The Good, the (Not) Bad & the Ugly: “They (mostly) Came From Outer Space!”

Premise first: There are a million cinematic genres out there just waiting for you to find them. Within those genres are countless films ranging from atrocious to (hopefully) all time great. We care at OGR, so since 2012 we have been occasionally highlighting a different genre and identifying which films in your respective genre are;

The GOOD: 8 / 10 and above

They might not all be great, but we wholeheartedly recommend that you check these out, as they represent some of the best the genre has to offer.

The (NOT) BAD: 6.5 / 10 to 7.5 / 10

These films might have a few flaws and probably won’t blow you away, but they aren’t terrible, boast at least a few decent moments and who knows there might just find a gem or two in here that works better for you.

&

The UGLY: 6 / 10 and below

Films that are ordinary at best, and worse… not much joy to be found here I’m afraid.

For the most part I will let the full reviews in the links tell the story. Feel free to let me know what I missed or which of your favourites is ranked too low.

they%20came%20from%20outer%20spaceGuests from outer space…
Or somewhere else nearby

Apparently the human race isn’t interesting enough at times. Quite often we find the need to import characters from elsewhere to spice up our films.

The success of this outsourcing is patchy, with the usual pyramid shaped results (lots of crap films at the bottom, a few moderate successes in the middle, and a small number of classics at the very top) requiring a lot of movie watching in order to sift out the wheat from the chaff.

Often but not always, the key to the film is the quality of the monster, alien or creature in the film. As an example the H.R. Giger ‘alien’ is an incredibly well-realised beast, menacing in appearance, with a well thought out life cycle and amazing traits including acid for blood. It even gives good reason for needing humans as hosts for its young, though it’s fair to say that after Sigourney Weaver gave the alien race the old heave-ho a few times the aliens probably just don’t like us much.

The fact is though that the alien franchise never actually arrived in Earth, which was ultimately my dividing line between whether I included them on this list or not. So I left the Alien Quadrilogy off the list (though the series is mentioned liberally in this website elsewhere).

(For the record ET should be in here in the next section, but it’s one of those films I can never bring myself to review.)

So let’s get right to it, The Good, The (not) Bad, and the Ugly of films where a being from outer space drops in for a visit.

aliensjkjkThe Good,

The Blob

blobA pink viscous alien creature with thoughts of domination… Can I get a ‘Hell Yeah!’?

Things start out small, but as it comes into contact with living tissue the Blob absorbs them into itself, growing ever larger and probably moving ever closer to needing the biggest dump in history.

The humour and creative effects make it a good movie, the Blob gives them license to be both silly and funny.

Nice, neutral or nasty? Nasty (see ‘World Domination’ above)

District 9

district 9Neil Blomkamp’s first and to date still best film has the aliens arrive almost as refugees, seeking food, shelter and respite.

Of course we humans immediately segregate them (in South Africa – natch) and have them looking skywards and thinking of home.

Nice, neutral or nasty? Misunderstood.

ET

EtCome on. How can we not include the most famous visitor of all time?

To be honest I haven’t watched ET this millennium. But obviously Spielberg’s film about the diminutive pot-bellied alien is a family friendly classic.

Nice, neutral or nasty? Nice.

Grabbers

grabbers-concept-art-2Someone saw Tremors and had the brainwave of replicating the graboids and placing them above ground and fuelled by water and blood.

It was cliched and very reminiscent of (their lawyers told me to say that and not ‘ripped from) Tremors in so many ways, but humorous and harmless enough to be worth checking out.

Nice, neutral or nasty? Nasty, unless you have a skinfull, in which case they are neutral. The opposite of the police.

Gremlins

Gremlins_film_h1Even if you are foolish enough to feed them after midnight, Gremlins are more pests than fiendish or natural killers. Of course exceptions apply, like if you have automated stairs for the elderly or are a shopkeeper with a cinema or a bar.

Still, if you are dumb and weak enough to be offed by a Gremlin then you’re probably not really equipped enough to deal with real life anyway.

Nice, neutral or nasty? Mischievous? How can they be nasty when they are from something so cute?

The Host

the-host-first-showdownIn this case the ‘somewhere’ is American army corruption, and the resulting creature is a huge axolotl type thing with slimy tendrils.

And there is more than one.

The actual film is really about far more than the monster, there are sly political digs and an in depth look at the pressures and strains crisis situations can place on a family, but as far as big CGI monsters go the beasties move well, look effective and apparently digest human bodies well…

Nice, neutral or nasty? Neutral. I would say at worst they are instinctive.

