A new movie hero just rolled into town, and here at Dice Box, we are already preparing to initiate said champion into the hallowed arena of the coolest canines of all-time hall of fame.

We are talking, of course, about Boy.

If you are yet to see the Netflix original movie Love and Monsters, we highly recommend it. Never mind the human protagonists and their ongoing battle with the fantastical beasts that have ravaged the earth, Australian Kelpie Boy is the star of the show. Dark, a little bit funny, and with plenty of wonderfully imagined creatures – Love and Monsters is YA fantasy at its best, which brings us neatly to our topic for this blog.

No, not dogs, and how great they are. This time we are talking monsters and mutants.

Specifically, we have been thinking about the technology behind monster creation.

Love and Monsters brought a whole host of new Harryhausen-Esque creatures to our screens, earning it a nomination for Best Visual Effects at the 93rd Academy Awards. Marauding monsters and terrible beasts have long been a mainstay of fantasy, horror and science fiction.

One of the earliest examples is the 1915 silent horror film The Golem, and while most of the original film was lost, the movie was arguably one of the first to initiate the concept of the creature feature.

The story of monster creation in film and television has been one of constant evolution. Take the much-loved Kong, for example. King Kong has been around since the 1930s, with numerous appearances in film history spanning over almost ninety years, charting some incredible progression and forward leaps in CGI, special effects, and creative design. The 1933 Merian C Cooper directed monster adventure became famous for its groundbreaking technology, such as stop motion animation, matte painting, and rear projection.

Although stop motion had featured to some degree in film making since the 1900s, earlier examples rarely survived, and King Kong remains recognizably a milestone achievement in utilising these techniques. So much so that the methods used by special effects pioneer Willis H. O’Brien inspired the later work of his then protégé – a young Ray Harryhausen. Compare this to the 2021 incarnation of Kong, and it becomes easy to see just how far technology has come in those nine decades thanks to early innovators.

In the 1990s, advances in digital sequencing announced the arrival of a more realistically rendered sort of monster. Jurassic Park’s most recognisable scene, with the T-Rex appearing out of the rain to pursue Dr. Alan Grant’s jeep, heralded a new age in CGI.

Of course, special effects are not all about digital wizardry. One notable scene in Jurassic Park – where the footsteps of the oncoming T-Rex caused ripples to appear in a glass of water sitting on a dashboard – was achieved with a simple but creative approach. Guitar strings, built into the car, were plucked to create bass vibrations that formed concentric circles on the liquid surface.

While our game wizards have been busy hotly debating the best depictions of classic monster characters this week, we thought it an appropriate time to honour some of our favourites. So here is our homage to just a few of the best monster movies and our recommendations for the games they inspire us to get on the table.

If you are yet to see the Netflix original movie Love and Monsters, we highly recommend it. Never mind the human protagonists and their ongoing battle with the fantastical beasts that have ravaged the earth, Australian Kelpie Boy is the star of the show. Dark, a little bit funny, and with plenty of wonderfully imagined creatures – Love and Monsters is YA fantasy at its best, which brings us neatly to our topic for this blog.

No, not dogs, and how great they are. This time we are talking monsters and mutants.

Specifically, we have been thinking about the technology behind monster creation.

Love and Monsters brought a whole host of new Harryhausen-Esque creatures to our screens, earning it a nomination for Best Visual Effects at the 93rd Academy Awards. Marauding monsters and terrible beasts have long been a mainstay of fantasy, horror and science fiction.

One of the earliest examples is the 1915 silent horror film The Golem, and while most of the original film was lost, the movie was arguably one of the first to initiate the concept of the creature feature.

The story of monster creation in film and television has been one of constant evolution. Take the much-loved Kong, for example. King Kong has been around since the 1930s, with numerous appearances in film history spanning over almost ninety years, charting some incredible progression and forward leaps in CGI, special effects, and creative design. The 1933 Merian C Cooper directed monster adventure became famous for its groundbreaking technology, such as stop motion animation, matte painting, and rear projection.

Although stop motion had featured to some degree in film making since the 1900s, earlier examples rarely survived, and King Kong remains recognizably a milestone achievement in utilising these techniques. So much so that the methods used by special effects pioneer Willis H. O’Brien inspired the later work of his then protégé – a young Ray Harryhausen. Compare this to the 2021 incarnation of Kong, and it becomes easy to see just how far technology has come in those nine decades thanks to early innovators.

In the 1990s, advances in digital sequencing announced the arrival of a more realistically rendered sort of monster. Jurassic Park’s most recognisable scene, with the T-Rex appearing out of the rain to pursue Dr. Alan Grant’s jeep, heralded a new age in CGI.

