Wednesday, April 30, 2014

April Review

Horror Buff had a nice, two-week vacation this month which prevented more horror movie watching. I'm telling you now that May will probably be a very busy month, but I hope to find the time for one of my favorite hobbies.

Four your consideration:

1.  The Silence of the Lambs (1991): A/ A-
2.  Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954): B/B-
3.  Pumpkinhead (1988): C+
4.  The Wolfman (1941): D+

Monday, April 28, 2014

Pumpkinhead (1988)

Director:  Stan Winston
Studios:  De Laurentiis Entertainment Group
Starring:  Lance Henriksen
Tagline:  A Grim Fairy Tale.
MPAA Rating:  R
Genre:  horror, terror, thriller, monster, curse
Scare score:  D
Rating:  C+

Plot overview:  During a getaway to the country, some city teens are involved in a dirt bike accident that takes the life of a local boy.  Stricken with grief, Ed Harley (Henriksen) seeks his revenge, unleashing a vengeful demon upon the unsuspecting teens.

I remember always seeing this VHS case in Blockbuster when I was a kid, but I've never gotten around to seeing this original movie or its made-for-TV sequels.  While this production is '80s up the wazoo, it was an interesting concept and, at the very least, an entertaining movie.

First of all, I was excited to watch some sort of monster movie.  Going into it, I had very, very different ideas of what Pumpkinhead was going to be like; not surprisingly I was expecting a pumpkin-headed monster or even some sort of scarecrow demon, but alas that isn't the case here.  The demon is a masterpiece of special effects with all credit deservingly going to director Stan Winston, who is known for his work on film series such as Jurassic Park, Aliens, and Predator.  Well before I knew about Winston's affiliations with these other films, the noticeable relation was already there.

Here are my issues with the monster: first of all, this isn't a demon or monster so much as an alien.  Pumpkinhead doesn't quite have a pumpkin head, but rather a similarly shaped head to that of Alien.  I wouldn't be surprised if, as far as the body and tail are concerned, Pumpkinhead was the inspiration for Mewtwo.  That's a serious statement.  All in all, Pumpkinhead is a fierce enemy, but in my book it isn't quite right for the mood the whole movie, and the tagline "A Grim Fairy Tale" tries to set; it is far too extraterrestrial instead of demonic.  Furthermore, the cicada sound made whenever Pumpkinhead is approaching reminded me way too much of Predator.  A little more creativity here wouldn't have hurt.

My other big issue with the creature itself was the boring, repetitive ways in which it always killed.  Not once did it vary from a sort of strange combination of lifting, throwing, and dropping its victims until they were dead.  Not once did this vary with the exception of very minor changes either before or after proceeding to lift up and drop the given victim.  Boring city.

Regardless, special effects in this movie are pretty fantastic, specifically those involving Pumpkinhead itself.  Perhaps with such a complicated costume they were limited to the ways the monster could actually kill people while onscreen.  While it may not be as memorable as, say, Alien or Predator, Pumpkinhead was a cool looking demon.  I also really liked the whole urban-legend bit revolving around him.  When the Wallace kids start chanting that rhyme to scare their little brother, it was both a creepy and interesting moment.  We've seen a similar rhyme in the Nightmare on Elm Street movies.

The script was nothing special in this movie.  In fact, since the version I watched online had English subtitles, I was much more aware of the poor script that I perhaps would have been in a normal viewing.  So much of the dialogue in this movie is repeated.  So much of the dialogue in this movie is repeated.  I can't stress it enough.  I first realized this during the scene when Harley returns to the old woman who lives in the woods.  Every single line he has he repeats twice.  Then the old woman starts to do it too.  In later scenes, the teenagers do it as well.  The teenagers do it as well.  What may feel like desperation to an amateur screenwriter just sounds like a poorly thought out echo to audiences.

Acting isn't good either, but for an '80s B movie, it's certainly entertaining.  Lots of melodrama from unexperienced teenage/ twenty-something actors, lots of over-the-top Appalachia-meets-Deep-South poverty, and extra lots of running through dark, foggy woods and slipping in the dirt before giving up the will to run only to continue running.  When will these teenagers learn?


