WHAT DOES THE PROTAGONIST WANT? Rob has a dilemma: should he take his big-deal job in Tokyo, or should he settle down with the woman he loves? It was a decision he thought was easy until the woman, Beth, showed up at his going-away party with a shimmering-gold party dress (yay!) and another guy (boo!). It doesn’t get easier when he must dodge monsters and army guys in order to save her life.
WHAT IS THE MONSTER? I’m aware that there is a small industry devoted to discussing the details of the nature of this beast, but as far as the movie itself is concerned, the monster is deliberately vague: it is a Big Irrational Thing that, for some reason, has risen from the ocean and decided to trash Manhattan island.
WHAT IS THE WARNING? Hang on to the one you love.
WHAT DOES THE PROTAGONIST WANT? Steve wants nothing more than to get a leg over with his girlfriend Jane. But the Blob won’t let him. Young Steve will, in fact, never achieve his goal of making out with Jane — he will, instead, be thrust into the job of saving the entire world from an ever-growing glob of flesh-eating protoplasm.
WHAT IS THE MONSTER? The Blob, a whatsit from outer space, is an exemplary movie monster — mindless, soulless, alien, unknowable, capable of mysterious and peculiar actions. Because it has no real characteristics to speak of, other than its desire to consume people (and nothing else), it can be a metaphor for almost anything.
WHAT IS THE WARNING? In times of trouble, we would do well to trust those trying to help us — even teenagers.
WHAT DOES THE PROTAGONIST WANT? That’s the easy part — to save the Jewish community of Prague.
WHAT IS THE WARNING? On the surface, the warning is no more complicated than "There is no easy solution when it comes to self-protection," but underneath there are a whole bunch more interesting, and disturbing, things going on.
WHAT DOES THE PROTAGONIST WANT? Ed Harley is a simple country man with a small boy and a small business. When a clutch of "city folk" do him grievous harm, he calls upon a backwoods witch-woman to raise the spectre of Pumpkinhead to mete out vengeance.
WHO IS THE MONSTER? Pumpkinhead is described by one of the locals as "some kind of demon." He is the personification of class resentment and bloody revenge.
WHAT IS THE WARNING? Revenge plots, it may surprise you to learn, often don’t turn out well.
WHAT DOES THE PROTAGONIST WANT? We’ll get to that.
WHO IS THE MONSTER? Some weird kind of demon-creature who eats body parts.
WHAT IS THE WARNING? Let’s table that discussion for now.
WHAT DOES THE PROTAGONIST WANT? David Reed is an ichthyologist with a hot tip: the skeleton arm of a heretofore unknown creature from the Devonian age has been unearthed somewhere near the Amazon River. Investigation of the find leads him to the legendary Black Lagoon, where, it turns out, the selfsame Devonian creature stilllives. Reed wants to study the creature in its natural environment. He is opposed in this pursuit by fellow scientist Mark Williams, who wants to kill it, haul it back to America and make big bucks. David is either compromised in his pursuit by the presence of winsome Kay Lawrence or encouraged by it, depending on his mood.
WHO IS THE MONSTER? The titular Creature opposes David in his pursuit in the strongest possible terms. On the other hand, it also seems to have the hots for Kay, which compromises its position. In this way, the creature is a dark reflection of David.
WHAT IS THE WARNING? Creatures from the Devonian age are better left in the Devonian age, and we would do well to leave them alone. Take heed, world! On a subtextual level, the warning seems to have more to do with mixing business and pleasure, more on which to come.
WHAT DOES THE PROTAGONIST WANT? Larry Talbot has come home to his ancestral manse in England after 18 years in the US. Like David Kessler in American Werewolf, much in England seems foreign, backward and mysterious to Talbot. When he finds himself turning into a werewolf, his only goal is to know: is this really happening to him or is it all in his mind? He doesn’t even get as far as wanting to find a cure for his affliction — he just wants to understand the source.
WHO IS THE MONSTER? Talbot goes on murderous rampages when he is transformed into the wolf-man, but in his daylight life he’s as gentle and guileless as Lennie from Of Mice and Men. Is he responsible for the murders he commits, or is the wolf-man some other personality altogether?
WHAT IS THE WARNING? The script clearly states that lycanthropy is a metaphor for the dual nature of all men, but a modern perspective suggests a more complex, nuanced message.
WHAT DOES THE PROTAGONIST WANT? Detective Dewey Wilson is charged with solving the bizarre, mysterious murder of Big Deal Guy Christopher Van DerVeer. Was it a political assassination? Was it terrorists? Was it angry Native Americans? Or was it — evil?
WHO ARE THE MONSTERS? You’d never guess it from the title, but it turns out the monsters are wolves. Or is it Americans who are the monsters?
WHAT IS THE WARNING? Wolves, Wolfen informs us, help out American cities by devouring their sick and providing a check on gentrification. We must not destroy rotting slums and build new apartment blocks — it will anger the wolves.
WHAT DOES THE PROTAGONIST WANT? Karen White is an LA local-news anchor. She has become embroiled in a local serial-killer story. The killer is obsessed with her for some reason and she is willing to play into his obsession in the hopes of breaking the big story. He lures her to a seedy sex shop and something happens to him, something so shocking that Karen is unable to rationally process it. The killer, a guy named Eddie, is killed by trigger-happy police before he can do whatever he was going to do to Karen. What Karen wants is to know, simply, what was the deal with Eddie?
WHO IS THE MONSTER? The deal with Eddie is that he’s a werewolf, and that he’s not actually dead.
WHAT IS THE WARNING? People, The Howling reminds us, are animals. We put on clothes, build cities and try to "explain" our behavior through science and psychology, but all that denies our true nature: we are murderous, predatory, rutting beasts.
WHAT DOES THE PROTAGONIST WANT? Technically, all Seth Brundle wants is to get his teleporter to work. He’s a scientist, working for the betterment of the world (and his own subsequent wealth and fame). Between the lines, however, he has a deeper, more personal agenda — he wishes to transform his essential nature. This effort pays off in spades, but not quite the way he expected it to.
WHO IS THE MONSTER? Like in American Werewolf, the monster of The Fly is the protagonist himself. Unlike the protagonist of American Werewolf, Brundle actually stops to think about what’s happening to him.
WHAT IS THE WARNING? Um, you know that whole "transformation of your essential nature" idea? Don’t do that.