Previously On Creature Feature Semicentennial…
Now, the 80’s!
We’ll see more in the way of otherworldly or unique creatures as opposed to the “regular” animals out for blood of the 70’s. A welcome change of pace that the ever growing visual FX industry embraces fully with a variety of movie monsters making their cinematic debuts. As before, my personal favorites are bolded as such and on we go…
Alligator – Robert Forester provides respectability to this tale of a little gator flushed down a toilet who becomes a huge maneater and the efforts to stop it. This absolutely falls into the Jaws rip-off category, but it’s one of the better–if not “best”–of this club (Grizzly, Orca, Piranha, Tentacles, Jaws 2). In spite of the glut of creature features I’ve both seen in my life and the past month this 40 year old killer alligator movie is better than anyone would expect. Both at the time and now even moreso.
- Box office: /
- RottenTomatoes: 84%, 48% aud
Humanoids From the Deep – Mutated fish/human creatures terrorize a fishing village by killing men and raping women. This one simply isn’t for me. Between exploitative scenes of naked women being raped and genuinely bad filmmaking there’s nothing here worth watching, as far as I’m concerned. I know it has a cult following in a “so bad it’s good” way, but there are plenty of movies so bad they’re good that aren’t this actively gross, lame, and painful to watch. Good luck if you give it a try, pervert 😉
- Box office: /
- RottenTomatoes: 56%, 41% aud
Contamination – Blatant Italian version of Alien, only without *any* of the positive qualities and instead lots of gore and lame dubbing. Run, don’t walk, in the other direction. Good for MST3K laughs and nothing else in the world.
- Box office: /
- RottenTomatoes: /, 29% aud
An American Werewolf in London – Another widely considered classic of a couple of American backpackers who just might come across a werewolf while overseas. This is pretty close to the apex of its genre with just a few things holding it back, per me. For one thing, the lead–David Naughton–being the absolute weak link as far as the cast goes is a big hurdle. It’s a little like watching a local theater actor in the process. The rest of the cast (Dunne, Agutter, & Woodvine) make up for that a bit and the special effects hold up pretty well, especially compared to many sub-par CG transformations in the decades to follow. Every song having to do with a “moon” up to this point is wound up on the enjoyable soundtrack, also.
- Box office: 30ww (a success)
- RottenTomatoes: 87%, 85% aud
The Howling – Dee Wallace Stone (Mom in E.T.) as a reporter who visits a commune for recuperation only to discover something else going on there. It has a bit of a late 70’s porn kind of vibe to me (or I suppose what I assume its vibe is based on historic representation) which is an amusing angle for a werewolf tale. The werewolves are also fairly good and distinct from Werewolf in London’s take on it this same year.
- Box office: 18ww (solid)
- RottenTomatoes: 70%, 57% aud
Wolfen – Albert Finney investigates possible wolf killings in the city–except not as simple as that, of course. Finney classes up the joint a bit a la Forrester in Alligator and it’s a different take on werewolves than the other two from this same year (which is for the best), but I’d say don’t expect a “werewolf movie” really in the traditional sense and more of a thinker as far as this genre goes.
- Box office: 11ww (meh)
- RottenTomatoes: 75%, 46% aud
Venom – A black mamba snake collides with a hostage situation and unfortunately there’s no Finney or Forrester here to legitimize things. That’s okay, because this one is silly, dumb stuff with snake POVs and deeply stupid humans. Have low expectations to simply laugh at this old snake movie. I know that’s a common theme so far, but some can’t even be enjoyed that way so at least Venom has that in its favor.
- Box office: 5ww (meh/dud)
- RottenTomatoes: 43%, 31% aud
The Evil Dead – Two things: to me this isn’t very “creature feature” but I heard mostly otherwise so here you go & there are countless articles all over the internet about this one so I’ll just say if Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, some demons, and gore sounds up your alley then boom, baby you got a stew goin’.
- Box office: 3ww (solid)
- RottenTomatoes: 95%, 84% aud
The Thing – The best 82 has to offer, right here. This all-time classic and personal favorite was a box office & critical dud at the time so I’m pleased that history has proven extremely kind to this masterclass in paranoia-based tension and uncertainty.