Something I loved about this movie though was the sort of evolution we saw in our two main characters at the end.  That is to say, Pumpkinhead and Ed Harley.  From the first murder, we realize that there is some sort of connection between the two, but it isn't until the very end that we see Pumpkinhead taking on the features of Mr. Harley and vice versa.  Truly eerie and fascinating, and done spectacularly for 1988.  Then, at the end of the film, we see the curse of vengeance complete its full circle when the witch/ old woman buries a new corpse in Pumpkinhead's grave for next time.

Final critique:  There is plenty of promise in this movie, but not enough delivery.  Going into Pumpkinhead, I think that most audiences will expect something different, although at the end of the day we have a unique monster attacking a group of frightened teenagers just as other unique monsters chased and killed other frightened teenagers throughout the majority of horror films from the 1980s.  The best thing about this movie is the fun plot and the creative monster, both of which will leave you wishing everything were more masterfully executed.  A fun watch, nothing more, nothing less.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Wolf Man (1941)

Director:  George Waggner
Studios:  Universal Pictures
Starring:  Lon Chaney Jr., Claude Rains, Evelyn Ankers
Tagline:  His hideous howl a dirge of death!
MPAA Rating:  Unrated/ Approved
Genre:  horror, terror, monster, classic, werewolf, curse, Universal Horror, black and white
Scare score:  F
Rating:  D+

Plot overview:  Returning to his native town and familial home, Americanized British nobleman Larry Talbot (Chaney Jr.) accepts his position within his family, and shortly thereafter becomes smitten with local beauty Gwen Conliffe (Ankers).  As they go out one night to have their fortunes told at a gypsy caravan, a mysterious beast kills their friend Jenny (Fay Helm) and bites Larry in the process.  Over the next few days, the townspeople begin to fear what is loose in the woods while Larry begins to fear what is loose within himself.

Yes, yes, we all love Universal Horror, and there is nothing better than that black and white globe circling around under the overture at the start of these movies.  Was this the first werewolf movie following a century or more of popular werewolf gothic and romantic fiction?  It seems that it just might be, spawning countless 'sequels' as well as a 2010 action remake.  In today's world, who doesn't know what a werewolf is and who hasn't seen some representation of one in literature, TV, or film?  Well it seems we might just have Chaney and this 1941 film to thank.

Unfortunately, this movie kind of stinks.  I say that with a smile, as I watched it over the course of two nights before bed, the first time finding sleep to be more enjoyable.  The movie is too clean, to prim and proper '40s Hollywood to be truly scary, boasting a plot that is frankly strange, droll and predictable screenwriting, and acting that can be frustrating at times.

Lon Chaney Jr., walking in his father's (The Phantom of the Opera) footsteps (he's only booked as Lon Chaney for Pete's sake), gives us this large, bumbling, and creepy Larry Talbot, a tragic character made only more tragic but how dumb this movie is.  There was only one brief moment towards the end of the film that, in his character's desperation, did I appreciate Chaney Jr.'s acting.  He's too big compared to the other actors, too smiley, too creepily charming.  I thought it was a poor casting choice, aside from his name and his (and his father's) famed monster career.

Claude Rains (The Invisible Man himself) does a good job in this movie, in what is probably the least believable father-son pairing up of all time.  Not for one second could anyone believe that Chaney Jr. is Rains son, and I don't care what the mother looked like.  Just Hollywood getting some big names on the bill.

Then we have the lovely, charming, flirtatious, pure, tortured, desperate Evelyn Ankers playing Talbot's love interest Gwen.  There is some good acting here, although this role is exactly the same as any given [horror movie] love interest role from this time period.

Chaney Jr. as the wolfman himself prances around the fog-suffocated soundstage in the least scary way possible, given perhaps 6 or 7 minutes of screen time if that much, inducing absolutely no fear in today's audience in the shots of his face, that is, about 1/3 of his face pictured through the shadows tragically, sadly, like a lost animal.  Makeup is alright; not my favorite portrayal of a werewolf, although poor Chaney Jr. had to undergo hours and hours of having yak hair glued to him.  I can't even imagine.

My problems with this movie are many.  First of all, the movie takes place in England, and nobody speaks with a British accent.  Maybe this doesn't bother the average viewer but Horror Buff is picky about this things, and I mean how hard is it to set the movie in Massachusetts or Maryland if everyone is going to talk that way?  Secondly, how Talbot and Gwen fall in love is so, so beyond me. He PEEPS at her while she is DRESSING through a TELESCOPE?  There was absolutely no point in having a telescope or a refurbished attic in this whole movie except that it provided a way for Larry to eerily spy on this girl.  Sure, we've all seen what our neighbors are up to at one moment or another in our lives, but then Larry marches to town and proceeds to terrify this girl by telling her what kind of earrings she keeps on her vanity.  Dear female readers: if a guy ever does this to you, just call for help and keep your windows locked.

