The Fly – This year’s all timer is a David Cronenberg sci-fi descent into body horror madness starring Jeff Goldblum & Geena Davis that sticks with long afterwards.
A scientist develops a teleportation device only things go off-the-rails when a fly joins his journey. Either Goldblum’s performance (which is *easily* a genre classic), the top-notch creature FX showing us the disgusting transformation in more detail than anyone could have asked for, or even just the “Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid” tagline which is as remembered as the film if not more. Even if you’ve never seen or heard of this I guarantee you’ve experienced some of it through pop-culture osmosis and it’ll become known once you see this. Not a great movie to snack during if you’re squeamish, fyi.
Box office: 40dom/60ww (a hit)
RottenTomatoes: 92%, 83% aud
Ghoulies – This was a painful experience. A man accidentally unleashes little demon monsters and if need any further information simply have a look at the poster then move on with life and hopefully forget you ever spent a moment’s thought on this. Even as an SVU viewer for the last 21 years the fact that Mariska Hargitay makes her film debut here is simply not enough–google a photo of her at the time if you’re curious.
Box office: /
RottenTomatoes: /, 20% aud
Silver Bullet – In the event withdrawals are in full effect, here’s Stephen King’s take on lycanthropy with Corey Haim as a wheelchair bound young man who, with the help of his sister and uncle (Gary Busey), takes it upon himself to stop the werewolf he believes responsible for several local deaths in their small town. This little murder mystery/werewolf flick is a slow-burn with servicable special effects that’s more about evoking a tone/time than gorey kills.
Box office: 12ww (meh/dud)
RottenTomatoes: 42%, 56% aud
The Howling 2: Your Sister is a Werewolf – The brother of recently deceased Karen (Dee Wallace Stone from the first) deals with the aftermath of learning, as the title fills in, that his sister was a werewolf. A snoozefest nowhere near the level of silly fun the title suggests you’re in for. Christopher Lee’s here, too.
Box office: /
RottenTomatoes: 27%, 14% aud
Creature – A summary is unnecessary here–just imagine Alien from 79 without any production values, skills in front of or behind the camera, or an iota of concern for the end result. This includes the very definition of gratuitous nudity and isn’t even really awful in an entertaining way, just lazy & boring. Skip!
Box office: /
RottenTomatoes: /, 12% aud
Aliens – Ellen Ripley, sole survivor of 79’s Alien, returns here to battle personal and literal demons after barely escaping with her life the first time–surely the backup of a marine squad will make things easier this go-round, right? Where Alien was the perfect haunted house/ten little Indians in space take on the xenomorph creature, Aliens pivots into sci-fi action with such strong work by Sigourney Weaver I feel like “character piece” is also apt.
Weaver absolutely left an impression after installment number one, but Aliens is where she forever makes her mark on the modern action hero (moreso in the director’s cut, I say). I *could* break out the examples of her awesomeness, but we’d be here all day–watch the movie and see for yourself. The direction, script, supporting cast, editing, sound design, creature effects, and whatever element of filmmaking you could think of is knocked out of the park.
The score, for instance, was so effective some of it became the go-to bombastic, climactic movie trailer music for so, so many movies over the decade that followed. If it sounds like I enjoy this movie then that’s an understatement: when I have a time machine one must for me is going to an opening night showing of Aliens just to experience its overwhelmingly amazing reception in person.
Box office: 85dom/131ww (a hit–the last unequivocal one of the Alien franchise for some time…or ever)
RottenTomatoes: 97%, 94% aud
Troll – The film debut of Harry Potter! Another that doesn’t scream “creature feature” to me but it was suggested by a couple folks. A young boy, our Mr. Potter, defends his apartment building against the forces of darkness. I’m sure it’s all entertaining enough to children or the inebriated.
Box office: 5ww (meh/dud)
RottenTomatoes: 25%, 28% aud
Critters – Killer alien furballs land in a small town soon followed by intergalactic bounty hunters on the hunt. Subtitled gremlins being pursued to Earth by space cops, in other words. More Dee Wallace Stone! As for the movie, it feels like a labor of love somehow so that earns some points. Plus, for what it is, this is fun enough time. This spawned a franchise that, among other things, saw Leonardo DiCaprio’s film debut down the line.
Box office: 13ww (a success)
RottenTomatoes: 58%, 45% aud
In the Shadow of Kilimanjaro – Baboons go nuts and attack a town–John Rhys-Davies is here. I mean, there’s some more to it but frankly I didn’t find things especially horrific. It’s not horrible, by any means, just completely forgettable once things wrap up. Fine enough that first time, especially now with added camp factor.
