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Creature Features 2003 Rundown

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Straight-to-video monster flicks have always been a staple in the video industry, but the past few years have seen an explosion. From killer bee’s, giant octopi, wasps, dragons, and sharks, and leeches, there seems to be no end in sight. It’s a guilty pleasure of mine to force myself through the best and the worst, but my collection will never get smaller no matter how bad a specific film may be. For your reading pleasure, I have dissected some of this years feature’s below. Some of the films were shot in 2K2, but all made it to DVD in 2003. There were more than this, but I have only seen these film below.

1. Python II: This sequel to the classic original (in which Jenny McCarthy has her head torn clean off) isn’t all that bad. We get a double dose of the venomous title creature as a plane carrying a top-secret device goes down in Russia. Stuck with no choice, both Americans and Russians are caught in the crossfire, trying to survive. The effects are above par, especially for CG effects. Yes, they still look insanely fake, but given the budget, they work. The campy feel of the first one has been dropped, but it’s probably for the better. Sadly, Jenny McCarthy remains dead and makes no appearance. The DVD offers up a nice 5.1 mix and a widescreen presentation. If you need a dose of giant snake and you’ve already seen the first one, this isn’t a bad choice.

2. Crocodile 2: Death Swamp: Surprising sequel to the first, marred only by the most inept actors on the planet. That, and a script which has a word starting with “F” every 15 seconds. A hijacked plane goes down in a Mexican swamp which of course houses the title creature. It’s a big ëun and the body count and gore factor remain quite high. Effects are slightly above average, but a few of the CG shots are laughable. Not for their quality, but thanks to some of the inane animation routines. The ending is standard fare but the entire package as a whole is a more than worthy edition to the genre. Again, we get a widescreen print and Dolby Pro-Logic soundtrack.

3. Dragon Fighter: Dean Cain takes us through this one, a fairly boring flick until the final chapter when things really get going. This one was made for TV (Sci-Fi channel) and has military scientists cloning dragons. Yeah, it’s a far stretch, but if you can believe the dragon exists in the first place, there’s no reason not to believe it can’t be cloned. Special effects shots are recycled almost every time the creature is spotted walking down the same hallway with the same lighting and the same expression. The dragon itself is a great design, and it all works for the finale featuring an aerial battle between F-16’s and the escaped creature. It’s worth if for the finish alone. The DVD offers up standard full frame (I’m assuming it was shot this way so it’s ok) and Dolby 2.0.

4. Snake Island: For every decent flick like Python, we get another like Snake Island. This abomination has a group of inept tourists going for a vacation boat ride down a river in who-knows-where. When their boat conveniently breaks down on (gasp!) Snake Island, the fun begins. We are shocked to learn that snakes (gasp!) rule the island. It gets worse when the group starts to party and turn on some (and I quote) “Funky Latino tunes” and the snakes DANCE! Gasp! There is never really any reason given for their actions, they just seem to like to kill people. It’s even funnier to think that these people are surprised when they discover the snakes. It’s called Snake Island genius! There’s some brief nudity, but trust me when I say it’s not worth it. DVD is standard full frame with Dolby Pro-Logic support.

5. Killer Rats: My vote for the direct-to-video-creature-feature of the year. This little Canadian flick has a really nice, tension filled plot and some decent rat effects. Seems that the Brookdale Institute for the wealthy and insane was home to some genetic experiments on rats. These mean bastards have bredÖa lot. There’s even a nice big one that really deals out the damage. Well, everyone gets stuck inside and it’s a war with the altered rodents. There are a few scenes of camp (The exterminator segment really should’ve been cut.) and a few CG effects are worse than normal. However, the acting, setting, lighting, and sense of horror really shine through. I was unable to track down a widescreen version so I’m assuming either it doesn’t exist or it was shot this way.

6. Shark Attack 3: Megaladon: A great premiseÖ.actually, anything featuring the mother of prehistoric sharks has a great premise. Sadly, the execution here is laughable. Not related to the first 2 in anyway, this film centers around a wealthy investor person who takes his cruise boat out to sea when he was warned not to. Guess what happens next? Yeah, the entire finale features just about the entire cast beaten chomped on, but notice that all the shark footage has probably been lifted from the Discovery Channel. When interaction between human and shark is needed, a simple, poorly executed matte shot is completed. It’s really bad beyond comprehension. Note that when this one plays on TV, one of the funniest censored lines ever makes an appearance: “Bullsquat!” That pretty much sums this one up. Full screen, Dolby 2.0.

7. Shark Zone: Think SA3 had a ton of re-used footage? It’s has nothing on Shark Zone. Not only is 90% of the shark footage lifted from “Shark Week,” but other films as well. An explosion segment is lifted from what I believe was last years “Octopus,” a school of fish shot Iíd swear was from “Jaws,” and even a few clips from SA3 make an appearance, sans the bad matte. None of the video matches correctly and it’s painfully obvious. The film even recycles it’s own footage. To it’s credit, there is a decent amount of tension, there’s a ton of death, lots of red bodily fluids, and some so-so acting, but the use of shark footage is inexcusable. Again, we get a full frame print and standard Dolby 2.0.

8. Leeches: We end with Leeches. The latest of the batch and a film I was not prepared for. There should be some kind of warning on the box. 40 minutes of this films 80 or so minute running time is filled with hot male bodies taking off their clothes in slow motion. Seriously. After a bit of research, I have discovered the company specializes in films of this nature. Hey, I have no problem with anybody, but if the film is catering to a specific group, don’t put a hot chick on the cover. Anyway, it centers around a college swim team taking steroids to enhance their performance (which is beaten into your head 20 times over) and the leeches feeding off their blood. Of course, they grow to inhumane sizes because of it and the killing begins. You have to question why the Leeches only kill people either associated with or related to the with the team. The effects are done almost entirely with hand puppets or rubber creatures on strings. If it weren’t for the slow motion, this film would’ve easily come in at under an hour, and that’s not an exaggeration. It’s bad, real bad. If anything is done right, it’s the decent widescreen print, director commentary (don’t ask) and 5.1 sound.

That wraps it up for this session. In case your actually interested in any of these nicheí titles, check out Amazon or Blockbuster video who always seems to have a ton of these on hand.

Originally posted on Breaking Windows.

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for His current passion project is the technically minded You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.