The Aughts! A soft start for the new millennium as far as creature features go–not as far as quality, but it seems as though after the several disappointing performers of the previous decade and a rise in straight-to-DVD fare the creature feature as a genre was put on the back-burner for a while. In the absence of larger budget monster-fests there are actually many smaller-scale films of this category that step up and fill that void without missing a beat, so thank you for your service Jurassic Parks and we’ll see you again in about 15 years but for now, let’s let some others play a while.
Before we continue, previously on Creature Feature Semicentennial…
Pitch Black – A spaceship crash lands on a suns-soaked planet and the survivors have to find a way off before dark, which lets loose hungry hordes of light fearing creatures. Before Vin Diesel was a thing he was another gravel voiced muscleman and this is still one of the best uses of him–short, controlled bursts with not too much backstory. Radha Mitchell and Keith David do well enough with their characters and the rather simple setup works well for the runtime.
Box office: 39dom/53ww (okay)
RottenTomatoes: 59%, 77% aud
Ginger Snaps– Two sisters on the morbid side of life find themselves dealing with werewolf troubles in this coming of age black comedy monster movie. I still remembered things 20 years later upon rewatching so it did something right. The two leads do well together and the tone worked for me even if–shock!–I could list a couple issues I had. Overall I can remember the pleasant surprise of watching it that first time and the recent viewing was fun, too.
Box office: /
RottenTomatoes: 89%, 78% aud
Crocodile – Tobe Hooper (Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Poltergeist–kind of) directs this unremarkable take on a giant crocodile terrorizing young drunkards on & off a party boat. Serviceable for a watch & mock, or maybe a drinking game (if that’s your thing), but don’t watch with clear eyes in earnest. That’d be a huge waste of time!
Box office: /
RottenTomatoes: /, 18% aud
Jurassic Park 3 – An annoying couple (William H. Macy & Tea Leoni) get Dr. Grant (Sam Neil) to a dinosaur island under false pretenses for help finding their lost son. This is easily the worst Jurassic Park movie, sadly. Mostly ho-hum action sequences featuring characters blandly unlikeable that lamely peters out but by then it’s a welcome end. Boo, hiss!
Box office: 181dom/369ww (okay)
RottenTomatoes: 49%, 36% aud
Jeepers Creepers – By including this movie I’ve already kind of given away a twist, since it appears to be more of a slasher at first before the creature angle–sorry. Overall it’s alright, at best. A relatively strong start but I think once the creature stuff begins the tension increasingly deflates until the underwhelming “well, I guess we’re done?” ending. Also the director was briefly imprisoned for sex with a 12 year old well before this movie was made. Your choice of how/if that matters for you.
Box office: 38dom/59ww (solid)
RottenTomatoes: 46%, 48% aud
Wendigo – Jake Weber, Patricia Clarkson, and a son from Malcolm in the Middle star as a family on a weekend getaway who have some unpleasant interactions with the locals. This isn’t a creature feature–it’s a drama with some horror and I kind of hate when movies have a scary facade but are ultimately “just” a drama.
Box office: /
RottenTomatoes: 60%, 31% aud
Eight Legged Freaks – David Arquette returns to his small hometown as giant mutant spiders unleash 50’s B-movie fun complete with silly spider sound effects and a constant thread of goofy humor on top of creature feature mayhem. This movie wears cheese loud and proud. See Scarlett Johanssen battle all kinds of spiders before becoming a Black Widow of her very own (couldn’t help it). I’ve seen it several times over the years and it’s still fun.
Box office: 17dom/46ww (dud)
RottenTomatoes: 48%, 32% aud
They – Nightmare creatures from another dimension who fear light a little bit pick a few people off for whatever reasons in the slightly below run-of-the-mill horror. That’s pretty much it for this, really. Not one for the ages!
Box office: 13dom/16ww (dud)
RottenTomatoes: 38%, 24% aud
Dog Soldiers – Soldiers on a training exercise in the highlands of Scotland encounter more than they’ve been trained for one night when suddenly werewolves are a grave reality. They’ll need everything in their arsenal and more in order to see another sunrise. I remember going in with muted expectations all those years ago since I was about to watch some werewolf movie I’d never heard of on the Sci-Fi channel at one in the morning, but then it was actually pretty damn good. It’s more interested in action/werewolf frights/mystery than humor but don’t take this to be a completely grim situation. Having said that, do watch it in the dark. It’s simply better a night film.
Box office: 3ww (dud)
RottenTomatoes: 77%, 79% aud
Jeepers Creepers 2 – This sequel centering on a school bus full of athletes stranded roadside ups the action and creature showcasing a bit, so if your only complaint after the first was “MORE!!” then dreams do come true. It’s mostly forgettable fluff, except–not to harp on this–the many gratuitous shots of shirtless, pretty young men are noticeably odd to me once you know the director’s history. A third installment saw an extremely limited release in 2017 which made no waves.