Box office: /
RottenTomatoes: /, 60% aud
Link – Elizabeth Shue & Terrance Stamp star in this story of intelligent apes who grow tired of subservience that’s best watched with an eye towards the animal performances. Don’t expect a violent bloodfest with monkeys ripping people’s faces off and you might be okay a while. Plus, watch an early Shue find her footing.
Box office: 2ww (dud)
RottenTomatoes: 25%, 33% aud
King Kong Lives – Remember how King Kong dies tragically at the end of his titular film? Well, King Kong Lives quite obviously goes the “Well, what if he *didn’t* die?” route with a good old fashioned coma then heart transplant (because why WOULDN’T you want to resurrect him when things went so well the last time). Linda Hamilton’s in this one, but unfortunately she can’t save it from being anything more than a stupidly fun movie, if it even captures you that way–you might end up plainly bored. Also, for a movie with ten years advancement in the FX field you’d think it might look better than the 76 King Kong but then you watch it and…nope!
Box office: 5ww (dud)
RottenTomatoes: 0%, 17% aud
Predator – Schwarzenegger and his team of good guy rescue mercs go looking for downed soldiers and find themselves being hunted by an alien creature looking for trophies in this action classic. The creature design of the Predator itself works wonderfully and the cast of macho-men/future governors sell their situations well enough, even though in all honesty it’s Schwarzenegger’s show. We get the more typical action movie to-the-rescue! section first, followed by our gang getting steadily picked off in the jungle by an unknown monster, and finally the Arnold vs Predator thunderdome end sequence. All three portions are worth-while but each improves on the one before and it’s always good to end on a high.
Box office: 60dom/98ww (a hit)
RottenTomatoes: 81%, 87% aud
Jaws: The Revenge – “This time, it’s personal.” Bare minimum, Jaws 4 gave the world this tagline and all the hilarious derivations that followed. It’s even better than that, though, once you get to the ridiculous movie. Ellen Brody (wife of Roy Scheider’s character in Jaws/Jaws 2) flees to visit her eldest son in the Bahamas after the younger son gets eaten by a shark and the shark *follows* her. From New England to the Bahamas, to presumably finish what it started…for some reason. Michael Cane’s here to provide a relaxed kind of “Yeah, this is happening” attitude as he knew Rifftrax would one day exist (his thoughts on this movie: “I have never seen the film, but by all accounts it is terrible. However, I have seen the house that it built and it is terrific.”). Really, one of the best comedies of 1987.
Box office: 21dom/52ww (the Jaws franchise wraps as a dud)
RottenTomatoes: 0%, 15% aud
The Monster Squad – Teenagers vs classic movie monsters (Dracula, Wolf Man, Frankenstein, Gill-Man) movie from Fred Dekker (Night of the Creeps) that’s a fun time and all, but it just doesn’t feel like a “creature feature” to me. Everyone’s too humanoid and working together with some talking, also. I know, hardly the first time I’ve said it, but I’m just being honest–don’t yell at me. Co-written by Shane Black the same year as Lethal Weapon, so overall he had a pretty good debut.
Box office: 4ww (dud)
RottenTomatoes: 64%, 78% aud
Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn – This sequel/slight redo of the first finds Ash continuing his struggle against the forces of darkness. Sounds generic, sorry, but that’s the short version and as with the first one I simply find this “okay” and not as awe-inspiring as others do. Odds are you’ll like it, but where on the scale you fall is up to you to find out. Bruce Campbell’s clearly having a ball with everything going on he gets to do in this one, so perhaps it’ll be infectious for you.
Box office: 6ww (solid)
RottenTomatoes: 97%, 89% aud
Dark Age – An Australian outback set giant crocodile movie that’s actually pretty okay, except I had a couple issues. Before cons, though, I’d like to say that I think the movie looks pretty nice and I appreciate the aborignal POV if only for a change of pace. Crocodile effects are also quite solid, I recall, and the lead actor carries things efficiently.
However, this is another creature feature that feels the need to include a comically overboard villain who’s every action screams “I’M PURE EVIL!!!” and drag that lame antagonist with us to the finish line. Also, the completely irrelevant sex scene (look at the boobs!) as well as the female character’s entire arc could have been removed with no effect on the narrative which seems an odd choice. Anyway, I only go on like this because it was actually pretty good aside from those couple things preventing it from being great.
