Category Archives: Creature Features

Creature Features: A Closer Look At The Movie Magic Of “Independence Day”

CREATURE FEATURES: A CLOSER LOOK AT THE MOVIE MAGIC OF "INDEPENENCE DAY

Creature Features is back and we’re forgoing the BBQ to celebrate the 90s’ classic that would not go quietly into the night- Today we celebrate INDEPENDENCE DAY.

Man, I’ll never forget the hype for this movie. I was fourteen years old and was basically the talk of the Summer. The “Fresh Prince” himself Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum and aliens? WE’RE ALL IN ALREADY.

The film originally titled Doomsday, but was sealed with a chef’s kiss to what we now know as Independence Day thanks to Bill Pullman’s pumped up ‘MURICA speech in the film, was indeed a visual spectacular for audiences in 1996. And of course, a big round of applause for practical effects as it wins again- this time even an Oscar!

As we all understand, something like this takes a massive team to pull off. However, Volker Engel, Patrick Tatopoulos, Douglas Smith, Clay Pinney, Mike Joyce, and Joe Viskocil were some of the most notable faces of the special effects mastery. Unlike the films’ latter sequel, the movie relied heavily on old school tricks like miniature models for some of the more complicated scenes; like you know blowing up the White House which was actually measured at 15-feet wide and 5-feet high. In fact, 95 percent of the film was shot using miniatures with motion-control cameras.

As cool as that is, what really tickles my nostalgic tits is the movie magic aliens. Grant it this was supposed to be a family affair with it being a holiday Summer Blockbuster and all. But we all damn well know when President Whitmore went face to glass with one of these suckers’ at Area 51, you got the goddamn chills in that scene. Don’t you deny it.

Engal (seen below in the video) states he wanted to do something familiar yet new when it came to designing the creatures. The shots for the creatures were mostly dudes in fantastic costumes with effects coordinators controlling the limbs mechanically. So once again, puppeteering wins this round for monster magic.

‘PREDATOR!’ Retrospective Of The Classic Film And A Look At Some Of Its Original Designs

The Decade of alien parasites, killer cyborgs, and, oh yes, the Predator

It was the ‘80s, the magical decade of mother fucking HEAVY METAL culture. Iron Maiden, AC/DC, and Ronnie James Dio captivated our airwaves and MTV was in its infancy and proving to be nothing but pure A1 classic kick-ass amazement. Spike studs lined leather jackets and chains hung off jeans. Of course, us kids were running around in MOTU underwear and that was just as badass. It was a glorious time to be alive. 

And that Heavy Metal attitude penetrated all aspects of culture, but no medium was more impacted by this heavy cord-shredding phenomenal attitude (adjustment) than cinema. Hell, even My Little Pony movies were saturated with some heavy rock n roll. It wasn’t music for us. It was literally a way of life. One that remains with us over here at Nightmare Nostalgia. 

So it was no surprise when that same Metal attitude began popping up in our movies. And us hardcore kids knew that if the movie was rated R it meant absolute quality.  

So you could say there must have been something in the air, or it could have been all that cocaine executives sucked up their noses back then, but we could count on some imperially spectacular films! The time of hardcore inspiration was on and we rode it like it was a metal crunching dragon! We were lucky enough to grow up with AliensTerminator, and Robocop. They hit the theater big and they hit the audience hard like a fist punching through a wall.  

It was like a quick kick of roaring diesel to the mind that revved us up and made us kids a bunch of screaming monsters out on the playground. “Did you see Terminator? He cut his eye out in front of the mirror!” and so the schoolyards were filled with us describing each one of these movies to each other. I think we may have gotten a little spoiled and just expected every single ball blazing movie to be a mad rush of fury, fights, and ferocious suspense. 

But then among these high-octane sci-fi/horror fusions came a lethal creature from another world who sought to slay the most dangerous killers on planet Earth – that means us, my nasties. And I’m talking about none other than the Predator. If one single film could jump on top of your desk and kick your teeth in while expecting you to be grateful for it it’s this movie. 

If you like Aliens and Terminator you’re gonna love this guy!

It wasn’t enough that the film sported Arnold Schwarzenegger, who alone amassed an onslaught of loyal fans thanks to his movies (ConanTerminator 1 & 2, Total Recall), and whose name was a seal of pure excellence over any project he was involved in, but this time around Arnold was leading a secret team of the meanest, baddest, and toughest hombres imaginable deep into the humid labyrinths of the South American jungle to slaughter some sumbitch guerrilla forces. 