Otherwise, the whole movie is just various characters running about, confused and scared, setting traps or falling into them, accusing each other or trying to confess.  It's totally boring.

I did love the poem/ saying that everyone knew about werewolves, "Even a man who is pure in heart/ and says his prayers by night/ may become a wolf/ when the wolfsbane blooms/ and the autumn moon is bright."  This rhyme has appeared in all but two of the subsequent werewolf adaptations and sequels of this film.  I also liked that this werewolf transformation lore doesn't depend on the full moon in order to change the victim, although this staple would soon develop.

Final critique:  I love Universal Horror and all the original monsters that are sort of like the founding fathers of horror.  Love 'em.  That being said, films as old and no-longer-scary such as The Wolf Man are fun to watch with a bowl of popcorn on a given night of the week.  Just do not go into this film expecting to be scared or expecting a good plot, or good writing, or a good time.  Still a classic, still enjoyable in its costumes and scenery.  I wish there were more of the monster.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Director:  Jonathan Demme
Studios:  Orion Pictures
Starring:  Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins
Tagline:  To enter the mind of a killer, she must challenge the mind of a madman.  
MPAA Rating:  R
Genre:  horror, psychological thriller, mystery, crime, drama, serial killer, cannibal
Scare score:  C+
Rating:  A/A-

Plot overview:  FBI trainee Clarice Starling (Foster) has only dreamed of a successful career when Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn), the head of the Behavioral Science Unit, calls her in on a special mission.  Her task: to interview the infamous Baltimore-based psychiatrist-turned-cannibalistic serial killer Hannibal Lecter (Hopkins).  Unbeknownst to Clarice, Crawford's main goal is to use Lecter's expertise to help profile and then apprehend Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine), a serial killer who is kidnapping, murdering, and skinning women across the Midwest.  Will Clarice be able to use Lecter's knowledge to identify Buffalo Bill before he kills his latest kidnapping victim, or will Lecter get to Clarice's head first?

This is a really fantastic mystery/ psychological thriller that tips into horror just enough that I feel good about reviewing it.  I mean, the main character is called 'Hannibal the Cannibal' - how can't that be just a little bit scary?

This movie swept the Oscars winning Best Picture, Best Actor/ Actress, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay, and all for a good reason!  This movie is creepy from the outset given the misty atmosphere of Quantico, later followed by the equally dismal and grey shots around West Virginia and Ohio.  The Silence of the Lambs combines crime, mystery, and both physiological and human horror into one slam dunk, spanning from one serial killer who is so smart and creepy we fall in love, another serial killer who may be even creepier, kidnapping, dead bodies, creepy bugs, and plenty of suspense.  Gee, horror fans, there's just something for everyone!

Let's talk acting.  Jodie Foster is great in this role.  As a child, I always confused her with Jamie Lee Curtis, but aside from being strong leading ladies, there isn't much of a connection there.  Silly Little Horror Buff.  Clarice is a driven, strong, and badass FBI trainee who does a perfect job as showing how strong she can be in a field dominated by men, yet she isn't afraid to show her human nature such as in the funeral scene or after first visiting Hannibal.  In fact, it is Clarice's personal side that interests Hannibal so much the movie itself is set into motion.  I love her rough southern accent in this movie; just enough twang to bring this crime/ horror to the heartland.

Anthony Hopkins.  Need I say more?  No, but I will.  From his haunting voice to weird gestures (especially the slurping noise he makes when talking about eating people), Hopkins portrays Lecter masterfully, switching back and forth seamlessly from refined, intelligent psychiatrist to flesh-hungry psychopath.  His character, highlighted by the shots and frames we often see him in (plenty of close-ups!) stay with us well after the movie has finished.

I also love Ted Levine's performance here.  His voice is another key feature in the horror; the way he tries to remain calm when dealing with his prisoner or with police, and the way that his psychotic nature shines through underneath.  Then, of course, who can forget his pathology... and ultimate goal for kidnapping and murdering hefty girls?  I thought there was a touch of this behind American Horror Story: Asylum regarding Bloodyface/ the decorations around his house.  One of the weirdest and most memorable scenes in the entire movie is of course of Buffalo Bill/ Jame Gumb dancing around in his basement to "Goodbye Horses" by Q Lazzarus.

