Generating this top 10 list of creature feature movies was not easy. The first stumbling block was the definition of the term “Creature”. What defines a creature? Can it be something ordinary like a crocodile or a shark, or does is it need to live in a black lagoon? I turned to dictionary.com for some advice and this is what they told me:
- 1. “an animal, especially a nonhuman: the creatures of the woodsand fields; a creature from outer space.
- 2. anything created, whether animate or inanimate.
I’m not sure if this really helps me. So, I’m just going to go ahead with what I think fits. Feel free to let me know if it’s out to lunch.
Here we go.
The Thing, 1982.
A group of scientists in Antarctica find an alien life form that turns out to be a shapeshifter that assimilates whatever host it has just killed. This creature from outer space is certainly one of my favorites. As a shapeshifter, it continually re-invents itself from whatever it can get – dogs to humans. Each version it assimilates is pretty nasty lookin’. And generally slimy. Not to be missed is the epic beard on Kurt Russell.
Four people wind up in a gas station, fighting off a creature that infects the living and re-animates the dead. It has spines and parts that have been removed can attack all on their own. This is a great creature movie that was shot on a shoestring budget. The acting is believable and the special effects are great, considering the budget. The arm amputation is . . .inventive. I never would have guessed that a boxcutter and a concrete block would have been used for surgery.
The Mist, 2007.
A group of people are trapped in a supermarket when a thick mist rolls in, cutting them off from the outside world. Hellish and impossibly large creatures live in the mist and snap up anybody who gets caught outside. The great thing about this movie is the fear and tension. We rely on the fear of the unknown; we rarely see much of the creatures, letting our imaginations do the work. The ending is utterly depressing and completely appropriate for a Stephen King adaptation.
This is another great installation in the “found footage” genre. I love how the narrative unfolds in this movie. We find out what is happening as the characters in the movie find out. It’s shot as a first person POV using a video camera. The story follows a group of friends who are enjoying a going away party, when everything goes sideways. A giant monster is attacking Manhattan, starting its rampage by decapitating the Statue of Liberty. It’s the monster’s way of giving the American public the finger. It’s a cool mixture of Godzilla and alien invasion. It’s simply awesome. Shaky camera work, much like in The Blair Witch Project, is used extensively. It takes some getting used to, but it’s effective.
The Blob, 1988.
Hailing from outer space (again), the Blob crashes to earth in a meteor and sets about devouring the population of a small town in California. This is a great movie that still holds up well. The effects are really good, considering how long ago it was made. The sink scene is truly fantastic. The Blob suckers its hapless victim by clogging the drain. Trying to get it unblocked, the worker gets his hand in there. Surprisingly, he pulls his hand out unscathed. Then the Blob attacks – it leaps out and grabs him by the face and pulls him head first into the drain. Simple physics tells you it’s impossible to fit a grown man down a drain, but with brute force, the Blob makes it happen.
The Fly, 1986.
Jeff Goldblum was cast perfectly in this role. A creepy oddball scientist attempts teleportation from one pod to another. The first baboon test has disastrous and disgusting results; it basically gets turned inside out. Once perfected, he moves onto the human trials. Unwittingly, he teleports himself along with a fly. The slow transformation from man to man-fly, much like the baboon, is pretty nauseating. The whole movie is pretty revolting; from the acidic puke to his teeth falling out. Great slimy special effects.
The Descent, 2005.
A group of cave explorers end up lost in a series of tunnels. It was their own fault, really. They didn’t tell anyone where they were going. To compound the problem, they also chose to explore a cave system that is unmapped. AND it’s full of predatory humanoid creatures with really sharp teeth. This movie has terrific atmosphere; it feels frightfully moody and claustrophobic. The creatures are truly scary and add an element of terror to a movie that would have been decent, even without them.
Lake Placid, 1999.
The same Director as Friday the 13th, Steve Miner brings us this gem. An oversized crocodile is terrorizing a lake in Maine. This is probably the best role I have seen for Betty White. Who would have guessed she had such a foul mouth? She swears like a trucker and looks quite at home doing it. She’s been feeding the crocodile for years, I suppose that’s why it’s grown to such huge proportions. Decent effects and good acting make this one for the DVD collection.
Open Water, 2003.
Sharks get pretty bad PR. They really aren’t all murderous eating machines with an insatiable spirit for blood lust. Two scuba divers on vacation get left behind when their tour guide miscounts the people aboard his boat. Floating in the middle of the ocean with little to no chance of rescue really puts a strain on a relationship. Naturally, the sharks end up having their way with the couple.
The fourth short story in Creepshow may not be a feature length movie, but it warrants a mention on this list. The creature that lives in the crate has a voracious appetite. Rightly so. According to the label on the crate, it’s over 100 years old. The first victim is the janitor, who is pulled into the crate and eaten entirely. The creature looks a bit like a Sasquatch, only with a head full of incredibly long, pointy teeth. I really like the element of the supernatural here. The creature is impossibly old and it can apparently survive underwater. It’s got some of the un-killable characteristics that I love. Like Jason or Freddy.
There are so many great creature movies out there that I don’t have room for all of them. I would like to give a nod to both the Predator and Alien series. They would be obvious choices, I just wanted to give some props to some other greats.