Kurt Russel leads a game cast in this Antarctica set story of an unknown & unwanted guest from who-knows-where and its effects on the secluded outpost of coworkers leading to ice-cold madness. It’s glorious in depictions of stomach-churning manglings of body horror, with every example lead into with ample building tension or out-of-nowhere shock. The score aids the mood tremendously and there’s no way this ends without acknowledgment of the best dog actor I’ve seen in my life. After becoming accustomed to dogs looking offscreen at their trainer forever to witness this dog be in the scenes with none of the Eddie (from Frasier) examples of staring off where they ought not be looking is pretty great. Best Actor, 1982, Jed the Husky!
- Box office: 20ww (dud)
- RottenTomatoes: 84%, 92% aud
Cat People – Erotic thriller starring Natasha Kinski, the dad from Home Alone, John Laroquette, Barney the orderly from The Silence of the Lambs, Malcolm McDowell, and–just in case that slab of man-meat isn’t enough for you–Ed Begley, Jr. Blood pumping yet? I know my heart’s pounding 😉 Anyway, Kinski and McDowell star as siblings with more in common than your average pair–sexy kitty hijinks ensue.
Get ready for some T & A & Bush! As a gay that does a big fat zero for me so I was left with the story for what it was (no offense to that schmorgasboard of men I listed). Even with it being overlong and strangely edited it’s a fairly memorable experience. Also David Bowie wrote/performs the theme song, “Cat People (Putting Out the Fire)” which I’ve heard countless times on the radio or my ipod and had no idea was from this weirdo movie until seeing it.
- Box office: 7ww (meh)
- RottenTomatoes: 61%, 45% aud
Deadly Eyes – Rats the size of dogs (perhaps because they’re dogs in rat costumes) terrorize Toronto. I liked how the summary I read before watching this one said “starring Scatman Crothers” which I knew in my heart was a lie. More accurate would be “appears in briefly,” which of course convinces nobody. Anyhoo, it’s an 80’s Canadian movie about big rats–what do you think?
- Box office: /
- RottenTomatoes: 29%, 33% aud
Parasite – The American original version before Bong Joon-ho’s remake which of course went on to Oscar winning glory. I kid, of course. Demi Moore shows up halfway through this boring, torturous trash that cries out for a Rifftrax. It’s a dystopian America story of a loose parasite becoming a worm monster extremely late in the game. That sentence is more informative and interesting than *anything* occurring in this movie. Only watch this if you feel like seeing Demi get her film feet wet.
- Box office: /
- RottenTomatoes: 11%, 13% aud
Piranha 2: The Spawning – The beginning of James Cameron’s directing career, technically. Plenty of behind-the-scenes strife of opinion clashes/technical abilities/legal rights/etc resulted in Cameron essentially disowning this. I’ve only seen this in full once (as a teenager I blew through his filmography) and skimmed it again for the purposes of this. I haven’t actually summarized any plot details because this is another fine example of you look at the title/poster/year and either that’s for you or it isn’t. Mostly it’s just boring, especially if you’ve seen Piranha 3D from 2010. Disown away, James.
- Box office: /
- RottenTomatoes: 6%, 11% aud
Creepshow – A some-star cast leads this horror comedy anthology to some mild highs–eh, upper middles–and more lows, if you ask me. It’s an old Creepshow comic come to life, which works great for most so maybe you’ll fall into that camp. Some truly awful acting and production values remove me completely from the juvenile and laugh-free series of ho-hum scary stories to the point I comfortably don’t ever need to see it again. Once more I’ll point out I’m the dissenting opinion, though, so maybe fun will find you in the end.
- Box office: 21ww (okay/meh)
- RottenTomatoes: 73%, 68% aud
Jaws 3D – Dennis Quaid stars (also Louis Gosset, Jr & Lea Thompson are here) in this simultaneously dull and laughable sequel where the Brody family shark curse follows the oldest son to Sea World, this time, and in 3-D!! At one point footage of a rather still, dead-looking shark floats towards the screen to sell that 3D hard and you have to wonder how so many people put so much time into…this. For Jaws completionists only, I think. Or maybe Louis Gosset, Jr yelling at people in a control room full of 80’s tech is everything you’ve ever wanted to see in a movie in which case you can now die happy.
