More Crawly Creature Features for your consideration! If you missed yesterday’s Part One, just click here to check them out. But if you’re all caught up, then by all means read on to discover some of the creepiest, crawliest creature features out there.
#5: Tremors (1990)
Synopsis: “Natives of a small isolated town defend themselves against strange underground creatures which are killing them one by one.” –www.imdb.com
Why It’s Creepy and Crawly: Whenever I watch Tremors, I feel like it’s a more lighthearted, land-based version of Jaws. I mean, just look at the above poster and tell me it doesn’t bring to mind the iconic shark film. The nasty creatures of Tremors don’t look anything like sharks—more like giants eels or worms—but they stalk the poor folks of Perfection, Nevada much like a group of bloodthirsty great whites. The trouble begins the day handymen Earl (Fred Ward) and Val (Kevin Bacon) decide to leave town and search for business elsewhere. On their way outside of Perfection they come across a series of strange and troubling things: slaughtered livestock, things pulled deep into the ground, and even a couple of dead bodies. When the two men meet up with seismology student Rhonda (Finn Carter), she informs them that she’s been getting some very strange readings from the ground lately, and they soon learn why. Turns out there are some horrible monsters living just below their feet, and they’re very hungry. Earl, Val, Rhonda, and the other locals have to quickly figure out what to do about the creatures—before they tear the town to shreds. With a clever script, great performances, lots of humor, a little romance, and even Kevin Bacon, this film has a lot going for it. It’s a charming horror-comedy that brings to mind ‘50s monster movies while maintaining a ‘90s vibe. And the underground monsters? They are the stuff of nightmares. All in all, Tremors is a wonderful creature feature that might just make you watch your if you ever wind up in a desert town.
My Grade: B+
#4: I Am Legend (2007)
Synopsis: “Years after a plague kills most of humanity and transforms the rest into monsters, the sole survivor in New York City struggles valiantly to find a cure.” –www.imdb.com
Why It’s Creepy and Crawly: Zombie films are all the rage lately, but this one stands out to me because it’s so much more than a mindless gorefest or a pure popcorn flick. It may be more sci-fi than horror, but it’s also surprisingly dramatic. And the zombies are pretty darn freaky. If you can even call them “zombies,” that is. They don’t rise from the dead, but…well, maybe it’s best not to get technical. Basically, these infected humans became rabid following the mass introduction of a cure for cancer. A cure for one of the most destructive diseases in the history of mankind sounds great, but the side effects were a little extreme: a hankering for raw meat, complete hair loss, scorched flesh from brief exposure to sunlight, etc. These side effects became a new disease that spread through New York City like wildfire. Brilliant scientist Robert Neville (Will Smith) was recruited to search for a cure, but three years after the initial spread, he might just be the only uninfected human left. With faithful doggy Sam by his side, Neville spends his days roaming the city and testing for possible cures, and at night he fortifies his home and keeps quiet while the infected rage outside. Smith is brilliant as lonely, bitter, slightly crazy Neville, whose years of solitude have clearly affected his mind a little. You feel for him, and it’s devastating to watch him drive through the empty, decaying streets. The whole film gives you a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach. As for the creatures, they’re tough, fast, and very vicious. In one scene, Neville finds a group of them huddled together in the dark, breathing with weird, rapid breaths…eeep. It’ll give you the willies.
My Grade: A-
#3: The Descent (2005)
Synopsis: “A caving expedition goes horribly wrong, as the explorers become trapped and ultimately pursued by a strange breed of predators.” –www.imdb.com
Why It’s Creepy and Crawly: I’d be willing to bet that this film has singlehandedly taken “go spelunking” off of thousands of bucket lists. And not because people completed the task, but because they were too freaking scared to ever consider it again. The Descent is primarily set in a series of caves in the middle of nowhere, which automatically gives it a lot of creepy elements—isolation, darkness, and a claustrophobic feeling for starters. But the aggressive cave creatures lurking around make all the other scary things seem like child’s play. The film follows a group of thrill-seeking gals who regularly get together and do adventurous, outdoorsy things. One of the women, Sarah (Shauna Macdonald), recently suffered a devastating loss that has left her pretty rattled. Trying to move on, she agrees to go on a caving expedition planned by her longtime friend, Juno (Natalie Mendoza). With Sarah’s best friend, Beth (Alex Reid), reckless newbie Holly (Nora-Jane Noone), and sisters Sam (MyAnne Buring) and Rebecca (Saskia Mulder) in tow, Sarah and Juno venture into a remote cave system in North Carolina. At first, the caves are beautiful and intriguing, but things get creepy when the women realize they are not alone—not at all. Trapped in the cave, the adventurers have to rush to find a way out before the creatures lurking in the dark find them. There are so many things to praise about this film. The characters are great, the performances are strong, the scares are effective, and the tension is high right from the beginning. It’s a bit gory and intense, but The Descent is definitely one of the best creature features of the past decade. Word to the wise: watch the unrated version of this film. The ending is much cooler.