Box office: 36dom/63ww (okay/solid)
RottenTomatoes: 24%, 37% aud
Open Water – A couple accidentally gets left out in the middle of the ocean. More a psychological thriller than creature feature, but sharks appear so fine. To watch once this is an okay, if occasionally tedious, time at the movies. That’s enough, I think.
Box office: 31dom/55ww (a hit)
RottenTomatoes: 71%, 33% aud
Willard – Crispin Glover anchors this twisted love story of a man and his rat(s). You don’t need to see the 71 version for this, except for seeing the different takes. If you’re in the mood to watch a troubled loner looking for companionship where he can find it, a society that doesn’t exactly approve, and the ratty collision of all that then you have your pick between this, the original, and Ben. I think I preferred this newer version, if only as it’s more polished and I feel more comfortable the rats weren’t horribly mistreated ;)
Box office: 8ww (dud)
RottenTomatoes: 64%, 51% aud
Van Helsing – Hugh Jackman stars as the title character, a monster hunter who encounters classic creatures (Dracula, the Wolf Man, Frankenstein’s monster, and more!) on his journeys across 19th century Europe. This is no good, sorry to say. Stephen Sommers (director of Deep Rising & The Mummy–which wasn’t creature enough for this list per me) leans hard into computer generated mayhem and the results are on-par with video game cut scenes, plus the over-the-top performances from some–Dracula, in particular, is especially awful–make everything feel like a Universal Studios Theme Park ride come to life in the cheesiest way possible. The first half hour of this simply alternates between exposition and visually painful action sequences over and over until somebody finally remembered this was supposed to be a movie and they try doing that a little bit until the silly ending that certainly hoped for another adventure to follow.
Box Office: 120dom/300ww (meh–cost too much!)
RottenTomatoes: 24%/57% aud
Alien vs Predator – Every 12 year old had his dream come true, only for it to be given a PG13 and dash all hopes of a true smackdown. A good life lesson than sometimes getting what you want can be disappointing! Some easter eggs for both series ease us into the ancient underground pyramid that Predators use for training so that the calorie-free, bloodless happenings can begin. Aliens and Predators fight with humans also there, then it ends. Meh!
Box office: 80dom/177ww (solid)
RottenTomatoes: 21%, 39% aud
Anacondas: Hunt for the Blood Orchid – A bunch of people search for a wondrous flower with all kinds of awesome applications, except the sex-hungry huge snakes prove to be an unexpected obstacle. This decade later sequel with no connections to the first of any kind is a great TBS weekend movie while you’re doing laundry or whatever daily maintenance you wouldn’t mind keeping company with a snake orgy.
Box office: 32dom/71ww (okay)
RottenTomatoes: 26%, 27% aud
Ginger Snaps 2 & 3 – While made together and released the same year, the films have nothing to do with each other. An odd move. Anyway, Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed is a direct continuation of the first movie. Overall I guess it’s okay, but speaking my issues with it would involve delving into specifics and I don’t want to. The third one, Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning, is a complete waste of time. It’s the same two actresses playing versions of their characters doing werewolf stuff again but this time it’s a couple hundred years ago, just because. Pass.
King Kong – Peter Jackson’s take on the epic ape of course has a Skull Island sequence which is where it really earns creature feature placement (much moreso than the 76 version). This one’s alright, but it suffers from too much movie–a Peter Jackson movie overlong? Can’t be!–and some iffy casting. Jack Black and Adrian Brody, in particular, just don’t do it for me here.
Box office: 218dom/562ww (a hit)
RottenTomatoes: 84%, 50% aud
The Descent– A half dozen female friends go on a cave diving trip that takes a turn. The atmosphere, sound design, and cinematography do well in selling the cramped claustrophobia and terror of being trapped deep below the Earth with minimal supplies and no known exit. A cast that feels like a bunch of friends with various histories endear to us well enough and people largely make understandable choices when things go down, which I always appreciate in a horror movie. The creature aspect is for you to discover, buddy. Enjoy!
Box office: 26dom/57ww (solid/a hit)
RottenTomatoes: 87%, 75% aud
The Cave – Cave divers and scientists come across underground creatures mid-research exploration in some underground caves. A few recognizable faces in this one but it’s knee-capped by that other, ridiculously better movie I covered *right* before it shares quite a few elements with. Passable as a trash laugh at. Sometimes these crappy step-siblings to a good movie help appreciate those others a bit more!
Box office: 15dom/33ww (dud)
RottenTomatoes: 12%, 28% aud
Cursed – Kevin Williamson of Scream notoriety reteams with director Wes Craven for a rather disappointing result (they’ve said so themselves). Lots of studio interference, reshoots, recasting, and an evolving script make this a just as disjointed & scattershot viewing experience. The CG werewolf effects aren’t awesome or especially memorable and the jokey tone overwhelms any horror elements. I think a Making Of for this would be a fun watch, for sure. Still, I can’t say it was horrible–just a feature length missed opportunity.
