We love a good creature feature here at The Film Club – big ones, small ones, slimy ones, hairy ones… We don’t judge.
With Ridley Scott’s seminal sci-fi horror Alien returning to cinema screens this month, it got us thinking; it’s certainly not the only big screen beastie that has made their mark on cinema audiences (and the unsuspecting crew of the Nostromo for that matter). In fact, there are some great monster movies out there that perhaps didn’t get the attention they deserved when they were first released or have slinked back into their underground lairs.
So, to get you geared up for Alien’s return to the big screen, we’ve prepared a list of the 7 most underrated creature features that are definitely worth a watch – behind the sofa whilst you do so being optional…
Set six years after a NASA probe crash lands in south America bringing alien life with it, Mexico has been virtually quarantined in order to contain the alien beasties which are now calling it home. The film follows Sam (Whitney Able) and Andrew (Scoot McNairey) as they try to cross the quarantined zone to get back home to the US and avoid both attention from the authorities and the potentially deadly otherworldly beasts wreaking havoc amongst the landscape.
The thing with Monsters is that it was originally sold and marketed as your bog-standard disaster alien invasion flick, and that just simply doesn’t do it justice.
The monsters of the film are stunningly menacing, but the film doesn’t rely on big scares, gore or action to keep you interested – instead, the two stars (Able & McNairey) and their relationship are the heart of the film, with their travels through the quarantined landscape being pure eye-candy to watch. Think of it as a road trip movie with added alien menace.
Throw in a hauntingly beautiful score by UK music producer Jon Hopkins and the fact it was all done for a miniscule budget of around £500,000, and you have a movie which can rub shoulders with the biggest franchises out there.
DOG SOLDIERS (2002)
6 British squaddies vs. a pack of hungry werewolves – that’s really all you need to know about this brilliantly dark and hilarious horror, which includes the added-bonus of Sean Pertwee on top form.
Dog Soldiers is a real dark and grimy film that wears its low budget roots on its sleeve. Director Neil Marshall keeps the action raw, relentless and increasingly bonkers as the team of inexperienced squaddies is torn apart and terrorised by the seemingly-unstoppable Lycans.
The werewolves themselves may not be the most terrifying things you’ll ever see, but the dialogue between the cast and action set pieces are some of the best the genre has to offer. It’s such a shame it only got a limited UK release as it more than has a feel of the original Predator movie about it – except with more Geordies. And sausages.
Snakeoids? Graboids? Whatever they’re called, this story of giant carnivorous worms that may or may not be from outer space is a slice of B-movie joy with added Bacon. Kevin Bacon.
Tremors mixes a perfect blend of comedy and horror and revels in picking off the townsfolk of Perfection one after the other. It doesn’t take itself seriously and revels in the bromance between its leads Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward – you just can’t help but love the pair of small-town losers.
When the Graboids do burst out from under the ground, the b-movie shocks come thick & fast, but all with a dose of humour that makes Tremors such a joy to watch. And believe it or not, there are now a staggering 5 sequels, a TV series and a rumoured remake…
The ‘found footage’ genre was nothing new thank to movies like The Blair With Project and Rec, but Cloverfield was different – appearing out of nowhere (much like its titular beast), it broke the mould with how films were marketed and also, how they were made, too.
Set in New York as the city is attacked by ‘something’, it follows a group of friends trying to escape the escalating madness and destruction all around them whilst trying not to get killed in the process.
Claustrophobic, suspenseful and action-packed, the Cloverfield monster itself is mainly confined to the background until the final 3rd, and it makes the film all the better for it. And, despite the film being set in New York, the entire film was actually shot on-set in Los Angeles; which makes the end result even more staggering considering that virtually everything you’re seeing on-screen is made using computer-generated witchcraft.
Before James Gunn hit the big time directing and writing Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy movies, he was writing and directing small budget horrors and, weirdly, also penning the screenplays for the Scooby Doo series of movies… Yes, those ones…
Slither is what brought him into the big time. Mixing laugh-out-loud comedy with icky body horror that would make David Cronenberg wince, it’s a smart take on the horror b-movie genre that pitches the residents of a small town with an army of alien parasitic worms. They’re the worst kind…
Taking inspiration from The Blob to just about every single zombie movie out there, Slither might pull no punches in the disgusting creature effects department, but it’s a love letter to the b-movie creature feature genre and worthy of your attention!
EIGHT LEGGED FREAKS! (2002)
OK, so any movie involving giant spiders isn’t one to be taken massively seriously; but luckily, 8 Legged Freaks! does just that and feels like it’s been lifted straight out of the 1950s.
Much like Tremors, 8 Legged Freaks! pits a small desert community against a bewildering monster threat; except instead of subterranean worms, it’s now giant mutant spiders wreaking havoc and devouring the local populace. We also get a pre-big time Scarlet Johansen making an appearance alongside a moustachioed David Arquette… If that’s your bag.
Considering this was made in 2002 to little fanfare, the CG spiders wouldn’t look out of place against today’s more modern blockbusters whilst the cast – Arquette in particular – do a great job of selling such a ludicrous story. It’s 90-odd minutes of fast-paced, throwaway fun.
TROLL HUNTER (2010)
Hailing from Norway, Troll Hunter follows a team of university students as they film a local hunter tracking down the culprit behind a series of bear killings. However, things get really weird for them when they discover that this is no ordinary wildlife hunter – he’s actually part of a shadowy government agency tasked to track down and eliminate rogue Trolls who’ve escaped their secret territory.
Much like Cloverfield, Troll Hunter uses the found-footage format to its advantage; keeping the trolls at arms-length and instead, focussing on the characters and how they struggle to believe that they’re really hunting for these creatures from fairy tales.
When the trolls do make their appearances, they’re the stuff of kid’s nightmares and stunningly realised for the big screen. Tense and beautifully filmed despite the typical shaky-cam effects, Troll Hunter is a real oddball of a film.
What’s your favourite big screen beastie? Let us know!