Creative movies, monster movies, or any other kind of movie, are the old definitions of the horror genre that were as popular in the 1950s as they are today. Most of the most memorable villains in film are creatures, so many of the greatest horror films in history can be considered creatures.
There are no limits to what a murderous creature can be in the horror genre, and filmmakers are always finding fun and inventive ways to make animals and objects filthy.
There are the obvious movie monsters like vampires, werewolves, mummies and zombies. There are familiar creatures like vicious sharks, deadly crocodiles and even deadly insects. There’s also a list of classically less threatening creatures that still wreak bloody carnage in B-horror stories, such as snails, cockroaches and bats.
Monster movies have been around since the beginning of cinema, but fans of the genre have never been tired of seeing otherworldly creatures, rodents, mutants and the like wreak havoc on the big screen. The 1980s proved to be an important decade for the revival of creature properties, as the monster craze of the 1950s met camp, practical effects and gore. Filmmakers of the 1980s attempted to recreate the magic of 1950s cinema, often by shamelessly trying to imitate blockbusters like Jaws and Alien, resulting in a plethora of hilarious creatures ranging from the amazing to the absurd.
Undoubtedly, the 80s produced the best monster movies in the history of horror – The Thing, American Werewolf in London or Evil Dead. They also brought with them a long list of less successful productions, some of which have achieved cult status, while others have fallen through the cracks. We look at the last thing on this list of options for sleeping creatures.
Synopsis: Man-eating slugs terrorize a Midwestern town.
Spanish director Juan Picker Simon delighted fans of exploitation films in 1982 with the release of the cult classic Pieces, a particularly gross and incomprehensible dice-and-click film that built a following because of its gruesome murders, pointless story, hilarious acting, and overall gory quality.
Years later, JP Simon followed the same formula as the Sluggers. In the spirit of the Slugs games, it involves a story that’s lean enough to work, a cast of characters that are unremarkable, top-notch acting, and hilarious dubbing. Fortunately, like Pieces, Slugs also contains brutal murder, lots of blood and a pleasantly unpleasant tone.
While many horror and mini-monster films from the 80s are starting to veer more and more into the ridiculous, Slugs retains its brutal and gruesome horror. The concept may seem silly for a children’s horror film – bullet killers terrorizing a small town in the Midwest – but what ensues is anything but a children’s horror film (and shocking in that regard!).
In one remarkable scene, a snail slips into the gardener’s glove. When he puts his hand on the table to take off his glove, he trips over the chemicals and knocks over a shelf, which falls on him. He’d rather saw off his own arm. His wife enters the conservatory and sees her husband lying on the floor, stripped of his arm, in a pool of blood. In her fright she knocked over a lamp, causing the whole greenhouse and her house to catch fire.
This level of Simon’s ruthlessness is not specific to this one scene; in fact, the film as a whole is surprisingly gory. It’s hilarious, obscene and incredibly gory. Do not consider him less than average, but rather a stupid creature. It’s silly and not far from bad from a cinematic standpoint, but the audience is in Greyhound and too full of murder to be bored for even a moment.
Humanoids of the Deep (1980)
Synopsis: The inhabitants of a small coastal town, led by a fisherman and a scientist, battle half-human creatures from the sea who prey on women.
A campy homage to 1950s monster movies, Humanoids follows Roger Corman’s template from the depths of his early years, but its wedges of graphic carnage and vulgarity would make horror fans expect the 1980s.
Humanoids of the Deep will appeal to many horror fans: A strange disaster strikes a coastal town, there’s lots of fun, lots of death, lots of nudity, and homicidal fish creatures who want to mate with human women. The last one is a bonus.
The story is simple, as the release of a murderous creature should be, and the team of fishing village heroes is fun to follow. Deep Sea Humanoids is far from the best Corman has to offer, but it’s a creepy treat in terms of creatures, and more enjoyable than the norm. Fans of aquatic horror will feel right in their element. Also make use of the foreign will. If you’re bloodthirsty, you won’t be disappointed either. Humanoids From The Deep has something for every horror fan, including unintentional comedy and sci-fi effects.
Synopsis: Carnivorous cockroaches are taking over the small island. A scientist, an exterminator and the daughter of the mayor of the island work together to stop them.
