When you hear the word “kaiju,” your mind probably drifts to Godzilla, or to the creatures from Pacific Rim, or maybe to the monster from Cloverfield. It’s all stuff like that, right?
But see, “kaiju” just means “monster,” and by that definition, there sure are a lot of them to celebrate… even if we adhere to the extended definition of a very large monster.
Here are seven kaiju — or kinda kaiju — that don’t hit these lists nearly as often as they should.
The Ewok Adventure, 1984
The Ewok Adventure is way better than you’ve heard. The first of two made-for-television Star Wars movies starring tons of Ewoks, this one sent two crash-landed youths searching for their parents with the help of everyone’s favorite droid-worshipping teddy bears.
It turned out that said parents were being held captive by the Gorax, a gnarly beast that was at least 30 feet tall. In the film, camera tricks and special effects did little to hide the fact that the Gorax was just some guy in a goofy ogre costume, but that’s kind of what made it such a great monster. That thing could really move!
There’s only one Gorax in the film, but supplemental materials indicated that there were actually a fair number of them, roaming Endor and looking for trouble. Since certain Goraxes are over a hundred feet tall, they have no problem wreaking havoc on the Ewoks’ treetop villages.
Coolest thing? While Goraxes do eat Ewoks (and stranded humans), they’re just as interested in keeping them in cages… as pets.
#2: THE IMPOSSIBLY TALL CREATURE!
The Mist, 2007
The Impossibly Tall Creature was the ENORMOUS monster that appeared during the final minutes of The Mist. (And yes, a similar creature is described in Stephen King’s novel.)
At an estimated height of 240 feet, the Impossibly Tall Creature — also known as Behemoth — looked like an extra big, extra mindfucking version of the Cloverfield monster. With six legs, dozens of tentacles and a horde of smaller, flying creatures that appeared to call it home, its brief appearance was breathtaking. And horrifying.
I’ll avoid spoiling the film’s ending, but the monster’s purpose was to show the surviving protagonists just how hopeless their situation was. They’d already survived run-ins with all sorts of terrible creatures, from huge alien spiders to things that looked like crosses between buzzards and pterosaurs. And then, venturing out into the great unknown, they came across… that.
#3: SON OF KONG!
The Son of Kong, 1933
It would’ve made more sense to include King Kong for a variety of reasons, but that’s too easy. Besides, the son of Kong — sometimes called “Kiko” — needs praise from random blogs much more than his daddy.
Barely half the height of his famous father, Kiko was less a kaiju and more a kaiju in training. I’ve long had a soft spot for his movie, which was intentionally light and essentially the “for families” version of King Kong.
Papa Kong was a sympathetic character, but his son was more of an all-out hero. In the film, he fights a series of giant animals pretty much on behalf of helpless humans, looking cute and cartoony even as he has a freakishly huge bear in a headlock.
Oh, and the best part? Kiko had white fur. If you take issue with my decision to forgo King Kong in favor of his son, I assure you that white fur is a no-fail justifier.
#4: RAT BAT SPIDER!
The Angry Red Planet, 1959
The Rat Bat Spider — known by several similar names to fans — is the most enduring image from The Angry Red Planet, an old B movie about a Martian expedition gone wrong.
Lurking in a film that was produced in just ten days, the Rat Bat Spider looked like a bunch of cheap toys stapled together. If I’m remembering the story correctly, that’s exactly what it was. Still, its quickie appearance was effective, because a mountain-sized monster that blended attributes from bats, rats and spiders was gonna hit us in the right places no matter how cheesy it looked.
#5: SANDO AQUA MONSTER!
The Phantom Menace, 1999
People are hard on the Star Wars prequels, and that’s especially true with The Phantom Menace. There are a hundred good reasons to poke fun of that film, but here’s one great reason to celebrate it: It introduced the Sando Aqua Monster to the Star Wars universe.
Appearing early in the movie, the Sando Aqua Monster was the last in a series of enormous sea monsters encountered by Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan in the seas of Naboo. Inadvertently saving them from a smaller but still gigantic creature, the only reason the Sando Aqua Monster didn’t bother munching Jedi is because they weren’t nearly enough food.
At two hundred meters long, the creatures (yes, this was a species) were infrequently encountered, but still rightfully feared. The thought of ten foot sharks is enough to keep plenty of us out of our oceans, so you can just imagine how the citizens of Naboo felt.
Think “Godzilla as a mosasaur.” That was the Sando Aqua Monster.
#6: THE KRAKEN!
Clash of the Titans, 1981
I’ll be honest: I’ve never seen the original Clash of the Titans. That will sound sacrilegious to some, but it’s not like I’ve been actively avoiding it. The stars just never aligned.
Still, I’m comfortable with including the Kraken, who constantly popped up in sci-fi rags and on TV specials about moviemaking. I don’t need to have seen Clash to know that this is a monster worth tattoo tributes.
Looking like an enormous, four-armed version of Gill-man, it’s one of my favorite-ever creature designs. The effects may be a bit cheesy by today’s standards, but to me, this Kraken is sooo much better than the one we got in the remake — which I did see.
PS: On the list of things I’d buy if money was no object, the original Kraken toy — which costs hundreds of dollars — is very high up. Fancy cars, private islands… all that stuff can wait. First I gotta get my big plastic Kraken.
#7: THE STAY PUFT MARSHMALLOW MAN!
I’ve noticed an increased acceptance of Stay Puft as an actual kaiju, which delights me. Hey, for many people — myself included — Stay Puft was our first exposure to kaiju!
Appearing as a form of Gozer during the climax of Ghostbusters, Stay Puft was so gripping — and oddly adorable — that fans have pretty much accepted him as an standalone entity. (Albeit with help from The Real Ghostbusters cartoon series, where he wasn’t only his own dude, but a pretty friendly one, too.)
I don’t know if Ghostbusters would be nearly as revered without Stay Puft. Back in ‘84, we’d really seen nothing like him. Even by 2015 standards, a 100 foot marshmallow monster stands out in all the best ways.
Did I miss any? Well, of course I did. It’s a pretty short list. Talk about other “kinda” kaiju, in the comments!
PS: Dino Drac’s May Funpacks are almost sold out! If you want one, this is your last chance… I only have a few left to offer!