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Creature Feature Gems Worth Watching Ahead of Meg 2: The Trench

Following a decidedly tongue-in-cheek trailer, shark shocker fans are eagerly awaiting the release of Meg 2: The Trench given the film’s teased high-jinx, larger-than-life thrill ride approach under the reigns of newcomer to the franchise, Ben Wheatley.

Expected to supersize the 2018 blockbuster in every way imaginable, Wheatley takes the action to higher heights and even greater depths as Jason Statham and global action icon Wu Jing find themselves up against multiple massive Megs whilst on an exploratory dive into the deepest depths of the ocean. Pitted against colossal Megs and relentless environmental plunderers, our heroes must outrun, outsmart, and outswim their merciless predators in a pulse-pounding race against time.

To tide you over until the most electrifying cinematic experience of the year swims into cinemas this Friday, what follows is a compilation of other films worth watching beforehand in which the depths of the ocean, or the sheer scale of the water-faring creatures are matched only by the heights of sheer, unstoppable excitement.

THE ABYSS (1989, James Cameron)

In 1986, Cameron was riding the wave of the success of Terminator and Aliens. Opting for a somewhat different tack compared to his previous efforts, Cameron sat down to write Abyss, based on a premise that he’d left to one side since he first came up with it as a teenager, in 1986. Long story short, the creative juices were clearly pumping at full pelt, with the script already completed and ready to shoot by the summer of 88.

Blending the trappings of claustrophobic thrillers with epic sci-fi tropes and boasting some of the greatest underwater sequences ever seen on film, The Abyss centers around Ed Harris and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, formerly married petroleum engineers who still have some issues to work out. They are drafted to assist a gung-ho Navy SEAL (Michael Biehn) with a top-secret recovery operation: a nuclear sub has been ambushed and sunk, under mysterious circumstances, in some of the deepest waters on Earth.

The Abyss boasts stunning cinematography and renders the seabed unlike anything that preceded it – and much of what came afterwards for that matter – making it a one-of-a-kind experience.

ALLIGATOR (1980. Lewis Teague)

This unpretentious gem that wasn’t afraid of wearing it’s Jaws inspirations firmly on its sleeves sees Ramon the alligator get flushed down the toilet as a baby only to end up growing into a gargantuan monster as a result of eating the corpses of laboratory animals that have undergone dubious hormone experiments. As a result, what we get is a decidedly B-grade creature feature brimming with all the ecological and social subtext that one could possibly wish for.

Trivia fact for you: Bryan Cranston worked on the film as a production assistant for the Special Effects department.

THE BEAST (1996, Jeff Bleckner)

Speaking of Jaws, the author of the eponymous novel, Peter Benchley has had more than one notable novel adapted for the screen. One such film is The Beast, a made-for-TV movie from 1996 which eschews sharks in favour of an entirely different kind of beast.

Fishing and jobs are getting scarcer in a small harbour community when tragedy strikes: a young couple disappears at sea, leaving nothing behind but a large claw stuck in their raft. A marine expert identifies it as belonging to an extremely rare giant squid and the hunt is on…

Despite the film being made for specifically for the small screen, the effects and locations are stunning and it’s almost as effective as another made-for-TV movie that earned cult status directed by the Jaws director himself, Steven Spielberg. We are of course, talking about 1971’s Duel.

BLACK WATER (2007, Andrew Traucki)

Based on actual events, filmmaker Andrew Traucki’s feature debut, Black Water never lets up, especially with its hyer-realistis approach and tops it all off with an out-of-the-blue final twist that flies in the face of pretty much every rule in this subgenre’s wheelhouse.

While on vacation on Northern Australia, Gracie, her husband Adam, and her younger sister Lee decide to take the Blackwater Barry tour in the swamp for fishing. Their guide Jim uses a small motor boat and takes the tourist along the river to a remote spot. When they stop, they are attacked by a huge crocodile that capsizes their boat and immediately kills Jim. The three survivors climb a tree and when they realize that help will never come to rescue them, they decide to try to find a way out of their sheltered location. But in the muddy water, their boat is flipped and there begins an anxiety-inducing underwater game of cat and mouse.

LEVIATHAN (1989, George P. Cosmatos)

Penned by David Webb Peoples (Blade Runner) and Jeb Stuart (Die Hard) and featuring a creature by Stan Winston, who turned down work on Abyss to take part in this project, Leviathan chronicles how a group of miners stumble upon a Soviet ship that hides a monster created by a genetic experiment.

Whilst following a route that might ring similar to The Abyss, Cosmatos clearly also drew inspiration in Alien and The Thing, as well as the hugely underrated DeepStar Six. Unfortunately, the film didn’t fare well at the box office, but it’s gone on to gain cult appeal as one of the most entertaining and claustrophobic sea-set movies out there.

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