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Our Favorite Cinematic Sea Creatures: From Jaws to the Creature From the Black Lagoon
Ruby Gilman, the teenage kraken, is joining a very special club of aquatic beings.
She may be a kraken, but she’s not necessarily a monster. Ruby Gilman, Teenage Kraken is now in theaters, courtesy of Dreamworks Animation. As the title suggests, it centers on Ruby Gilman, a high school student who discovers that she comes from a line of sea-based krakens. What would it look like if John Hughes made an animated high school/sea creature film? Ruby Gilman might give us some hints.
With a stacked cast that includes Annie Murphy, Lana Condor, Sam Richardson, Toni Collette, Jane Fonda, and Colman Domingo, the new movie could make its titular heroine a heavy presence in the ranks of cinematic sea creatures. We couldn’t help but think of some other classic creatures from the depths as Ruby sets down tentacles in the multiplexes, so we’re revisiting some of our favorites.
Haul away, and don’t strike the reef! You may, in fact, need a bigger boat.
Gill-man (The Creature from the Black Lagoon)
One of the first, and one of the most iconic sea creatures, Gill-man began his reign in the 1954 classic The Creature from the Black Lagoon, and took a place in the cadre of Universal Classic Monsters. There’s something about the look of him that still unsettles us, even though he is quite obviously a person in a suit. That makes him even more unnerving.
Dangerous in the water and on land, Gill-man appeared in additional features in 1955 and 1956. Though the actor who played him on land changed, Ricou Browning always played him when he was underwater.
It’s interesting to note that William Alland, producer on the original film, was incepted with the idea while he was at a party celebrating Citizen Kane, in which Alland played a small role. Cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa talked to him about legends of half-fish, half-humans. Alland saw Gill-man as being deadly, but having a bit of sadness to him as well.
There's already a connection to Ruby Gilman here, as her last name is a not-so-subtle nod to this classic creation.
The Kraken (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest)
Let no joyful voice be heard! Here’s hoping that Davy Jones (Bill Nighy) doesn’t set his giant pet on you. This is arguably one of the best krakens in film, though we mostly only ever see its giant tentacles in the second Pirates of the Caribbean movie. There’s one underwater shot that shows it’s true bulk, and then we see it’s gaping maw in another moment.
It can take out any ship, any time. You can try to fight it (and the pirates in the movie do their best), but it’s gonna sink you. If you have the black spot, it’s coming. You’re screwed. What are its true motives and desires? Who knows? It’s completely under the control of Jones, who's forced to kill it by Cutler Beckett.
The Watcher in the Water (The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring)
Do not disturb the water. The creature that lurks in the waters outside one of the gates of Moria causes trouble in the novel by J.R.R. Tolkien, but Peter Jackson gave him a full showcase in the film adaptation. We didn’t just see waving tentacles, we saw a hideous head emerge, and a mouth that opened in a way that no mouth should.
The beast itself has a cool design, and it gives the recently assembled Fellowship their first group challenge. A fascinating detail happens when it lifts Frodo Baggins high in the air — the end of one of its tentacles has small feelers on it, and it searches Frodo’s body for the One Ring. We don’t find out what the Watcher actually is, but it wants the precious.
Gwoemul (The Host)
Bong-Joon Ho added this creature to the canon in 2006, and it was an instant hit. That’s no shock, it’s Bong-Joon Ho. He wanted it to have an “S” shaped spine, and that certainly makes it distinct.
The movie doesn’t show you a fantasy creature. It shows you a mutated fish thing that feels real. This creature gives off viral infections too, which sets it apart from other beasties on this list. Get ready for another quarantine!
Whaaaat? The Great White shark at the center of Steven Spielberg’s Jaws has a name? He’s Bruce (reportedly named after Spielberg's lawyer, Bruce Ramer), and he’s huge. He is iconic, and he’s the reason that you may hear a John Williams riff any time someone mentions sharks. Too. Much. Fun.
The shark effects barely worked during filming in the water, but this turned out to be a blessing for the finished film. Spielberg couldn’t show the full Bruce all the time, so fleeting glimpses had to suffice. The result is far more frightening, especially when the glimpses are accompanied by the famous Williams theme music.
From the opening scenes of mysterious carnage to the three-man hunt to take Bruce down, this is a shark that doesn’t let up for a second. Toss your barrels, throw your chum, do what you want. They manage to get him in the end, but it’s close. Most of the time we root for Bruce, because this movie is full of idiots.
Amphibian Man (The Shape of Water)
There is no way that this character could be called a monster. He’s not really a creature, either. He’s a god, and one of the characters in this Guillermo del Toro masterpiece says as much.
He is the natural cinematic descendant of Gill-man. He is not malicious. The horror of this movie doesn’t come from his actions; it comes from what other characters do to him. This Academy Award-winning movie is more than a creature feature. It’s a love story.
The gargantuan talent of Doug Jones gives life to the being, and he suffuses every movement and gesture with soul. Sally Hawkins plays off of him beautifully, and their connection is wholly unique. They swim, they dance, and they... yeah. We're officially aware of what fish do in the ocean.
He is one of the most beautiful characters in one of the most beautiful movies in recent memory. He just so happens to be an amphibious man.
Ruby Gilman happens to be a kraken, and we look forward to seeing her journey.
Ruby Gilman, Teenage Kraken is in theaters now! You can pick up tickets at Fandango.