The Mist

the mistThe creatures were many and varied. Some appeared as only slithering tentacles, some were essentially giant bugs, still others were big daddy long legs mofos.

But in the end lets not fool ourselves, the film was totally saved by the awesome ending and not the monsters that turned to ruin things in the first place.

Nice, neutral or nasty? Nasty. Nasty. Nasty.

Predator

predator-1987-sliceBecause you can’t have a list about beasties without the big dreadlocked daddy. The metal masked, well equipped, fishnet wearing, gas huffing mother of all that is alien and unholy.

In fact like its primary target in the first film, Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Predator’s only obvious weakness is speech, otherwise it is battling with Alien for top billing here.

Nice, neutral or nasty? Is he a hunter just doing his job? Or a vicious killer? He’s neutral enough if you’re not armed…

Slither

slitherThe film rocked. The monsters rocked. Ok the slithery flatworm looking things weren’t amazing by themselves – though the scene where they were most rife was cool – but the huge incubator-lady was insanely gross and hilarious, and the massive conjoined Grant-Grant being that absorbs hypnotised followers simultaneously grotesque and magnificent.

Nice, neutral or nasty? Hilariously nasty.

Splinter

Splinter-handMore a parasite than a monster, though once it works its way into a host it is quite capable of impelling them to act in memorable ways and to commit violent acts.

One of those refreshing B movies where the film is actually better than the beastie.

Nice, neutral or nasty? Nasty.

Split Second

splitsecondIf it weren’t for the presence of Rutger Hauer this would likely be a forgettable serious low budget sci-fi flick. But Hauer can’t keep a straight face with an eight foot tall scaly monster running around tearing the hearts from people. And mailing them around. Split Second is still not great, but a few jokes and Hauer’s deadpannery makes it memorable.

Nice, neutral or nasty? Deliciously B movie nasty.

Super 8

Super 8Again the creature is the side dish to the main course of Goonies via Stand by Me ‘departing childhood innocence and embracing young adulthood’ story, but once the octopus giant spider hybrid shows you can’t argue that it isn’t effective.

I fact I wish they used the alien being more, maybe by tacking on… ‘And giant octopus spider hybrids also’.

Nice, neutral or nasty? I’ll go neutral.

The Thing

thething460The Thing has the capacity to take on the appearance of whatever is needed, and to somehow replicate the speech patterns and dialogue of its host on the fly so as not to draw attention to itself. And if exposed it has the power to tear the host – and everyone with the audacity to take it on – into shreds.

As such it’s like the creature version of actor Tom Hardy.

Nice, neutral or nasty? Nasty indeed.

Tremors

tremors-1990-graboid-2There were monsters before and monsters since, but Tremors was the perfect blend of drama, character, humour, horror and action. Of course it didn’t hurt that the couple of scenes in which the ‘graboids’ were highlighted were masterpieces in creature design and effects, and the other sequences where they ‘moved’ about the desert floors in and around Perfection were low rent examples of B movie creativity at its finest.

Nice, neutral or nasty? Again instinctive, with nasty results.

Troll Hunter

Troll-Hunters-image

Troll-Hunters-image

Trolls still exist in Norway. It’s true. I saw them in a movie. Some are short squat and hairy, some are tall and thin, others are gargantuan and ornery. All are trolls.

Watch the film if you don’t believe me. It’s a documentary.

Nice, neutral or nasty? Depends, and that’s why they’re so fascinating. You’ll just have to read the rule book…

paul-movieThe (Not) Bad

While some of the films below deserve partial credit for their effort, they each lack some intangible that prevents them from making a mark.

That said I wouldn’t complain if someone put one of these films on (I would for the films in the next section), I just wouldn’t be as excited.

The Abyss

abyssWhether they are alien or not is open for discussion. What is obvious is that they reside underwater and have the ability to make water take any form that they desire. They are also the only beings capable of forcing director James Cameron into a less than great film.

Nice, neutral or nasty? Ultimately neutral – as are my feelings for the film itself.

Attack the Block

attack the blockI don’t like Attack the Block as much as most seem to, but I don’t think it’s all that bad.

Essentially a horde of pitch black long fanged ‘Sully from Monsters Inc’ types land on Earth  in a sketchy area in London and get straight to being… well almost as menacing as the locals.

Sure the creatures are vicious and feral, you just can’t shake the thought that come daylight a few guys with a few bats could set them straight on what it takes to be ‘ard in quick time.

Nice, neutral or nasty? Nasty little buggers these ones.

