To celebrate the release of SUPER 8 it felt fitting to take a look back at some of my favorite creature features. For the list I considered everything from nature gone wild, mythical creatures, aliens and straightforward monster movies; I didn’t want to leave any species untouched. So hopefully I’ve been able to put together a wide selection of blood thirsty creatures of the cinema variety. The one theme I tried to stick close to was picking movies that are relatively recent without dipping into the well of older flicks, so keep that in mind if you have a beloved black and white creature feature you’re livid I haven’t included or any older film you felt deserved some love.
10. The Troll Hunter - Probably the most recent of the films on the list and currently available on demand and in a limited theatrical release is THE TROLL HUNTER. The film takes the found footage style and throws in some troll mythology and is both tense and interesting. There are some slower moments where the film loses a little of its momentum, but the troll designs are pretty fantastic and the CGI is impressive.
9. Rogue - I’m not sure how many people out there remember a little movie a while back called LAKE PLACID. I remember enjoying it at a younger age and thinking the idea of a giant crocodile or alligator was pretty intimidating and then I found ROGUE. This film was released under the Dimension Extreme label a few years back and was pleasantly surprised. ROGUE even proved that there was a time that Sam Worthington could act, but the star is mood and tension as well as the gigantic and brutal crocodile. It isn’t quite as action packed as some might expect but ROGUE is still an impressive representation of nature gone wild.
8. Splice - There is a specific moment in SPLICE that people often retreat to as the moment they absolutely hated the film. This moment while I don’t champion, is also something that ads an interesting dynamic to the film, both as a character study and in central conflict in the film. SPLICE is a slow and moody creature feature that abandons the deliberate pace in the finale with more audience friendly mayhem and yet another divisive twist to close out the events. Vincenzo Natali has a knack for an interesting story and his direction in SPLICE is admirably bold for making some of the choices he makes.
7. Feast - Director John Gulager will be delivering his vision of blood thirsty piranhas when PIRANHA 3DD is released but until then we can continue to watch his creature feature of FEAST. It took me a while to check this one out, but when I did I was not disappointed. Equal parts over-the-top violence and goofy humor the film has some pretty gag inducing effects and laugh out loud moments as well. Feel free to check out the vastly inferior sequels of SLOPPY SECONDS and THE HAPPY FINISH as well but don’t expect the same enjoyment that the first FEAST dishes out.
6. Piranha 3D - PIRANHA worked well in theaters in 3D but it worked just as well in 2D when it was released on DVD. Alexander Aja orchestrated one extremely brutal 12 minute symphony of mayhem during the beach massacre towards the end of the film that was worth the ticket price or DVD purchase. Not only that but I’m sure there’s a fair share of dudes that are still suffering from a stiff wrist watching the underwater ballet between Riley Steele and Kelly Brook. Bottom line is that PIRANHA was nothing but pure popcorn fun and I can’t wait for more piranha mayhem in 3DD.
5. Splinter - A lot of times some of my favorite movies are ones I had no awareness of and either came out of nowhere or I stumbled upon while scoping the web. SPLINTER is a film I’d seen talked about in several outlets and decided to give it a shot and not only was I surprised, but I was blown away at how inventive and riveting it was. The idea behind the creature was relatively simple but executed in a pretty interesting way and the performances were also very good. Some of my favorite settings in movies are single location films because they provide a feeling of isolation and SPLINTER does just that with its gas station setting. Director Toby Wilkins for me is one to watch and probably the only reason I might check out a few episodes of the Teen Wolf TV series on MTV.
4. The Descent - For the majority of the film people would be confused why I would call this a creature feature. Barely any creature shows up for quite some time, in fact the creatures only assist in the already unbearable claustrophobic setting. The descent is a nightmare for people who have problems even watching people in confined spaces and it’s also so effective and memorable because of the tight spaces within the caves the women in the film are climbing through. When the creatures finally show up we’re thrust into an even worse nightmare where the women not only have to battle darkness and tight spaces but monsters than can navigate it with ease. Neil Marshall’s THE DESCENT is a monster movie all horror fans should become acquainted with at some time or another.
3. The Mist – Frank Darabont really knocked it out of the park with THE MIST. I love claustrophobic settings and a bunch of people trapped in a grocery store with creatures from another world creates a pretty tense tone. The CGI is a little shaky here and there but the creature designs are pretty great and pile the intensely dark and depressing ending then THE MIST makes for a very unforgettable experience.
2. Cloverfield - I will always remember the first time I saw CLOVERFIELD. The anticipation I had up until the first reel was almost unbearable with the ad campaign and the secrecy behind blurring or obscuring the creature shots from trailers and clips had me at mercy. I don’t have the hatred for shaky cam that others have and watching CLOVERFIELD on opening night was an incredible experience. The movie is fast and furious, the creature design was fantastic, sound design was brilliant and the integration of the special effects was unforgettable. CLOVERFIELD is a film that takes minimal time commitment because it’s just barely over an hour long so it’s always a film in my regular DVD rotation.
1. King Kong - The classic movie monster King Kong redone for the modern day was a film I completely adored when it was released. My one complaint is the length, but I found the visual effects especially in the finale when Kong is battling the planes are stunning. Peter Jackson’s KING KONG is great through and through as an adventure, romance and drama and even with the bloated runtime I can watch this film over and over.