Dating all the way back to 1915, a German silent film titled “Golem” marked one of cinema’s early instances of featuring a monstrous creature. From that point onward, the concept of the “creature feature” found its enduring place in film history. The allure of a creature feature lies in its willingness to blur the boundaries of what qualifies as a “creature.” The genre embraces diverse creations, such as the infamous shark in “Jaws” or the mythical kaiju of “Godzilla,” both fitting comfortably within the creature feature realm.
What adds to the excitement is the genre’s propensity to venture into various styles, allowing creature features to break free from repetitive patterns. As time progressed, numerous of these films slipped under the radar, possibly due to fading from memory or insufficient exposure. Consequently, a selection of creature features has remained underrated and underappreciated, deprived of the recognition they truly deserve.
Congois the peak of mid-90s sci-fi/adventure movies. A talking gorilla, an insane plot, and extremely inconsistent CGI don’t really detract from the movie, if anything, they make it better. Starring Laura Linney and Ernie Hudson, a team goes into the African Congo after a previous group goes missing in the jungle.
They incur the wrath of the jungle and are hunted by a group of vicious, bloodthirsty gray gorillas. There are diamonds and a lost city also involved (of course), driving the entire adventure. Congo is not a classic by any means, but it is a fun schlock-fest for anyone who enjoys creatures terrorizing a group of more-or-less interesting characters.
Snatchersis one of the least-known films on this list. Releasing in 2019, it went unnoticed by pretty much everyone despite having a funny script, some wonderful practical effects, and an unpredictable plot. It is also a lesson in choosing your first sexual partner wisely.
It is a film that exceeds expectations at every turn and its 96-minute runtime whizzes right by. Snatchers isn’t just about creature mayhem and bloodshed (though there is a lot), it also somehow functions as a pretty effective coming-of-age story for Sara, played by a delightful Mary Nepi. Snatchers is a wonderful way to spend a slow afternoon, and odds are it will end up ranking among most people’s favorite creature features.
Odds are that if you didn’t have a fear of spiders, you will after watching Arachnophobia, at least for a little while. With good reason, too, because the film starring Jeff Daniels is nothing short of terrifying in spots. Supported by a typically dependable John Goodman who’s clearly having a great time, Arachnophobia ramps up the tension as it builds towards its spider-infested conclusion.
Well made, well cast, and well directed, Arachnophobia plays out like a thriller, as characters seek to unravel just how the spiders are taking over their town. The film is constructed to make you squirm in your seat, which makes it a perfect choice to watch with a group.
There is nothing about the plot of Howlthat is truly innovative. A group of people aboard a train must fend for themselves against a dangerous creature when the train stops in the middle of nowhere, late at night.
It is a setup we’ve seen on countless occasions in the past, but Howl sets itself apart by having interesting characters (even if they do occasionally get a little annoying, a pretty likable lead, and steadily building tension. Still, it’s far from a perfect movie because it can’t decide if it wants to be a serious film or a movie that leans into its campier and cheesier elements. Regardless, coming in at just under 90 minutes, Howl is an entertaining, fast-paced watch.
Three student filmmakers run into a killer, not of people, but of trolls. His client? The Norwegian government. The film makes effective use of its found footage format which wasn’t nearly as played out in 2010, the year Trollhuntercame out.
It easily could have been a B-grade, gimmicky film, but instead, Trollhunter immerses viewers in a world of interesting lore, some great action set-pieces, and troll designs inspired by Norwegian folklore. There are very few movies quite like Trollhunter out there, and some knowledge about the culture helps. Most of the cast is made up of popular Norwegian comedians, which helps establish the film’s atmosphere. In addition to that, the film toys with a couple of Norwegian stereotypes that give the film further depth and make it worth revisiting more than once.
Crawlis a non-stop thrill ride from the first frame to the last. With a lean, mean script and Kaya Scodelario perfectly cast as the lead, the tension never lets up as an estranged father and daughter try to escape American alligators in the middle of a hurricane. It is a recipe for carnage, and the film really leans into its somewhat insane premise, delivering inventive gore, and multiple intense sequences.
Most people would have to go out of their way to not enjoy Crawl, as it gives fans just enough to care about the characters, while never letting viewers lose sight of the multiple threats in the film.
If there was ever to be a B-movie creature feature-classic, it would be Tremors. Set in a small town essentially in the middle of nowhere, Val (Kevin Bacon) and Earl (Fred Ward) become unlikely heroes in a war against massive worm-like monsters who erupt from the ground to kill and cause wanton destruction.
Tremors isn’t all just about the carnage though. The film is way funnier than it has any right to be, is quirky in all the best ways, and has aged well because it relied heavily on practical effects, which has managed to hold up pretty well even today. All the characters are also likable, with Bacon and Ward in particular clearly having an absolute blast with the material.
While the film wasn’t a box-office success, it did manage to spawn a number of sequels and even a TV show, none of which managed to match up to the original. Tremors is a ton of fun, with charming characters, and exciting action as members of a small town rise to the occasion and become heroes.
The Black Lake in Aroostook County, Maine isn’t just beautiful and a great spot to do a little scuba diving, it is also home to a gigantic 30-foot crocodile ready to cause a little trouble. Just like Tremors, Lake Placidleans into the comedy. Even if the script could have definitely used a couple of tweaks, the material is elevated by a great cast featuring heavyweights like Brendan Gleeson, Oliver Platt, Betty White, and Bill Pullman, who find a way to elevate what they’re working with at every turn.
The film is wildly entertaining and finds the right balance between practical effects and above-average CGI. The design of the crocodile is also phenomenal, created by the same man who worked on iconic films like Alien, Predator, and the Terminator franchise. If that isn’t enough to sell viewers on the film, well, Lake Placid features the greatest crocodile vs. helicopter scene in cinema.
2 Mad God
It is highly likely that Mad Godis the only stop-motion, experimental horror film ever made. With no dialogues, Mad God is strongly reliant on its nightmarish visuals and sound design. Viewers are thrown into the deep end from the very first scene, as a nameless, faceless assassin descends into a hellish underworld filled with mutated monsters that populate the landscape.
Fair warning, Mad God has some truly terrifying visuals and some extremely violent sequences. Regardless, it is a film worth watching because it can actually be better categorized as an experience. Without dialogues or exposition to rely on, viewers need to piece the plot together as it unfolds slowly, raising several questions while being in no hurry to answer all of them.
That is where the majesty of Mad God lies, as the film is a commentary on the destructive nature of humanity, but remains open to interpretation. It is not a film for everyone, but those who invest in it will have a truly unique experience that sparks conversation and pushes the boundaries of what stop-motion can achieve as an art form.
1 The Faculty
The Facultydraws a lot of inspiration from classics like The Thing and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but what it lacks in originality, it makes up with a fun script that explores high school dynamics, all while extraterrestrial parasites take over the school’s faculty. The film has a stellar cast featuring Josh Hartnett, Jordana Brewster, Elijah Wood, Usher, and Salma Hayek.
While it can sometimes feel like the film failed to live up to its potential, it is still a ton an immensely enjoyable watch. It is one of those movies you can revisit time and time again, and despite its 1998 release, it holds up really well. The cast is a highlight, as the characters play off each other wonderfully, and their interactions do not feel dated today.