Growing up as movie obsessed youth I cut my teeth on Harryhausen dynamation epics, action movies, and whatever monster flick my folks would let me put my hands on. As I grew older I moved on to more grotesque films and pursued the goriest of the gory and the most over the top action films I could find. Somewhere in there I missed a step though, loving simple creature films where the creature was the focus and not the red stuff. I have since mined the various genres for gooey treats and find myself less interested in the mayhem and more curious about more innocent monster movies. Creature Features is an excellent resource that fills that gap.
Creature Features: Nature Turned Nasty in the Movies, is a book with a simple mission statement: expose the reader to a plethora of monster flicks, many of which they may have never seen before. Each chapter is separated by a different kind of creature and the author takes us on a tour of the origins of that particular creature in film (bugs, dragons/dinosaurs/, animals attacking etc), up to films released recently. He cherry picks good examples (and some bad films too) and writes a synopsis of each including interesting trivia and reviews the films as well. After reading a few chapters, names keep popping up and he makes note of this so the reader can start to see how many of these creature films were made by and starring the same people. I love the historical context of the reviews. It’s great to know how each subgenre started and where they went over time. It puts each film in the correct context and paints a clear picture of the time and place in which the film was made so it’s better understood where it stands in the pantheon of creature films. It’s a very organized and clear approach that I appreciate.
The author does not discuss direct to video releases nor does he talk about films where gore is the main selling point. Because of this the book is far from comprehensive but that wasn’t the goal of the author to begin with. It’s clear the author has a passion for these films and has his own personal taste (he finds gore films highly distasteful) which I can understand. The writing is breezy and fun and never too stuffy which makes for an enjoyable read, and one that will have you taking notes on which films to watch next.
To be honest, I’m actually glad he doesn’t include direct to video movies (though I personally love those flicks!) or gore flicks (ditto!), because he doesn’t like them. It would be a chore to read a bunch of reviews for films the author detests. What would be the point? Also, there are numerous books on the subject of gory flicks so his coverage would likely have been redundant anyway.
If you’re in the mood for a good giant bug movie or dinosaur flick and you want to dive into the films of the 50’s and 60’s but don’t know where to start (there’s a lot of garbage out there), Creature Features will help direct you to the right place while educating you about the genre players so you can start to check out favorite director’s filmographies as well. It’s a fun book about a fun subject. What else do you need?