This film isn't particularly scary although there are scenes that will get your pulse up and maybe you'll find yourself biting your nails a bit.  Aside from a fun plot that we try to figure out along with the FBI, the characters in Silence of the Lambs are dynamic and truly intriguing.  

Final critique:  This hugely successful film has done our beloved horror genre a great favor by being scary enough to not fall strictly under crime.  The mystery is sure to keep the audience interested throughout the exploration of a crime that exists outwardly in society as much as inwardly within its perpetrators.  Not too scary, although there is a bit of gore; also, the psychological thrills are enough to creep out most audiences.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Shining (1977) - novel

My second 'book report' following American Psycho some time back.

Author:  Stephen King
Publisher:  Doubleday, New York
Quote:  "The hotel caught Daddy."
Genre:  novel, psychological thriller, horror, thriller, family drama, ghost, haunting
Scare score:  C+
Rating:  A-

Plot overview:  Upon losing his job at a respected New England prep school, aspiring writer and recovering alcoholic Jack Torrance accepts a position as the winter caretaker of the Overlook Hotel, isolated amongst the peaks of the Colorado Rockies.  He brings his wife Wendy - who has stayed with him through thick and thin although she has contemplated leaving - and son Danny, a young boy with an incredible gift that allows him to read minds and see premonitions.  As the harsh, unforgiving winter sets in, both Jack's and the Overlook's terrible pasts come back to haunt the Torrance's in an attempt to make them eternal guests.

We all know the movie.  In fact, it's one of my favorites.  That being said, it was naturally very interesting to read the source of Kubrick's famous masterpiece.

I have never read Stephen King before, but I have to say I was really pleased with his writing style.  There were several obvious connections between this and other works of his that I'm familiar with via their film adaptions, as well as some standard King themes such as alcoholism, reality vs. imagination as well as individual perception vs. public perception (I find these four are often intertwined), and finally the capacity of the small or meek, that is to say, the supernatural ability of the underdog.

The Shining is heartily saturated with cultural references and great vocabulary.  While I couldn't help but picture the Overlook and the Torrance family as depicted in the movie, King leaves very little to the imagination in terms of his realistic and consuming descriptive style.  I was amazed at how each time I read, I, too, felt like I was trapped in some endless white winter.  After reading, I'd have to go outside to remind myself that it's spring and 75 degrees.  The book isolates its reader right along with the other guests of the Overlook.

As far as comparing and contrasting goes, it was interesting to see what Kubrick used, what he changed, and what he flat-out rejected.  Now that I'm familiar with both works, I would have to say the horror is different in the book than it is in the movie.  The movie depends a lot more on Nicholson's wacky performance (which we love), paired with only a handful of other scary images such as the twin girls, elevators full of blood, and that lobby full of skeletons which, in 2014, does nothing for us.  The book relies much more on the suspenseful horrors of the Overlook itself - which in the novel is easily the main antagonist, much more so than Jack - to make the characters (and the reader) paranoid.  I enjoyed how much the novel plays on reality and fiction, making us question what is real right up until the end.  An example of the Overlooks power: "The hotel was running things now.  Maybe at first the things that had happened had only been accidents.  Maybe at first the things he had seen really were like scary pictures that couldn't hurt him.  But now the hotel was controlling those things and they could hurt."

The biggest differences would have to be the lack of ghost personalities in the movie.  In the novel, the Overlook has stored up negative echoes and spirits of former guests that leave their stain in areas such as the Presidential Suite, Room 217, the elevator, and the bar.  While the movie version taps on a few of these references, focusing on a modified version of Room 217 and even briefly featuring previous owner Horace Derwent with special friend Roger the man in the dog costume.  The movie, however, invents the characters of previous caretaker Grady's daughters, and otherwise ignores the topiaries and roque court/ mallet.  I understand leaving out the hedges as creating such scenes given dated special effects would have been a terrible idea.  Furthermore, after reading the novel, I suppose I am upset that even the entire scene of Jack breaking into their quarters to try and kill Wendy and Danny -regardless of how iconic it has become - was entirely different.

