We start the Top 7. You finish the Top 10.
There's nothing more relaxing than a massage. And of course, the natural close second: watching some horrible mutation running amok, destroying whole cities and eating the faces right off the less important characters. Third would have to be aromatherapy and Gregorian chant music. So along those lines, and in honor of the deliciously freaky Splice, we decided to put together a list of the best homicidal creepy crawlies in movies. Feel free to use this list as a guideline for relaxation after a long, stressful day. Hot cocoa...screaming...a nice warm fire...bones crunching...
Recap:A space ship crashes on a sun-baked alien world and maroons a group of survivors, including a violent murderer (Vin Diesel). After some initial exploration and an unfortunate death or two, the survivors figure out that there are millions of horrible, shrieking monsters living in the dark places. Luckily, these creatures have a fatal reaction to sunlight and there seems to be plenty of it. Not so luckily, a 27-year long eclipse is on its way. Doh! Reason: Pitch Black depended exclusively on special effects, but it works. The movie itself is shot like some surreal fantasy internet art. It's bleached, it's sepia, it's strange, it's off...it just works. And even though the creatures themselves don't have any consistency (some of them fly, some of them stroll, some are small, etc.) the pacing is too fast to worry about it. Before you've had time to wonder about anything, someone has already been dragged off and devoured by--what basically amounts to--a pack of out-of-water, larger-sized piranhas. Oh, and they use sonar, like bats. And the movie shows us what it looks like when you "see" with sound. Loved it, loving it, still in love with it.
6. The Mutant Ants in Them! (1954)
Recap: The atomic testing in New Mexico has caused your garden variety ant to mutate into the giant ants from hell and all of humanity is threatened. At the onset of Them! the police find a little girl wandering alone in the desert. When they check the girl's trailer, they find that it has been destroyed by mysterious forces. A print is found and sent to the FBI. This attracts the attention of Dr. Medford (Edmond Gwenn), who recognizes the print as belonging to a common species of ant. The nest must be destroyed to save the world! Reason: We need a classic on this list and Them! was nominated for the Oscar for best special effects. You got to respect that. It was also one of the very first "huge mutated insect running amok" of the genre, thus paving the way for future movies about nasty bugs that threaten humanity. But most importantly, there are few insects with the sheer moxie of ants. Think about picking up a car with only your teeth and then carrying it back to your house without complaint, and then think about 50 million of you, and toss in a dash of bad temperament. That's a creature you don't want to run into.
Recap: Dr. Ross Jennings (Jeff Daniels) and his wife (Harley Jane Kozak) make the leap from big city to the country so they can kick back and be closer to nature. Unbeknownst to Jennings, a giant, killer South American spider has gotten its schwerve on with a regular house spider, and created a sweeping minion of deadly soldier spiders. Go spiders, go! Reason: First of all, Arachnophobia was made in the days when you couldn't lean on fancy CGI and so they actually used puppets and REAL spiders. Say what? I know, it's unbelievable. And--big shock--real spiders are way scarier than computer generated ones. Secondly, Arachnophobia goes against the normal "creature feature" vein in that you usually don't have something that's both A) Intelligent and B) Multitudinous, because then it's unlikely that the protagonists live. If you have a horde of something (zombies), you make them mindless idiots. Except these spiders are smart little buggers and there's hundreds of thousands of them. Spiderific!
4. The Giant Alien Fleas in Cloverfield (2008)
Recap: A huge monster attacks New York City and all we have left is the footage shot from a hand-held camera by a group of friends struggling to make it out alive. Reason: The main monster was neato, alright. I mean, it did the job. It screamed, a la Godzilla, and it marched through buildings, and it destroyed everything, and that was fine n' all. But what's far more disgusting and revolting than a gigantic monster eating New York City? That monster's giant fleas, that's what! Has anyone glanced at a flea? They are rife with ugly, snarling, malice. No one wants to run into a bigger version of that. And if they bite you, your stomach EXPLODES...in Cloverfield, not in real life (I had you worried, didn't I?). I'd take the huge monster over its fleas any day.
3. The Worms in Tremors (1990)
Recap: Monolithic subterranean worms descend on a dusty town out in the middle of nowhere and start feasting on the inhabitants. Not unlike the giant worms in Dune, these monsters hunt by following the slightest vibration in the ground. Reason: These worms are wicked cool and they were carefully designed with their habitat in mind. Their bodies are covered with barbs and their mouths are made like drill bits, so they can tunnel like lightning up through the soil and snack on any nearby pedestrians. Creature features aren't usually this scientific about their antagonist; the filmmakers want something that looks bad ass, even if it's not technically feasible or even practical in its chosen environment. Not so with the worms. The worms are the undisputed rulers of their roost.
Recap: In Seoul, Korea, the Han River is teetering on the edge of "way too polluted," when a visiting American scientist forces a colleague to dump toxins down the drain...thus morphing the Han from "dirty" into "seething cesspool incubator from hell." Shortly thereafter, a giant, inventive mutant creature emerges from the Han and wreaks joyful havoc on the city. Reason: Two things: first, this creature is awesome. It's creatively designed, seamlessly implemented, and fast and acrobatic like a cross between a velociraptor, Mary Lou Retton, a tadpole, and Gozilla. Put those four elements together and what you have is one of the coolest fictional creatures to grace movie screens in decades. Second, this creature ain't shy. You know how most monsters creep around in the shadows and take a while to show themselves to the public at large? Well, Giant Mutant Monkey Tadpole, or GMMT, introduces itself as quickly as possible--almost with a "Ta-dah!" It charges merrily through a crowded park without a care in its monster world, stomping and chomping its way into tomorrow. It's clear the filmmakers didn't have the budget for the GMMT, because it's not in the movie nearly enough. Still, anytime spent with it is time well spent.
1. The Alien in Alien (1979)
Recap: A mining ship lands on an isolated planet to investigate a distress signal and they inadvertently bring an alien species back on board with them. The alien goes from a relatively small and wimpy pupae to the most incredible, beautiful, evil, gorgeous, vicious, sexy monster ever in the history of creature features. It systematically wipes out the entire crew one by one, until only Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) is left to fight. Reason: Oh, Xenomorph! You had me at AAAAAAIIIIIIIEEEE *CRUNCH* *SLOBBER* *SLURP*! You are truly the greatest creature. You have the best design, like the Lamborghini of monsters. You have the best defense mechanisms: super fast, spear-like tail, a protracting mouth with a reach of nearly 12 inches, big claws, hive mentality...what am I forgetting? It's right on the tip of my...AND ACID FOR BLOOD. No one can replace you. You can't even replace you (see Alien 3). When Ridley Scott, God bless him, made Alien (and James Cameron made Aliens) he used mechanical puppets and dudes in costumes and the result is the most convincing, most terrifying monster in all the land. You are in good company, Xenomorph, but you'll always be homecoming king. And homecoming queen. GET AWAY FROM HER, YOU BITCH!