Battle L.A.

battle laIf you shut your eyes you could totally see the alien invaders in Battle: Los Angeles as merely another invading force, only they come from above and are scaly and alienesque. Disappointing really.

Of course if you shut your eyes for the exercise you also run the risk of being blown away by the alien invaders, or deafened by the inane chatter of the human forces defending their worthless city.

Nice, neutral or nasty? Velly nasty indeed considering they arrive to takeover the world.

Cloverfield

Cloverfield3It’s amazing that the first movie featuring a Godzilla-like beast and handheld footage wasn’t made by the Japanese… Everyone get it that’s gonna get it?

Once the large monster is finally unveiled in a series of glimpses and distant blurs, we learn that it is multi-faceted but unremarkable, kinda like the film.

Nice, neutral or nasty? Quite nasty, though in a PG way…

Godzilla 2014

godzilla 14A slightly better effort, though still with obvious flaws. This effort cribs the Transformers / Pacific Rim idea of at least having something of similar size for ‘Zilla to punch, lest it seem too one-sided a battle. It even tries to make the big beastie into the sympathetic body-guard for humanity.

No idea where that concept will take them, all I know is as long as there are cities to trample, there will be huge computer generated monsters on standby… one year they might make a good one.

Nice, neutral or nasty? Apparently Nice, though the inevitable sequel will likely change that.

Independence Day

$T2eC16FHJHwFG2JIDeD+BSQcQRGb!g~~60_1Never underestimate the binding power that is generated by having the bad guys target the things we love. In this case ‘the things we love’ are famous landmarks the world over, like the alien race could only find a planetary map designed for use in a family restaurant. As the alien forces first hovered over, then nuked, famous landmarks – mostly in the United States – audiences across the globe pleaded with Will Smith to AVENGE US.

He did, and it made his career. And I for one cannot wait for this year’s reboot… *VOMIT*

Nice, neutral or nasty? Oh so nasty in intent, but equally bland in both appearance and action.

Men In Black

men in blackLess than 12 months after vanquishing a one off alien invasion, Will Smith decides to make a career of it, teaming alongside a straight-faced Tommy Lee Jones to evict all of the great number of unruly aliens that mingle among us daily.

The film is mostly fun and reasonably funny – the sequels less so – but this is formulaic kid-friendly stuff. Independence Day gave Smith a platform and a license to mug. Men in Black shows that Smith was willing to push that license to extreme lengths.

Nice, neutral or nasty? In lazy PG comedies even the nasty aliens are ultimately nice.

Midnight Meat Train

mmt-5For a long while the monster in Midnight Meat Train is Vinnie Jones and his pristine silver hammer. But that’s until near the conclusion of the film when some new beasties pop up unexpectedly. They’re humanesque giant lizards who crave human flesh and live in the remote unused subway tunnels.

In reality the lizard people represent 1% of MMT and 99% of what is frustrating about MMT. I mean the movie would have been a perfectly competent little horror flick without them, by including them it left you with a nasty aftertaste as the film ended.

Nice, neutral or nasty? Definitely nasty, but selectively so. They seem to only take what they can eat.

Mimic

mimicThe subway systems of New York City are a veritable breeding ground for all kinds of beasties and nefarious types.

Consider for example some hyper-evolved cockroaches looking humanoids with the ability to move about unnoticed, even though they are bigger than the fridges that normal cockroaches scurry under when the light flicks on.

Nice, neutral or nasty? Like The Host more instinctive, but that necessitates occasional nasty behaviour.

Monsters

monsters-dark-continent-4Admired for being an ultra-low budget film that made minor waves a couple years ago, once again Monsters is more a gruelling and dangerous road trip film than a creature feature, with the monsters providing only the motivation, with occasional appearances to (allegedly) spice things up.

You’d think you might find a way to work incredible octopi-like creatures many stories tall with scads of tentacles into the storyline a bit more. But you’d be wrong.

Nice, neutral or nasty? Probably neutral – though their size means simply getting around puts humans at risk.

Pacific Rim

Pacific_Rim_2_72558Dang it all looked pretty cool. Giant man made robot shaped war machines taking on stupendously big and bright creatures that suddenly emerged from the magma at the Earth’s core through huge fissures.

So the film was a huge mess of ideas and a plot with holes wide enough that one of those creatures could wander through. So some of the accents were crappy and the characters were either super-thin or over-developed. So… oh wait, those are all bad things.

Nice, neutral or nasty? The sheer damage created and a willingness to be the aggressor seems nasty.

