I was somewhat irrigated, though not troubled precisely, to find creature features categorized with “horror” films somewhere in my reading around on the web. Of course, one can find any manner of idiotic statements on the web. So while I doubt most would include creature features in the horror genre, I must say for the record that creature features are not horror movies. If one places creature features in the horror genre, one fails to recognize that creature features are largely childlike and innocent, as befits their ancient and mythic origins.
As I said, creatures in creature features are just bigger versions of “naturally” occurring regular creatures or, as I said, more than a usual number of some such creatures are featured, such as the many bees in the movie, Swarm, with the hard working Michael Caine or the many bats in the movie, Bats!” starring Lou Diamond Phillips or the movie Ants, with James Arness, who went on to become Matt Dillon.
A classic creature feature, with just one creature in it, is King Kong. King Kong is just your normal ape blown up a couple thousand times, and only the most salacious minds would find anything non-innocent in the inter-species relationship between the big Ape and his love interest, as originally portrayed by Faye Raye. Clearly the big Ape has a crush on Faye; and that’s the limit of it, anything other than that being strictly impossible and certainly life threatening to poor Faye. Now had the big Ape tried to get to third base or something—well, that would be horror. But he doesn’t and that’s why I say creature features truly defined are innocent and rather childlike.
All sorts of fortuitous things pop up. I don’t know how many times a group of people being pursued by some creature come to the edge of a huge canyon that they can’t get across, till somebody discovers a fallen tree trunk spanning the gulf. And then we get to watch as people crawl across the gulf on that tree, with some people, minor characters of course, inevitably falling in. Or if they don’t find a tree, they all just decide to jump into the gulf since there is a river down at the bottom of it, and they all land in the river and then they go over a waterfall.
One very childlike moment occurs in the classic Tremors. I know I have insisted that creatures in creature features are just normal creatures writ large, and some might claim that the creatures in this film—affectionately called “graboids”– are not naturally occurring. I would argue however that they are nothing but overgrown and highly implausible worms capable of traveling at speeds of up to 20 miles an hour in the ground no less.
But the characters in this movie, among them the actor Kevin Bacon, while being pursued by the graboids figure out that they are safe if they can get on a big rock. Unfortunately they get stuck on a big rock in the middle of nowhere, BUT, fortuitously and implausibly, they find 10 or 12 feet long pieces of plastic pipe, having been abandoned out in the middle of the desert for no apparently reason. These pieces of flexible pipe the characters then cleverly use to pole vault from one rock to another on their way to their escape vehicle. Something about the image of these people pole vaulting one after the other from rock to rock in the middle of the desert while being pursued by graboids captures for me the childlike innocence of the true creature feature.
This German poster for Tremors–Rocket Worms–may serve as evidence for my claim that the graboids are worms writ large.