Why Creature Features Have Been Mostly Reduced To Forgettable Syfy Original Movies

In the modern age, creature features don’t make much of a splash in the mainstream world. Sure, Godzilla vs. Kong and Jurassic World has nicely heated up the box office, and the monster from A Quiet Place has attracted many moviegoers, but these usually B-level type movies are more a rarity in theaters. Now, the Syfy channel is flooded with these types of movies: Sharknado, 5 Headed Shark, Sea Beast, or Sasquatch Mountain are just some of the 100s of creature features that the channel has on weekly. What was once a big draw in movies theaters has suddenly diminished greatly in the mainstream. So, what happened? Well, money happened. Creature flicks are not cheap to make for a Hollywood studio. The estimated budget for Godzilla vs. Kong was $200 million. In fact, all of the recent Godzilla and Kong movies (Kong: Skull Island, Godzilla, and Godzilla: King of the Monsters) range from $160 – $185 million. Jurassic World and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom was a combined budget of $315 million. Even A Quiet Place Part II was an estimated $61 million. The first film was around $18 million, but the monsters weren’t featured as much until the climax of the movie. Given the level of special effects, VFX, costumes, etc., creature movies are more so blockbuster affairs that are more of a risk than a reward. Godzilla has name value; thus, the reasoning executives are willing to shell out so much cash and A Quiet Place proved to be a box office winner.

Of course, it’s not impossible to make a cheap creature feature. Crawl was a small $13.50 million; the key thing is that the locations and cast were minimal. Piranha 3D was a solid $24 million. So, it’s not impossible to make these types of features for a low budget, but plenty of sacrifices have to be made in order to keep it that way. Piranha 3D made a nice profit of $83.10 million, but given the fact that its sequel, Piranha DD had its budget slashed and played in limited theaters, it doesn’t sound that the box office returns were enough. Crawl made about the same of $90 million. However, when you check out Syfy original films, they’re cheap, and the movies aren’t particularly hiding this fact. The effects are usually laughable, and the story tends to be garbage. There’s no proof that Syfy doesn’t care about the quality of their movies, but the channel is known for its notoriously bad movies. Sharknado got big because of the “so bad, it’s good” element that made it irresistible to watch. In truth, creature features are meant to be B-movie schlock for popcorn entertainment purposes mainly. Say what you will about the horrendous Syfy originals, but they provide a level of entertainment that scratches that itch. Outside of Godzilla, Kong, and A Quiet Place there really isn’t another lucrative franchise in the genre that garners the box office returns of these movies. We’re currently living in the age of superheroes, reboots/remakes, and sequels. If it’s not a well-known property, then studios rarely take a big risk. A Quiet Place was likely given the greenlight because the budget was pretty cheap, and it featured two A-list names in the cast.

Despite the level of success, the genre was rarely a big thing in the first place. These flicks were best served as B-movies in the 50s because they were relatively cheap sci-fi and horror affairs playing before the main attraction. They’re genuinely mindless diversions that serve their purpose of providing entertainment. Of course, there are classic creature features that transcend about the stereotypes, but traditionally, they are made for purposes for a wide audience. It’s extremely rare to see an arthouse creature feature, or one that’s aimed for prestigious awards such as the Oscars.  The genre itself will never be dead. Audiences tend to love these movies as it perfectly suites the escapism needs those movies should always provide. That’s the main reason that Jurassic World and Godzilla are such a hot commodity. But they’re not in demand like comic book films. If the market started flooding with creature features, then the likelihood of it becoming a massive success is slim. Of course, this is a never say never scenario as I can’t predict the future of films. However, Universal ultimately scrapped their Dark Universe because The Mummy remake failed to provide the spark necessary to support an entire universe. Audiences just didn’t care. At the end of the day, they’re too expensive to mass create and better off being lowly b-level popcorn features on the Syfy network.

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