Silent Hill

silent hillNo idea where the eerie and disconcerting creatures that inhabit Silent Hill and haunt the dreams of those unfortunate enough to come into their radar – probably the imagination of a scruffy loser who lives in a basement.

Regardless, the first film introduced big triangle head guy, the second the operating room of the damned and huge creepy mannequin guy.

The problem is both films have better design ideas than actual film ideas.

Nice, neutral or nasty? More creepy than nasty. But infinitely more nasty than the other two descriptors.

Species

SpeciesSplice, minus the faux seriousness and the meaningful rationale behind the nudity, and Species are all the better for it. Aliens ’email’ genetic code to create a super creature. Humans mindlessly heed the code and put it together, then complain when it starts roaming the city in the nude and eating horny guy’s faces off.

Nice, neutral or nasty? Depends on whether it’s the ‘attracting a mate’ (read: nudity) part or the ‘finished with you’ (read: killing the male) part.

 

Splice

splice2Someone saw Species and thought ‘with just a little tweak I could (pretend) to class this up and make it semi-serious’.

They didn’t quite manage of course, they still had to include a few unnecessary nude scenes and come up with a grab bag of creature abilities to justify the 90 odd minutes.

In the end the most notable aspect of the creature was that it kinda looked like a hot girl and was willing to disrobe for no reason. Admirable traits I would argue…

Nice, neutral or nasty? Seems quite neutral.

under the skinUnder the Skin

Scarlett Johansen walks around Scotland picking up random guys – hardly a challenge – before taking them home to preserve their bodies in a jelly like substance.

This is what living in a lava lamp must feel like, but I cannot join the chorus of those calling for it to be recognised as an all time great.

Nice, neutral or nasty? Scar-Jo is niiiiiice, but in the film she is lethally neutral.

mac and me& The Ugly

A recurring issue with films listed below is that describing the creatures has me reaching for comparisons with other, better films. Usually the films that they ripped the design from in the first place.

From my viewpoint it’s hard to provide an original description for a being that isn’t original in the first place. (Try to explain a Coke can in fifteen different ways and you’ll see what I mean.)

Also, many of the following movies are pretty crappy, so my memories of them are perhaps a little fuzzy.

Alien Uprising

alien uprisingSomeone took three half finished scripts from a bin, convinced Jean Claude Van Damme’s daughter that she could be a star (then convinced her to ask Daddy to complete a cameo), then blew the shopping budget for the next three weeks on inferior CGI.

This is terrible. The aliens are terrible. The acting and effects horrendous. In fact I cannot think of a reason for this to exist,

Nice, neutral or nasty? Nasty (but not as nasty as the film).

Alone in the Dark

alone in the darkI couldn’t begin to tell you what this film is really about. I think the worst creature of all is one called ‘Tara Reid’, who really should change her name to Lindsay Lohan Mark 1.

Also something happens that opens a portal to another evil dimension, unleashing a bunch of fiendish creatures upon Earth.

Still, Tara Reid is scarier.

Nice, neutral or nasty? Anything with Tara Reid is nasty.

The Cave

caveAs The Descent showed a lot can happen in a dark and isolated cave if the leave things alone long enough. Apparently evolution works faster in the dark…

In any case the boogedies and scares are lifted straight from the Alien franchise, though with none of the care, craftsmanship and creativity of either of the aforementioned films.

Nice, neutral or nasty? Again instinctive, with nasty results for the unsuspecting.

Critters

crittersSee Gremlins, but with worse jokes, worse effects and the taint of character duplication filling the air.

And more unnecessary sequels clogging the DVD shelves.

Nice, neutral or nasty? Just… rubbish really.

The Day the Earth Stood Still

Day-The-Earth-Stood-Still--GortBeautiful alien Keanu Reeves arrives from deep space, remaining placid and unmoved while the world around him loses their collective shit. Unfortunately this continues, with much action surrounding an equal amount of unentertaining nothingness.

Put another way, at the time I was happy to label this film as ‘Two Hours my Pulse Stood Still’.

Nice, neutral or nasty? Neutral I guess. Definitely boring.

Deep Rising

deep-rising-monster_12I’ve been trying to erase this film from my memory for a few years now. My recollections are giant deep sea octopuses with leech heads.

Now leave me alone, I have to re-supress some bad memories…

Nice, neutral or nasty? Everything about this is nasty.