Box office: 19dom/30ww (dud)
RottenTomatoes: 17%, 30% aud
Alone in the Dark – Uwe Boll writes & directs Christian Slater, Tara Reid, and Stephen Dorff in this “movie” about demonic creatures from another dimension invading Earth. It’s awful (duh!). Google Uwe Boll’s filmography/history with any further questions in regards to this professional trash maker.
Box office: 5dom/10ww (dud)
RottenTomatoes: 1%, 11% aud
Pan’s Labyrinth – A little girl in 1944 Spain alternates between harsh reality and a fantasy land full of creatures, both friend and foe, as she worries for her ailing pregnant mother and settles into life with a new, unfriendly stepfather. Not a traditional “creature feature” but I’m trying to be inclusive if you couldn’t tell. This is from director Guillermo del Toro so the several visually pleasing and well done creature sequences make perfect sense and the reality side of things is no slouch, either. I enjoy how much of it is up to you and I won’t say where I land, but I like the option of an alternative ;)
Box office: 38dom/84ww (a hit)
RottenTomatoes: 95%, 91% aud
Snakes on a Plane – Samuel L. Jackson stars as an F.B.I. Agent escorting a high profile witness via plane. I think you know what comes next thanks to the apt (or asp?) title. It’s not as much crazy fun as that whole setup suggests and winds up a little repetitive, frankly, but it’s still alright enough. A prime example of dumb fun.
Box office: 34dom/62ww (meh/okay)
RottenTomatoes: 69%, 49% aud
Slither – I know–right there in the opening I said slug zombies didn’t count but there’s a variety of mutated people creatures in here and you can’t tell me what to do, you’re not my dad! An exception has to be made for this cult classic James Gunn gem clearly made by someone with a deep affinity for this whole genre. The plot of a small town being overrun by space slugs is simply the setting to watch the various actors (Elizabeth Banks, Nathan Fillian, Michael Rooker) bring this A+ B-movie to life with care and effort. Gunn has yet to direct a movie I haven’t enjoyed or greatly enjoyed and his directorial debut falls into the “greatly” category.
Box office: 8dom/13ww (dud)
RottenTomatoes: 86%, 63% aud
Open Water 2: Adrift – A yachful of folks head out to sea and through a series of unwise choices wind up stuck in the ocean without access to their boat–also maybe shark stuff happens. Like the “first” one, which this has nothing in the world to do with, you’ll find more of a psychologically scary movie (its success at that debatable) here than a shark movie. Entirely adequate with tempered expectations.
Box office: 7ww (dud)
RottenTomatoes: 45%, 23% aud
Feast – A bunch of vicious creatures descend on a bar full of patrons, who will survive and what will be left of them? Written by the winners of Project Greenlight, this creature-fest from apparent horror movie fans feels like it’s trying a little too hard for my tastes and simply rubs me the wrong way. Lots of creature action and violent kills with on-screen text describing our heroes etc. The first one is easily the high point of this franchise, but you’re welcome to see for yourself.
Box office: /
RottenTomatoes: 57%, 59% aud
Black Sheep – Genetically modified sheep in New Zealand cause trouble for locals. It’s probably me, but I found this one (like Snakes on a Plane) to be more alright than memorable or especially fun in any way. I watched it when it came out years ago and before seeing it again I didn’t remember any specifics, which I’m usually pretty good with. After the viewing I see why I didn’t remember any details, but it’s still perfectly fine light entertainment and nice to spend a little time in New Zealand.
Box office: 5ww (dud)
RottenTomatoes: 71%, 53% aud
The Breed – Michelle Rodriguez and friends find themselves on an island of killer dogs and must find a way to not die, etc. I kept seeing things about how it was better than the general consensus and to give it a chance–it’s meh. Good doggy actors and some okay performances, but it’s all rather standard and nondescript. Lower expectations.
Box office: 2ww (dud)
RottenTomatoes: 27%, 29% aud
Aliens vs Predator: Requiem – An alien/predator hybrid gets loose in a small town, which results in a Predator hunting it down for extermination–people get caught in the middle. Installment number two goes for the R rating this time with men, women, and children getting killed by various alien creatures all over town in gorey fashions and it’s probably just about even keel with its predecessor, still.
Box office: 42dom/130ww (meh/dud)
RottenTomatoes: 11%, 30% aud
The Host – Bong Joon-ho (Snowpiercer, Parasite) directs this largely lively take on a mutated sea creature (courtesy USA) rampaging through South Korea. I appreciate what this is going for more than I enjoy it, mostly due to what I find a fairly meandering second half and a poor/actively bad score, but it’s still worth a watch. After that first viewing with subtitles all subsequent ones I went without since when I watched old Godzilla movies as a kid I’d look at faces & actions more than any words so once I get the specific picture the first time I like to fly blind after. But yes, the movie is overall pretty good now that I rambled a bit.