And while in some hypothetical remake I would love to see more ghosts, it might be nice to see more of the human characters as they are in the book, talis qualis.  The book is absolutely focused on Jack's alcohol addiction, his inability to control his temper, and his alcoholic, abusive father.  While the Overlook ultimately does crack Jack, it is Jack - his weakness, his anger, his inability - that gives into the hotel's pressures.  In the movie, it seems much more like Jack becomes possessed or goes insane for little reason other than cabin fever.

Although I think Shelley Duvall does a good job of portraying the Wendy from the novel, she certainly falls away from prominence.  In the book she is much more than Danny's protector; they share a special bond, and she is eager and willing to sacrifice herself for his sake should the time come.  In the move, Wendy fights back and does well, but she suffers less so than in the book.  (Though I admit the domestic violence between Overlook-Jack and Wendy was incredible violent; reminiscent of Insidious: Chapter 2).

Then, of course, we have Danny.  Danny, the small key that sets all of the Overlook's horrors into action.  Listen to what King has to say: "If they got out of here, the Overlook might subside to its old semi-sentient state, able to do no more than present penny-dreadful horror slides to the more psychically aware guests who entered it.  Without Danny it was not much more than an amusement park haunted house, where a guest or two might hear tappings or the phantom sounds of a masquerade party, or see an occasional disturbing thing.  But if it absorbed Danny... Danny's shine or life force or spirit... whatever you wanted to call it... into itself - what would it be then?"

Danny Torrance in the novel is much of a key player than he is portrayed to be in the movie.  Since the majority of Danny's intellect and power is mental, it makes sense.  If not done cheaply, that hypothetical remake could rely some more on Danny's mental dialogue to assess the darkening situation at the Overlook from the outset until the film's climactic finale.

It's always interesting to read a novel and compare it to the movie.  While I'm usually a fan of reading the book before seeing the flick, sometimes you just can't help it.  The novel was admittedly freaky.  I think 'freaky' is the best way to describe the suspense and terror of this specific work: ranging from premonitions, to pure suspense, to decaying ghosts of ages past, to outright violence and the struggle to survive - all of which was pleasantly (or not) described in perfect detail.  I think the best thing the book boasts is its ability to draw you in to this bleak, isolated world of winter in the Rockies.  Jack's constant and profound introspection makes the reader question his or her upbringing, choices, and ability to hold themselves and their family together.  This is marvelously contrasted by Danny's innocence as a 5-year-old, simultaneously not understand adult emotions and perceiving much more of the gritty darkness and reality behind a smile or beneath the creaking floorboards.

Final critique:  I was very content with my book choice, and I flew through the 900-odd e-pages (I think on paper this book is around 500 pages) in less than three days; I was practically unable to put this down.  The book compels consumes the reader much as the Overlook consumes its guests.  If you love the movie, I recommend this book.  If you haven't seen the movie, read the book first, and then enjoy the film afterwards.  I guess all that's left now is the watch the miniseries from the '90s, which underwent far more supervision from the untouchable Stephen King.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)

Director:  Jack Arnold
Studios:  Universal International
Starring:  Richard Carlson, Julie Adams, Richard Denning
Tagline:  Clawing Monster From A Lost Age strikes from the Amazon's forbidden depths!
MPAA Rating:  Unrated
Genre:  horror, thriller, science fiction, monster, classic, Universal Horror, black and white
Scare score:  D
Rating:  B/ B-

Plot overview:  During a geological excavation in the Amazon, Dr. Carl Maia (Antonio Moreno) discovers a unique fossil of a clawed, webbed hand with five fingers.  He contacts his friends, the marine biologists Dr. David Reed (Carlson) and his girlfriend Kay (Adams), who agree to come to the Amazon under the financing of money-hungry Dr. Mark Williams (Denning).  Together, the group of researchers hope to prove a link in the evolution between sea animals and land animals.  Little do they know of the horror that awaits them beneath the murky waters of the Amazon!

This is your pretty standard, iconic horror movie from the golden era of Universal Horror spanning the '20s, '30s, '40s, '50s, and '60s.  Like other Universal Monster Movies that I've reviewed (FrankensteinThe Phantom of the Opera, The Invisible Man), this film - with its very wholesome, American characters and general lack of horror - isn't the scariest thing out there.  By a long shot.  But that doesn't mean that it isn't enjoyable.

