Godzilla gave me a fondness for man-in-rubber-suit monsters. It seemed that at least one basic cable television station ran a couple of the classic kaiju films during my childhood, and, always anxious for the all-out brawls saved for the last act, I watched as many as I possibly could. Now those summer afternoons feel like ancient history. Computer-generated monstrosities have largely put an end to such practical effects spectacles. But not entirely. The joy I felt at watching the “King of the Monsters” repeatedly pummel his mechanical counterpart has recently been rekindled by Earth Beasts Awaken.
The short films are the brainchild of paleoartist Brian Engh. He’s done a fantastic job pushing the boundaries of what we envision when we think about dinosaurs, but Earth Beasts Awaken is something a little different. Based on a rap album Engh made in 2009, the films tell the story of how enormous prehistoric monsters have been called out of the depths of the planet to retake the surface world for their own.
These monsters—with names like “Terrorsoar” and “Grapple Jaws”—are all homemade monsters. Engh and his friends designed, built, and acted inside the bulky puppets, bringing each of the fictional terrors to life. It’s pretty grueling work. “When you build monsters mostly out of materials found in dumpsters you have to experiment with different building techniques, and stuff often breaks while filming and you just have to adjust yourself as best you can and keep working with it, especially when you’re hundreds of miles from anything in the mountains,” Engh once told me.
The end result of all that pain and sweat is spectacular. The monsters roar and bite and claw with a ferocity that hits the nostalgic Toho button in my brain. While Earth Beasts Awaken Part 1 is a slow burn leading up to the release of the monsters, Part 2 is an all-out assault that anyone who thrilled at movies like Destroy All Monsters! will love. And the story’s not done yet. Engh has plans for even more monsters in Part 3, due out sometime in the near future. I can’t wait to see it. Even though they’re creatures of fiction, I’m happy to see Engh’s Earth Beasts stage their snaggletoothed takeover.