Box office: /
RottenTomatoes: 100%, 37% aud
The Blob – When a meteorite crashes in a small California town a slimy ooze emerges from within and begins consuming everything in its path while growing at an alarming rate leaving the townspeople to fight back, flee, or die. Shawnee Smith (of Saw movie fame, 20 years later) guides us through the steadily increasing craziness of unstoppable blobby deaths, effective gorey bits, and classic 80’s hair/styles on display. I don’t know how “creature”-like the blob from space is, exactly, but enough for our purposes.
Box office: 8ww (meh/dud)
RottenTomatoes: 60%, 56% aud
Pumpkinhead – Lance Henrikson stars in this Stan Winston directed horror tale of a demon creature called upon by a grieving father to seek vengeance. The creature and mood are the main reasons to see this one, I’d say, and I don’t think those disappoint. Plenty of the goings on don’t reinvent the wheel or anything, but well done comedy-free creature features aren’t extremely bountiful and this one fits the bill. Several sequels eventually followed, but this was the peak.
Box office: 4ww (meh/dud)
RottenTomatoes: 68%, 48% aud
Critters 2: Main Course – If you didn’t like the first then I can’t imagine you’d care for this one and even if you did there’s a chance this won’t leave you jazzed once the credits roll. More critters, bounty hunters, space travel, etc from the original adventure only there’s a little something lacking this time. Serviceable Saturday morning filler that absolutely doesn’t take itself seriously at all. This is it for theatrical Critters, but if you want to continue the franchise Critters 3 is where Leo DiCaprio smashes into the film scene.
Box office: 4ww (meh/dud)
RottenTomatoes: 27%, 36% aud
The Nest – A fishing village is besieged by killer mutant cockroaches. I know it’s about roaches, but this one feels so trashy to me. There’s just something weirdly exploitative about this one, not that this is the first seedy & superfluous shower scene in a horror movie. Maybe you’ll enjoy the experience, but frankly there are countless better selections and life’s so short already.
Box office: /
RottenTomatoes: /, 27% aud
Monkey Shines– George Romero writes and directs Jason Beghe (one of those Dick Wolf Chicago shows lately) as a recent parapalegic who’s given a kind of home health aid in the form of a service monkey that develops a homicidal bond with its charge. A few familiar faces fill out the cast of this nicely tense thriller of Ella, the monkey caretaker, becoming obsessively protective. Romero keeps things fairly grounded, which I appreciate, and on another level I have a soft spot for good animal actors of which this certainly has one in Boo (the main capuchin monkey playing Ella in the film). Perhaps a part of me wanted Ella to get away with it and wind up at another home, if we’re being honest.
Box office: 5ww (dud)
RottenTomatoes: 53%, 40% aud
The Brain – An oversized, alien brain-like creature winds up on Earth and brainwashes people via television as an intrepid few push back against the rising tide. I found this deeply stupid and not terribly enjoyable about it, either. Unless you’re scraping the bottom of the creature feature barrel or know someone involved in making it, this screams “pass” to me. Watch the trailer and see if this lame schlock is at all for you.
Box office: /
RottenTomatoes: /, 36% aud
Leviathan & DeepStar Six – These films, while technically having nothing in common, get to share a spot since they are suspiciously similar. From the story to the general appearance of both creatures themselves, it feels like two teams were given the same starting materials then told to get going.
“A crew of an underwater outpost must survive against a hostile sea creature out for blood” works perfectly fine as a summary for either movie except I will say that I believe Leviathan’s cast (Peter Weller, Ernie Hudson, Richard Crenna, Daniel Stern, etc) is a slight improvement over DeepStar Six (others less well known). Both feel extremely 80’s in production values & treatment of females, but not everything can be Aliens. They’re both mock-worthy duds.
Leviathan – Box office: 16ww
Leviathan – RottenTomatoes: 17%, 26% aud
DeepStar Six – Box office: 8ww
DeepStar Six – RottenTomatoes: 0%, 23% aud
Lords of the Deep – As if 1989 was lacking underwater creature thrills, here’s another one but it’s vaguely different in that it’s in the near future and visions are involved. Yay, variety! This went on to have additional MST3K life so if this is a completionist disease you suffer from, go with the more fun version of time spent.
Box office: /
RottenTomatoes: 0%, 19% aud
The 80’s bids you adieu with all its alien & body horror glory. The 90’s and its B-movie gold await on Creature Feature Semicentennial!
Adem lives with his husband, dog(s), & cat(s) in an Arizonian city where any time not spent with/on the previously mentioned creatures is filled with writing, rowing, baking, and whatever else the day brings.