Creature from the Black Lagoon has made the Creature, affectionately called Gill-man (played on land by Ben Chapman and underwater by Ricou Browning), an absolutely iconic monster and image in popular culture.  Described as a piscine amphibious humanoid, the Creature is admittedly creepy, especially in underwater shots, and especially when we're shown its face with black holes for eyes.  A huge kudos is in order for the makeup department here, specifically Millicent Patrick and Bud Westmore, according to my research.  Unfortunately, while Gill-man is a scary looking fish-dude, the scares revolving around it are not nearly as frightening as they could (or should be).  But of course, this was 1954.

The monster is first introduced to us about 10 minutes into the movie via a scaly, webbed, and clawed hand reaching out of the river.  We will see this same style of 'arm reaching out of water', 'arm reaching into tent', 'arm reaching over edge of boat', 'arm reaching through porthole' - and the list goes on - about a thousand times in the movie, always accompanied by a shrill cacophony of trumpets or other brass instruments that very nearly drove me insane.  Honestly, if the audience were subjected to the unholy blast of trumpets one more time, there probably could have been a lawsuit regarding hearing impairment.

I've said it before and I'll say it now - sound is what makes the horror movie.  Yes, yes, there are images and ideas we love because they terrify us and stay with us (think the protagonist in the foreground of a shot going about his or her business with the killer in the background, just lurking there - gosh I love shots like that), but I am convinced that if you sat through even the scariest movie with the volume on mute, you would not be scared.  Now this probably isn't a revelation for most horror fans, but it's an interesting and important point nonetheless.  Nowadays we have beautifully crafted scores and memorable intros, themes, or even sounds that we associate automatically with certain kills, regardless of the merit of the kill(er) itself or the scare factor.  When we go back to old-fashioned horror such as Creature from the Black Lagoon, however, audiences weren't used to the sheer level or ferocity of horror that we know and love today in 2014.  Just imagine somebody from 60 years ago sitting through, say, Cabin in the Woods.  Needless to say, moral and societal standards have changed, as have scare tactics.  Unfortunately for this movie, the scare tactic was to pair a not-quite-scary shot of Gill-man with blasting brass instruments.  When this is done about 50 times over, the result may have been shocking in '54, but in '14 it comes off as a little tacky.

This movie, like other Universal Horrors, is too old to be scary.  Aside from the repetitive 'hand' bit, and a few scenes of underwater pursuit, there isn't much suspense either.  Browning, who spends his screen time swimming around in a very human and not monstrous fashion, didn't have much room to work with in terms of scariness.  Chapman, on the other hand, lugs around on land much like Frankenstein (who he cited as an inspiration for his role), whereas I think Gill-man would have been much scarier if he had rapid movements on land.  Oh well.  Lots of lost potential there.

What this movie does boast and fantastically are its underwater shots.  The scenery throughout the whole film is great - I would absolutely love to see this film in color (I'm sure it's on the internet somewhere).  Browning, a famous and I think still-active underwater stunt coordinator, along with actors Carlson and Denning deliver really cool scenes in the lagoon, even if they're just splashing around or tying rope around fallen trees.  It's very interesting that this was shot and released in 3-D.


As far as plot goes, the movie is all right.  It only takes about 4 minutes for the movie to introduce the beautiful Julie Adams, who we know from the movie poster will be our damsel in distress.  My big question about this movie is why does Gill-man seemingly fall for her?  And what is he planning on doing with her?  I guess this questions goes for most classic monster movies.

The other interesting thing about this movie is the ambivalent nature of the Creature.  Who strikes first?  I mean, sure, if I were in the Amazon and Gilly popped his head into my tent to say hi, I would do everything in my power to frighten him off or kill him.  Fight or flight, am I right?  So although the two assistants at the beginning only throw small items at Gill-man before he kills them, you could argue that the monster was just reacting with the violence he was shown.  Was he going to harm Kay?  It doesn't look that way.  There's a lot to be said here about the environmental effects of humans in the Amazon, etc, etc.  Much like other Universal Monsters when confronted by angry, pitchfork or powered harpoon gun-brandishing humans, who's the real bad guy?

Final critique:  This is a fun movie that today falls more under a sci-fi thriller than a horror.  Since its debut in 1954, Creature from the Black Lagoon has spawned several sequels as well as countless references and allusions that has secured Gill-man a place in American and global horror culture.  This is a fun movie to watch when you're looking for a sort of retro sci-fi.  Very few scares, and the ones that are there aren't scary.  With a run time of only 79 minutes, why not watch this classic?