This team of ultra badasses showed the world what manliness was all about. The majority of these guys were built just like tanks and they tore through that jungle with the most orgasmic firepower this side of DOOM and proved right away they are not with whom you want to fuck! There’s no man on earth who could outsmart, outmaneuver, or outgun Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and his team. The first part of the movie is a heavy metal ballad of heavy artillery and bullets shredding down guerrilla headquarters and no good bastards.  

It’s beautiful, but only because it sets up how indestructible these men are right before introducing the one thing that can make them run for their lives and cower down in the mud like children. 

This is a genius way to introduce your movie monster and speaks volumes to why people still love this creature. He alone slaughters, skins, and devastates the strongest men on the planet and he does so alone. Oh! And he does it for sport! 

Need I go on about the ultimate coolness of this beast from the stars? 

Using the trees as his advantage point, the Predator stalks Dutch and his team, systematically kills them one by one, and comes in silently to take away their dead comrades right from under their noses. 

His weapons include gauntlet blades, a shoulder cannon, and stealth technology that makes him practically invisible to the naked eye. He also has signature infrared vision making it nearly impossible to hide from him. He really is made to be the perfect killer. 

At its core, the film is a slasher horror film set in the sweltering heart of the jungle, which, if we’re being honest, jungles are fucking scary places on their own. So this is a one of a kind type of slasher movie and, as my nasties all know, I love slashers! I’ve even named a pet shark Slasher.

The look of death – designing the Predator

One major thing that stands out for any monster movie is how the creature looks, and, once again, Stan Winston brought life to another timeless creation.

Early Predator Design

However, it’s well-known by now that action star Jon Claude Van Dam was slated to play the part of the Predator. Some set pics are around showing off what he would have looked like too and… the original look had more in common with a big lobster bug than the monster we know today. 

Goddamn, I’m so happy someone on set looked at this thing and saw how stupid it looked. Someone just knew it was going to get laughed at and more money was poured into the budget to build a proper-looking intergalactic killing horror. 

Kevin Peter Hall (1955-1991) slipped on the monster suit and a whole new movie came to life.

Stan Winston (Aliens, Terminator, Jurassic Park) says he was on a flight and working out some of the designs for the Predator when James Cameron (Terminator 1,2, Aliens, Avatar) looked over to see his sketches. It was then that Cameron made the comment, “Know what I’ve always been interested in? Something with mandibles.” And so Winston quickly drew some mandibles over the creature’s mouth and they could not stop staring at it. Stan Winston knew he just discovered his newest movie monster. The Predator took on brand new life. 

And outside of the violence, I would say the main thing fans remember from the film is the Predator’s iconic look. Some didn’t even know that his true face was hidden under a very cool-looking mask. A mask that gets taken off in the final act as the last struggle comes down between the Predator and Dutch in a fistfight to the death. 

And I mean the Predator wipes the floor of the jungle with Dutch’s pretty face. 

It’s a nail-biter and packs a kick-you-in-the-nuts kind of intensity all the way to the nuclear blast of an ending. 

Predator is possibly more famous today than ever. What with the release of the new game, Predator: Hunting Grounds, on PS4, Steam, and Xbox, a renewed interest in the old and classic Dark Horse comics, and, one of my personal favorites, NECA’s ongoing toy releases.

Today I own at least a dozen different kinds of Predator figures thanks to them. NECA gives fans a new way to admire the classic monster by getting him into our hands where we can examine the details in his armor and features. Nothing short of pure art, folks, 

It remains one of the absolute best kind of creature feature flicks in film history today. One that is a must-watch and still holds up in 2021. Yes, it’s one of those voyages down the nostalgia river where metal, monsters, and mayhem thrive on from yesteryear.

It most certainly deserves a fresh re-watch.

Duu et. Duu et naow!!!

Images are thanks to Fox Studios, the Stan Winston school of special effects, Black Sabbath, and NECA

Creature Features: Facts and Trivia Behind The Special Effects of Poltergeist II: The Other Side

Whether you’re a fan or not of the follow up to Hooper/Spielberg’s 1982 paranormal pleasure Poltergeist, it goes without saying the special effects are spectacular and well-known throughout the industry as a majestic staple of the effects community. Hell, even the snooty Academy Awards recognized the visual terror of the film when it was nominated for Best Visual Effects during their 1987 award season.

