A while ago, I did a short list of some favorite horror movies. In trying to edit that down, I struggled to pick out which movies would make it and which would not. I thought to expand on that list and do some of my favorite for various subgenres. To kick-off, I thought we would start with a beloved subgenre, creature features.
The problem with Creature Features is it is pretty expansive, and there is debate over what counts. You’ll notice a trend in my creature feature picks, however. They tend to be movies that lean a little more to action than pure suspense horror. I also tend to see alien flicks or supernatural creatures as more belonging in different subgenres, but that is a debate for another time. For now, here are my five favorite creature features.
Probably my ultimate 90s creature feature (although there are many that I love). The Relic starts off with some backstory but then takes us to the main setting of the movie, a museum, which is brilliant. It follows Lieutenant D’Agosta and Dr. Margo Green as they attempt to unravel a mystery behind a few murders connected to the museum, only to find a creature has been released and they are trapped in the museum with it. A fantastic example of action/adventure meets horror with the added “trapped with your monster” trope. It is a shining example of the movies from the time and why I liked them. They bring so much to the table with their willingness to push the horror genre to a more fast-paced place. It doesn’t lose all the fear, but it does create a sort of blended genre that manages to be both scary and fun at the time. (See Mimic, Jurassic Park, etc.).
I have a hard time thinking of this movie in terms of creature feature because there so much of the horror is outside the creatures themselves. This movie is dark, literally. It follows a group of women trapped in a cave and uses the lighting (and lack thereof) as well as the limited space to really drive home how trapped and helpless they are. The end result is that the movie is claustrophobic as hell, and the audience is also having to deal with the lack of light. It also has many “man vs. nature” themes, all before the actual creatures (crawlers) show up. Of course, once they do, the horror meter hits an 11 as the girls are still battling the challenge of the cave but also being hunted. The movie is also bleak. It has a horribly heart-wrenching opening, and it just keeps going from there. This movie is incredible, but it is not fun. Yet it is a go-to of mine. Well done, and again I can not stress enough how well utilized “the cave” is.
I adored this movie. It was everything I wanted in a modern creature feature. My ideal creature feature is largely like many we got in the 90s. Movies where it had a bit of an action/adventure feel but still enough scares and dark themes to satisfy my horror desires. Crawl is precisely this. The movie follows a dad and daughter trapped in their crawlspace with alligators during a pending hurricane. It is an intense plot that really gives the audience a sense of the time limit these two have to solve this seemingly impossible situation. The movie balances the pacing well enough that we are never bored. We do get some longer, more suspenseful moments, but the movie is also not afraid to break into more fast-paced action, either. The gators are well done. Haley and her father, Dave, are great characters, and the intensity of the situation helps to push that “edge of your seat” feeling. It is a solid and entertaining movie with some decent jumpscares.
Also bonus points and mild spoiler (but I am sure you will appreciate it) the dog does not die. Yay!
Straight into horror-comedy. Tremors is just such a fantastic movie. The characters are great, and the plot is well done. A group of people, once again trapped (this seems to be a theme among my favorites), although this time at various points throughout the town. The creatures in tremors come at you through the ground and can sense you moving around. This movie is the most insane game of “the floor is lava” ever. Wonderfully acted, and it manages to have its silly moments without going over the top or entirely losing the horror feel. Also, phenomenally done practical effects, which only adds to the question of “why did we leave them behind?”
Yet another movie that makes me think we might be in for a resurgence of the type of creature features that I so love. Underwater gives a brief introduction before throwing us in a drilling facility in the Mariana Trench. Something, we don’t know what, happens and the facility starts to go down. This leaves our survivors forced to face the ocean and try to get themselves out of a truly horrible situation. Then they meet the creatures. This movie is fantastic. Much like The Descent, it puts the characters in a situation where they are weakened simply by being there. It is scary, albeit a little predictable at times, but amazingly shot and well done. There were a few moments that I could have done without; either they weren’t needed or were a touch obvious, but overall I was delighted by this movie.
I will admit, though, I think the biggest flaw in this movie was not actually in the movie. Confirming that it was part of the Cthulhu mythos instead of just being Lovecraftian was a mistake in my honest opinion, but also conveniently if you are like me and don’t like that choice, you can just pretend it did not happen.