It’s important to note from the above that Nest has no reason to get excited – unless the person in your home is ranting about oversized cockroaches. What starts off slow ends up being really nasty, and if you stay in the nest for the sake of your raw self, you won’t be disappointed.
The first act of the film drags on as we wait for the unimaginative characters in The Nest to figure out exactly what is going on. Message: Carnivorous cockroaches take over a small island. But once the secret is discovered, the brutality reaches new heights. In the third act, it all picks up speed, and Nest becomes a fascinating, chaotic number with creepy action, delightfully disgusting on-screen practical effects, and a memorable denouement.
The reason Nest is so impressive is simply this: What should have been just a funny insect movie turns into a shockingly effective, low-budget horror film about man against nature. Like the snail above, Nest puts brutal carnage and copious amounts of blood into the standard monster movie camera, making for a wonderfully disgusting spectacle. If you’re more scared than scary, you might find some horror here too.
The Terror Within (1989)
Synopsis: After an apocalyptic chemical war goes awry, 99% of the world’s population is wiped out. Those who survived the experiment mutated into hideous gargoyles. A team of clandestine scientists must fight for their lives and find a solution.
On the surface, Terror Within is an entertaining bad alien movie. It’s still a fun alien impersonation, but that’s enough for some of us.
This gory post-apocalyptic film follows a group of scientists in an underground laboratory who must fight for their lives against giant humanoid creatures called Gargoyles. As fake as these gargoyles look, they have a menacing quality that works, and the rubber suits aren’t bad for a wacky B-track.
The acting ranges from terrible to pretty bad, although you have to appreciate George Kennedy’s role, and the script is no more impressive. There’s not much atmosphere here. Sure, The Terror Within could benefit from something tangible in its atmosphere that sets it apart from the list of alien knock-offs that littered the ’80s and early ’90s, but for lack of atmosphere, substandard creatures save the day. We’d classify it as bad, but highly entertaining, with a huge amount of fun monsters carrying the show.
Synopsis: This delicious, sticky, earthy paste is marketed as the latest dessert craze, but turns consumers into zombies desperate for more.
Larry Cohen’s work doesn’t really take place in the bedroom anymore, as he’s made a name for himself via the web in recent years. Fans of horror comedies, monster movies, and 80’s blockbusters can get their fill, and this title seems to be getting more mentions than ever. Still, a look at the creature features of the 1980s wouldn’t be complete without it.
Part satire, part stupid eco-terrorism, part B-movie, The Stuff takes a stupid premise, like killer yogurt, and exploits it, in the midst of a serious crisis. The comedy outweighs the horror, and how could it be otherwise when your villain is made up of Goop? The acting is terrible here and there, the editing slows the pace down a bit, and any insightful social message is drowned in pure ridiculousness. To that I reply: That’s great. The material is pure cheese and prefers mind-boggling ridiculousness to true horror. There may be no real scares and no excited horror that permeates everything, but The Stuff offers enough creepy bits (with some excellent effects) to keep any horror fan at bay.
Between the hilarious dialogue, zany murders and insane craziness, anyone looking for a goofy monster can’t go wrong with The Stuff. Cohen has made some of the best horror films (see: It’s Alive), but this film is a real oddity that has great value in its deliberate silliness.
Synopsis: A baby alligator goes in the toilet in Chicago. The reptile feeds on sewer rats injected with growth hormones, grows in large numbers, emerges from the sewers and goes on a rampage against the city of Chicago.
Take your water monster masterpiece and move it to another location: Steven Spielberg, Lewis Teague’s alligator swims out of the sewer.
I still maintain that Alligator has at least a watered down version of everything that makes Joe Dante’s Jaws of Piranha great: A bloodthirsty villain who spills FOUR blood, characters who are thoughtful enough to hold our attention, and a very funny script full of funny phrases. It’s not Jaws or Piranha for my taste, but Alligator is about as good as movies about a variety of crocodiles.
With an excellent script by John Sayles (who also wrote Piranha), this is a smarter than it should be sewer monster killer show. Our heroes, David (Robert Forster) and Marisa (Robin Riker), are engaging characters for this kind of plot, and they have nice chemistry. The action in Alligator is surprisingly good. The film only falters in its dated effects and somewhat ridiculous facts, but for cheese lovers, such weaknesses are a plus.