While I can agree some of the plot points in The Other Side are a bit questionable, I’d be lying if I didn’t say it’s probably one of my horror movies period. Most of that credit goes towards Julian Beck’s portrayal of the malevolent reverend, Henry Kane; who basically traumatized a seven-year-old Patti into being terrified of old people for the next three years. Quite a feat and a legacy to leave behind as this was the actor’s last film role, and most likely, his most memorable. Just to refresh, Beck was suffering tremendously during shooting with pancreatic cancer and in terrible pain- which would account for his deathly appearance on screen and twisted look. It’s quite sad to think about it actually. However, at least we can take heart into knowing it wasn’t in vain as his character, at least in my own stupid opinion, is held in the highest regard as one of the most perfect villains’ in the horror universe.

I’m sure he’s smiling with his 10,000 teeth beyond the grave with that statement.

Tentacles seemed to be a recurring effect in the movie.  H.R. Giger, who provided the special effects designs, created several prospects but only two made it into the film, the vomit monster and “The Great Beast”. While I’m perfectly fine with these looks personally, some books on his art report that Giger was “very unhappy” with how his designs were translated to the film.

Before we get into the obvious scenes you’re expecting to see here, there were some other simple things like a dream sequence in which Diane is pulled into the ground by rotting skeletons, or another quick shot of dozens of ghostly spirits appearing all over the lawn that weren’t as recognized but looked visually stunning on film.  Then there was the part where Stephen and Taylor are having their warrior session and the smoke attacks him before entering his nostrils. And of course, the creepy toy scene where all the kids’ toys are possessed by Kane and his minions.

The movie was at one point to have been filmed in 3D. Several scenes such as the appearance of the Beast and the cheesy flying chainsaw during the garage escape were filmed to take advantage of the process. This idea was eventually abandoned after seeing the failures of other gimmicky 3D horror films of the decade such as the likes of Jaws 3-D (1983), and Amityville 3-D (1983), which were previous flops for studios. Speaking of the garage scene, it was originally written to have the infamous clown doll come back for a scare, trying to smash its way through the car windows! Even more cheesy? Maybe. But I’m ok with saying it would have been the most awesome cheese.

Those are all notable mentions, but the effects in the film really kick off with attack of the braces! The orthodontic horror kicks off the tentacle special effects theme throughout the film with poor Robbie getting nailed to a ceiling in a cocoon of metal thanks to his dental genetics.

Boss Film Studios, namely Richard Edlund, John Bruno, Garry Waller, and William Neil, was the design company handling the effects. They animated the magic through a mold that was placed over actor Oliver Robins’ head. The team placed straws inside the kid’s nose so he could breathe properly and a device attached to the mouth that would shoot out the metal tentacles through a remote. In the original script, Robbie was to be attacked by bees. However, the actor noted he had a debilitating fear against the insect. So hence, we get this glorious scene instead.

Moving further down toward tentacle terror, is the most recognizable scene from the film- The Vomit Creature. Kane was able to get into the house by possessing the worm in a bottle of tequila.  When Stephen swallowed the worm, it possesses him briefly until his body rejects the evil spirit. Out slithers this huge, slimy, H.R. Geiger inspired creature that quickly grows into a legless ghoul resembling the preacher.  That part was pretty horrifying.  It continued to grow until it resembled a massive column of evil, complete with monster claws that lifted Stephen off the ground; and then scare it off with that warrior smoke!

The creature, played by Vietnam veteran Noble Craig, was a triple amputee due to his war services. However, Craig is unsung in the horror community as playing multiple roles you might not even know about! Such as what is credited as “The Puddle Soldier” in 1988’s The Blob, “The Sewer Monster” in Big Trouble in Little China, and one of the very few people who got to play Freddy Krueger on the big screen in Nightmare 5: The Dream Child; in the scene where Freddy is bursting out of Alice’s body- that’s Craig.

The final few minutes of the film encounter the vomit creature Kane in it’s final form- The Great Beast. Unfortunately, the battle with the beast was originally much longer as with the rest of the film (a full forty minutes is said to have been cut from the movie), but nonetheless made its impact.

On the script sent to HR Giger, there was a scene in the entrance to the other side that involved a tunnel made with arms, bones and worms; and the Great Beast evolves into a massive living landscape that covers the other side. Which would have been cool to see but I’m guessing production budgets were an issue here. The ‘Beast’ itself was apparently a nightmare build for the team; so I suppose he sure does live up to his name.

Now, those are all fine concepts that looked great on film. But the most horrifying scene for me, was this goddamn transformation of Carol Anne becoming one with the beast.

And for the record, this just as creepy prop is the restoration of the Carol Anne bust that was partly used in that scene.

Tom Spina.com