My Grade: A-
#2: An American Werewolf in London (1981)
Synopsis: “Two American college students on a walking tour of Britain are attacked by a werewolf that none of the locals will admit exists.” –www.imdb.com
Why It’s Creepy and Crawly: As far as creatures go, werewolves are pretty awesome. I mean, people who turn into giant, bloodthirsty wolves every full moon? That’s scary stuff. But a lot can go wrong with werewolves on the big screen. The transformation can look cheesy, the werewolf can look fake, or the plot might just not be interesting enough to carry a big bad wolf through an hour-and-a-half or more. These are all mistakes I’ve seen before. Happily, none of them apply to An American Werewolf in London—a riotous, clever horror-comedy with great dialogue and an interesting plot. The film opens with American students David (David Naughton) and Jack (Griffin Dunne) traveling through Northern England. When they make their way to a small town, they hope to take shelter from the cold in a local pub, but the locals aren’t exactly welcoming. So they venture back out into the cold, rainy night only to lose their way in the moors, where they are stalked and subsequently attacked by a vicious werewolf. David comes to in a hospital in London and eventually discovers that he has inherited the werewolf curse. Before the full moon returns, David is given a dire ultimatum by an undead visitor. He grapples with this for the rest of the film. An American Werewolf in London is the perfect balance of horror and comedy with just a pinch of drama. The first transformation scene is creepy and surprisingly good for a film of the ‘80s—so good that I’m still marveling at how they pulled it off. The dialogue is great, the characters are well-developed, the werewolf is scary, and it’s got one of the most hilarious lines ever spoken by a little English boy: “A naked American man stole my balloons.” I died.
My Grade: A-
#1: Alien (1979)
Synopsis: “The space vessel Nostromo and its crew receive a distress call from an alien planet. After searching for survivors, they head back home only to realize that a deadly alien life form has joined them.” –www.imdb.com
Why It’s Creepy and Crawly: If there’s one lesson to take away from Alien, it’s this: ALWAYS listen to Sigourney Weaver. And don’t you dare mess with her. I’m talking to you, extraterrestrial creeps. Alien is an iconic sci-fi/horror that just gets better each time you watch. It may be nearly 35 years old, but it’s every bit as disturbing and tense now as it was in 1979. The commercial spaceship Nostromo is about halfway back to Earth following the completion of its mission when the crew is prematurely awakened from hibernation. Upon inspecting the interruption, the crew members realize the ship’s computer has answered what they believe to be a distress call from a nearby planet. Reluctantly, they answer the call and land on the planet, sending out a small team to investigate. But when one member of the party is attacked by an alien life form and brought onboard to recover, the crew is too late to realize they’ve opened their doors to a hostile, dangerous force. Things get downright terrifying, and it’s a real thrill ride. The film is consistently weird, dark, and eerie throughout, setting the perfect tone for a sci-fi/horror. Even when the crew members are at ease, you’re not—there’s a constant tension that keeps you on the edge of your seat. The script’s pacing is superb, always with some new problem or horror waiting in the wings. And don’t even get me going on Ripley (Weaver). Seriously, forget Tomb Raider, forget Black Widow, and forget Buffy—Ripley and her flame-throwing gun could take them all. Although even she struggles with the strange and horrible creature onboard. You won’t forget the alien any time soon, but you will be very glad you watched this film. In terms of creature features, Alien is a must-watch.
My Grade: A
Another day, another Spook Series category checked off. Hope you enjoyed my picks! But there are still a few more posts to come! Coming Soon: 8 Fearsome Foreign Films. As I did with my Malevolent Mockumentaries, these eight movies are coming at you in one giant post, so expect them any day now! In Spook Series tradition, I shall list my creature features below. I tell you what, this may have been the hardest category to narrow down yet because I feel like there are so many other great creature features out there! I would love to hear about your favorites and whether or not they made my list. 🙂
#1: Alien (A)
#2: An American Werewolf in London (A-)
#3: The Descent (A-)
#4: I Am Legend (A-)
#5: Tremors (B+)
#6: Splice (B+)
#7: Gremlins (B)
#8: Jeepers Creepers (B)
#9: 30 Days of Night (B)
#10: Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (B-)