When I was growing up, movies like Jason and the Argonauts, Clash of the Titans, and The Golden Voyage of Sinbad were nothing short of pure cinema magic. Seeing the heroes face off against monsters like the Kraken, an army of skeletons, or Kali, was one of the reasons why I have both my love of film AND my love of horror today. As part of the generation that saw the transition from mostly practical and stop-motion into heavy doses of CGI, I never forgot where my horror upbringing began. It’s why anytime I see stop-motion, I feel a sense of awe and wonder, an appreciation for a craft that was heavily utilized but has mostly fallen by the wayside.
That’s why I’m incredibly excited by today’s DREAD X, which sees Deathcember director Juergen Kling, whose short “Crappy Christmas” appears in the holiday horror anthology, share with us a list of his favorite horror films that incorporate stop-motion sequences or elements. There are some titles that many of you will know all too well BUT there are absolutely a few on here that probably slipped past your radar.
Head below for some words from Kling as well as his list!
Deathcember was picked up for world sales by our partners over at Epic Pictures Group. More information can be found here.
Stop-motion animation kicks ass. To me, this is a fact since I first saw King Kong on TV as a kid, which was my introduction to stop-motion FX in live-action pictures.
Combining cartoony puppets with a dark classic horror film setting also fascinated me. Whenever I mention this, people typically come up with Nightmare Before Christmas but, for me, it will always be Mad Monster Party with Boris Karloff and the great character designs by Jack Davis.
In 1999 I became a stop-motion artist and founded my independent studio Weirdoughmation Films. My Deathcember segment “Crappy Christmas” is a dark and twisted stop-motion animated claymation cartoon.
Stop-motion animation is a very time consuming, labor-intense, and, therefore, rather expensive technique. That probably why if you put Harryhausen-style fantasy, sci-fi, and monster films aside, it´s quite hard to find many horror titles that feature more than a few seconds of stop-motion footage. Many films are a mix of stop-motion animation shots with puppetry, like the Puppet Master series, which I often find a bit unsatisfying as a hardcore stop-motion fan. I also did not want to put a list together which features only the common titles like Gremlins, Ghostbusters, etc…
Lists like these should always be a source to find new hidden gems, right? That’s why I reached out to my friends and colleagues at Stop Motion Monsterland who helped me fill the list with some lesser-known titles. Unfortunately, 10 is a number way too low to list all the great stuff out there. Anyways, here’s the list, which is a wild mix of classics, lesser-known flicks, and indie titles:
Peacock King (1988)
An Asian fantasy flick with horror elements. Some crazy, slightly cartoony, and trashy monster scenes with lots of stop-motion animation footage.
A Troma film. My friend and college Dave Hettmer worked on this over-the-top, low budget horror-comedy.
Queen Crab (2015)
Classic ’50s/’60s style giant monster fun from 2015!
I Madman (1989)
Great stop-motion FX, nice creature design and actor/creature interaction. Unlike in most films, we have a full stop-motion scene here, no live-action puppets or other mixed FX. Pure stop-motion awesomeness! No wonder, as special FX masters Jim Aupperle and Randy Cook worked on this film.
One of many films that only features a very short, but in this case great, little snippet by legendary stop-motion master Phil Tippett (animation and creature design). Unfortunately, the creature is not really part of the story. If you’re not into piranhas check out the Lab scene snippet on YT.
The Gate (1987)
If you like ’80s films featuring kids like Goonies, E.T., and horror flicks like Poltergeist, etc…, The Gate is for you! Love the “You have Demons” heavy metal buddy! Another round of high-quality ’80s stop-motion magic by Cook & Aupperle.
AKA Dead Alive. My favorite Peter Jackson film. This film is so much fun! A must-see. It’s filled with dark humor and ugly Fx that makes your stomach turn. One of the over-the-top scenes is the stop-motion animated rat monkey.
Peter Jackson is credited as stop-motion animator.
House 2 (1987)
Saw House 2 in the theater when I was 12. It´s more of an adventure and less a horror film than the original House. It features stop-motion dinosaurs and an awesome zombie horse, unfortunately only visible in one great shot. They should have handed out much more budget to all the stop-motion wizards from the ’80s!
IMDB lists Phil Tippett as stop-motion designer/stop-motion supervisor and Randy Dutra as Visual FX stop-motion animator.
Nightmare on Elm Street 3 (1987)
Another one from ’87! This film features a Freddy Krueger puppet with a clay-animated head and a very nice skeleton fight scene.
The stop-motion scenes were produced by Dough Beswick and his crew, including Jim Aupperle and Yancy Calzada.
Evil Dead 2 (1987)
One of my all-time favorite films! The Necronomicon opening kicks ass. Check out the self-drawing illustrations! This film is so over-the-top. Unreachable. ’87 again.
The stop-motion shooting was executed by Doug Beswick and his Crew.