Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Creature Features

     One thing I’ve always seemed to enjoy is a good ol' creature feature. I was a big time Godzilla fan as a child, tuning into week-long Godzilla marathons on the Sci-Fi channel that seemed to air pretty regularly. (This was, of course, before Sci-Fi channel started making their crappy original movies with unwatchably bad CGI) There are so many subcategories that fit into creature features, involving anything from giant monsters rampaging through a city to archaic creatures that have existed for millions of years waking from a deep sleep or even some crazy experiment gone horribly wrong. (Ah science, always upsetting the delicate balance of nature) One movie that I’m sure many of you will fondly remember is Jeff Goldblum as The Fly.

           Jeff portrays a scientist whose DNA is accidentally combined with that of a fly, causing him to slowly transform into a giant fly/man/monster that he calls the Brundlefly. This movie freaked me out big time as a kid because of the disturbing gore and violence.

(How do you forget an ugly fly man vomiting acid that melts a guy’s leg off?) Who else but a twisted director like David Cronenberg, who lensed such movies as Videodrome and Scanners, could bring you such a gut-wrenching remake? (Yes, the 1986 version of The Fly was a remake) Aside from more common creatures such as werewolves and vampires, one of my favorites featured giant worms that came up from the ground to devour people. I’m almost sure everyone has seen…

     Tremors is one movie they’ve been playing this on TV since I was a kid!!! People trying desperately to survive as giant, nasty worms burrowed underground read the vibrations of their every move and systematically hunt them down. The creature was a giant worm with smaller worm tentacles that had razor sharp teeth to help pull food into its gaping jaws. (One of these things ate a fuckin car!) I loved the slimy effects of the smaller worms and the sloppy, bright orange, and supposedly smelly innards of the “graboids”. (Aptly named by the general store owner who, later in the movie, met his demise when he was grabbed… and pulled underground) This movie was so popular that it spawned 3 sequels and a TV series that ran for one season. Getting sillier with each subsequent sequel… (come on… Ass Blasters?) but not too long after that, the use of CGI in Hollywood became widespread following the box office success of Jurassic Park. The days of men in rubber suits and animatronics were dying out, ushering in a new era in which creatures were being done in CGI instead. Depending on the budget, this could have been totally awesome… or completely disastrous.

Despite being a fan of gold old-fashioned monster movies of yesteryear, a few of the best creature features I’ve seen since entering the new millennium include:

Slither – A horror/comedy about an alien invasion of a small town. The threat comes in the form of a parasitic slug that, through the use of infectious barbs, infects a local townsman played by Michael Rooker. (Best known for being the main character in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer but I know I’ve seen him all over the place) The infected Grant Grant begins storing up rotten meat to feed to his eventual mate, so she can incubate a swarm of alien slugs. Paying homage to B-movie works by the aforementioned David Cronenberg, this splatter comedy is a gross-out good time. The style of this movie can be compared to that of Troma Entertainment, which is no surprise as it was written and directed by James Gunn who got his start working for Troma. (There’s even a cameo by Lloyd Kaufman in this movie! Keep an eye out for him!!) Highlights include: a woman that’s swelled up into a ball while incubating hundreds of thousands of alien slugs that crawl in your mouth and turn you into a zombie, a squid-like creature cutting a guy in half, and a smokin hot Mrs. Grant that we get to stare at for most of the movie.

Fans of gross out comedy and cheap laughs should also check out Feast. (Honestly, if you’re not a fan… why would you even be reading this?) There’s a scene that involves a guy getting projectile vomited on by some monster and later has maggots growing from his wounds. This movie also spawned 2 sequels that I haven’t seen but have heard good things about. (More for the laughs than for the creature effects)

For some good monster movies, check out The Mist and The Host if you haven’t already seen them. The Mist is based on a short story by Stephen King, which was first published as part of a greater horror anthology and later adapted into a feature length film. The story told of a thick mist that crept down from the mountains and enveloped a small town, reducing visibility to zero. After being trapped in a supermarket, the townspeople are terrified of “something in the mist”. Later, it becomes apparent that monsters and strange creature inhabit the strange mist and those that venture out in hopes of finding help or rescue, are brutally slain. This was a good movie to watch in theaters because there are GIANT monsters in addition to smaller ones. (Depending on the size of your TV, you might get a similar effect at home) What I liked about this movie was that the monsters weren’t the only threat to our main characters. This movie also shows what happens when big groups of people are frightened and panicking, how religion and paranoia come into play. I liked this one a lot.

The Host is a South Korean monster movie about a little girl whose family tries to take her back after she’s been kidnapped by a creature that’s supposed to be a fish that mutated after a scientist (Ah, science) dumps bottle after bottle of formaldehyde down the drain. (Another monster movie with an environmentally friendly message. Nice!) This is supposedly the highest grossing South Korean movie of all time. (So popular, it has since spawned a sequel!!) A great movie and a breath of fresh air from the usual American horror packed with blood and guts, but CGI monsters aren’t exactly my favorite.

For people with claustrophobia, The Descent featured a group of girls going on some cave expedition and getting trapped in an “unexplored” cave. That wouldn’t be entirely bad except for the fact that this cave is home to a species of blind mutant freaks that eat flesh. Fear and panic soon spread the group apart and distrust turns some of the girls against each other. (Can you believe it? Chicks will fuckin kill each other over a man… even while being chased around by a band of bloodthirsty creatures!!!)

After beginning to rent more action/kung fu movies, I hadn’t seen a good creature feature in awhile…. but got a pleasant surprise when I happened upon Splinter and Growth. These two B-list gems had renewed my interest in the genre and were my inspirations for this post. Splinter’s biggest drawback comes in the form of the frenetic camera work that I despise, oh so much. (I would rather get a really good look at the creature, flaws and all!!!) Not surprisingly though, the movie involves a mold or bacteria that grows “splinter-like” barbs that infect living animals, and people, once it pricks them. We follow a couple as they are car-jacked by another shady couple and end up at a gas station with an overheated car. The junkie girlfriend goes off to the bathroom only to discover a dead body with spikes poking out all through its body. Upon discovery, the body seemingly reanimates and chases her out. What I liked about this movie was that as the body count rises, the infectious mold collects different body parts to become a giant clump of flesh and barbs. (AWESOME concept) This was one of the more creative creature ideas I’ve seen in awhile and really enjoyed the effects of this movie. Special effects were pretty good, I only wish it could’ve been displayed through better camerawork.

Growth is supposedly an American horror film that, strangely enough, has no distribution company here in America. (go figure) So this one will be a lot harder to find, but is an interesting new movie to check out if you would like a break from mainstream media. An experiment in which parasites were genetically altered to enhance subjects to become stronger, faster, super soldiers. (Damn those scientists!!! When will they stop playing God?!) While successful for a short period of time, the parasites eventually end up feeding on the host and thousands of leech-like parasites eat their way out. I must warn you though, the special effects are what you might expect from crappy Sci-Fi original movies. (Bad CGI) Although if that doesn’t bother you as much, the movie was interesting enough to keep me entertained. Excellent concept with questionable execution, a bunch of no name actors coupled with bad CGI makes this an easily overlooked film. But unless you wanna rent Tremors for the 20th time, giving this movie a gander might not be such a bad idea. (But don’t pay for it…. this is not a movie I would randomly throw money away on… the internet rocks.)

 Got a favorite monster movie/creature feature that I missed? Shout it out in the comments!!!