Of course, special effects are not all about digital wizardry. One notable scene in Jurassic Park – where the footsteps of the oncoming T-Rex caused ripples to appear in a glass of water sitting on a dashboard – was achieved with a simple but creative approach. Guitar strings, built into the car, were plucked to create bass vibrations that formed concentric circles on the liquid surface.

While our game wizards have been busy hotly debating the best depictions of classic monster characters this week, we thought it an appropriate time to honour some of our favourites. So here is our homage to just a few of the best monster movies and our recommendations for the games they inspire us to get on the table.

 

Games for the Little Monsters in Your Life


Watch the movie: Pixar classic Monsters Inc has to be a go-to for any young monster fan. The revolutionary rendering process that made the main character James P. (Sully) Sullivan’s distinctive pelt so realistic was down to Pixar studio creating a new fur simulation programme called Fitz. Creating Sully meant finding a way to animate each hair to look as authentic as possible – over two million of them in total. The new simulation allowed for the fur to react to movements from the body of the character automatically.


Play the game:
Isle of Monsters ($43.00) makes a perfect board game addition to family game night for those with younger players. Each person takes on the role of a monster wrangler, building and preparing their team of beasts to participate in the local Scare Faire. In this game, collecting screams of horror win acclaim and victory for your monsters (not unlike the top scare collectors in Monsters Inc). With a bright, colourful design, this one has a relatively fast playing time of around 45 minutes. Isle of Monsters is a solid choice for younger players who enjoy set collection games reminiscent of Pokémon and Top Trumps. With a simple concept and easy-to-follow objectives, this game works well for 2-5 players.

You might also like: Pancake Monster ($26.00) and Monster Chase ($30.00)

 

Games for Classic Hollywood Monsters

Watch the movie: Before CGI and animatronics, special effects were the remit of makeup specialists and artists. 1941 horror classic The Wolf Man holds legendary status when it comes to FX makeup techniques. So much so that tales of the torturous process of transforming Lon Chaney Jr. into the Wolf Man have become part of Hollywood legend. Whether or not some of the more brutal stories are true is debatable, but there is no doubt the transformation process was gruelling. It took almost ten hours of FX work to create 10 seconds of screen time.

Play the game: Arkham Horror Final Hour ($41.00), with its B-Movie reminiscent artwork, screams out Hollywood Horror adventure. Featuring a plethora of recognisable characters that includes (of course) Cthulhu, this is a fast-paced cooperative game where players act as investigators in a Lovecraftian world of monsters and mayhem. Compared to other offerings in the Arkham repertoire, Final Hour works well for players looking for a faster playtime, with most sessions coming in at around 60 minutes.

You might also like: Dracula Cluedo ($43.00) and Cthulhu Confidential: Even Death Can Die RPG – check out High Voltage Kill, a story based around the set of the 1931 movie Frankenstein ($76.00)

 

 

Games for Things that go Bump in the Night


Watch the movie:
For some fans, the scariest monsters are the ones we never see coming. Think of the phantom lingering in the catacombs, ghosts lurking in the darkness, zombies rising from the mist. 1980 film The Fog might not have been John Carpenter’s most critically acclaimed work, but it is vastly underrated. The movie also marked the beginning of Carpenter’s ongoing collaboration with acclaimed special makeup effects creator Rob Bottin. Bottin was also responsible for creating Robocop’s suit and worked on the cantina scene in Star Wars, even playing one of the characters.

 

Play the game: Nightmare Horror Adventures ($26.00) is a wonderfully creepy, interactive story-based game ideal for players aged 16 years and up. What makes this game such a good experience is the inclusion of an app that provides sound effects and music to make for a more immersive experience. Reminiscent of the classic haunted house and whodunnit challenges, this game is a cooperative hunt for a killer on the loose. Game play is supported by interactive multimedia, which works on computers, laptops, or tablets. Nightmare Horror Adventures is a little bit Cluedo, a little bit Escape Room with a time pressure element to keep players on their toes.

You might also like: The Walking Dead: Something to Fear ($30.00) and Escape Room, The Game: The Little Girl, and House by the Lake ($22.00).

 

Naturally, all this talk of advances in the world of digital and other types of special effects has us thinking. With the increase in popularity of multimedia facets to traditional board games, what might the future hold for gaming? Will hologram technology become so main stream that one day we might be able to defeat digital monsters in our front rooms? Could you hold a haunted house night with three-dimensionally projected ghosts? Thinking about it, we might stick to the board games for now.