The Top Creature Features

Hello, fiends! As I slithered through my collection of frightful flicks, I thought it would be fun to write about some of the most disgusting cinematic creatures. With so many remakes, wimpy vampires that sparkle in the sunlight and a pure lack of imagination in Hollywood, your flesh will ooze with excitement as we remember a time when films not only had plots, but originality as well. These are not award-winning films; to be quite honest some of them are so bad they barely found an audience at all. How bad are they? Well, let your old pal Medusa put it this way: Some of these creatures are adorable, yet mischievous; some of them are slimy and brutal; and, one of them…is a killer cookie. That's the great thing about creature features! Even if the "creature" is a bit silly, that doesn't mean it's unable to deliver genuine scares.

Gremlins (1984)
When this film was released, audiences were shocked by the extreme violence depicted on-screen. Gremlins tells the story of a young man named Billy Peltzer, who receives a strange pet named Gizmo as a Christmas present. Gizmo is a "mogwai" and he's not only cute and furry, but kind-hearted, too. However, he also comes with a specific set of rules: Don't get him wet. Don't expose him to bright light. And, no matter what, don't ever feed him after midnight.
Sure enough Gizmo ends up getting wet, causing him to multiply. The new offspring are cute and furry…but far from kind. When the mogwai hatch from their gooey cocoons, they're vicious, blood-thirsty monsters with a knack for destruction. Mixing horror with comedy, Gremlins earned a PG-rating, enraging many parents. The sequel, Gremlins 2: The New Batch was released in 1990 with a well-deserved PG-13 rating, wilder violence and slimier creatures. If you're in the mood for creatures with real attitude, check out this classic slice of horror heaven!

Ghoulies (1985)
Known for its poor storyline and cheap effects, this little horror film found its true audience on videocassette. A man and his girlfriend move into an old mansion. Soon the man begins experimenting in witchcraft, and manages to summon a group of goblin-like creatures to do his bidding. While the film focuses more on black magic, possession and supernatural forces, the title characters are fun to watch, though they don't get the screen time you'd expect. Three more sequels were later released; Ghoulies II delivered terror at a carnival, while Ghoulies Go to College was bottom of the barrel…the discount barrel at Wal Mart.

Critters (1986)
A fun sci-fi/horror that features hungry monsters consuming a small town and those who stand in the way. While the film has its bloody, gory moments, many of the deaths are seen off-screen; cows and other animals are the main victims. The creatures are not only brutal, but creepy to look at. With sharp teeth and poisonous spikes that can shoot from their furry bodies, these characters make Gremlins look like a Disney cartoon. 

Slither (2006)
Writer/Director James Gunn (2004's Dawn of the Dead), showcased his love for the horror genre with this gory masterpiece. When a strange slug-like creature wreaks havoc on a small town, a sarcastic cop and a beautiful teacher must fight to survive. Filled with outrageous moments of blood, gore and suspense, Slither is one creature feature that takes fear to new heights. 

Munchies (1987)
For a horror film, this title never really found an audience. By the time it was released audiences had already flocked to see titles like Gremlins and Critters. Munchies is a low-budget film about strange creatures discovered in Peru and taken back to the United States by an archaeologist. When his evil brother, a maker of snake foods kidnaps the creatures, he discovers they can be very vicious…especially when chopped up. The film does manage some fun moments, especially from actor Harvey Korman. 

Jack Frost: The Killer Mutant Snowman (1997)
A low-budget horror gem that's surprisingly fun to watch, Jack Frost is about a serial killer who dies in a car accident on his way to be executed. When his remains are mixed with snow, he rises up as a giant snowman. Before long he's stabbing, mutilating, slicing and dicing his way to the sheriff who arrested him. Jack Frost managed to do well when it arrived on videocassette, not only inspiring a sequel, but a cult following as well. Actress Shannon Elizabeth (Thirteen Ghosts) made her acting debut in this "chilling" horror film. 

The Tingler (1959)
Horror legend Vincent Price stars in this classic film as a doctor trying to prove fear is the result of a creature that inhabits all human life. He believes this strange creature is suppressed by screams when a fear becomes too strong. When he meets a deaf patient he gets the chance to test his theory, convinced her inability to scream will cause the creature to spring to life. The Tingler manages to pack thrills and chills, especially when viewed on a dark, stormy night. 

The Gingerdead Man (2005)
A true original. When a killer's soul gets mixed in with gingerbread dough, a true "cookie monster" is born. Determined to exact revenge on the girl who sent him to the electric chair, this killer cookie proves he's anything but sweet. Featuring Gary Busey as the voice of the murderous treat, The Gingerdead Man is fun, nasty and quite inventive. It may seem like a weird film, but it deserves a pat on the back for originality. The Gingerdead Man II: Passion of the Crust was released in 2008. 
The Gingerdead Man 3: Saturday Night Cleaver arrives on DVD/Blu-Ray in 2011. 

Killer Shrews (1959)
As if a hurricane isn't scary enough, try fighting off a group of hungry mutant shrews! Several people trapped on an island must do just that in this creepy sci-fi/horror gem.

The Blob (1958)
When an alien devours all in its path, a group of survivors must fight to stay alive. As the body count rises, the jelly-like creature continues to grow. Actor Steve McQueen stars in this terrifying sci-fi classic. A remake was released in 1988 starring Shawnee Smith (Saw, Saw II) and Erika Eleniak (Tales from the Crypt: Bordello of Blood).
Musician/Director Rob Zombie was at one point attached to remake the film for a 2011 release; he has since put the project on hold to direct the new horror film Lords of Salem.  
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Join me next week for Terror Television: Tales from the Crypt.

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One Response to “The Top Creature Features”

  1. atothewr Says:

    Now you’ve gone and done it. Your on one of my favorite genres – the creature feature.

    I’m sure you’ve heard of Stan Winston?

    He’s my favorite when it comes to making movie monsters. Too bad he’s dead now.

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