- Box office: 45dom/88ww (the Jaws franchise financial descent continues)
- RottenTomatoes: 10%, 17% aud
Cujo – Dee Wallace Stone returns and after 81’s Howling, E.T. in 82, now Cujo I’d say that’s quite a solid few years. Anyway, this Stephen King-based fright flick about a woman & son stuck in her vehicle as a rabid dog tries to kill them with a few hiccups along the way was a staple of lazy Sunday viewing for me–if Cujo was on TV, just put that on while doing other stuff. It’s effectively sweaty, grimy, and unpleasant being stuck in that car with them. I suspect it might be a little on the slower side for more modern audiences, but you can’t win ‘em all.
- Box office: 21ww (solid)
- RottenTomatoes: 61%, 45% aud
Spasms – A killer snake that causes people to explode when bitten gets telepathically linked to a surviving victim who tries to put an end to the chaos and it’s *still* a heavy helping of rather boring “meh.” Enjoy the snake POV shots and silly, timefill dances.
- Box office: /
- RottenTomatoes: /, 5% aud
Of Unknown Origin – Peter Weller (the original Robocop) stars in this story of an upscale apartment dweller being tormented by a bothersome rat he wishes would leave and the lengths he goes to accomplish that. Perhaps this doesn’t belong here for a variety of reasons, but some others I would have left off so I’m keeping this, too. It reminded me a bit of the “Fly” episode of Breaking Bad, if you’re familiar. A man gets a task in his head he *needs* to accomplish before other life can continue with all reasoning to the contrary disabled. Expect more of a character piece with this one.
- Box office: 1ww (dud)
- RottenTomatoes: 57%, 41% aud
Gremlins – A young man’s father brings him a new pet as a Christmas present, except the strange creature results in a few gifts-with-purchase no one could have predicted that spirals out of control. Aside from being a personal favorite, one for the ages, and simply an obscenely fun time this one also helped birth the PG13 rating into the world (as everyone knows by now). Joe Dante nails the wild shifts in tone, swinging from comedy to horror, over to satire then perhaps more frights–all over, there and back again.
Performances suit the material well, but the real stars here are the gremlins and Gizmo himself. The creatures roam town wreaking havoc, having fun wherever they go and they both look awesome & feel alive. If you’ve ever had the simple urge to sweep everything off a grocery store shelf there’s a little gremlin in your heart, so the chaos caused by these id-based monsters with not a care in the world for consequences might tap into that a little bit.
- Box office: 153ww (huge hit)
- RottenTomatoes: 84%, 75% aud
The Company of Wolves – A young woman dreams about Angela Lansbury telling various fairy tale-esque stories. So, I kind of hated this one. It’s just so pointless, uninteresting, and all kinds of other non-flattering words. If I were a young girl in the 80’s/90’s maybe I’d get something out of this, but as I’m an adult male in 2020…not so much. The entire thing is so repetitive and monotonous which is an accomplishment for a movie made of several different tales. I’m far and away in the minority with this one, so perhaps I missed my glass of Kool-aid 😉
- Box office: 4ww (miss)
- RottenTomatoes: 79%, 73% aud
Razorback – Wild boar roams the Australian outback, terrorizing people as it finds them, while backwoods idiots try some rape & murder to pass the time. Largely forgotten and reasonably so. If your creature feature needs over-the-top, mustache twirling villains and the climax is based more around dispatching them than the creature itself that screams laziness to me.
Also, what the hell is with rape being thrown in like an after-thought? Another rant not specific to this movie but a culmination of the previous decade plus. So often it seems there to add tension/drama/frights/whathaveyou but it’s such a weird kind of “oh yeah, and they try to rape her…for some reason. Because Men, amiright?” feeling. Razorback is FAR from the first to feature this, but thankfully it is kind of an end as skimming through most of the upcoming fare there’s not much by way of irrelevant scenes of rape/attempted rape that could lift right out of the movie affecting nothing else.
- Box office: /
- RottenTomatoes: 67%, 49% aud
Freeze frame for now before body horror intensifies with The Fly. Be prepared. Be very prepared.
Next time on Creature Feature Semicentennial…
See ya real soon kids!
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