If you’ve never seen Chicago terrorized by toilet alligators, Alligator is probably your only chance (until it gets really popular).
Born dead (1983)
Synopsis: Aliens arrive on a meteorite and terrorize a small town. Four teen horror fans are forced to find a way out.
The Deadly Spawn is a breeze to play. It came about when a group of inspired teenagers decided to make a fantasy monster movie with minimal resources. And it’s not that far.
Shot on a low budget of $25,000, The Deadly Spawn pits a group of bizarrely intelligent (for a 1980s horror film) teenagers against a horde of monsters that have crashed to Earth via a meteorite. These monsters are indeed scary for a no-budget company in the early 80s. While some directors opt for the body or the miniature, director Douglas McCown and his team choose the puppet, with success. Deathbringer creatures, or razor worms, look amazing.
The plot doesn’t leave much time for reflection, though it’s handled well, and it’s handled nicely enough to hold the audience’s attention. As mentioned earlier, the teens in the film are smart and experienced, as are the horror fans themselves, making The Deadly Spawn one of the first meta-horror films. Sure, the 1983 sci-fi horror film may never get that kind of recognition, but let it be known!
The term gem is disgusting and overused in entertainment literature these days, but here it applies. The Deadly Spawn is a gory little treasure with cool creatures and an excellent cast. It won’t make anyone happy, but it is depressing.
Synopsis: In the Australian outback, a wild boar attacks and kills several people, including a journalist. Your husband swears he’ll take care of it.
Beautiful cinematography is not usually a factor in exploitation films and is not often found in B-horror films, but landscape shots are common in Russell Mulcahy’s Australian work, Razorback. The Australian outback offers a beautiful and justifiably isolated environment. I’m telling you, for a movie about a killer boar, it’s insanely nightmarish and fascinating.
While most films in this genre, including the ones I mentioned, don’t really focus on building suspense or a sense of suspense, Mulcahy takes a slow-motion approach that keeps you on your toes. The film is terrifying throughout, which is more than can be said of any similar film, and the bloody fun is where it belongs.
Picturesque scenery, rude hillbillies, a hilarious killer pig and solid performances make this beautiful, sunny attraction great fun.
Synopsis: The psychologist and self-help guru uses an alien organism to brainwash people through their televisions.
As my grandfather used to say, you can’t go wrong with an ambitious 80s sci-fi horror movie about a brain that eats people, bitch. I don’t know why he called me a bitch.
One of the great things about Brain by Ed Hunt is that you can judge from the plot alone whether it’s for you. If you like the idea of a psychologist guarding a homicidal brain in a mind control facility, you’ll have a great time with this movie.
A story about an imaginary creature that meets all the requirements. The Brain is an utterly silly low-budget horror film with a strong surrealism. You won’t be hiding under a blanket on this trip, but you will laugh a little and probably recommend it to other 80s cheese lovers.
After seeing The Brain, you’ll never see evil brains in sticky gelatin again. You’ll also have a little less faith in the self-help guru, which is true.
Synopsis: A group of underground miners stumble upon a mutated creature, the result of a genetic experiment gone wrong.
Leviathan clearly borrowed from The Thing and Alien, so it’s not particularly original, but it’s still a fun underwater monster romp. Leviathan boasts a hilarious cast, a campy but entertaining premise, excellent creature effects, and some excellent body horror moments that could be considered excellent B-movie casting. In fact, all the monsters are pretty awesome until the last one comes along, which is really a downside. Still, there is joy between the grotesque effects and the beautiful interpretations, and the aura of doom in the depths of the sea is strong enough to make the audience feel something.
Peter Weller, Amanda Pace, Richard Crenna and Ernie Hudson are all great in their roles, and Daniel Stern is always a pleasure to watch. The acting is perhaps better than the film itself, and that’s a rare feat for a film from the 80s. While most actors in these types of films seem out of place or ignorant, the actors in Leviathan deliver a spy show. It may not be the subject matter, but it’s good entertainment. If you’ve always wondered how the Thing performs underwater, you may be in the market for a Leviathan.
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