Feast

FeastSome guys won a TV reality show contest which resulted in them having a movie greenlit and produced. They realised that horror is good, relatively simple and cheap. They came up with a hairy breed of vicious monster that is relatively simple and cheap, but in no way is it good.

Then somehow they were given license to make two more films that were just as bad.

Nice, neutral or nasty? Nasty – and cheap and tacky.

Godzilla 1998

godzilla-1998Speaking of Godzilla, before computers were invented it took a guy in a suit and a series of clever camera angles to make the locals run in fear.

To be honest I haven’t seen the Japanese versions, but at least the Matthew Broderick film in the 90s had a cool Rage Against the Machine song on the soundtrack to distract us from how lousy it was…

Nice, neutral or nasty? This one was nasty – as was the film.

The Invasion

invasion1A space shuttle returns to Earth and within days much of the population appears slightly off, more formal, more stilted, more removed from typical human behaviour. Remarkably enough Nicole Kidman is one of the unaffected, given that the previous sentence describes her to a ‘t’.

With confusion reigning everyone kind of stands about wondering what to do next. The audience does the same.

Nice, neutral or nasty? Aliens shouldn’t be coming here to bore us to death. We have Nicole Kidman films to do that.

Outlander

outlander-monsterQuite frankly I hardly remember and I can’t be bothered revisiting the film, so can I just quote myself from my 2010 review by saying “the aliens look like the Keymaster and Keykeeper statues from Ghostbusters, with CGI that is often lazy and cheap looking”.

Now you can decide if the film is worth tracking down.

Nice, neutral or nasty? Nasty but ineffectual.

The Relic

therelicThe physical embodiment of an ancient South American demon unlocked after a curse and spliced into living matt should really be a little more than a big slimy creature that you only see fleetingly in the last 15 minutes of the film.

Actually there are a lot of things about The Relic that are less satisfying then they could be.

Nice, neutral or nasty? Nasty.

Skyline

skylineAliens in giant elaborate spaceships appear initially as vivid beams of blinding light. They are here for our big juicy brains.

If this film is evidence of what the human brain is capable of they have wasted a trip.

Nice, neutral or nasty? See Battle L.A. but think 400 times worse.

Transformers

transformersI’ve never seen these films. And if there was a soapbox nearby I would happily step onto it and tell one and all that society would be better off without them.

I always wondered what was so good about being a truck that turns into a robot. Or a car that turns into a robot. Do they need dual servicing for both states? A tune up for the car followed by a laser weapon realignment for the robot? Did any robots ever die after they left the glovebox open, with the tiny light slowly sapping their lifeforce?

Does Michael Bay ever pause while strolling the grounds of his palace and shed a single tear at the fact the devil will soon be calling for his soul?

Nice, neutral or nasty? They seem nasty to me.

War of the Worlds

war_of_the_worlds__2005_Tom Cruise must single-handedly take on an alien invasion that sensibly pre-disarms us and pulls off the mother of all surprise attacks.

The effects are fine, the cast is OK, and the director is Steven Spielberg, all reasons I have used to justify ‘ugly’ status, as those things should all be pluses, and this is a giant shrug.

Nice, neutral or nasty? The aliens are very nasty.

Xtro

xtro-1983-02-gEmerging from nowhere and with no discernible goals aside from being weird, Xtro lands on Earth all slimy, slender and awkward limbed and sets to making one families’ life awkward, and the viewing experience as surreal as anything that has existed in decades.

Nice, neutral or nasty? Neutral.

Summing Up

alfYou’ll notice above that a bunch of the monsters look similar. There are aliens that look ‘alieny’ and a bunch of monsters that are more teeth than anything else. Another sign that the film is either low budget or low inspiration is that the monsters always seem to be standing in shadows, because the filmmakers decide that they don’t look good enough to actually show off.

While there are directors out there looking for something to point a camera at – and undiscerning ticket buyers willing to continually come up with enough dough to make them profitable – there will be creatures of all shapes and sizes from all over the universe descending upon Earth to perpetrate varying levels of damage upon us.

I for one am impelled to check out most such films that are born from these efforts, and with the improvements in CGI and other technology there are only going to be more in future years.

Hopefully more are of the calibre of Alien or The Thing as opposed the films nearer the bottom of the page…

We’ll see.

OGR

About OGR

While I try to throw a joke or two into proceedings when I can all of the opinions presented in my reviews are genuine. I don't expect that all will agree with my thoughts at all times nor would it be any fun if you did, so don't be shy in telling me where you think I went wrong... and hopefully if you think I got it right for once. Don't be shy, half the fun is in the conversation after the movie.
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