WARNING: I have an incredibly specific, yet vague, somewhat arbitrary, and extremely irritating definition of what constitutes a “creature feature.”
Yes, I’m one of those people.
Werewolves, vampires, and Frankensteins are monsters. Godzilla and King Kong? Giant monsters. Jaws? A shark. Pumpkinhead? Please, don’t insult me. Desperate, you plead: “The Creature from the Black Lagoon is surely a creature starring in his very own feature. My dude, the word “creature” is in his name!”
And from the bowels of the internet I whisper: “No.”
Furthermore, Leprechaun is a leprechaun, and that’s leprechaun singular, not plural. An important distinction, as the true creature feature (according to me) requires a bare minimum of two — and double that for creatures toddler-sized and smaller. For example, Larry Cohen’s It’s Alive, about a bloodthirsty mutant infant, is not a creature feature. Whereas It’s Alive III: Island of the Alive, which has multiple bloodthirsty mutant infants, is.
I can sense that we’re all still not on the same page here, so allow me to present a breakdown of the globally recognized creature feature subcategories:
Little Nasties – Often deadly, occasionally mischievous, and never more than four feet tall, these bite-sized beasties took off during a post-Gremlins boom that saw titles like Critters, Munchies, and Ghoulies released in rapid succession. And then those films got their own sequels and knock-offs. Soon it became less about cashing in on Gremlins, and more about an unrelenting need to see more knee-high bipeds with weird butts smoke cigarettes, swing from ceiling fans, and wear human clothes.
Humanoid Freakazoids – Generally — but not always — a human who has been horribly mutated after being exposed to a toxic, radioactive, or possibly even extraterrestrial object and/or substance. This is your standard-issue Neon Maniac or Humanoid from the Deep. Best when portrayed by a person in a slime-coated rubber suit.
Long Boys – Big, like rock the foundations of your farmhouse and maybe even swallow a goat whole big, but not too big. The maximum load would be the Graboids from Tremors — any larger than that and you’re encroaching on giant monster territory. And we are not here to discuss giant monsters. Typically the bigger or longer the creature, the smaller the town.
Now that you’re all caught up, let’s take a peek at three certified “C” creature features available via Shudder.
I just can’t relate to these Stranger Things kids. Back in the 80s I wasn’t riding my bike in the woods or playing Dungeons & Dragons, I was digging a hole in the backyard and conjuring the Dark Lord. So thankfully for me there’s The Gate, where a young Stephen Dorff isn’t allowed to launch rockets unsupervised, so he digs up a geode in his backyard, levitates during his sister’s house party, and inadvertently unleashes a demon horde unto the earth.
Demons that come in the form of some elite level Little Nasties — surly mugs, thick butts, a tendency to scurry. They’re the best. In hands down the finest special effect ever committed to celluloid, a zombie is whacked upside the head with a boombox, and explodes into a dozen of these things. The very definition of movie magic.
Creature Tally: numerous Little Nasties, and a special bonus Long Boy appearance.
George (Home Alone star John Heard), A.J. (Home Alone 1&2 star Daniel Stern), and Bosch (Home Alone 3 star Christopher Curry) have had enough of these greedy politicians and their toxic waste dumps turning the local New York homeless population into Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers. That’s right, thanks to these fat cats, folks like George, A.J., and Bosch can’t even take a relaxing stroll through the sewers without running smack-dab into a C.H.U.D.
Sure, I’ll admit, there’s maybe a bit too much of those three squawking at the Nuclear Regulatory Committee creeps, and not enough of George’s sabre-wielding model girlfriend (Kim Greist) mowing down the C.H.U.D. Yet I would go as far to say that the titular creatures represent the Humanoid Freakazoid in its purest form.
Creature Tally: Humanoid Freakazoids galore, zero Little Nasties, not a Long Boy in sight, but features a very special John Goodman appearance.
*Unfortunately, since publication of this piece, Grabbers is no longer available to watch on VRV.
Computer-generated creatures would normally disqualify a motion picture from being on such a prestigious list. In fact, there are only two exceptions that immediately come to mind: one is Deep Rising, and the other is the modern Long Boy gem Grabbers. If Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg had decided to follow up Shaun of the Dead with an Irish-set Tremors reboot, the resulting film would’ve been a lot like this.
And being that it’s Irish, heavy drinking is not only featured onscreen, but is essential to the plot. Usually with these types of movies, the alcoholism is happening behind the scenes. Not with Grabbers — here it’s the only thing that can stop these tentacled Long Boys from outer space that touch down on a remote Irish isle. From there the pub becomes a battleground, with booze-filled Super Soakers and a constant state of inebriation being the weapons of choice.
Creature Tally: Features the longest of Long Boys, and buttless (!!!) Little Nasties, which, unfortunately, means no Little Nasties at all.