy lasers and screech out their catchphrase “Exterminate!”  Who doesn’t love a Dalek?

Exterminate!

Exterminate!

3.Eight-Legs

Yeah, I hate spiders.  I really, really hate spiders.  These things are big spiders.  Gah!  Yep, they are the monsters from the last Third Doctor story, entitled “Planet of the Spiders.”  Big Spiders … do I even need to say more about this?

Pretty Elisabeth Sladen doesn't look alarmed that a walking nightmare is on her back.

Pretty Elisabeth Sladen doesn’t look alarmed that a walking nightmare is on her back.

2.Cybermen

Okay seriously, who doesn’t like the Cybermen?  These metallic goofballs got their start way back in a First Doctor story in 1966 called “The Tenth Planet.”  Unfortunately this story is missing an episode, and that sucks.  I like the Cybermen for a number of reasons, first and foremost is that they are pretty much just like the Daleks, but not nearly as goofy.  I mean, they don’t use plungers for weapons.  That can be kind of a strike against them though, because the plunger-gun is my favorite part about the Daleks!  Anyway, these guys have been recurring baddies for years.  I like the longevity, I like the updated costumes in the new series, I like the crappy costumes in the old series.

The new costumes are pretty awesome.

The new costumes are pretty awesome.

1.Weeping Angels

Yep, its a cliche but I don’t care … the Weeping Angels are my favorite Doctor Who monsters.  Created by Steven Moffat for a 10th Doctor episode called “Blink,” these creatures are intergalactic beings that have taken the forms of angelic statues … kind of.  When nobody is looking at them they don’t really have a form and can move quickly and freely.  It’s only when someone is looking at them that they take the form of the statues.  So every time you look away, or blink, the creatures are coming closer.  Awesome!  I also love the idea that they don’t kill you, but deposit you in another time.  You get to live, but to your family and friends its as if you have disappeared.  That is pretty nifty.

Sweet Dreams!

Sweet Dreams!

Well, those are some of my favorite Doctor Who monsters.  I can’t wait to see what new nightmares are made in the next 50 years of the show.  I hope everyone gets to watch the Day of the Doctor special on the 23rd.

’till next time!

Colin

Maniac (2012)

Maniac

I watched this last night, and it’s awesome!

When I heard that they were remaking William Lustig’s so-gritty-I-need-a-shower psycho-slasher Maniac (1980) and that Elijah Wood was going to be taking over the Joe Spinell role, my brain just about imploded.  Elijah Wood is a good actor, and his face doesn’t look like it lost a face with a weed-whacker.  And isn’t New York clean now?  I didn’t think there were porn theaters and street pimps every fifteen feet.  Maniac (1980) is such a product of its time I couldn’t imagine how it could be updated to fit our modern world of cell phones and urban renewal.

Well I’m happy to report that not only did Maniac (2012) keep the mean, gritty, dirty spirit of the original, but tried new things and made itself a whole new film to fit in our current time period.

The first thing I’ve got to say is that almost the entire run time of the film is shot in first-person POV.  Yep, you are seeing the whole movie through crazy old Frank Zito’s eyes.  This is an awesome way to bridge the gap between old-school slashers and new “found-footage” horror movies.  In flicks like Friday the Thirteenth we get the killer’s POV for a bit, but then go back to a traditional type narrative.  In movies like Cloverfield or Blair Witch some idiot is always lugging a camera around to give that POV angle.  With Maniac (2012) you get the best of both worlds.

In addition, this POV angle really gets you in the head of the character (literally).  I like that when Frank begins having hallucinations, or little day dream fantasies, you see them through his eyes.  Frank’s inability to separate fantasy from reality really shines here.  Also, basically being Frank for the duration of the film really gives you sympathy for the character.  This is where Elijah Wood’s acting really comes through.  Frank is nuts with a capital N, and commits some really horrible murders, but somehow, I was rooting for him the whole time.  It’s crazy, but Elijah Wood really sells it.

Another great thing about this movie is that New York looks like garbage.  It makes me really not want to live there, and that’s awesome!  I’ve kinda been missing that late 70’s and 80’s New York you see in movies like Death Wish or Friday the 13th part 8 (which I know is really Vancouver, but my point still stands, dammit!).  While there are some flashy art galleries, and well lit streets and metro stations, the city seems empty and rotted.  It sells the mood and gives a wonderful sense of atmosphere to the whole film.

The cinematography by Maxime Alexandre is wonderful.  The shots, while POV, are gorgeous, with a great sense of light and shadow.  The way the camera moves wonderfully sells the illusion that we are in Frank’s eyes.  Also impressive is the placement of mirrors and reflective surfaces every so often.  It is a constant reminder that Frank is a person, a physical being moving through and occupying space rather than a disembodied pair of eyes.  This also lets us see Elijah Wood’s wonderful facial expressions, which again, really sell the character.  You don’t see Elijah Wood very much in this movie, but his acting is really top notch.

As far as the other actors and actresses go, I think they all did a good job.  Nora Arnezeder was good as Frank’s love interest Anna.  She has an adorable French accent, and her mannerisms and dialogue made my buy her as a chic, urban, fine-art photographer.  Aside from her, there aren’t many other characters in this thing … you know, because of murder.  The other standout for me was Megan Duffy as Lucie, the tattooed red-headed pixie Frank meets on an online dating site.  I thought she played her part well, and it was nice to see a victim with personality traits other than “generically pretty.”

Lastly, lets talk about the plot and script.  The plot is pretty straight forward.  If you’re familiar with Maniac (1980), this is pretty much the same story, but with enough alterations to make it worth checking out.  Basically Frank Zito is a lonely young man who owns a store that restores vintage mannequins.  He’s also crazy, in case the title of the movie didn’t fill you in on that.  He uses online dating profiles to find, stalk and murder various women, then scalps them and staples the scalps to mannequins in his shop.  One day he meets Anna, a photographer who takes pictures of mannequins.  They develop a friendship that begins turning into something more.  Will these two star crossed lovers work it out and find love?  Let me remind you, Frank is scalping random women around town and is completely bonkers.

The story is simple, but everything about it works.  You really get to know Frank and Anna, and you can’t help but feel sympathy for Frank.  I didn’t feel like a single scene was wasted.  It’s really a testament to the script by Alexandre Aja and Gregory Levasseur.  You might remember Alexandre Aja from such films as High Tension, and Piranha 3D.

There is probably a lot more I could get into, but … I’ve been rambling enough.  I really enjoyed this movie.  It’s not a light-hearted family romp, and I wouldn’t recommend it for date-night, but if you want to see a gritty, gory, horror drama that really explores a crazy character, then this might be right for you.

They make scalping look really easy in this movie.

Ouch!