As the National Sci-Fi Movie Examiner I’ve watched a lot of bad horror movies. I’ve watched a lot of monster movies in particular. So many, in fact, that they have begun to blend together. I now know the formula for every monster movie, ever:
First, the monster kills someone doing something stupid. Sometimes its teenagers fooling around, other times its innocent people poking their nose where it doesn’t belong. Whatever the reason, someone accidentally unleashes the monster. This is the victim that brings in the heroes. Be sure to make the description of the body both insightful (if the monster has a special attack, it should show in its victims’ corpses) and gory.
Second, the beast is assumed to be something else. Whatever that something else is, this assumption will immediately be adopted by everyone in authority. It could be a wild dog, a great white shark, a cougar – whatever the case may be, the authorities will rigidly stick to this belief in their attempt to overcome the threat. Role-players may want to play up this ignorance, but even if players don’t want to play along they can certainly be hindered by authority figures that just don’t get it. After all, most people don’t face down monsters on a daily basis.
Then the beast strikes again. It attacks by dragging someone off screen. This is a cardinal rule – dragging someone off screen shows the horrible death without revealing the monster. Game masters should similarly conceal the beast until the final stage of the scenario. The attack galvanizes the authorities and causes a panic. The pattern of killings prompts an evacuation, an armed response, or both. Some people will hunt the beast while others try to get away. Both can cause complications by being in the wrong place at the right time. Armed or not, they will all die; be sure to show your monster shrugging off mundane weapons just to demonstrate how tough it is.
The monster has a weakness, of course. It’s up to the players to discover it, usually through some good forensics work or trial and error as the aforementioned armed response learns the hard way. It also must be dispersed in large quantities on the monster, which requires an explosion. Almost all monster movies have explosions; as set down by the Predator and Alien movies, if you’re going to kill a monster, you have to nuke it from orbit. Whatever the weakness, the characters will need a lot of it. Of course, it should be deadly to non-monsters too, making blowing anything up at point blank range quite hazardous.
And finally, the heroes must face the monster in its lair. This normally wouldn’t make any sense – waiting and baiting a wild animal is always preferable in the real world. But this is a monster movie, so there must be some reason that pressures protagonists into facing the beast down under the worst possible conditions. Maybe the beast will breed, maybe it will evolve into a nigh-unstoppable form, or maybe it is currently contained but is about to escape. Whatever the case, there’s a time limit ticking away before all is lost.
And that’s it. Follow these six easy steps and you too can have a monster movie night with your player characters as the main course!
Your Turn: Have you ever turned a mundane animal into a terrifying foe?
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