Box office: 2dom/89ww (a hit)
RottenTomatoes: 93%, 72% aud
The Mist – Frank Darabont directs this Stephen King story of a mysterious mist rolling into town bringing all manner of doomsday fears and unfriendly monsters. Personally, I could have done without the religious fervor stuff (I could *always* do without) but all-in-all The Mist is nicely tense, at times creature-iffic, full of good to great actors, and doesn’t always take a happy way out.
Box office: 25dom/37ww (dud)
RottenTomatoes: 72%, 65% aud
Primeval – Our first crocodile picture of 2007 is about some reporters who travel to Burundi, Africa in search of a giant crocodile legendary for its age and human body count. This suffers from way too much time spent on reporters and warlords before it remembers this is supposed to be about a giant crocodile. Also all the characters are canon fodder and the whole effort feels middling. The worst of Killer Croc-fest 07.
Box office: 10dom/15ww (dud)
RottenTomatoes: 19%, 32% aud
Black Water – A few people take a mangrove swamp boat tour in Australia only to find themselves stranded in the wild by a hungry crocodile. It’s efficiently brief, to-the-point, and of the more “realistic” kinds of these movies. By that I mean we don’t get a ton of crocodile action, it’s more like someone gets yanked into the water or bitten on the leg. Good enough for a go, at least the once.
Box office: /
RottenTomatoes: 79%, 39% aud
Rogue – We wrap the crocs on the hunt section of 2007 with Rogue, another crocodile tour gone wrong but this one’s one a larger scale. A bigger boat, more people, actors you might recognize (Radha Mitchell, Sam Worthington, Michael Vartan), more crocodile action, and it all ends up being surprisingly solid. This one feels the most “creature feature” to me and is also easily the best of the three.
Box office: 5ww (dud)
RottenTomatoes: 100%, 53% aud
Prey – Bridget Moynihan (John Wick’s deceased wife) and Peter Weller (rat obsessed Robocop) are our famous faces in this take on a wilderness tour gone wrong, but don’t worry–lions are on the prowl this time. This is a perfectly average TV movie kind of experience about a few people getting trapped in a vehicle with flesh-hungry animals attempting entry. Add to the pile of good things to have on while cleaning the house.
Box office: 4ww (dud)
RottenTomatoes: 17%, 23% aud
Unearthed – An alien monster wreaks havoc on a small town after being dug up. I’ve been waiting to use this one and now’s as good a time as any: it sucked.
Box office: /
RottenTomatoes: /, 9% aud
Cloverfield – ?
I kid–this found-footage feature of a giant creature from space rampaging around New York City (not another small town!) and a group of friends trying to survive is an interesting trip to take once, especially going in blind as far as details. After you’ve seen it that’s pretty much it since it’s definitely an on-the-ground on-the-night kind of experience. That it didn’t leave a lasting impression is just my two cents, maybe you’ll want to visit here again and again.
Box office: 80dom/172ww (a hit)
RottenTomatoes: 77%, 68% aud
The Ruins – I’ll say this counts even if technically “creature” is pretty loose. Anyway, a vacationing group of friends visit an archaeological site in the Mexican jungle at which point the good time stops. A slower, more tension based experience than gore-fest but don’t think you won’t get some–there will be blood. The actors do well enough with what they’re given, which really isn’t much, but the mood/tone I think is more what the thrust is here than the characters ‘ backgrounds.
Box office: 17dom/23ww (dud)
RottenTomatoes: 48%, 30% aud
Splice – Scientists played by Sarah Polley & Adrian Brody create new biological life that’s part human and part not. A tale of science run amok anchored by two strong performers (Polley’s always an added bonus to me) and an interesting creature which you *know* will inevitably turn on its creators. I found this an interesting trip, even if it was hardly perfect, and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.
Box office: 17dom/27ww (dud)
RottenTomatoes: 76%, 37% aud
The Descent Pt 2 – Where the original is perhaps a modern creature-feature classic, this sequel is probably what was expected that first time. An amnesiac survivor of the first film surfaces so she’s dragged back down into the caves as part of a search & rescue effort. This one’s a little frustrating for a few reasons. I don’t want to specifically spoil everything but I will say it starts off fairly silly with the amnesia and stupid new characters but then certain things happen in the caves which–I will say–I was okay with before they shit the bed with the wrapup. Oh well!
Box office: 7ww (dud)
RottenTomatoes: 57%, 34% aud
Peace out, aughts!
The smaller, more personal creature features of the aughts were a nice breather after the late 90’s mentality of “Just use CGI!” for whatever–awful results be damned ;) Next decade sees bigger budgets return 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.