Thursday, 3 March 2016

The Monolith Monsters (1957)

Probably the stupidest thing I've seen in terms of what humans can fight against, yet at the same time probably the greatest thing I've terms of what humans can fight against. To be perfectly frank, it really does seem like the writers had run out of ideas back in the late 50's, most every other flick was about either monsters, mutants, giant bugs or supernatural ghoulies, so what could they do? Well how about a horror movie about killer rocks? has anyone done that before? no? alright killer rocks it is. How can we make these things scary and threatening? rocks don't move do they...right? wait let me check...yeah they don't move at all. Hmmm...we'll just make them grow really big somehow, then they can crush people...oh and turn them into stone somehow. Wow this thing writes itself!

So a meteorite touches down in the middle of nowhere, California, like every other time this type of thing happens, deserts are real handy. Some broken bits of rock eventually get taken back into town to be looked at but before anyone can do so, something happens with the rock and one person ends up getting petrified. At first no one has any clue what happened, so the meteorite fragments end up getting passed around by various people, and naturally various people end up getting petrified. After lots of pondering and mystery building the residents finally realise its water that is effecting these space rocks, making them grow into massive monoliths (although I'm still not entirely sure why people got petrified). Once these rocks reach a certain height they break and tumble down destroying whatever lies beneath them, then the process starts all over again. Yep that's it, that's the threat here, sounds pretty daft really doesn't it, but this moving wall of rocks is heading towards town, so the clock is ticking on how to stop them.

The movies formula is very generic here, you've seen it a hundred times every other sci-fi B-movie basically. The creature/alien/monster/object, lands or crashes on Earth, almost always in the desert near some small, American as apple pie, town. Someone usually discovers said creature or object and gets killed in a horrible way only to be discovered by some other folk later on, often a young couple. The couple would then normally take the object, or bit of creature left behind, into town to be examined by the local experts. The small town will usually have one or two experts on a subject that conveniently fits with the evidence, such as space rocks and a geologist in this case. Then we begin the mystery game and watching the protagonists as they travel around gathering information, at the same time there are usually more attacks or deaths that add to the mystery whilst giving the heroes more clues. Eventually you then get the big reveal and understanding of the creature or object, how it works, where it came from, and how it can be stopped or defeated. You then normally get a finale face-off against said creature or object where you get a full view of the horrific clash and antagonist, whatever it may be.

Now I wouldn't blame anyone for thinking the effects in this movie would be horrendous, well prepare for a shock. Yes the effects are actually well crafted believe it or not, although lets be honest here, I'm sure it wasn't a stretch, all they needed was rocks, models of rocks. But later on in the movie when we see the rocks growing into huge towering monoliths, its not too bad, they look like real rocks (actually more like giant quartz crystals), and they look alien-esque being all jagged and black (I'm guessing). All they do is literately grow out of the grow like plants, then eventually they crack under their own weight and come down like trees, so I'd imagine it wasn't a hard thing to pull off with models, but they look fine as does the surrounding model work on the landscapes. Naturally the model work is rear projected against live action footage and water effects tend to give the game away but that's all normal for movies of this era. I guess the most impressive and problematic effect was showing the reaction the rocks had to water, they basically bubble and fizz. Admittedly it looked like a simple chemical reaction you might see in any chemistry class, and I'm sure they probably put some form of chemical on the rock to make it bubble and fizz, but end of the day, it was a nice effect and did the job so kudos.

As I already said the whole petrifying of people plot point didn't sit well with me, it felt like they stuck that in just to ramp up the horror aspect, rocks not being scary enough. Apparently when the space rocks come into contact with people they somehow cause a reaction within the victim causing their body to turn solid, rock hard, almost like a reactionary insect sting. But this only seems to happen if the rock is wet? I think, because at any other time when people are handling the rocks nothing happens to them. The reaction somehow drains the victims body of all its silicon causing the rock-like state, but does that silicon go into the space rock? do these rocks need silicone to 'survive'? are these rocks actually sentient? Not really a problem for the humans though because the local doc whips up a silicon remedy/formula to replenish what gets drained, humans win! They try this formula on the space rocks but it doesn't work, not sure why though, seeing as it stops the petrifying of human bodies. Luckily, and just in time, they discover it was actually the saline solution (salt water) in the formula that can actually stop the rocks multiplying, not sure why though.

So yeah there isn't  great deal to say here to be honest with you. The whole premise is fabulous in terms of uniqueness and originality for the alien menace, but everything else is completely by the numbers and generic (acting, score, plot development etc...). I mean honesty...killer rocks? or should that be, giant black silicone draining quartz crystals from space. The whole preposterousness of this entire angle simply made me wanna see this movie, the excellent poster and its vibrant colour scheme, the catchy title, the killer rocks, finding out how exactly killer rocks would actually kill people, and how the heroes would manage to stop these inanimate objects. Yep killer rocks was most definitely the clincher for me here, hook, line and sinker, anything else would just be dull.